Once Again on al-Bakri

Incidentally, if you are interested in reports of Slavs in Westphalia (Quazwini), you may want to check out the edition of al-Bakri‘s Kitāb al-Masālik wa-al-mamālik by Adrian van Leeuwen et André Ferré (Tunis: al-Dar al-‘Arabiyya li-l-Kitab, 1992), where, apparently, al-Bakri, claims that the Rhine was the frontier between Franks and Slavs.

For more see Daniel G. König’s  “Arabic-Islamic Views of the Latin West: Tracing the Emergence of Medieval Europe” from which comes the above.  For more on al-Bakri’s mention of the account of Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub’s see here.

While Arab writers probably did confuse Slavs and Germans occasionally, there is no reason to believe that what they wrote above was anything other than a reflection of the situation at the time.  The Frankish realm was, after all, formed and run primarily from the West of the Rhine.

Even at the Treaty of Verdun (843), the realm of Louis the German consisted primarily of Saxony, Austrasia, Allemania, what was left of Thuringia and Bavaria.  Yet, the Saxons, Allemans and Thuringians were rather latecomers to Germania in any sedentary fashion.  The Allemans may have been, as the name suggests, a mixture of a whole bunch of people and the Bavarians’ origin is rather mysterious itself.  Suffice it to say that:

  • Alemanni appear about the beginning of the third century (213) in Cassius Dio
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom in 496
  • Thuringians appear first as Toringi about the year 400 in the Mulomedicina by Flavius Vegetius Renatus
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom in 531
  • Bavarians appear first in the Getica about 551 or 576 in Venantius Fortunatus
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom by 788
  • Saxons appear first (probably) in Ptolemy (?) north of the lower Elbe (Schleswig?), then about 356 in Gaul, then in Britain in 441-442 and, for the first time in Northern Germany in 555
    • rather brutally incorporated into the Frankish kingdom by 804

Austrasians were not really a tribe – rather Austrasia was an administrative region of the Frankish kingdom meaning the “eastern” portion as opposed to Neustria, which was the “new western” portion of that kingdom.

Did all these tribes come from the North after the birth of Christ? Probably not all but probably a sizable chunk of them which raises the question who were the Gauls or Germans who lived there before?  It is curious that Frankish records later show Slavic presence not just east of the Elbe-Saale but also in Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria and Carinthia.

For more on the idea of the Rhein as a border see here.  For more on al-Bakri see here.  For more on Thuringia see here.

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June 26, 2017

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