Widukind (Witikindus) of Corvey (circa 925-935 – circa after 973) , the author of the Deeds of the Saxons has much to say about the Slavs. He was perhaps, named after Wittekind (Child of the wood”?) the Saxon war hero who fought against the Franks during the Saxon Wars (777-785) and lost… then converted to Christianity and, as per the Vita Liudgeri (biography of Saint Ludger), subsequently accompanied Charlemagne on the latter’s campaign against the Veleti and their leader Dragovit.
Although we’ve already mentioned some references (e.g., to the Licikaviki of Mieszko), we thought we should also discuss other mentions of the Slavs. The following comes from the Bernard and David Bachrach translation of Res gestae Saxonicae. We present it here in several parts.
17. Regarding King Henry
“…From his youth, Henry [I] devoted every bit of his strength to bringing glory to his people, and to strengthening peace. When the father saw the wisdom of the youth, and his exceptional judgment, he dispatched Henry with a Saxon levy and the ducal military household against the Daleminzi, whom he himself had fought for many years. The Daleminzi were not able to withstand Henry’s attack and summoned against him the Avars, whom we now call the Hungarians, a people that is exceptionally brutal in war.” [906?]
…nam maximum ei ab adolescentia studium erat in glorificando gentem suam et pacem confirmando in omni potestate sua. Pater autem videns prudentiam adolescentis et consilii magnitudinem reliquit ei exercitum et militiam adversus Dalamantiam, contra quos diu ipse militavit. Dalamanci vero inpetum illius ferre non valentes conduxerunt adversus eum Avares, quos modo Ungarios vocamus, gentem belli asperrimam.
19. The Hungarians were confined by Charlemagne, but were set free by Arnulf
“The Hungarians were defeated by Charlemagne, driven across the Danube river, enclosed within a huge wall, and prohibited from raiding other peoples in their customary manner. However, during the reign of Arnulf [887-899], this work was undone, and a path was opened up for them to renew their killing since the emperor angered Zwentibold, the king of the Moravians [Svatopluk I, 870 or 871-894]. The great slaughter and tremendous injuries inflicted by the Hungarians on the Frankish empire are attested by the cities and regions that remain desolate up to the present day. We judge it useful to provide information about this people so that your highness will understand the kind of people against whom you grandfather and father fought, and from what kind of enemies almost all of Europe has been liberated by strength of your grandfather’s and father’s widow and under their banners.”
Victi autem a Magno Karolo et trans Danubium pulsi ac ingenti vallo circumclusi, prohibiti sunt a consueta gentium depopulatione. Imperante autem Arnulfo destructum est opus, et via eis nocendi patefacta, eo quod iratus esset imperator Centupulcho regi Marorum. Deinde quantam stragem quantamque iniuriam imperio Francorum fecerint, urbes ac regiones adhuc desolatae testantur. Haec ideo de hac gente dicere arbitrati sumus, ut possit tua claritas agnoscere, cum qualibus avo tuo patrique certandum fuerit, vel a quibus hostibus per eorum providentiae virtutem et armorum insignia tota iam fere Europa liberata sit.
20. How the Hungarians devastated Saxony,
“The Hungarian army, mentioned above, was guided by the Slavs and inflicted great slaughter in Saxony. After taking huge quantities of booty, they returned to Dalminzia and met another Hungarian army there. The second Hungarian army threatened to make war on the allies of the first army because they refused to provide help to them,* while leading the first army to such great plunder. So it happened that Saxony was laid waste a second time by the Hungarians. The first army awaited the second in Daleminzia, and by their presence caused such a dearth of food that they [Daleminzi] were forced that year to leave their own homes and serve other nations to obtain sustenance.”
* apparently the Slavic Daleminzi did not want to help this second Hungarian army notwithstanding the fact that they helped the first.
Predictus igitur exercitus Ungariorum a Sclavis conductus, multa strage in Saxonia facta et infinita capta preda, Dalamantiam reversi obvium invenerunt alium exercitum Ungariorum; qui comminati sunt bellum inferre amicis eorum, eo quod auxilia eorum sprevissent, dum illos ad tantam predam duxissent. Unde factum est, ut secundo vastaretur Saxonia ab Ungariis, et priori exercitu in Dalamantia secundum expectante, ipsa quoque in tantam penuriae miseriam ducta sit, ut aliis nationibus eo anno relicto proprio solo pro annona servirent.
35. How King Henry used his nine years of peace.
“…After Henry had accustomed his subjects to this legal obligation and discipline, he immediately attacked the Slavs who are called the Hevelii. First, Henry wore them down with numerous battles. Then he established his encampment on the ice during the coldest part of the winter. Finally, through hunger, iron, and cold, he captured the fortress of Brandenburg [Brennaburg]. Then having captured the entire region along with this fortress, Henry turned his banners against Daleminzia where his father long before had placed him in command of an army. There he besieged a fortress called Gana,* and finally captured it after twenty days. Henry distributed the booty from the fortress among his soldiers. All of the adults were killed, while the youths and maidens were led off as slaves. After this, Henry marched to Prague, the fortress of the Bohemians, with his entire army. He received the surrender of the king of the Bohemians. Certain miraculous stories are told about this king, but we think that it is better to remain silent about them because we have no proof that they happened. He was the brother of Boleslav who remained loyal and helpful to the emperor as long as he lived. So Henry made the Bohemians tributaries and returned to Saxony.”
* This may be a fortress between Hof and Stauchitz on the river Jahna about southwest from Riesa. That Ganna was the seeress in Germania after Veleda we know from Tacitus. Ganna, Ganna and Poganie…
Tali lege ac disciplina cum cives assuefaceret, repente irruit super Sclavos qui dicuntur Hevelli, et multis eos preliis fatigans, demum hieme asperrima castris super glaciem positis cepit urbem quae dicitur Brennaburg fame ferro frigore. Cumque illa urbe potitus omnem regionem signa vertit contra Dalamantiam, adversus quam iam olim reliquit ei pater militiam; et obsidens urbem quae dicitur Gana, vicesima tandem die cepit eam. Preda urbis militibus tradita, puberes omnes interfecti, pueri ac puellae captivitati servatae. Post haec Pragam adiit cum omni exercitu, Boemiorum urbem, regemque eius in deditionem accepit; de quo quaedam mirabilia predicantur, quae quia non probamus, silentio tegi iudicamus. Frater tamen erat Bolizlavi qui quamdiu vixit imperatori fidelis et utilis mansit. Igitur rex Boemias tributarias faciens reversus est in Saxoniam.
36. Regarding the Redarii and how they were defeated.
“And so after the following neighboring peoples were made tributaries by King Henry, namely the Obodrites, Wilzi, Hevelli, Daleminzi, Bohemians, and Redarii, and peace had been established, the Redarii rebelled. They mobilized a huge force and attacked a stronghold called Walsleben, which they captured, killing everyone living there, comprising a great multitude. All of the barbarian nations were inspired by this act, and dared to rebel as well.”
Cumque vicinae gentes a rege Heinrico factae essent tributariae, Apodriti, Wilti, Hevelli, Dalamanci, Boemi, Redarii, et pax esset, Redarii defecerunt a fide, et congregata multitudine inpetum fecerunt in urbem quae dicitur Wallislevu ceperuntque eam, captis et interfectis omnibus habitatoribus eius, innumerabili videlicet multitudine. Quo facto omnes barbarae nationes erectae iterum rebellare ausae sunt.
“In order to repress the ferocity of the barbarians, the expeditionary levy as well as a force of professional soldiers were dispatched under the command of Bernhard, who already held authority over the province of the Redarii. Thietmar also was dispatched to join the legate as a colleague. They were ordered to besiege the stronghold called Lenzen.”
Ad quarum ferocitatem reprimendam traditur exercitus cum presidio militari Bernhardo, cui ipsa Redariorum provincia erat sublegata, additurque legato collega Thiatmarus, et iubentur urbem obsidere quae dicitur Lunkini.
“On the fifth day of the siege, which was a Friday, scouts announced that an army of barbarians was not far off, and that the barbarians had decided to launch an attack on the Saxon encampment that night. After this had been confirmed by many others, the people believed the report, since it was corroborated. When the people had gathered around the tents of the legate, he issued orders following the advice that had been given to him that very hour by his colleague. The men were to remain prepared through the night in order to prevent a barbarian assault on their camp.”
Quinto obsidionis die venere custodes exercitum barbarorum non longe esse adnuntiantes, et quia nocte contigua inpetum in castra facere decrevissent. Cumque plures eadem confirmarent, populus fidem paribus dabat dictis. Et cum conventus esset populi circa tentoria legati, eadem hora collega dictante precepit, ut per totam noctem parati essent, ne qua forte irruptio barbarorum in castra fieret.
“When the large group of defenders had been ordered to stand down, emotions in camp were very mixed. Some were melancholy and others were happy. Some dreaded the battle and others were looking forward to it. The fighting men moved between hope and fear according to the nature of their personalities. In the meantime, the day went by, and the night was much darker than usual because of a huge rainstorm,. Thus, by God’s will, the evil plan of the barbarians was thwarted.”
Cum autem dimissa esset multitudo, in castris variavere moestitia pariter atque laetitia, aliis bellum formidantibus, aliis autem desiderantibus; et pro qualitate morum inter spem metumque versabantur bellatores. Interea dies transit, et nox solito tenebrosior cum ingenti pluvia adest nutu divino, quatinus consilium pessimum inpediretur barbarorum.
“As had been ordered, the Saxons remained armed throughout the night. Then at first light, after the signal had been given, they all received the sacrament. Then each man promised under oath, first to the commanders, and then to each other, that they wiuld do their duty in the resent battle. After the sun rose, for fine clear weather had returned after the rain storm, they raised their banners and marched out of camp. ”
Ut ergo iussum est, tota nocte illa armati erant Saxones, et primo diluculo dato signo sacramentoque accepto, primum ducibus, deinde unusquisque alteri operam suam sub iuramento promittebat ad presens bellum. Orto autem sole – nam post pluviam clara redit serenitas -, erectis signis procedebant castris.
“The legate, who was in the first rank, launched an attack against the barbarians. But he was not able to overcome the innumerable enemy with his small force. When he teruned to the army, he reported that the barbarians did not have many mounted men. However, because of their enormous number of men on foot, and because the rain the previous night had created such an obstacle, the enemy could not be drawn to engage in battle against his own mounted troops.”
In prima quidem fronte legatus in barbaros inpetum faciens, sed cum pauci non prevalerent adversus innumerabiles, reversus est ad exercitum referens, quia barbari non plures haberent equites, peditum vero innumerabilem multitudinem et nocturna pluvia in tantum inpeditam, ut vix ab equitibus coacti ad pugnam procederent.
“As the sun blazed down on the wet clothing of the barbarians, and made steams rise up to the sky, the people of God gained hope and faith as the brihgteness and serenity of His countenance shined around them. Then the signal was given, and the legate urged on the legions that charted with a great shout against the enemy. When it became clear that the great number of the enemy would not allow the Saxons to drive through them, they struyck then on the left and right with their weapons. Whenever they* were able to separate some of them** from their fellows, they killed them all.”
Igitur sole cadente in humida vestimenta barbarorum, fumum ascendere fecit usque in caelum, spem fiduciamque prestans Dei populo, cuius faciei claritas atque serenitas circumfulsit illos. Igitur dato signo et exhortante legiones legato cum clamore valido irruunt in hostes. Cumque nimia densitate iter pertranseundi hostes non pateret, dextra laevaque ferro erumpentes, quoscumque a sociis secernebant, neci dabant.
“As the battle intensified with many dead on each side, and the barbarians still managing to maintain their formation , the legate ordered his colleague to provide support to the legions. So Thietmar dispatched a commander with fifty heavily armed mounted troops against the enemy’s flank and disrupted their entire formation. From this point on, the enemy faced only flight and death. When they had been slaughtered through the fields, some of the survivors attempted to flee to the fortress. But the colleague prevented them from doing this, so they entered a nearby lake. So it happened that of this enormous multitude, almost all were killed by the sword or drowned in the lake. None of the foot soldiers survived, and just a few of the enemy mounted troops. The battled ended with the defeat of all of their adversaries.”
Cumque iam bellum gravaretur, et multi hinc atque inde caderent, et adhuc barbari ordines tenerent, legatus collegam, ut legionibus auxilio esset, expostulat. Ille vero prefectum cum quinquaginta armatis lateri hostili inmisit et ordines conturbavit; ex hoc caedi fugaeque tota die hostes patebant. Cum ergo per omnes agros caederentur, ad urbem vicinam fugere temptabant. Collega autem hoc eis precavente, proximum mare ingressi sunt, et ita factum est, ut omnis illa nimia multitudo aut gladio consumeretur aut in mari mergeretur. Nec peditum ullus superfuit, equitum rarissimus, deponiturque bellum cum casu omnium adversariorum
“There was a huge burst of joy following the victory. Everyone praised the commanders, and each of the soldiers praised his fellows. Even the cowards enjoyed some praise, as often happened when there is such good fortune. The next day, they marched to the aforementioned fortress. The defenders lay down their arms and asked only for their lives. They received this. The unarmed men were ordered to depart the city. However, the slaves, and all of the money along with the wives, children and goods of the king of the barbarians were carried into captivity. On our side, two men named Liuthar died, along with manny other noblemen. The legate, his colleague, and other commanders returned to Saxony as victors. They were received honorably by the king and given all due praise since with God’s favor and mercy their small forces had gained a magnificent victory. The next day, all of the captives, as they had promised, were beheaded.”*
* As the editors note, “[t]his is the first reference to the beheading of captives, and it is not clear whether it refers to the slaves and royal family taken at Lenzen, to the captives taken in the battle, or to both.”
Ingens interea oritur laetitia ex recenti victoria, dum omnes laudant duces, unusquisque vero militum predicat alium, ignavum quoque, ut in tali fortuna solet fieri. Postera autem luce movent signa urbi prefatae; urbani vero arma deponunt, salutem tantummodo deposcunt ac merentur. Inermes igitur urbe egredi iussi; servilis autem conditio et omnis pecunia cum uxoribus et filiis et omni suppellectili barbarorum regis captivitatem subibant. Ceciderunt etiam ex nostris in illo prelio duo Liutharii et alii nobiles viri nonnulli. Igitur legatus cum collega et aliis principibus Saxoniam victores reversi honorifice a rege sunt suscepti satisque laudati, qui parvis copiis divina. favente clementia magnificam perpetraverint victoriam. Nam fuere qui dicerent barbarorum ducenta milia caesa. Captivi omnes postera die, ut promissum habebant, obtruncati.
38. The king’s speech and how he defeated the Hungarians in an open battle.
“…After these events, the Hungarian legates came to the king to receive their customary gifts. But they departed from him to return to their own land empty-handed. When they heard this, the Avars did not delay. They hurried to enter Saxony with a large hostile force. They took the route through Daleminzia and sought help from the old friends. But they*, knowing that the Hungarians were hurrying to Saxony, and that the Saxons were ready to fight them, gave a very fat dog to the Hungarians as their gift. The Hungarians did not have time to avenge this insult as they were hurrying on to a different fight. For quite a while the Daleminzi pursued their ‘friends’ while mocking them…”
“…Post haec legati Ungariorum adierunt regem pro solitis muneribus, sed ab eo spreti in terram suam vacui sunt reversi. Haec audientes Avares, nichil morati cum gravi hostilique manu festinant intrare Saxoniam. Et iter agentes per Dalamantiam ab antiquis opem petunt amicis. Illi vero scientes eos festinare ad Saxoniam Saxonesque ad pugnandum cum eis paratos, pinguissimum pro munere eis proiciunt canem. Et cum non esset iniuriam vindicandi locus ad aliam pugnam festinantibus, cum ridiculosa satis vociferatione longius prosequuntur amicos…”
Copyright ©2016 jassa.org All Rights Reserved