Once More on William of Malmesbury

We have discussed William of Malmesbury’s contribution to Slavic mythology here.  So why come back to this text?  Well, the thing is, it’s not entirely clear that this text has anything to do with Slavs…  The text talks about two tribes: Vindelici and Leutici, of whom the Vindelici worship “fortune”.  The  Leutici have been interpreted as the Veleti/Luticians.  But what of the Vindelici?  It is, after all, the Vindelici who worshipped fortune not the Leutici…


The answer given seems to be “some other Polabian” Slavic tribe.  Wends of some other type.  One suggestion was that these were the Rugians, those worshippers of Svantovit of Arkona.  The reference to the horn of plenty in the passage would seem to confirm that (although the cornucopia is hardly a Slavic invention).  On the other hand, there are two issues here:

First, is the name Vindelici – this is a name that our readers should already be familiar with.  We wrote about them here when discussing Strabo and here when discussing certain Slavs.  They were the ones who lived on the River Lech and were attacked by Tiberius.  But, these Vindelici were Celts… or so we are told.  So is William of Malmesbury just confusing some Wendish/Slavic tribe with the Vindelici of old?

Second, there is the reference to the Suevi.  Henry III, we are told by William, “subdued the Vindelici and the Leutici, and the other nations bordering on the Suevi, who alone, even to the present day lust for the pagan superstitions.”  But the Suevi, if by these we mean the Schwaben, were, at the time, nowhere near the Slavs.  On the East they bordered Bavarians, on the North the Franks and Thuringians…  Of course, back in Tiberius’ day, the Vindelici would have lived right next to – what would later become Suebia/Allemania.

So what is the solution to this puzzle?

Were Vindelici still neighbors of the Schwaben in the 11th century – a thousand years after Tiberius allegedly finished them off at Lake Veneticus (i.e., Bodensee)?  Was the name Vindelici transferred to some other tribe?  Did William make a mistake?  Was there another tribe of Vindelici – independently bearing that name?

Or was the relation of the Vindelici and Suevi a little bit more complicated?  Were, perhaps the Vndelici also Suevi or, perhaps at least Suavi?  Did they get up after their rout by Tiberius and heard North?  Nestor does say that the Vlachs persecuted the Slavs and that was when the Slavs headed North… Could that memory have survived 1,000 years somehow despite the fact that the Slavic culture was at the time illiterate?  It seems unlikely.  And yet…

And who are these Suevi?  Could they be the North Suevi that we talked about here?  Or perhaps they are instead Slavs and William just confused the two concepts…


Holy Horse of… Svantovit?

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July 1, 2015

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  1. Pingback: Were There Vandals in Poland? – Part II | In Nomine Jassa

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