Monthly Archives: February 2018

Suavi on the Rhine

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If you look at the compendium of Roman era inscriptions from the Rhein river (Corpus inscriptionum Rhenanarum) area you might think you’d find some references to the Suebi or at least the Suevi but you would be wrong… Instead you only have… Suavi

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February 28, 2018

Iassas of the Suevo-veneti

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So how popular were the names beginning with Iar/Iass/Iav?  Here are some Roman inscriptions.  I’ve had them on before here (for example, the “Venetic” Iariovidius) but now they come with a map:

  • Iaretius – Schwarzwerden in kreis Sankt Wendel
    • D M Iaretio Losunio patri d f
  • Iarilla – Vienne,  Isère department (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum XII, 2026)
    • D M Vennoniae Iarilla e
  • Iariovidius – Fumane in Valle Policella (according to Pauli the inscription is “Venetic”) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum V, 3908)
    • I. Iariovidius C. l. Cato 
  • Iaronius – Narbonne (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum XII, 4865)
    • T. Iaron[i]us V. l. Licinio
  • Iarsa – Padua (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum V, 2834)
    • L. Memmio Iden. Hebreni mil. class. 7 Sabini qui vixit ann. XXX militavit ann. XII. hered. eius fecer(unt) Iarsa frater suus Paulus Q. Cusfilia per L. Coranum Ursu[l]um fiduc. her
  • Iartus – village Jard (?),  Vendée (from the river) department (Belfort number 2030)
  • Iarus – Rheinzabern and Trier (Habert number 630.1364)
    • Iarus f (Rheinzabern)
    • IARUS (Trier)
  • Iasir – Reims (Habert number 628. 629)
  • Iassia – Soulosse
    • D M Iassia 
  • Iasso Iassu
    • Iasso f (London) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VII 1336, 513)
    • Iasso (Bavay) (Schwerm. number 2568)
    • Iasso (Rouen) (Habert number 631)
    • Iasso f (Ochringen) (Schwerm. number 2570)
    • Iassu fec (?) (BJW 71,20)
    • Iasso fec  (Heddernheim)
  • Iassus / Iassa
    •  IASSV II (Stein am Anger) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum III 12014, 300)
    • IASSVS(Westendorf)
    • Iassus Cat (Reims) (Habert 632.633)
    • D M Pennausio Lagane Sidonie Iasse monimen[t]um fili faciendum de suo curaverunt  (Karden) Corpus inscriptionum Rhenanarum 712)
    • Deo Apollini Inecius Iassi (Neidenbach, kreis Bitburg) (816 – Hettner 45)
    • Clementia Iassa sibi et Arruntio Cur[t?]uronis filio (?) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 2019 – Haug 56)
    • I o m Iassus ex voto p l. l. m (Koenigshoffen) (Corpus inscriptionum Rhenanarum 2074)
    • Iassus (between Oberrad and NIederrad? or Nijmegen?) (Scheuerm. 2571)
    • Iassus fe (Mainz) (Becker s. 104, 75)
    • Iassus f (Mainz) (Becker s. 104, 75)
    • Iassus f (Niderrhein) (BJ 95 s.204, n. 73 47a)
    • [I]assu (Speier) (BJ 95 s.204, n. 73 47b)
    • Iassus f (Speier) (BJ 95 s.204, n. 73 47e)
    • Iassus f (?) (WZ 8 s. 264)
    • Iassus fe (Saalburg)
    • Iassa fec (Namur)
  • Iavvos 
    • IAVVOS F (Stein am Anger) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum III 12014, 301)
  • Iavus
    • Baezo Crusu Iavia Iavi (S. Danillo/Šibenik) (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum III 2781)

Finally, some food for thought from an extract of Szymon Matusiak’s Olimp polski podług Długosza (“Polish Olympus according to Długosz”):

Earlier, Matusiak also quite correctly:

  • notes that the “a” to “e” transformation is common in Polish so that Jesza (Yesha) can become Jasza (Yasha)
  • observes that Yesh (Jesz) and Yesha (Jesza) can be also in Polish expressed as Yech (Jech) and Yecha (here you can recall the Germanic Goddess Jecha!)
  • combines these names with Chasson/Gasson sive Jassen and translates that into the Polish Jaszon/Jasion (without seemingly being aware (!) that Iasion was a Greek demi-god)

I will leave it at that.

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February 26, 2018

al-Muqaddasī on the Slavs

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Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Shams al-Dīn al-Muqaddasī (circa 945 – circa 1000) was an Arab geographer and author of Aḥsan al-taqāsim fī maʿrifat al-aqālīm (The Best Divisions in the Knowledge of the Regions). There are a few mentions of Slavs in the book, albeit among those mentions is a particularly graphic description of the castration process (it appears that is the writer’s lurid fascination with it that that we have to thank for it being conveyed to us).

An Account of the Climates of the World

“The Sixth Climate begins where the shadow is six feet plus six tenths and a sixth of a tenth of a foot; its shadow at the extremity differs from that at the beginning by just one foot. Its breadth is somewhat more than two hundred miles, as the crow flies. Its lower extremity towards the south coincides with the upper northern border of the adjacent fifth climate; and that is the latitude of Dabll, to the east and to the west. Its uppermost limit towards the north lies close to the land of Khwarazm and what is beyond it, and to Isbijab beside the territory of the Turks. Its middle part lies close to al-Qustantiniyya, Amul in Khurasan, Farghana, and places on this latitude, to the east and to the west. In itlieSamarqand, Bardhaca, Qabala, al-Khazar, al-Jil, the parts of al-Andalus which are towards the north, and the southernmost territories of the Slavs.”

“The Seventh Climate has its beginning where the shadow there is seven feet plus a half plus a tenth plus a sixth of one tenth of a foot, as at the end of the sixth; in fact the end of the sixth is the beginning of the seventh. Its southernmost limit corresponds with the northernmost limit of the climate adjacent to it, which is the sixth. That is the latitude of Khwarazm and Turarband, to the east and to the west. Its furthermost extremity towards the north lies in the remotest parts of the land of the Slavs, and on the territories of theTurks, which adjoin Khwarazm on the north. Its middle portion lies in the country of al-Lan, without any well-known towns.”

The Region of the Maghrib (including Andalusia)

“The black eunuchs whom you encounter are of three classes: the class that is taken to Egypt, and the are the best kind; the class that is taken to Adan – the Berber – and they are the worst kind. The third kind resemble the Abysssinians. Of white eunuchs there are two classes: the Slavs, whose land is beyond Khwarazm; they are, however, taken to al-Andalus where they are castrated, then exported to Egypt. Then there are the Romaeans. who are exported to Suria and Aqur; however this source has been cut off because of the ravaging or our frontiers.”

“I asked a group of them about the process of castration, and I learn that the Romaeans castrate their youngsters intended for dedication of the church, and they confine them so that they do not preoccupy themselves with women, or suffer carnal desires. When the Muslims raid, they attack the churches and taken the youngsters away from them.”

“The Slavs are taken to a town beyond Pechina, where the people are Jews, and they castrate them. There was disagreement among my informants about how the castration was done.  According to some of them the penis and the scrotum are cut off at the same time. Others asserts that the scrotum is cut and testicles removed, after which a stick is inserted under the penis which is then cut off at the base. I inquired of the eunuch Urayb, a learned and truthful man, ‘Muallim, tell me about eunuchs, seeing that the scholars are not in agreement about them. Abu Hanifa asserts that they are able to have legitimate children, and are recognized as the fathers of the children their wives bear them: this is a matter that can be properly settled only by you.’ To this he said: ‘Abu Hanifa is correct – nat God have mercy on him – and I will tell you how this is.  You should know that when the youngsters are about to be castrated, the scrotum is cut open for the removal of the testicles. It may be that the youngster is frightened, so that one of his testicles ascends into his abdomen. If it is searched for and not found at the time, it will descend after the cut has healed. If it is the left testicle that remains, the eunuch can experience lust and have sperm; if it is the right one he may grow a beard, as in the case of so-and-so, and so-and-so Abu Hanifa – may God have mercy on him – adhered to the saying of the Prophet – may God’s peace and blessings be upon him – ‘The child pertains to the conjugal bed,’ for it might be that the eunuch would be one of those to whom a testicle remained.'”

“I related this to Abu Said al-Juri in Naysabur, and he said, ‘This is perfectly possible, for one of my testicles is small, ‘ and in fact, his beard was light and thin.”

“When the castration is done, a little pencil of lead is placed in the urinary opening; this is removed during urination, and [then put back after] until the wound heals, so that the hole will not close up. ”

List of Exports From Bulghar or Khorezmia (Khawarazm) to Baghdad

“Sables, squirrels, miniver, ermines and the fur of steppe foxes, martens, foxes, beavers, spotted hares and goats, wax, arrows, birch-bark (cork), high fur caps, fish glue, fish teeth (walrus), castoreum oil, amber, prepared horse hides, honey, hazelnuts, falcons, swords, armour, khalanj wood (birch wood), Slavonic slaves, sheep and cattle. All these came from Bulghar. Khorezmia also exported jujubes, raisins, almond pastry, sesame, fabric of striped cloth, carpets, blankets cloth, satin for royal gifts, veils of malham fabric, locks, Aranj arrows for bows which only the strongest could bend, rakhbin (a kind of cheese) yeast, fish, boats hewn and smoothed (the latter also exported from Tirmidh). Bows of Khorezmia.”

The castration center was somewhere around Pechina

From the local tourism website we find this description (suggesting the region is, unfortunately not yet ready to confront its troubling past in a mature and responsible fashion):

“During the Al-Andalus period it was the capital of a region and of the Maritime Republic Bayyana. It was Abderraman II who commissioned the defence of the coast of Almeria to the Yemenite tribes of Gassan and Ru’ayn. These tribes together with the andalusi merchants and sailors formed the Maritime Republic of Pechina. This zone was called Urs al-Yaman. Its capital Bayyana perhaps took its name from a Roman country house called Fundus Baianus which existed there. This Maritime Republic of Pechina maintained a certain independence from the Caliphate, with governors like Umar Ben Aswad al-Gassani who built the walls and a splendid mosque in the style of the mosque in Cordoba. Its products such as linen and silk were exported through its port al-mariyya Bayyana, currently Almeria. In the X century Pechina was a cultural and spiritual centre. Abderraman III, when he saw the predominance that the port of Almeria had acquired, converted it into the headquarters of the Caliphate’s admiralty and the port for Cordoba in the trade with the East in the middle of the X century. Almeria was elevated to the category of “medina” and the capital of the region of Bayyana. Pechina was reduced to a hamlet.”

The Cambridge Illustrated hIstory of the Middle Ages provides a slightly different emphasis:

An interesting mention of the word pech comes from the Brothers’ Grimm Dictionary:

“— pech haben (wie der mit vogelpech gefangene vogel an den federn hat), unglück haben, kein glück bei unternehmungen haben, in einer fatalen lage sein, aus der man sich nicht losreiszen kann, etwas widriges und unangenehmes erfahren, hindernisse und anstosz finden und dergl.”

but also:

“siedendes pech, das schon bei den Römern den sklaven zur marter auf den leib geträufelt wurde, galt in christlicher zeit als eine der höllenstrafen und geradezu als hölle, die man sich als einen mit brennendem pech und schwefel erfüllten pfuhl vorstellte, worin die seelen der verdammten ewig brennen sollen.”

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February 24, 2018

Suavs in Thuringia (West of the Saale)

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These are the, most likely, Slavic names in Thüringen primarily on the Western bank of the Souava (Saale)* only – according to Reinhard Schottin’s Die Slawen in Thüringen.

* A few caveats: Some of these are on the eastern bank of the Saale. Some of them I could only locate approximately and some not at all. This list does not include all Slavic names in Thuringen – just Schottin’s names – even a cursory look at the map around the same places will show that there are many other place names that could have made this list had Schottin spent more time looking.

  • Barigau
  • Beulwitz/Bulewitz
  • Beuthen/Beutnitz
  • Bibra
  • Boehlen
  • Boednitzberg/Bodenite
  • Borgau
  • Breternitz
  • Bucha/Buche
  • Clonitz
  • Closewitz
  • Cospeda/Cospoda
  • Coppanz
  • Cordobang
  • Creunitz
  • Croesten
  • Debraberg
  • Dobra
  • Doerbritschen
  • Deube
  • Dissau/Dissa/Tissa/Tissowa(?)
  • Doehlen
  • Doeschnitz
  • Droebischau
  • Drognitz
  • Doessnitz
  • Etsch
  • Friesau
  • Froebitz
  • Gabritz
  • Gahma
  • Garsitz
  • Geunitz
  • Gleina
  • Gleitsch
  • Gole
  • Goelitz
  • Golsen/Golzen
  • Goenna
  • Gorze
  • Gornitz
  • Goeritz-Muehle
  • Gosserstaedt/Gosserstedt
  • Goettern
  • Graba
  • Greuda
  • Groschwitz
  • Goessnitz
  • Hayna
  • Horba
  • Jamitz
  • Jena
  • Jobortz
  • Kalbitz
  • Kieblitz
  • Kessel
  • Koeditz
  • Kolditz
  • Koesen
  • Koesnitz
  • Koselbach
  • Koetschau
  • Koetteritz
  • Krakau (by Koenigsbrueck) (another one!)
  • Kroebitz
  • Kunitz
  • Laasen/Lossitz/Lossa/Lossnit/Loetschbach/Lutze/Lotschke/Loetschen
  • Laucha
  • Lehesten
  • Leibis/Leubitz
  • Lemnitz
  • Leutnitz
  • Leutra
  • Lichte-fluss
  • Lippsgrund
  • Lisdorf
  • Lisgau
  • Liske
  • Leube
  • Lohma
  • Lockritz
  • Loquitz
  • Lothra
  • Luppnitz
  • Lutsche
  • Lutschwitz
  • Maina
  • Maue/Mauna
  • Meichlitz
  • Meura
  • Meuselbach
  • Milbitz
  • Mildau
  • Moerla
  • Munschwitz
  • Neusitz
  • Nesceniz
  • Nerkewitz
  • Nismitz
  • Oelsa
  • Pannewitz
  • Plaue
  • Ploessnitz
  • Poellwitz
  • Pomnitz
  • Poeritz/Poeritsch
  • Pippelsdorf/Poppelsdorf (!)
  • Poppel (!)
  • Poerze
  • Porstendorf
  • Presswitz
  • Priessnitz
  • Prispe
  • Punschrau
  • Quelitz
  • Rabis
  • Reschitz
  • Rezchwitz
  • Robscuetz
  • Roeppisch
  • Roedeln
  • Rospe
  • Schaala
  • Schenschitz
  • Shirnewitz
  • Schlaga
  • Schmelitz
  • Schnorre
  • Schorba
  • Schoeten/Schetin
  • Schremschke
  • Seena
  • Sieglitz
  • Soelnitz
  • Sermitz
  • Stiebritz
  • Stobra
  • Stoeben
  • Studnitz
  • Schoeps
  • Tauchwitz/Tauschwitz
  • Trebra
  • Trommlitz
  • Wachau
  • Warfe
  • Wilsche
  • Wiltsch
  • Windisch-Holzhausen
  • Worbis
  • Zeutsch/Scuitz
  • Zilse
  • Zimritz
  • Zopte
  • Zoppothen/Czopoten/Zeoptenn
  • Zachachenuehle
  • Zoessen
  • Xunritz
  • Zwabitz
  • Zwaetzen/Swezen/Zwezen/Zwizina

Here is the map of these places – notice that they are mostly concentrated in the difficult to reach mountain/hill areas – note too that to the east of these places were Slavs but they were not in Thuringia so they did not make the list apparently (similarly in the south there are plenty such names in Franconia):

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February 17, 2018

Sclademar and the Vikings at Paris

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The Bella parisicae urbis (The Battles of the City of Paris) is a poem written by Abbo a monk in the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. The poem was written at the end of the ninth century and talks of the Viking attacks on the city of Paris in 885-886. In the course of the battle a character with a curious name surfaces.  That name has the typically Slavic prefix Scla-.

Here is that part of the poem (recent Nirmal Dass translation):

“…Then, Sclademar slit the throats of two Danes, though he perished too. He was the first to kill a Dane, sent him to Hell, when those grim Heathens stormed the walls of Lutetia for the very first time. He was the first to draw the sword, and in the end died by it – That is, his sword cut down pagans, and then a sword ran him through. Sclademar fought beside Count Rotbert and was his retainer;”

Sclademar was shocked by the terms of the secret deal that ultimately got the Vikings to leave Paris

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February 13, 2018

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XVI

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This tells of the German-inspired war by Boguslav/Bugislav of the Pomeranians against Cnut of Denmark, Waldemar’s son in which war the Rugians (freshly defeated by the Danes) under their duke Jarimar, found themselves on the front lines and fought on the Danish side. This is from the Jensen-Fisher translation though I corrected their English in those instances where its usage was just too atrocious.

Chapter 3

5. On hearing of this answer, Frederick, since he was unable to start a campaign, projected his wrath on the scornful king; he could only take revenge for Cnut’s disdain with his feelings instead of the sword. Even so he did not lose hope of possessing Denmark, since he thought that a revolt caused by domestic evils might be anticipated there, and trusted that a people split by civil war could be attacked with less risk to his own troops. Observing nevertheless that, after he had been seeking such an opportunity for some time, Fate still denied him it, in an endeavour to induce him to make war on the Danes, he started giving numerous presents and lavish promises to Bugislav, prince of the Wends; this man had lately inherited the country from his brother, Kazimar, who had died without issue.

Chapter 4

1. Bugislav yielded to his promptings with greater readiness than wisdom and, since he had not the audacity to propose war on Denmark plainly and openly, dredging up reasons for a quarrel, initially began to behave in a belligerent manner towards his uncle, Jarimar, lord of Rugen, putting his awe of the emperor’s warriors before the most intimate bonds of kinship.  As soon as Cnut had been informed by Jarimar of this issue, he had ambassadors sent to Bugislav to enquire the cause for such sudden ill-usage of his relative. The Wendish prince swore that he had suffered no wrong from the king or the Danes, but was retaliating for an outrage dealt him by Jarimar; he earnestly requested that the dispute between them both should be referred through envoys from each party to a judicial enquiry held by the king, after the two sides had meanwhile laid down their weapons, and he demanded also that Cnut should be the architect of their mutual peace, for he wanted to affect a convincing candour with these counterfeit words of goodwill.

2. So, as the king had no apprehension of a treacherous plot a day and locality were appointed for the pleading of the case. After he had brought together a large group of the nobility on the island of Samsø, so that they could settle this business and also correct certain faults in the civil law, he there received the representatives of both parties. Their dispute was given a formal hearing, during which a number of charges were thrown at Jarimar with more eloquence than veracity, but the absence of the principals prevented any decision being made; Bugislav’s envoys then swore a voluntary oath affirming that their lord was prepared to appear himself as one of the participants in the present case as soon as Cnut should decree it. Thus the ambassadors, no less than the one who had them, bent their wiles to delude the king.

3. Cnut, valuing their guarantees with more comPlacencJ than caution, quickly dismissed the council and withdrew to jutland, since all the bravest individuals among the Scanians and Zealanders were grumbling about their too-quiet life in peacetime and complaining that amidst all this repose they were now running into slothfulness; their wills were being sapped through long indulgence in pleasures, whereas under King Valdemar it had been their custom to spin out almost the entire year in a wide variety of activities and different types of military service. The sinews of military vigour, they said, are dulled and enfeebled by ease, whereas employment tautens and invigorates them. For this reason a corporate decision was made to launch a pirating expedition against the Estlanders with a view to sharpening the edge of their valour.

4. Meanwhile Bugislav, at the emperor’s instigation, not only provided himself with local troops from his native country, but also borrowed soldiers from a wide area around; beyond that he assembled against Rugen a fleet of 500 vessels crammed with large quantities of war equipment. Believing that no hostile strength could oppose these forces, he ordered an envoy [also] named Bugislav to go to Frederick and announce that his master had recruited a mighty army to attack Denmark; so large was it that he knew for certain Cnut would lose all courage to resist and capitulate to the Holy Roman power in the shortest possible time. Delighted by his undertaking, the emperor praised Bugislav and heaped imperial gifts on his ambassador.

5. Jarimar, thunderstruck by this sudden, unforeseen rumour of war, sent a report to Absalon, who was then residing in Zealand, about the huge and imminent danger that was threatening the people of Rugen. The archbishop immediately stirred himself with all the haste that was needed to forestall an assault on his allies; he sent letters everywhere across Zealand giving instructions that every man of an age to wield arms must rally to the fleet. Associating smaller with larger craft, transport vessels with raiders, he even further allowed the habit of commandeering ships to [both] ordinary folk and nobles without distinction. A similar injunction was issued to islands encircling Zealand. However, orders were delivered to the people of Funen and Scania to arrive at the appointed harbor within six days; otherwise they need not bother themselves, for the preparations could brook no longer delay than that. These men who had been told to join the expedition were so ardent and anxious to obey that with astonishing keenness they vied with one another to meet the time set for them, or even to precede it.

6. Nevertheless, although Cnut had received the message in Jutland, his remoteness coupled with the tight schedule for the rendezvous did not allow him to be a partner in Absalon’s project. Only six ships were sent over from Funen, fourteen from Scania, since the rest had been hindered by their slowness. Their remarkably small numbers might have appeared a cause for blame, had they not been able to plead the excuse of living so far away. Absalon’s fleet had entered the appointed bay on the eve of the feast of Pentecost.  In order not to lose time or energy they made it their business to sail to Hiddensee island the same day. There they were met by messengers from Rugen, who informed them that it would be necessary to wait till they could be certain at what point on their soil the enemy invasion was aimed. They had heard that Bugislav had landed on the island of Koos, which lay alongside Rugen. Yet though he was now almost on the verge of striking at hostile country, this prince did not restrain himself from flouting temperance and indulged in extensive bouts of drinking. In fact his soldiers were both nourished and vitiated by giving themselves up to feasting, with such excess that it seemed as if they had come to attend a banquet rather than a war.

7. Nevertheless, when Absalon had yielded to the advice of these envoys, they returned the following day with information that Bugislav was about to disembark his troops opposite the island of Strela; so, even though dusk was approaching, after seizing his banner, the archbishop made for the shore as swiftly as possible m a small boat. Then by means of a herald he summoned a meeting of the captains and gave out as brief a message as possible to his warriors; taking great pains with his exhortation he filled them with enthusiasm by mentioning that in his dreams he had seen figures picturing a definite victory. The sole response of his followers was that they were thirsting for battle; and if they encountered it, they said, they had no doubt they would win. Their passionate spirits were derived from a long familiarity with success and also from an inbred gallantry in their Danish blood, so that they deserved to be able to depend on the prediction which was their rallying cry.

8. Because he was nervous of the undetermined route through straits whose depth was unknown, Absalon awaited the dawn and then, as he was on the point of setting sail, was held back for a time by the anchor, which had stuck too deeply in the mud. The result was that all the others left him behind in their boundless fervour to forge ahead. Nevertheless he did not consider it unseemly to be outstripped by his forces, since he saw this as attributable to his calling to arms more than to his belatedness. My own view is that he was happy, and rightly so, to see that his men preferred to engage in this justifiable haste sooner than share his enforced delay. Once freed from the restriction, Absalon made up for his unprofitable tardiness with such rapid rowing that he almost overtook the leading vessels, and compensated for the accidental loss of time by his eagerness for the fight.

9. While this communal race was in midcareer, they were met by a ship dispatched from Rugen to tell them that they must pursue a more relaxed course, for because Bugislav was still occupying the island of Koos, the focus of his attack remained speculative. Jarimar too, surrounded by his own native militia, was waiting for the foe to move off. For these reasons the archbishop gave up his concern for speed and turned inshore to Drigge. There a report came that their adversaries had gone home, but the descent of a chance fog had led the message-bearers to make a mistake. Our people were asked to sail to the port of Darsin, where, the envoys promised, they would be shielded by the Rugian army and would meet Jarimar, who wished to discuss the situation with them. But when they sailed to that locality, neither the prince nor any of his escorts could be found; therefore, because he was a fluent speaker of the Wendish tongue, they decided to send Niels of Falster to jarimar in order to investigate the enemy’s withdrawal.

Chapter 5

1. On his departure Absalon took a rowing-boat to the shore so that he might devote his time to God’s worship, but a communication was suddenly received through one of Jarimar’s servants informing that the Pomeranian fleet was drawing so close that, if there had not been a thick curtain of mist, it would have been visible in the near distance. Calling back those who were celebrating mass, he resolved to dedicate his offering to the Lord not with prayers but weapons and, eagerly alerting the fleet, guided it out into the open sea to confront its opponents. What kind of sacrifice could we imagine more pleasing to lhe Almighty than the slaughter of blackguards?

2. Even so, the Pomeranians’ plan was not so much an unheralded raid on enemy territory as to sail about hither and thither so as to play cat and mouse with the Rugian cavalry, who were anxious to defend their coastline. On sighting the Danish fleet, they believed that Borivoj,* accompanied by the West Wends, had arrived to bring them aid, for the murky atmosphere would not allow them to discern the number and cut of our vessels. Nor did it enter their heads that Danes, whose geographical position was so far removed from the Wends’ homeland, could have voyaged to that region in such a narrow space of time, since their sentinels, much too unconcerned, were performing their watch duties with far less conscientiousness than they should.

[*note: The only recorded son of Prince Pribislav of the Abotrites, whom he succeeded in 1178; he was by then married to Hernry the Lion’s daughter, Mechthild].

3. Hence Bugislav, thinking that the Rugian fleet was being directed against him, wished to encircle it with a hundred and fifty of his light warships; the remainder of his fleet he stationed as if in line of battle with anchors cast; between these and the mainland he moved the food transports, which were somewhat more impressive-looking than the raiding vessels; that was because he wanted to simulate the appearance of an armed multitude with a display of useless hulls. This facade caused Sune to imagine Bugislav had been lent German reinforcements. However, as the mist eventually thinned, Absalon, seeing merely small enemy boats passing him, said laughingly that not all of them would return home safely by any means.

4. So, having stiffened the resolve of his comrades with strong encouragements, Absalon advanced against the enemy fleet, sailing at the forefront, just as he was foremost in authority. He was warned by Sune, who supposed their adversaries to be strengthened by German confederates, not to attack with over-precipitate haste, but to slacken the pace of rowing and instruct the soldiers to arm themselves; but Absalon answered that there must not be the slightest delay, since their foe was now hemmed into a corner where it could neither join battle without hazard, nor take flight unscathed. There was therefore nothing to stop him giving himself a speedy victory. Yet when Sune renewed his cautions, Absalon’s warriors began to encase their bodies in armour while several continued at the oars. Their preparations remained unnoticed by their opponents through the help of the fog, which was still dense and persistent. When, however, the young Danish manhood came to close quarters, unable to endure silence any more than waiting they raised their standards and did not restrain themselves from singing loudly to give expression to their vehement passion for combat. Absalon’s banner, which was never normally unfurled without putting his foes to flight, revealed the Danes’ presence to the Wends and simultaneously instilled in them a reluctance to engage.

5. They then weighed anchor in the highest state of alarm, and began frenziedly to urge on their fleet, so that the distance they had sailed over a long stretch of time they now retraced in a small matter of hours. Countless Wends who had been held back from escape by the bulkiness of their vessels or the slow raising of their anchors chose to plunge into the depths and end their lives amid the waves instead of among weapons. You might have viewed their ships full, then empty, almost at the same moment. Yet those who had jumped overboard could still not be saved by swimming, since the currents from the abysses below caught fast hold of their submerged bodies. How powerful must we reckon the strength of their terror, which, when they had absorbed excessive quantities of it, made them even unable to spare their own lives! Such a huge influx of men tried to flee for safety aboard eighteen of the vessels that these split and brought destruction to their shiploads. Few of them had any inclination to stay for the enemy. Indeed one man’s panic was so absurd that, in reacting strongly against his comrades’ example, he chose to fashion a halter in the rigging and hang himself rather than submit to death at his adversanes; hands. A good many Danes were at first astonished, but afterwards scoffed at his act; then seduced by the attraction of loot, they began to show greater laxity in closing with their foes.

6. As he went by, Absalon cautioned them not to pursue plunder in preference to hounding their opponents; with a mere seven vessels he never stopped chasing citrually an entire navy of fugitives, truly full of that assurance with which he had so many times succeeded in viewing the backs of his foes. As they dispersed, the Pomeranians did not weight up the slender number so much as the valor of their pursuers. The horde who manned a flotilla of something like one hundred ships, having no confidence that they could escape by sea, took to the land and there wandered weaponless and stupefied through wild, uninhabited bush. Jarimar’s ardent passion to protect his country made him, too, more eager for enemy blood than for spoils.

7. By rowing at a furious rate those of high rank among the enemy, aboard thirty-five ships, managed to elude Absalon’s clutches. Nonetheless, when they perceived that only seven vessels were pressing hard on their heels, they judged their flight not just dismal, but even a cause for shame, and so they twice made some effort to steady their pace, as though meaning to put up a fight. In response, although his friends begged him to wait for the rest of the fleet to arrive, Absalon in no way allowed his oarsmen to relax their energies, but continued to advance unwaveringly, swearing that he must take more advantage of his enemies’ agitation than the support of his brothers-in-arms. Realizing his determination, the Wends were totally drained of courage and put their consternation before disgrace, with the result that they started to clear their vessels of freight and made them swifter for getting away by pitching their arms and their horses into the deep sea. Then, striking the waves more sharply, they persisted in their hasty retreat until they took refuge in the River Peene. Absalon did not hang back in the slightest, but tailed them ceaselessly to that point before returning in the evening to his associates, who had been devoting themselves to plunder. Nonetheless he could not bear even to share in these spoils, considering it handsome enough if he himself gained abundant renown, his soldiers copious booty. So it was that, out of 500 ships, thirty-five made their escape, eighteen were destroyed, while the rest yielded to the authority of Danish power.

8. That day, therefore, when the enemy navy was blinded by Absalon’s brilliance and was compelled either to make its getaway or suffer annihilation, brought an end to innumerable terrors and maritime perils, cleared the harbours of Zealand and the Baltic Sea of deadly pirate attacks, caused the savage ferocity of the barbarians to bow beneath the yoke and rendered our motherland mistress of the Wends, even though she was scarcely in possession of her own independence. A rare and effective kind of victory indeed, when it succeeded in utterly overthrowing the enemy’s total strength! Yet whereas for the Wends it entailed a welter of bloodshed, it cost the Danes nothing. Only four men from Rugen were lost, but whether from the allies’ or their foes’ missiles is not certain.

9. The next day eighteen Scanian ships arrived on the scene, but Absalon, judging the crews by their willingness to come rather than their lateness, gave instructions that they should take a portion of the plunder along with the victors. Wishing to ascertain what the plans the Wends had in mind, he devised an ingenious scheme for spying: on the pretext that there had existed a good, long-standing association between them, he arranged for Bugislav, by means of ambassadors, to be charged with treachery, and demanded that he anticipate an outrageous affront to the king by a firm endeavour to appease him. In response Bugislav reconciled himself to pretending that no heavy disaster had been inflicted on him, to the extent that, praising his adviser’s kindness, he promised to follow his guidance. However, the ordinary Wendish people had had so much fear instilled into their hearts by their earlier flight that, on sighting the envoys’ ship, they did not blush to run away yet again.

10. Later Absalon, believing it would be a fine thing to send a distinguished messenger who would forestall any hearsay about his achievements, arranged to send home Tage, who came from an illustrious Funen family, with Bugislav’s tent, which had fallen to him as his share; not only would he inform the king of the archbishop’s triumph, but would back his statements with the notable prize he bore. Absalon also employed Tage to urge his sovereign to mount an expedition which must precede harvest-time and thus prevent the Wendish powers from furnishing themselves with fresh troops. After collecting together an assembly of Jutlanders at Viborg, Cnut told Tage to do his duty and relate an appropriate account of Absalon’s successful action; in this way he could also utilize the news-bringer as the motivator of his campaign. By carrying out this design he developed in everyone’s mind a very strong incentive to launch a fleet.

11. As soon as the emperor received a report of this decisive setback and learnt that the exploit had been achieved under Absalon’s sole leadership, he cast out of his thoughts all hope of possessing Denmark together with any confidence that he might assail it; thus he rejected his own forces as inadequate because he had accomplished so little by resorting to another’s.* Absalon afterwards heard from his knights who were currently performing military service in Constantinople that the fame of his victory, travelling with unbelievable speed, had been noised abroad even in that city.

Chapter 6

1. The garnering of new crops assisted the enemy’s dwindling food stocks, for a delay in the king’s departure gave them a very welcome respite, during which they were able to provide corn for their townships.  Galvanized by rumours of the is Danish expedition, the people of Wolgast filled the deeper reaches of the River Peene with piles of rocks, so as to deny ships access to their city walls. But Absalon, keen to clear these sections of the river bed, did not hesitate to plunge his body into the waters in order to induce the young men to join him; by freeing as much of the stream from boulders as was sufficient to allow the fleet through, he brought it back to a navigable state, despite the fact that the townsfolk had been hurling missiles from their war machines with such precision that their shots raked those same stretches of the river with some accuracy. Even so, Absalon and his helpers removed the obstruction to make a passage and contrived an easy approach for his comrades to move up and besiege the city.

2. Though the siege had begun, a forest of stakes below the waterline, planted to form a pallisade in front of the town, did not allow our vessels to pull in very close. The young Danes, eager to display their bravery and overcome this hindrance to an assault, once the ships had cleared the deep stretches did not hold back from descending into the water on foot and striding forward through the shallows. On their side the citizens started to fling spears down at the Danes not far beneath them, as well as using their ballistas to assail the ships, which lay at a greater distance; certainly you could imagine it would have been preferable for our men to evade rather than endure the brunt of those well-aimed volleys. The danger was critical, and it was a problem to avoid it as massive stones rained down on the crowding vessels, so that the Danes reckoned their relief lay either in flight, or crouching, or wary movements, rather than trusting to their armour to give any help in neutralizing the impacts.

3. Making his way amidships, Absalon managed through continual ducking to evade the hard rocks slung by the catapults. A barbarian had chanced to emerge from the fortifications recognized him from the emblem on his shield and pointed so that the shooters could aim at him. Asked by someone if he had noticed how the barbarian singled him out, the archbishop answered that the man felt a deep concern for him, simultaneously making fun of his enemy and the one who had warned him. In my opinion this willingness to joke about his perilous situation while encompassed by threats to his life bore the mark of a fearless mind. So much did pressure of circumstances give an absolutely sure proof of his unflinching courage.

4. As the storming of the city had now ground to a halt, a new plan of attack was devised, Esbern’s invention: they arranged to have an unusually large vessel crammed with all manner of combustible materials, to be driven solely by the propulsion of the wind towards the walls, which were well suited to be set on fire. However, the boat struck a stake concealed beneath the surface and without any detriment to the townspeople burst into flames, destroying itself and its contents. So, the hope of inflicting an immense defeat was ruined by this paltry, wooden handicap and in a brief moment of good fortune our enemies’ lives were shielded from impending doom.

5. Bugislav had been concocting schemes to avenge his own discreditable failures and pretended to be aspiring to a truce; consequently, having sent envoys to request a dialogue with Absalon, he came to the place appointed for their negotiations, attended by a large body of horsemen. When the archbishop arrived at the rendezvous with two ships, Bugislav begged him to step ashore on the grounds that a tent was better fitted to hold talks in than a vessel. As Absalon was about to comply and was preparing to disembark, a man named Erling, who came from a distinguished Norwegian line, detained him with a story of a horrifying dream he had had and forecast that his companion would undoubtedly experience treachery if he entrusted his life to the foe. Absalon honoured his words as if they were a miraculous sign sent to him from heaven; and when Bugislav called to him, he replied that it was not appropriate for the greater to seek out the lesser, since, he maintained, a primate ranked higher than a general. So, by taunting the enemy with his powerlessness, he deprived him of an occasion for duplicity. After pleading that there was rather restricted room on a vessel, the Wend revealed his deceit by an abrupt departure. One who at other times had been in the habit of stepping onto Absalon’s vessel quite willingly, now, disturbed by a wicked conscience, shuddered at the thought of going aboard as though into an abode where one might meet death. Absalon was overjoyed that he had chosen to stake his life on a dream instead of entrusting it to an adversary, and went off to rejoin his fleet.

6. Our troops, deciding that a general devastation of land should come before a single town’s destruction, had adopted a policy of laying waste the province; but while they were stuck fast in the narrow channel leading to the other side of the bridge, the townsfolk attacked them with a swarm of fast, light craft. Once these had been beaten off through the efforts of bowmen dispatched by Absalon and Cnut, they repaired to firm soil, from which it would be easier for them to molest our fleet; from there they hurled shouts no less than javelins at our men, and began to abuse them with voluminous insults about their cowardice, just as if they had vanquished them already. Observing this, the remaining townspeople laid hands on the rowing-boats that were moored everywhere, and, having abandoned their defence of the city walls, made for the opposite bank with the idea of looting the shelters which the Danes had quitted. When our soldiers left these behind, they set fire to them, and the smoke rising from the flames made it impossible for the Wends to discern the king’s cavalry, who were waiting on land for our ships to pass by. As soon as the enemy, unprepared and terrified, found themselves charged by these knights, some fled to their skiffs, while others fell beneath the sword on the shore or met their end in the river water. Swimmers were shot dead by our archers, those in boats were capsized and reaped a well-earned punishment for their mockery of the Danes. In this fashion the people of Wolgast, who a little earlier had lorded it over our men with spurious jibes, now bewailed the wretched fates of the fellow-citizens who had been slaughtered before their eyes.

7. Immediately the inhabitants of Osna heard tell of these acdvities, they speedily went about burning the houses situated outside the town, so that the enemy might not use them to set their municipal walls ablaze. So, they voluntarily robbed themselves of homes to win solid protection for their city, and by becoming poorer in dwellings they gained greater safety behind their ramparts. The countryside was left to the king and his pillager’s. At Cnut’s decision, Absalon instructed to assault and take the territories round Julin and the strongholds on the River Swina; there the archbishop sent his brother, Esbern, ahead to Swinemunde; commanding the naval squadron assigned to him, he had orders to capture those fortresses, if Fate permitted, or to block their garrisons’ escape, until such time as ABsalon himself came back from Julin. When Esbern arrived he discovered their gates wide open, the defenders doubtless being on the run after a covert withdrawal before their fires could reach them. Both forts were set on fire. Absalon learnt of this after he had himself demolished Julin and all its appurtenances not only by descrying the smoke afar off but also from the verification supplied by his reappearing comrades; he then made his way back to Cnut, glad that his brother’s labours had relieved him of a major area of concern.

8. As the king became aware that it would be hard for the Danes to capture any villages which harboured a store of useful sities and they were merely burning down empty houses, he resolved to make his return, and whereas he had now been attacking homes containing no resources, when harvest-time was over he could ransack granaries packed with supplies. No less weary with the struggle involved in subjugating towns than he was tired of setdng fire to deserted buildings, he proceeded to the River Swina with a view to leading his expedition away; he instructed that all the remaining burnt-out fortresses should be razed to the ground and, to ensure that all their defences were dismantled, even had the stones prized up from the foundations and cast into the sea, though his men could scarcely bear to touch them with their hands because they were still hot from the recent flames. As soon as this labour came to an end, so did the campaign.

Chapter 7

1. After Cnut had spent the autumn at home, he levied twelve thousand troops from Rugen, with whom he marched across the province of Tribsees, which was subject to his control. Afterwards, traversing the sunken marsh of Circipen in emulation of his father^s military exploit, he arrived at the stronghold of Lubchin. When he had passed this by, having set his sights on Demmin, he came upon a settlement which contained a surplus of liquor, for the barbarians there were feasting in utter composure, totally unconcerned about any arrival and assault by the enemy. We could imagine, then, the lack of restraint these people would indulge in during peacetime, seeing how they did not refrain from sapping their strength with the allurements of drunkenness even when the foe was on their doorstep!

2. Owing to the waste of time involved in such a long trek, the king shrank from his intention of assailing Demmin, with the result that № Danish band at this point turned back towards the ships and with the object of snatching loot and spreading flames everywhere. Though Cnut was satisfied to have kept only thirty companions with him, when he learnt through the report of a retainer village which was guarded by a large troop of barbarians he sent off Absalon, who then happened to be riding beneath his sovereign’s standard, to being assistance to their comrades, escorted by half the attendant cavalry. Assuming command, the archbishop ordered this soldiers to march in loose order to disguise their fewness, so that they could present the image of a great throng with a column of haphazard appearance. On top of that he was concerned to launch a sally with more than usual abandon, to the end that their opponents might believe a larger squad of militia were following on behind them.

2. When he had observed the companies of natives, who had deserted their village and encamped in the forest, Absalon saw that their force far outnumbered that of the Danes; since for this reason he wished it to appear that reinforcements were joining his comrades, he instructed several of his men to depart stealthily from their fellows, with orders to make their return immediately, without concealment, and he took care that this procedure was repeated a number of times. So it was believed that he was little by little receiving additional support; but as he had insufficient followers there to carry away their booty, he erected a huge bonfire and burnt all the treasures they had amassed from the village, thereby consigning to the flames everything he could not put to use, even though the people tending the blaze handled the destruction of so much wealth with aching hearts. This act accomplished, Absalon returned to the king.

4. Having spent the night close to Lubchin and demolished what remained of the settlements, Cnut made the Rugians lay a causeway over the marsh which he had traversed with laborious effort; once he had retraced his path across it with next to no difficulty, he embarked and sailed to the port next to the River Peene. Although he was harassed by a persistent, savage tempest, Cnut rejected overtures for peace made by ambassadors on Bugislav’s behalf, yet, since his provisions were now running out, he was forced to call off his campaign.

Chapter 8

1. After passing the winter months in Denmark, Cnut returned by way of the River Swina with a large expeditionary force and devastated Groswin. Here jarimar was proposing to inform the king of an enemy raid which he had detected from the sound of their trumpet-call, but Absalon forbade him to do this before their adversaries had actually come into view; the Rugian prince said he was beset by a double evil, for if some unlooked-for peril lit upon his allies and he remained silent, he could be condemned for negligence, whereas if he gave notice of it too early, he could be criticized for his timidity; a premature announcement appeared shameful, one that was too long delayed, remiss.

2. Since his troops had not yet had their fill of plundering this province, Cnut whet their appetites with tales of Pomeranian riches, which by all accounts were remarkable and unimpaired. No one considered it a hardship to embark on such a distant military operation, even though it was predicted that they would have to endure grim conditions with shortage of food and trudging across solitary wastes, since a burning passion for booty lightened their dread of dangers. Rumour had it that the population were unwarlike and that strongholds and weapons were rare in that part of the world. And because our soldiers’ plans usually fell out according to their wishes, their hearts were fired with zeal to push on, nor did all their favourable experiences and triumphs in the past presage any disappointment for them in their current ambitions. Nonetheless, as they journeyed on, provisions became insufficient and both horses and foot soldiers, laden with supplies, found their strength failing as the daily grind took its toll. These adversities made them retrace their steps and eventually sail back to Julin.

3. Here Cnut thought up a scheme for attacking Kammin by stealth, since he preferred to make a covert rather than an open assault on it; led by men well acquainted with the area, he set out quickly on an exceedingly difficult itinerary through unknown, remote forests. Whereas the rest went astray, the Zealanders and Scanians, with Alexander, son of Absalon’s sister, carrying the standard and with Rugians as their guides, pursued a short, direct route as far as Kammin, which they would have captured, had they not lit fires and put the inhabitants on the alert. Bugislav, who then chanced to be staying in that town, reckoned he should rush out with his squadrons and charge our small troop; but Esbern, who had a shrewd knowledge and relevant experience of such matters, prevailed on the Danes to give ground deliberately in order to draw their opponents right away from the town, whereupon Bugislav for some time pressed hard on our soldiers’ backs; finally, realizing it was a trap, he called his disorderly rout back into line, reviling such a disgraceful exodus from the city with bitter curses.

4. As soon as he perceived this, Esbern abandoned his pretence of flight and wheeled his standards round to face the foe, thereby causing Bugislav to tumble from his mount and, panic-stricken, to run for his life back inside the ramparts; not trusting to protect himself with arms or the swiftness of his steed, he thought to seek safety by speed of foot. Alexander, arriving at the gates with his banner, found no one to impede his progress, for our adversaries, trembling with fear of the foe, did not even have the nerve to defend the threshold of their city from harm. Satisfied with this meritorious achievement the young Danes chose to withdraw gradually to their own ranks, for an appraisement of their meagre numbers overcame their temerity and stopped them from forcing themselves upon the city any further.

5. When the king with the rest of his troops followed hard upon this advance by the young men, he dismounted close to the walls in order to make a fairly thoughtful inspection of the stronghold to see whether it could be stormed. As he resumed his saddle and encompassed the fortifications with his squadrons, certain priests of a religious order, with feet bare to signify the grief of their crushed and defected spirits, arrived in ceremonial procession carrying their ecclesiastical emblems; after reminding Cnut of his father’s piety, on bended knees they entreated him to spare their churches, begging him not to set fire to sacred and secular dwellings indiscriminately, nor to unleash such ferocity on his enemies as to destroy the buildings of their communal worship, for in committing so foul a deed he would blemish all his own and his ancestors’ virtues. They added that Bugislav, too, requested friendly assurance and protection to allow him safe conduct to the king. Cnut replied that it was not his purpose to attack God, but men, and that in his intention to wage a just war he was averse to sacrilege. When they pointed out that were he to burn down that part of the municipality which was situated outside the walls of Kammin he would include in the general conflagration the churches which lay adjacent to people’s homes, their appeals assuaged his anger and he thought it better to let his enemies’ abodes remain unscathed sooner than do violence to divine and human precincts alike. Jubilant because he had delivered the town to them in response to their prayers, they affirmed their gratitude for his benevolence and departed in glad exultation, which they expressed in a chorus of hymn-singing.

6. Once he had secured the safe conduct he had requested, Bugislav sought out Absalon and asked if he and Jarimar would come to meet him the following day, since he wished to employ the same men he had found amicable in so many talks as intermediaries for making peace with the king. Absalon suspected that his words were not truly dependable but meant to deceive, and so he refused to intervene to prevent the province being ravaged by fire, in case they should seem to have travelled so far under false pretences. Bugislav claimed that he owned no property himself outside the town walls, and implored Absalon to spare at least the holy edifices, including for their sake the buildings nearby. This favour was no sooner pleaded for than promised. The remainder of the day till dusk was then spent in the voracious wreckage of of villages. Under pressure from the dangers that environed him, Bugislav kept his word to return at a stated time and, with Absalon and jarimar giving him their hands, was conducted to the king, to whom he guaranteed to render a huge sum of money as a fine; however, he was not able to obtain terms of peace without accepting his princedom, which hitherto he had exercised through inheritance, by right of fief from the king’s hand, thus exchanging freedom for servitude; in his allegiance he must also match the tribute paid to Cnut by the people of Rugen. After confirming this agreement with the pledge of hostages, he bade farewell and returned with the same companions who had escorted him into the monarch’s presence.

7. To ensure that Bugislav did not depart without being shown due respect, Absalon entertained him and his friends to a banquet; but in his overenthusiastic consumption of drink he became so helpless and fuddled that he was thought to be scarcely in his right mind. Drunkenness made him so forgetful of his lost sovereignty that instead of bewailing his subjection he proclaimed joy in his liberty. Since he had become paralysed through imbibing too much liquor, he was carried ashore and placed in a tent, at whose door Absalon ordered forty armed men to stand guard and spend the night keeping watch over him. It was the Danes’ custom to observe such scrupulousness in protecting their guests that they took as much care to attend to their safety as they did to their own. Later Bugislav, indebted to Absalon for his kindness, returned the thanks he owed for these services by directing Wendish sympathies towards the Danes. In the morning, once he had driven off sleep and clapped eyes on the sentinels, he praised Danish honesty with all his heart and bestowed on our people the most justified commendations, claiming that he felt more delight when he realized Absalon s decency than resentment over the loss of his country.

8. He was conveyed to the spot where his soldiers awaited him, and the next day, bringing with him the foremost Wendish noblemen, humbly threw himself on his knees at the king’s feet, with his wife and children at his side; he besought Cnut’s pardon for the long-standing rebellion and, after surrendering some hostages and promising more, he was not ashamed to accept as a dependant the governance which his father and grandfather had held with supreme power; what was his by inherited right he would now possess through another’s generous dispensation.

9. Moved with pity for the prince, who had been brought to such a pitch of extremity, the king judged that he had now dealt Bugislav a heavy enough punishment and felt it preferable to grant him control over his realm rather than establish its use by the Danish crown; finally he raised the prostrate Bugislav to his feet. Cnut was no less affected by regard for his kinship with Bugislav’s sons through his mother. In this way jurisdiction over Wendish affairs, which had been denied Valdemar despite his continual efforts, was now assigned to Cnut with very little trouble, since his successful military venture had surpassed his father’s in its happy results. At that moment a massive swirl of cloud burst asunder, and shattering thunder crashes struck absolute terror into both races. Experts in divination reckoned that this was an omen auguring the downfall of the Wendish kingdom.

10. Bugislav’s mind, preoccupied with the assurances he had given of his steadfastness, displayed until the very last day of his life an unshakable trustworthiness and a consciousness of the generosity he had received; so true was this that when he had been attacked by his last illness and was passing away on his bed, he summoned his friends and bound them by an oath to conduct his wife and children to the king, make him responsible for sharing the realm between the fatherless boys, and defend Cnut’s decision as if it were stipulated in their parents’ will; he swore that he had no reservations about Danish reliability, seeing that he had many a time been given exceptional proofs of it, for this noble man recalled the great benefits the people ofRugen had gained by their preservation affirm friendship with the Danes.

[This also is the end of the Gesta Danorum]

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February 12, 2018

Arcuna on Lacus Veneticus

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Gustav Reinwald’s Beschreibung des Argengaues, as the name indicates describes the Argen-gau, that is the Argen “shire”.  This description appears in volume 6 of the fascinating Schriften des Vereins für Geschichte des Bodensees und seiner Umgebung.  The Bodensee is, of course, Lake Constance or Lacus Veneticus. The article contains a number of interesting names that smack of a Slavic origin.  Many of these come from the Urkundenbuch Der Abtei Sanct Gallen, Volumes 1-2.

What may have happened here is that place names with the Slavic -in suffix were Germanized by throwing in a “bach” or a “berg” or a “hoven” or an “ang”.  For that reason, I separate these.  Of course not all of these could be Slavic and others may be Slavic that are not even mentioned here – still the list is intriguing.

Arcuna, Argona, Arguna – this refers to the mouth of the eponymous river Argen from which the Argengau derives its appellation. Interestingly, this place name also appears earlier as Argow with the Slavic -ow ending. The connection with Kap Arkona is obvious. The ark here must refer to a landing place for a ship (that is, an “ark”) as, for example, in “anchorage” (although anchor is not related etymologically). The ship or “ark” could as well have been Jason’s Argo. Incidentally, that name, most likely, stems from the bowed shape of most vessels – its arch.

Tetin-anc (Tettnang) aka (?) Tentin-wilare

Ischacha (Aeschach)

Libilun-aha villa or Liubil-aha or Liubiliun-iiang or Liubilin-wang

quas ad Lintovam tradidit



Oborostin-dorophe (Oberostendorf?)

Pipparoci aka Piparoti (?)

Patahin-wilarePatechin-wilare (Bettenweiler?)






Pacen-hoven (Betznau?)

On the way to Pacenhoven

Rikinbach, Rihchin-bach



Here are some other curious names around Lacus Veneticus (previously mentioned already here).

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February 11, 2018

Iasion, Jason & the Obotrites

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In English the name of this tribe is either Obotrites or Obodrites.  The Polish name is Obodryci, Obodrzycy, Obodrzyce.  In Czech the same name is written Obodrice or  Bodrice.  The same in Latin is spelled Abodriti.  They were the westernmost northern Slavic tribal confederation that had been recorded.

But where did the name come from and what does it mean?  A number of hypotheses are present:

Some say their name refers to the Oder river – Odra – and they were “people who lived at the Odra”.

A variation of this states that they had lived on “both” sides of the Odra. That is, the “obo” refers to “both” – as in “obie” (both) Odry – both Oders.

Another variation would say that they were the ones that lived “obok” that is “at the” or “by” the Oder.

Yet another variation would be to ask whether the “o” should not rather (like the Latinized version) have been an “a” – thus, for example, we can ask whether those were the people who “came from” the Oder. This would be a German etymology – that is it relies on the word “ab” or “from”. This would be a kind of an amalgam – Odra is a Slavic version (Oder being the German version) but the “ab” would seemingly be a Germanic addition.  In fact, perhaps the original name had been Od-odrites, that is “from the Oder”.

Or perhaps, consistent with some versions of their names, such as the Czech Bodrici, the name refers to the worshippers of the Polish Goddess Boda?

Their first mention seems to be in the Carolingian annals for the year 789 where we read that Charlemagne entered the territory of the Slavic Wilzi (Veleti) accompanied by Franks, Saxons, Frisians and Slavs “called Sorbs and the Obodrites, whose chieftain was Witzan.”

As was already mentioned previously, the Veleti – the Obodrites’ great Slavic competitors – who, by the way, also make their first acknowledged historical appearance in that exact same entry – strangely seem to make an (unacknowledged) appearance already in Ptolemy’s Geography where it is said, that “back from the Ocean, near the Venedicus bay, the Veltae dwell, above whom are the Ossi.”

Could the Obodrites have the same claim to fame? It seems the answer could be yes.  Ptolemy’s description of Germania says that: “below the Gabreta forest are the Marcomani, brow whom are the Sudini, then extending to the Danube river are the Adrabaecampi” (ὑπὸ δὲ τὴν Γαβρήταν Ὕλην Μαρκομανοὶ, ὑφ’ οὓς Σουδινοὶ, καὶ μέχρι τοῦ Δανουβίου ποταμοῦ οἱ Ἀδραβαικάμποι·).  Could the Adrabaecampi be a name for the Obodrites or Abotrites?  Curiously, we also have a few lines above the Parmaecampi – both Parma and Adra being, potentially, of northern Italian – and, in the case of the Adra, of Venetic origin.

But, it gets better.

There is a possibility that there were two different tribes of Obotrites.  In fact, the very same Carolingian Annals mention (under the entry for the year 824) that: “The emperor [Louis the Pious] also received the envoys of the Obodrites who are commonly called Praedenecenti and live in Dacia on the Danube as neighbors of the Bulgars, of whose arrival he had been informed.”  In the same annals, just two years earlier (in the year 822) we hear of the emperor receiving “embassies and presents from all the East Slavs, that is, Obodrites, Sorbs, Wilzi, Bohemians, Moravians, and the Praedenecenti” which further confuses the picture.

So were the “southern Obodrites” the same as Praedenecenti or was this simply a confusion on the part of the Frankish author who could not tell all these Slavs apart?

Obotrites in green shows why exactly they got swallowed up by stronger polities

There is something that suggests that the scribe got it right (for the year 824).

Abdera in the South

First, interestingly, there is another Odra river right by the Croatian capital of Zagreb (this, in addition to other places with the same name, including in India). This is not quite at the Danube but certainly closer to that river than the northern Obotrites were.

Second, there is another city whose name evokes the Obotrites or Abotrites.  This one is not in Dacia or Pannonia but in Thrace (not close to the Danube but close enough?).  This is the city of Abdera (Ἄβδηρα) of which Strabo (Book &, Chapter 7, section 44-49) says:

“after the strait of Thasos one comes to Abdera and the scene of the myths connected with Abderus. It was inhabited by the Bistonian Thracians over whom Diomedes ruled. The Nestus River does not always remain in the same bed, but oftentimes floods the country. Then come Dicaea, a city situated on a gulf, and a harbor. Above these lies the Bistonis, a lake which has a circuit of about two hundred stadia. It is said that, because this plain was altogether a hollow and lower than the sea, Heracles, since he was inferior in horse when he came to get the mares of Diomedes, dug a canal through the shore and let in the water of the sea upon the plain and thus mastered his adversaries.”

Strabo then goes on to say:

“After the Nestus River, towards the east, is the city Abdera, named after Abderus, whom the horses of Diomedes devoured; then, near by, the city Picaea, above which lies a great lake, Bistonis; then the city Maroneia. Thrace as a whole consists of twenty-two tribes. But although it has been devastated to an exceptional degree, it can send into the field fifteen thousand cavalry and also two hundred thousand infantry. After Maroneis one comes to the city Orthagoria and to the region about Serrhium (a rough coasting voyage) and to Tempyra, the little town of the Samothracians, and to Caracoma, another little town, off which lies the island Samothrace, and to Imbros, which is not very far from Samothrace; Thasos, however, is more than twice as far from Samothrace as Imbros is. … Now Paulus, who captured Perseus, annexed the Epeirotic tribes to Macedonia, divided the country into four parts for purposes of administration, and apportioned one part to Amphipolis, another to Thessaloniceia, another to Pella, and another to the Pelagonians. Along the Hebrus live the Corpili, and, still farther up the river, the Brenae, and then, farthermost of all, the Bessi, for the river is navigable thus far. All these tribes are given to brigandage, but most of all the Bessi, who, He says, are neighbors to the Odrysae and the Sapaei. Bizye was the royal residence of the Astae. The term “Odrysae” is applied by some to all the peoples living above the seaboard from the Hebrus and Cypsela as far as Odessus – the peoples over whom Amadocus, Cersobleptes, Berisades, Seuthes, and Cotys reigned as kings.

Then, a bit later:

Iasion and Dardanus, two brothers, used to live in Samothrace. But when Iasion was struck by a thunderbolt because of his sin against Demeter, Dardanus sailed away from Samothrace, went and took up his abode at the foot of Mount Ida, calling the city Dardania, and taught the Trojans the Samothracian Mysteries. In earlier times, however, Samothrace was called Samos.”

Abderan coins

Strabo then returns to Abdera in Book 11 (chapter 14, sections 13-15):

“There is an ancient story of the Armenian race to this effect: that Armenus of Armenium, a Thessalian city, which lies between Pherae and Larisa on Lake Boebe, as I have already said,26 accompanied Jason into Armenia; and Cyrsilus the Pharsalian and Medius the Larisaean, who accompanied Alexander, say that Armenia was named after him, and that, of the followers of Armenus, some took up their abode in Acilisene, which in earlier times was subject to the Sopheni, whereas others took up their abode in Syspiritis, as far as Calachene and Adiabene, outside the Armenian mountains. They also say that the clothing of the Armenians is Thessalian, for example, the long tunics, which in tragedies are called Thessalian and are girded round the breast; and also the cloaks that are fastened on with clasps, another way in which the tragedians imitated the Thessalians, for the tragedians had to have some alien decoration of this kind; and since the Thessalians in particular wore long robes, probably because they of all the Greeks lived in the most northerly and coldest region, they were the most suitable objects of imitation for actors in their theatrical make-ups. And they say that their style of horsemanship is Thessalian, both theirs and alike that of the Medes. To this the expedition of Jason and the Jasonian monuments bear witness, some of which were built by the sovereigns of the country, just as the temple of Jason at Abdera was built by Parmenion.  It is thought that the Araxes was given the same name as the Peneius by Armenus and his followers because of its similarity to that river, for that river too, they say, was called Araxes because of the fact that it “cleft” Ossa from Olympus, the cleft called Tempe. And it is said that in ancient times the Araxes in Armenia, after descending from the mountains, spread out and formed a sea in the plains below, since it had no outlet, but that Jason, to make it like Tempe, made the cleft through which the water now precipitates itself into the Caspian Sea, and that in consequence of this the Araxene Plain, through which the river flows to its precipitate descent, was relieved of the sea. Now this account of the Araxes contains some plausibility, but that of Herodotus not at all; for he says that after flowing out of the country of the Matieni it splits into forty rivers and separates the Scythians from the Bactrians. Callisthenes, also, follows Herodotus. It is also said of certain of the Aenianes that some of them took up their abode in Vitia and others above the Armenians beyond the Abus and the Nibarus. These two mountains are parts of the Taurus, and of these the Abus is near the road that leads into Ecbatana past the temple of Baris. It is also said that certain of the Thracians, those called “Saraparae,” that is “Decapitators,” took up their abode beyond Armenia near the Guranii and the Medes, a fierce and intractable people, mountaineers, scalpers, and beheaders, for this last is the meaning of “Saraparae.” I have already discussed Medeia in my account of the Medes; and therefore, from all this, it is supposed that both the Medes and the Armenians are in a way kinsmen to the Thessalians and the descendants of Jason and Medeia.” 

And Then There Were More

Curiously, there is another Abdera – appearing as abdrt on its oldest coins.  This one is Andalusia and appears to have been a Phoenician colony. Its modern name is Adra.

This Abdera, we are told, was founded by the Phonicians.  Yet, adra type names are generally understood to be Indo-European which immediately raises several questions. For example, recall the Adriatic or the various Odras – the explanation here was that these may have been “Veneti” names.

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February 9, 2018

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XV

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I’ve already included some passages from the Gesta Danorum related to Slavic religion here (these come from Book XIV) but Saxo’s work contains many other passages related to Slavs/Wends.  Here are these passages from the XVI books of the Gesta Danorum in no particular order.  We begin with Book XV. These are from the recent Jensen/Fisher translation.

Chapter 1

2. Valdemar, meeting his troops on Falster, called an assembly of the leaders and told them that it was not his plan to challenge the enemy’s large forces with such a paltry band, seeing that on a military venture a king must inevitably win either maximum renown or maximum disgrace. For this reason he preferred to entrust supreme command of the expedition to Absalon and his own son, Cnut, who would return with a modicum of praise if they handled the affair successfully, but with only a small share of blame if things went badly. These two were prompt to obey his instructions and, aided also by as large a flotilla from Rugen as could be mustered at short notice, they sailed without interruption to Ostrusna, intent on attacking the foe with speed as much as with boldness. The invasion was such a well-concealed surprise that the majority of Wends were overwhelmed while still at home and unprepared; the Danes would have laid waste this region, which was entirely off-guard, had not a fire started by some of the more inept soldiers eventually betrayed their presence. There, as luck would have it, two Wends were making their escape in a boat when one of them was brought down by a spear thrown by Jarimar; the other yearned to avenge him, but as soon as he identified the Rugian chief as the object of his assault, he cast aside his weapon with misgiving and slipped away. So deep is the respect pai( amongst these people to men of exalted rank.

3. Meanwhile our vessels glided along the River Peene, where the sailors seized the horses they found pasturing before they moved on to Wolgast. Here, since the bridge had been smashed to pieces and the passage cleared of obstacles, the ships dropped anchor alongside the walls, while the townsfolk set hands to the ballistas, which were not yet prepared. The navy, preferring to take up time sailing rather than endure the tediousness of a siege, were so rambling and dispersed in their action that the enemy were left baffled and bewildered, not knowing for certain whereabouts they needed most protection. The Danish crews, avoiding those points at which foes confronted them, sought places free of resistance, and when the Wends made for those very places, would deliberately vacate them and transfer their soldiery to the areas that lacked defence. To ensure that there was no break in their activities it was decided that the infantry should spend their nights at the oars, their days sleeping, while the cavalry should balance their nightly rest with military exertions during daylight.

4. Believing they could not counter this type of onset with armed warfare, and perceiving that their country’s devastation, which had been started through our soldiers’ mobility no less than their strength, could not be averted under their leadership, Bugislav and Kazimar adopted a scheme to buy peace, and would trade for friendship with people whose offensive they could not withstand. They approached the Danes and, confessing that they were unable to cope with their might, pretended they did not consider the loss of their present territories much of a hardship, for they meant to arrange new settlements amid the spacious wilds of Pomerania. At this Niels of Falster collapsed into laughter, stating that this showed poor concern for their homeland, inasmuch as they were being compelled to yield their coastal regions to the Danes and the hinterland to the Poles, buffeted this way and that by the armed bands of their neighbours. His words warned them to look to the safety of their country and so, after promising 100 pounds in coin to Absalon, since he held authority over the expeditionary force, and the same amount to Cnut, they guaranteed the release of the envoys they had captured, together with a sum of 2,000 marks, to compensate for the pillage inflicted on our king.

5. Absalon did not venture a reply straight away, but first drew aside the leaders and told them that the enemy were offering terms which, if accepted, would be welcomed by the Danes, yet detrimental to them; should they reject them, however, it would be a more appropriate, though not as popular a move; for if their king gained money, their countrymen peace, and the prisoners their freedom by such a pact, it would win them what was more like a favour than an advantage; on the other hand, it would be highly beneficial to treat these conditions as worthless and not back out of war. As it was, the Wends’ strength had been reduced to such slender proportions that if there were no truce, they would be compelled to sue for surrender. Nevertheless, Absalon said he left it to his followers to choose whether to settle for fighting or peace, since he had no wish for it to seem as if he had presumptuously followed his own schemes and disregarded the advice of others. The answer came that they were particularly inclined towards the option which could earn pubIic acclaim.

Chapter 5

5. When he had begun to besiege the town of Lubeck, because he regarded the forces of the brothers, Bugislav and Kazimar, with some mistrust Frederick secretly sent envoys to them with the promise that he would increase the power and prestige of both, since they would be given the dukedoms of the provinces which hitherto they had controlled as under lings without any distinguished title. This guarantee of Frederick’s came as a joy to a pair who had so often been injured by Henry, nor did they perceive that, under the pretext of granting fiefdoms, the emperor was in effect holding out the demeaning yoke of servitude.

10. At this point, after receiving emissaries from the Wends, who would not risk sailing to meet the emperor for fear of Valdemar’s fleet, Frederick was rowed at daybreak in a longboat of the king’s to the latter’s vessel accompanied by a small number of soldiers and climbed aboard, to everyone’s surprise. Valdemar therefore brought together his army captains to take part in a conference, but Frederick made an exception of Jarimar, chief of the Rugians, and would not allow him to be summoned, though the previous day he had shown him a great many respectful attentions and even addressed him flatteringly as ‘king’, because he was aware that this man was extremely loyal to the Danes. Frederick then stated that there was something he was anxious to tell Valdemar in secret; on account of the reciprocal contract which was to take place between their families, he regarded the king not merely as a friend, but a like-minded partner. Frederick informed him that he had drawn the Wends with promises so that they might disable Henry, but once the latter had been subdued he had no inclination to carry out his guarantees, since he was conscious of having at one time given Valdemar an undertaking that the Wendish territories would be subjugated. He went on to beg the king to let him treat these lands as a fiefdom for the moment, to be granted to the two brothers as twin lords, although this would be more for show than permanent. Immediately Henry had been destroyed, he would ensure that the region passed into Valdemar’s hands.

11. The king agreed and sought a meeting on the following day, there Frederick ceremonially handed over banners and named Bugislav and Kazimar dukes of the Wendish lands, thereby causing them to trade the ancient, hereditary freedom of their homeland for official titles that were colourful but meaningless. If only they had realized what a heavy burden they were taking on their backs by accepting these insignificant scraps of cloth, they would have chosen death before such a gift and opted to live the whole of the rest of their lives as private citizens. So, beneath the semblance of preferment they went off having involved themselves in the most disagreeable and shameful humiliation, taking back with them to their country a thraldom gilded over with the spurious trappings of distinction.

Chapter 6

1. Meanwhile, as the fortress which they had toiled to build by Swinemunde had been inundated by winter floods from the sea, the Wends gathered materials during the rest of the season and at the beginning of spring constructed two others in the same area; they believed that, if the River Peene were blocked by the town of Wolgast, and Swina by garrisons on the coast, they themselves would be invincible. Apprised of this rather late in the day, Valdemar mustered his troops in order to obstruct their operations and put in at Grensund, but not before he learnt from the Rugians that the strongholds had been completed and filled with guards. In particular, when he considered carefully the shortage of harbours, he was forced to abandon the idea of capturing the forts.

12. As Absalon was on the point of offering prayers for the welfare of Valdemar’s soul, unable to control his grief while he was uttering the solemn words, he could not restrain himself from sprinkling the altar with his tears, so that he scarcely had power enough to steady his voice and hands to complete the divine office. On top of that he was occupied with such great sorrow of mind and suddenly became afflicted with such a severe and dangerous infirmity, that the end of the mass almost coincided with that of his life. It might have seemed unbelievable that a personage as great as he could have been incapacitated by misery so intense and painful, had his affection for Valdemar not been so well known. But Fate, after one light of his country had been quenched, would not let the other perish; Wendish territory could not be brought beneath the heel of the Danes if they lacked a leader, and a nation which under such eminent generals had risen to a position of surpassing glory would have remained bereft of a defender. The altars, bedewed with the tears he shed instead of prayers, gave no slight evidence of his spontaneous warm-heartedness towards the king. And I could imagine that the incense, made wet by his weeping, emitted a fragrance that was gratifying to the Lord.

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February 6, 2018

Some Polabian Maps

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Here is the furthest recorded (with several notable exceptions) extent of Polabian Slavs against the background of modern Germany:

Here is another one sent by a reader from a book by Arthur Szrejter:

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February 2, 2018