Tag Archives: Liutprand of Cremona

Chasing a fake chronicler: ‘Eutrand’ of Toledo

OK, I’m back! Sorry, there were two conferences and there are still many deadlines, but so many people at Leeds were kind about the blog that I feel under even more compulsion than usual to combat its backlog. I hope to post pretty frequently for the next few months now, as my responsibilities are about to acquire a much more regular shape, which will itself be a post topic shortly. Meanwhile, here’s a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. It’s something of a historiographical detective story, and it doesn’t have an ending, because as you will see I had to decide somewhere along the line that it was too much of a sidetrack for me. But it has a clear beginning, and that is with a post of Joan Vilaseca’s in May 2012 at his Cathalaunia blog. For those not up to a bit of Catalan, the post was about the earliest date we could put on the presence the relics Saints Llucia and Martial at Sant Sadurní de Vic, and Joan had just discovered an apparently-unnoticed mention of this in the Chronicon of Liudprand of Cremona.

The frontage of Sant Sadurní de Vic

The frontage, which is all that remains, of Sant Sadurní de Vic, taken from the Carrer de Sant Sadurní by your humble author

You can imagine that this got my attention immediately. There is information about tenth-century Vic in the work of one of the most chatty chroniclers of the early Middle Ages? How had I missed it? So I clicked on the links Joan had helpfully provided and immediately found myself in a world of confusion, which is sadly reflected in the comments I left on that post. For a start, the seventeenth-century edition that Joan was using made the division between its texts very hard to spot.1 (There is no contents page…) So I looked for the extract in the Chronicon, not realising there were other texts in the volume at all, and found myself in something that seemed pretty clearly to be a truncated version of Liudprand’s Antapadosis, and I’ve got that and this bit isn’t there.2 Tracking the reference through the linked edition eventually clarified that the bit that Joan was using came from a text which the editor had called the Fragmenta.3 But there are, canonically, four works attributed to Liudprand: the Antapodosis, a scurrilous and gossipy account of tenth-century Italian and German history as Liudprand had lived through it notionally addressed to Bishop Recemund of Córdoba, whom Liudprand had met at the court of Emperor Otto I of the Germans, Liudprand’s second boss; the Historia Ottonis, a short but detailed account of Otto’s deposition of Pope John XII; the Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana, a bitter and vituperative attempt to excuse the failure of an embassy he’d led for Otto to the Emperor Nicephorus Phocas; and a recently-recognised homily on Easter. So what on earth was this?

Title page of the 1635 edition of works attributed to Liudprand by Tamaio de Vargas

Title page of the 1635 edition of Liudprand’s spuria that started this trouble, details visible or in notes below

It wants saying at this point that it is really perfectly fair for someone coming new to this stuff to take it for real. Joan had the best reason of all to take them seriously, to wit, that he was following up a citation from a book chapter by Manuel Riu i Riu, whose work was not the sort of place where one usually found forgeries cited.4 And after all, it’s just not normal to find a seventeenth-century book of 427 pages in Latin with all the special typefaces and so on and it actually be completely false. The thing looks serious. Even if the suspicion arose, though, you would have a hard time checking it. None of the standard editions or translations of Liudprand I knew so much as mention any dubious or pseudonymous writings, by which I mean the standard (and web-accessible) editions of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Wright’s famous translation or Squatriti’s new one that includes the homily.5 Even the brand-new edition by Chiesa, which I only got hold of later, only mentions them in passing once as “le opere spurie”, without further explanation, and in fact refers to the Chronicon once beforehand as if it might be a genuine work, just misattributed.6 I even spoke to two people in Oxford who’ve published on Liudprand, and they’d never heard of these texts. And web-searches only brought up the various seventeenth-century printings of these texts without contexts, and brought me back to where I’d started. So it seemed that there was really very little help to be had here beyond going back to the text and trying to figure it out.

Frontispiece of Higuera & Ramírez's edition of all the claimed works of Liudprand of Cremona

Frontispiece of the 1640 Antwerp edition of our problem texts

I couldn’t get very far with the Google Books version; there are times when a physical edition is still just easier to page through, and those times are when you don’t know what you’re looking for. But where was I going to find a dodgy seventeenth-century edition of Liudprand of Cremona in actual paper? And the answer turned out to be: where I worked, because the Upper Library of the Queen’s College Oxford has quite a lot of seventeenth- to nineteenth-century antiquarian works they apparently bought in a rush with a bequest and among them was a slightly later Antwerp printing of the relevant text.7 Once I’d got the thing open before me, I first noted that this edition contained, as well as all the three ‘regular’ works, the Chronicon, a Historia de rebus suo tempore in Europa gestis, a De adversariis, a Liber de vitis romanorum pontificum and the Fragmenta, that is History of Events in Europe in His Time, On Enemies, Book of the Vices of the Roman Pontiffs and Fragments. It’s quite full. The extra ones do admittedly sound like things that Liudprand might have written, but it didn’t take very long with the Chronicon to be sure that that, at least, could not be his. For example: its second entry states that in AD 607 Muhammad began to preach ‘his error’ in Spain and was booted out by the Archbishop of Toledo; only in 619, therefore, did he translate the said error into ‘books in the Arabic language’. Charlemagne, already mentioned as a saint in the prolegomena, is recorded visiting Toledo in 781 (although the era date given corresponds to 771) in order to marry Galiana, the Christian daughter (converted, of course, by an archbishop of Toledo, a title that perhaps we should mention they did not yet use) of a King Galafrid of Toledo, Muslim despite his name. I guess that I don’t need to point out that Charlemagne never came further south into Spain than Saragossa. In 799, King Alfonso the Chaste of Asturias and Count Roland and a bunch of Frankish nobles all go on campaign together; Roland, of course, had died in 778 at Roncesvalles and probably never met Alfonso. The best one is earlier, sub anno 690 where it says that there are ten languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, and lists them as “Hispanica, Cantabrica, Græca, Latina, Arabica, Chaldæica, Huriano, Celtiberico, Galicano et Catalaunica”.8 It’s hard to know what’s wrongest here, but it’s all pretty crazy and not something anyone could have thought in the tenth century. In fact it’s hard to think of a time when someone could have thought it!

The Upper Library of the Queen's College, Oxford

The Upper Library of the Queen’s College, Oxford

All this therefore raised the question of what the text is actually supposed to be, and that’s also fun. The text starts with a letter from Bishop ‘Tractemund of Elvira’, apparently meaning the real Liudprand’s real correspondent Recemund of Córdoba, telling Eutrand (as it spells him) that Tractemund has received the Antapodosis and the De rebus gestis, but he has very few other books in Elvira because the Muslims have destroyed so much and he gathers that at Eutrand’s new home in Fulda there may be a copy of the Chronicon of Maximus and Dexter. Luidprand (so spelt) then replies in a letter that follows in the edition, saying yes, as it happens they do have a copy of the Chronicon. Since it only went as far as 612, however, what he’s actually sending is his own supplement from 606 to 960, including lots of stuff about their mutual acquaintances in Spain, because, you see, these letters also make clear that Eutrand is supposed to have spent some considerable time as a subdeacon in Toledo, only going to Pavia to become a deacon later and then getting out to Germany sharply afterwards. It would be marvellous if any of it were true, but it can’t be: Liudprand’s career is well-enough documented that we can see there isn’t a gap that size in it, nor any suggestion of such a thing in the Antapadosis, written, you will remember, for a Spanish recipient. But the editor, one Jeronimo Román de la Higuera, spends some time justifying this, and in limited support, the person they get to introduce the volume says that Higuera and his colleague extracted the manuscript from Fulda’s library (something that the editors themselves do not mention, even when arguing for the authenticity of the text).9 But the notes, which are supplied by one Lorenzo Ramírez de Prado, are said to come from the Tamaio de Vargas edition, and it’s all extremely tangled.

It seems, however, that it is Higuera who was the problem. I did not know till I looked into this, but Higuera was one of the most notorious forgers of perhaps the entire early modern era. He is credited with so many faked texts, all more or less to the greater glory of his native Toledo, that some of his defenders (for as a prominent Jesuit he has had some) have attempted the rather weak argument that it seems impossible for one man to have forged so much, so it can’t all have been him at which rate is any of it?10 And there is something in this, because although several of the texts in the 1640 edition don’t occur in the 1635 one, the Adversaria first turning up in the younger printing, for example, the De Vitiis apparently first surfaces in an edition by itself in 1602.11 And anyway, what about Tamaio? And the answer to that turns out to be that Higuera’s stuff was being banned in Spain as forgeries even in the 1630s, which is why none of this stuff was printed there, and Tamaio seems to have been more or less a conduit for Higuera in getting it out.12 And what was it that got Higuera into trouble? Nothing other than the Chronicon omnimodae historiae of Flavius Lucius Dexter, first known from an edition by Francisco Bivar in Lyons in 1627 but apparently something in which Higuera was neck-deep anyway.13 So it does almost all keep going back to the one man.

Title page of the source edition of the <em>Chronicon Dextri</em>

Title page of the source edition of the Chronicon Dextri

Now, you will deduce from this that I eventually found some literature about this problem. In fact, the obvious thing that I should have done straight away but only thought of later was to look in the Patrologia Latina, because Migne seems to have been the last person before Chiesa to admit these texts existed. He printed the Chronicon, but he followed it with an absolutely stinging rebuttal of its authenticity by Nicolás Antonio Hispalensi from a text called the Bibliotheca Vetus Hispana, in which the author calls Higuera every kind of fraud and denounces his errors about various saints and historical figures, all of whom by some erudite confusion or in some cases, as with Charlemagne, by brass-faced error, wind up with an origin in or some connection to Toledo, in cataloguic style.14 And then, more solidly and thoroughly, there is an 1868 work by Jesús Godoy de Alcántara that sets it all into a history of seventeenth-century forgery and which is also now online, and since then some other useful bits have been written that I have eventually also found.15

All the same, it seems to me that there is still work to be done here. For a start, not all of this rubbish came directly out of Higuera’s head. Godoy identifies some sources here and there: the story of Charlemagne and Galafrid is a part of the Charlemagne legend, for example, and is a lot older than Higuera, however great it may have seemed for his purposes. But there’s a lot more that could be done, especially with the Notae that Tamaio provided to the Chronicon, which include a good few inscriptions and other texts he thought relevant entire. It would be nice at least to rule out the idea that he or Higuera had source texts that might in some cases have been from somewhere near the period they purported to recall. But what? One wants to sit down with as many of the texts as one can and slowly go through working out what the layers of accretion are, checking phrases in the Pat. Lat. to see where they’ve been lifted from and generally working out a bit more about what is clearly Higuera, what Tamaio and so on, and what is less obviously explained. And this was, of course, the point at which I shook myself, said to myself, “this is not your research. This is a dissertation topic for someone else” and dropped it. And so one reason for putting all this up here, I suppose, is in case anyone happens to want what looks like a fun thesis topic… But the main reason is that because this stuff answers to a web-search now and most of the limited scholarship is in Spanish and doesn’t, there’s every reason for someone encountering this stuff as it comes up with your search terms, not necessarily near any of the overtly crazy bits, to assume it’s genuine. So there really ought to be something out there and easy to search up saying that it’s not… Hopefully this will do!


1. The edition Joan was using was Thomas Tamaio de Vargas (ed.), Luitprandi, sive Eutrandi e subdiacono toletano, & Ticinensi diacono episcopi cremonensis, Berengario II. Italiae Regi a Secretis, pro Othone I. Germ. Imp. ad Pont. M. & ad Imp. CP. legati Chronicon ad Tractemundum Illiberitanum in Hispania episcopum, a multis hactenus desideratum, nunc editam (Mantua 1635), online here.

2. I’m not quite sure how I did this, as I must have stumbled into the De rebus gestis discussed below, which is indeed nothing but a truncated version of the Antapodosis but is not printed in Tamaio, Chronicon, but in Jeronimo de la Higuera & Lorenzo Ramírez de Prado (edd.), Luitprandi Subdiaconi Toletani Ticinensis Diaconi tandem Cremonensis Episcopi Opera quae extant: Chronicon et aduersaria nunc primum in lucem exeunt (Antwerp 1640), which is online here.

3. This is printed in both the above editions, but it’s still not simple to cite: neither have contents pages, and they paginate each work separately. It occupies the last fifty pages bar index of the Tamaio edition. Tamaio introduces it with a title page saying that it is “Luitprando sive Eutrando hactenus attributa”, ‘until now attributed to Liudprand or Eutrand’, but by the actual text that caution has been forgotten and the reason to question the attribution is never given. The text itself is a strange bundle of 270 separate little items, some large and some no more than “In Hispania habuit Carolus Martellus multos amicos, ut apud Cantabros, & Astures.” (‘Charles Martel had lots of friends in Spain, just as he did among the Cantabrians, and the Asturians too.’ (no. 252)) Only about half are dated, and they’re arranged in seemingly indeterminate order, a few being related by theme but not all of those on one theme being gathered together. It’s a bewildering text, though the bit quoted suffices to show that it too knows more modern names than it should to be what Tamaio claimed.

4. M. Riu i Riu, “Consideraciones en torno del Cronicon Luitprandi” in Luisa D’Arienzo (ed.), Sardegna, Mediterraneo e Atlantico tra medioevo ed età moderna: studi storici in memoria di Alberto Boscolo (Roma 1993), 3 vols, II, pp. 23-29. Riu’s reference was Tamaio, Chronicon. He was a canny man but not always alert to forgery: there’s a few things in his “Diplomatari del monestir de Sant Llorenç de Morunys (971-1613)” in Urgellia Vol. 4 (Montserrat 1981), pp. 187-259, that I’m very reluctant to accept. This is such an obvious case once you read it, though, and here discussed in a memorial volume, that I’m inclined to wonder if he might have been perpetrating a joke that would have made the deceased friend or colleague laugh…

5. There are three MGH editions, Georg Heinrich Pertz (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica inde ab anno Christi quingentesimo usque ad annum millesimum, Scriptorum Vol. III (Hannover 1839), pp. 264-363 (online here); Ernst Dümmler (ed.), Liudprandi episcopi cremonensis opera omnia, in usum scholarum ex Monumentis Germaniae Historicis recusa (Hannover 1877), which is now on sale all over the web in knock-off reprints from the PDF but also in the Internet Archive here, whence presumably the reprints’ source PDF; and Joseph Becker, Die Werke Liudprands von Cremona, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores rerum germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi 41 (Hannover 1915), online here. The two translations here referred to are F. A. Wright (transl.), The Works of Liudprand of Cremona (New York City 1930) and Paolo Squatriti (transl.), The Complete Works of Liudprand of Cremona (Washington DC 2007). None of these mention any spuria where I can find it.

6. Paolo Chiesa (ed.), Liudprandi Cremonensis Opera Omnia, Corpus Christianorum: Continuatio Medievalis 156 (Turnhout 1998), pp. xli & xxxviii & n. 31, where: “Il riferimento è al Chronicon ad Tractemundum di Eutrando, subdiacono di Toledo, confuso con Liutprando nell’editio princeps di quest’opera.” and a reference to the following mention.

7. None other than Higuera & Ramírez, Luitprandi Opera, in fact.

8. These cites, however, come from Tamaio, Chronicon, s. aa., simply because that was the link I opened first when finishing this post off.

9. Higuera & Ramírez, Luitprandi Opera, pp. xxviii-xxix (where they are more concerned to establish that it’s perfectly to be expected that this text would contain chunks of Pseudo-Turpin) & xlii-xlv (justifying Liudprand’s Spanish sojourn from Julian Perez’s Chronicon, printed as Iuliani Petri Archipresbyteri S. Iustae Chronicon cum eiusdem adversariis et De eremeteriis Hispaniae brevis descriptio atque ab eodem variorum carminum collectio, ex Bibliotheca olivarensi (Paris 1628), online here; there is no editor stated as such, but not only is the dedication by Lorenzo Ramírez de Prado, the copy digitised by Google is even signed by him in the flyleaves. That is, they justified their fabrications of a continuation of a false chronicle they’d already published by reference to another false chronicle that they had already published! It’s amazing. It’s only in Eric Puteano, “De Luidprandi… nova editione… Iudicium….”, in Higuera & Ramírez, Luidprandi Opera, pp. xxii-xxiv, where the claim about the manuscript is made. But cf. n. 14 below!

10. See Georges Cirot, “Documents sur le faussaire Higuera” in Bulletin hispanique Vol. 8 (Bordeaux 1906), pp. 87-95, online here; I owe this reference to Joan Vilaseca.

11. Luitprandi Ticinensis Diaconi Opusculum de vitis Romanorum Pontificium. Item Albonis Florianensis Abbatis Epitome de vitis eorundem ex Anastasii Bibliothecarij Historiae excerpta. Vtrumq: ex pervetustis Mss. Codd. membraneis descriptum, et nunc primum typis procusum (Mainz 1602), online here, pp. 1-118. Again, no editor is specified, although someone has written into the copy digitised by Google an attribution to one Jean Busée. It seems hard a priori to connect this to Higuera. The notice of this printing I got from Chiesa, Liudprandi Opera, p. xli.

12. See Jesús Godoy de Alcántara, Historia crítica de los falsos cronicones (Madrid 1868), online here, pp. 221-251.

13. Francisco Bivar (ed.), Fl. Lucii Dextri Barcinonensis, Viri Clarissimi, Orientalis Imperii Præfecti Prætorio, & D. Hieronymo amicissimi, Chronicon Omnimodæ Historiæ (Lyon 1627); see Godoy, Historia crítica, pp. 129-179.

14. Jean-Paul Migne (ed.), Ratherii Veronensis episcopi opera omnia, juxta editionem Veronensem, anno 1765, curantibus Petro et Hieronymo fratribus Balleriniis, presbyteribus Veronensis, datam, ad prelum revocata, accedunt Liutprandi Cremonensis necnon Folquini S. Bertino monacho, Gunzonis diaconis Novariensis, Richard abbati Floriacensis, Adalberti Metensis scholastici, Scripta vel Scriptorum fragmenta quae exstant, Patrologiae cursus completus series latina 136 (Paris 1853), cols 937-1180, in which cols 937B-966B reprint Nicolás Antonio Hispalensi, Bibliotheca Hispana Vetus, sive Hispani Scriptores qui ab Octaviani Augusto ævo ad annum Christi MD. floruerunt, ed. José Saenz de Aguirre (Roma 1693-1696), 2 vols, I, VI.16, and cols 965C-1133 reprint the Chronicon from Higuera & Ramírez, Luidprandi Opera, but attributing it by confusion to a non-existent Antwerp 1640 printing of Julius Reuber (ed.), Veterum scriptorum, qui caesarum et imperatorum germanicorum res per aliquot secula gestas, literis mandarunt, collectio (Frankfurt 1584), which actually contains the Antapodosis, and preceding it, cols 965C-968B, with a preface of Higuera’s which appears in neither edition! This also claims (col. 965C) that the text was “ex libro Gothico ex bibliotheca Fuldensi detracto, Wormatiamque allato” (cf. n. 9 above); Godoy, Historia crítica, pp. 200-202, notes that Higuera’s claims of a busy correspondence between Spain and Fulda were somewhat quashed by Fulda’s denying the existence of his purported manuscripts, so I suppose that’s what had happened here. Godoy then goes on in n. 1 to point out that there is actually evidence for early medieval travel between Fulda and Spain that Higuera didn’t know about, a smug feat he repeated many times in this work. Returning to Migne, Ratheri opera omnia, lastly cols 1133A-1180D reprint the Adversaria from Higuera & Ramírez, Luidprandi Opera.

15. Godoy, Historia crítica; Cirot, “Documents”; Antonio Yelo Templado, “El Cronicón del Pseudo-Dextro: proceso de redacción” in Anales de la Universidad de Murcia: Letras Vol. 43 (Murcia 1984-1985), pp. 103-121, online here; Mercedes García-Arenal & Fernando Rodríguez Mediano, The Orient in Spain: converted Muslims, the forged lead books of Granada, and the rise of Orientalism (Leiden 2009), pp. 195-224.

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Seminary LXVII: don’t call it corruption, call it a cash-rich political system

I am falling behind with blogging generally and with seminars particularly, though I’ve also started falling behind with going to the things so this may yet balance out. I am also in two minds about whether to blog the Oxford Medieval History seminars, as while they’re looking likely to continue being interesting, some of the people presenting are quite junior and at least one of the papers (mine) has been somewhat rapidly-prepared. I think I can safely get away however with talking about the first one of the term, because Chris Wickham has featured here before and knows this, and so when on the 11th October he attracted an audience of eighty people to hear him talk to the title, “The Financing of Roman Politics, 1050-1150”, he probably expected that fact to end up here.

Decorated initial showing Pope Gregory VII excommunicating King Henry IV of Germany

Decorated initial showing Pope Gregory VII excommunicating King Henry IV of Germany

The tenth- and eleventh-century papal court is famous for two things, really, isn’t it? Gregorian reform and at the other extreme, corruption on a massive scale. Chris was talking about the latter, and trying to take a non-judgmental look at the systems that were operating that left this impression on our sources. Certainly, as he admitted and found many examples to prove, money was vital to political campaigning in Rome and deployed in huge amounts, while candidates for papal office or other high dignity who ran out of money also ran out of backing very quickly. This is clear in the sources and deplored by many across Europe, perhaps most noticeably John of Salisbury, who said as much in a letter to a pope, indeed, Hadrian IV, a fellow Englishman. Hadrian refused to take offence but preferred to point out how much good the money could achieve when correctly directed. It’s tempting just to stop the judgement there, but Chris, as an economic historian, wanted to know how this all actually worked. What he came up with for us was a picture of a medieval economy where, unusually, very little land was in play. The popes were big landowners in Rome and thereabouts but they weren’t big on an international scale; much of what they claimed was also sometimes claimed by the Empire and a great deal of it (as I’d heard from Chris before) was tied up in fairly binding leases to the nobility. On the other hand, their cash income was huge, from pilgrim gifts especially but also the rents from those leases, various other ground-rents in the city, international token payments from far-off monasteries that mounted up all together… This means that money was the primary available form of patronage. None of our sources have a problem with gifts of land in exchange for support, after all, so what’s the problem with cash? Well, it gets spent. Land is permanent, and can’t really be used up, which makes obligations pertaining to it long-term things, but not so with money. This means that people don’t stay bought; also, people don’t stay wealthy, whereas a lot of land keeps you that way rather better. That’s not available in this game, and so the players at the top of the table rotate a lot more. The result is something that our sources feel is corrupt, and which even the participants sometimes did, but which is explicable in its own terms at least, and when there are strong morals in play in our sources of course it’s very necessary to carry out this kind of enquiry.

Interior of St Peter's, Rome

Interior of St Peter's, Rome; must have cost a bit...

Mark Whittow raised in questions an obvious parallel to the court of Constantinople, which also ran on money a great deal and about which Liutprand of Cremona has similar things to say, though only on the embassy when he couldn’t persuade the emperor to include him in the handouts… Other interesting questions were raised about the exchange rate of money for favours—plenty of rulers offer precious goods for support as well, in various places (not least Heorot!) but these are often worth more than what they eventually buy, for the sources at least, a complication that is yet to be explored. It also seemed to Chris that this money did not, except in, well, exceptional cases, serve to recreate this kind of politics at a lower level; there was a super-rich threshold that the popes were, and would-be popes had to be, above, and below that one was too vulnerable to the actions of the super-rich to amass the same sort of patronage clout on a smaller scale. That sounded as if it could also use some testing, to me, but the big system view still makes a lot more sense to me at least than writing the whole thing off as corruption; even if that’s what it was, it was also a working system that needs to be understood as such, and that’s what Chris gave us.

Leeds 2010 report I

Since I’ve already been to one other conference that I’m already opining about on other people’s blogs, and since I there plugged all heck out of this blog (not that this seems to have brought any great slough of visitors) it’s probably time I wrote something about Leeds. This year’s was a good Leeds despite the weather; I’ve said before now that bad weather can ruin Leeds because everyone is crammed inside small overheated rooms and can’t find each other, but although it bucketed down for much of the conference I didn’t find that to be the case this year. I had the impression that there were fewer people there than usual, in fact, although there were as many sessions as far as I can tell so I guess it was non-presenters who decided they couldn’t spare the money this year. Fair enough I suppose, but those who were there had a good time I think.

1. Keynote Lectures 2010

Gerald of Wales's Map of the Atlantic Sea

Gerald of Wales's Map of the Atlantic Sea, c. 1200

The theme of this year’s Leeds was travel and exploration, and I did as usual and basically entirely avoided the theme except for the keynote lectures. These were also about the only point when I didn’t have timetable clashes, too; for some reason the early medieval sessions were unusually conflictual this year, which I think may also reflect that there were an awful lot of them. Anyway. The keynotes were both good, and the first of them was Patrick Gautier-Dalché speaking to the title “Maps, Travel and Exploration in the Middle Ages”. What he was addressing here was the fact that to us, often, a medieval map looks worse than useless, used as we are to measurable scales and Mercator’s Projection. In fact, he argued, although maps were largely representational rather than scientific in the Middle Ages, they were far from useless. Some might be just for looking at, in the old picture worth a thousand words scenario, because a map, even a distorted one, is still a very good way of encoding geographical information.1 Then, they could even be useful for actually getting to places, if you approached them in the right way. The Map of the Atlantic Sea by Gerald of Wales above, M. Gautier-Dalché claimed though if the image above really is it I see no sign of this, is marked up with not just the pilgrimage routes through Western Europe, but the distances between their various stopping points. As long as you could find someone to put you on the road to the next destination, therefore, you would still be able to use the map to budget your provisions and journey time and maybe carry some very basic local information. In cases where precision navigation was a bit more essential, to wit at sea, maps perhaps served as aides-mémoire more than literal graphical information; a reminder of what a certain coastline looked like when you approached it, what the hills round the port are like, and so on. Not much use for doing it first time, but perhaps quite useful for doing it first time in say, ten years. The last example was maps’ use in judicial cases; unlikely, you might think, but apparently Columbus’s maps were produced in court in 1535 to prove that he had actually discovered, and indeed drawn, the coasts of South America. So a map might be a teaching tool, a contemplative resource, a planning aid, a piece of judicial proof, and was above all an interpretation, but Mercator has perhaps spoiled us to their possibilities.

An ancient stitch-and-glue boat hull on display in a restaurant in Zadar, Croatia

An ancient stitch-and-glue boat hull on display in a restaurant in Zadar, Croatia

The second keynote was given by Dionysius Agius, and was entitled, “‘In these Seas Horrors beyond Count Befell [Us]: travel in medieval Islam”. This was less of an argument and more of a tour of the evidence for medieval Islamic travel, which was fine by me as I know very little of it beyond the names of Ibn Battuta and al-Mas’Udi, and it was also accompanied with some fabulous, and indeed very presentist pictures, illustrating continuities of construction technique, goods trafficked, routes and so on, not least the stitched boats of which an older example is shown above. He talked us through the trade routes, both overland and overseas, without leaving much time for detail on any of them, just telling us a good story or two, and you know, this too is a skill, especially for a keynote on a specialised theme before a general audience. I did sort of know, for example, that the ends of trade routes across desert zones (and indeed the middle of them) tend to shift according to where the nomads who run the entry-points to them have currently got their shops set up, but it was as well to be reminded in the same few minutes as having the seasonal cycle of the currents of the Indian Ocean explained, there being a large part of the year when it’s far easier to go one way than the other, which is then reversed for another equally large part. After all, some people were plotting to get goods all the way along both routes. The other thing that I technically knew but which was well linked up here was that, at the period when Islamic ships were breaking out into the Indian Ocean (and indeed further) they were far from the only ships sailing it; indeed, as Professor Agius pointed out, they were sufficiently outsized and outnumbered by Indian and Chinese vessels that sometimes those groups were induced to provide warship escorts to keep away fleets of cannibal pirates (or so the travel narratives earnestly tell us, anyway). Whether the stories of Sindbad the Sailor really have a medieval context may, as we have said here before, be doubted, but Professor Agius happily brought them in anyway to illustrate the sort of stories that were probably told. So, not afraid to indulge in anachronism, and perhaps even Orientalism, but not to a bad purpose I thought and an entertaining lecture to attend.

105. Texts and Identities, I: Merovingian Queens – Narratives and Politics

Fifteenth-century illuminatiion of Queen Clothilde offering prayers to St Martin

Fifteenth-century illumination of Queen Clothilde offering prayers to St Martin

This was where the clashes started. I probably wanted, in retrospect, to go to 104. Popular Politics and Resistance in East and West but I hadn’t fully absorbed what I’d be missing (Robert Moore insisting there was no popular heresy that counts in early medieval Europe, Andrew Marsham saying what were apparently really interesting things about rebellion against the Umayyads and Bernard Gowers, whom I already needed to meet, talking about peasants, which I am very sorry I missed but may at least be able to get a copy of) until I’d run into one of the speakers from 105 and assured her I’d be at her paper. A man of my word, therefore, I was there for the following:

  • Julia Hofmann, “Betrayal or Portrayal? The Depiction of Fredegund and Clovis in Gregory of Tours’ Decem Libri Historiarum V. 39-49″. I mainly attended this so as to have seen Julia Hofmann and Julie Hofmann in the same room, in fact. Here the argument was that whereas Gregory of Tours was usually hopelessly partial in his depictions of Merovingian court politics, which is an obvious problem for working out whether he can be trusted to tells us about them, in this particular bloody and skulduggerous episode of family in-fighting he appears to have loathed both protagonists about equally, which suggests that it may even be a fair depiction. I’m not convinced we’d think the same if it were Liutprand of Cremona, myself, though I do understand the great emotional need not to write off so much of our evidence for the sixth century as Gregory represents.
  • Erin T. Dailey, “Merovingian Polygamy”, a title that drew me in but disappointed rather as it largely concluded that there probably wasn’t really any Merovingian polygamy per se, and did so largely by refusing to nuance the category of concubine, which as a couple of people pointed out to me afterwards needs doing because sometimes concubines’ children become kings. So, while marriage may be an important distinction (and valuable security for the wife, as long as the mother-in-law wasn’t Brunhild) it isn’t a total one, and the fact that there’s only ever one queen at a time doesn’t remove the need to ask how far queens are different. Only twenty minutes, I know, but he was pressed on the matter in questions and didn’t get much further with it.
  • Linda Dohmen, “The Adulterous Queen in Early Frankish Historiography”. Full disclosure requires that I admit that I’ve known Linda for ages and it was her I’d promised to come and see, but I thought this genuinely was a good paper, carefully balanced between spice and analysis. It also did something useful by balancing Gregory of Tours out with other sources covering the same era, in their equally biased ways, the Liber Historiae Francorum and ‘Fredegar’.2 What stories like the classic one about King Chilperic, coming home early to Queen Fredegund fresh out of the bath, catching her unawares with a slap on the rear and she telling off the lover she assumed it was rather than the husband it actually was, illustrate, other than in some ways there’s not much difference between a sixth-century court and a twentieth-century soap opera in terms of plot, is that a lot of people were prepared to get into risky situations for a chance to get with the queen, and not, we presume, simply because Merovingian kings selected irresistible brides Balthild not withstanding,3 but because it was a position of power; queens could bring legitimacy to a pretender or an arriviste, could be grounds for launching a coup or mounting a rebellion and could, also, be vital tokens of continuity when those events were unrolling for other reasons. Here as often happens we need a way to express this sort of position of power often occupied by women in the Middle Ages, power which is not the same as agency, which they often didn’t enjoy (Fredegund as with so much else an exception here), being unfortunate prizes to be contested between men who certainly did, but still incredible focuses of… what? One almost wants to use ancient anthropological terms like tabu, did I not know that modern-day anthropologists of my acquaintance (and indeed modern-day feminists) would probably kick me in the constructs for it. But the word ‘power’ doesn’t really get there, and it’s very hard to discuss without accepting the sources’ language of objectification. So yes, this one is still making me think.

209. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: reassessing politics and culture in the 10th century

Decorated initial showing Pope Gregory VII excommunicating King Henry IV of Germany

Decorated initial showing Pope Gregory VII excommunicating King Henry IV of Germany

My colleague Rory Naismith and I have been at the same conferences several times now, and at Kalamazoo we were somehow scheduled against each other, which has happened before too. This not being the case this time, I told Rory I would go to his session (221. The Anglo-Saxons and Rome, II: routes, coins and manuscripts) and then gathered that one of its speakers had pulled out and that this one was on in the same time-slot… I think I’ve still seen more of his papers than he has of mine but he definitely has the moral high ground for now. However, I struggled to find the session I was going to instead and so arrived in a terribly full room slightly after the beginning of…

  • Theo Riches, “Once Upon an Iron Age: telling the story of the long 10th century between Carolingians and ecclesiastical reform”. Some day I hope Theo will write a follow-up to Tim Reuter’s contribution to the feudal transformation debate; I’ve heard Theo discuss this and his Germanist’s perspectives are really interesting.4 However, he keeps letting some excuse about that not being his actual subject get in the way, and so this was not that paper but instead a likewise interesting one about bishops and ritual. He was picking up on a recent piece of Steffen Patzold‘s about the use of ritual in Ottonian court society, as propounded by Gerd Althoff, which makes the very useful distinction between the rules of the game and manœuvres in the game, and the need to be aware which the evidence is showing us.5 This fits well with my objections to some of the French school of dispute scholarship that emphasies competing norms; sometimes, I like to point out, people are actually abnormal, and this was implicit in Theo’s discussion.6 Theo also wanted us to remember the audience, and that it is not necessarily passive; these rituals may be worked out beforehand, but they are pointless unless they are seen, which means that they are also open to interpretation. Patzold sees a change in bishops’ rôles in these contexts in the 820s, from potestas to ministerium, moving from being in charge of their own subjects to the whole of God’s people, with a consequent distancing from politics in detail. Theo suggested seeing this as move from being a player of the ‘game’ to being an umpire, and that the 820s are the point when episcopal lordship starts to become qualitatively different. This was music to my ears as my very first Leeds paper suggested that bishops in my area were lay lords plus, with extra means of recourse and a few corresponding restrictions, but essentially doing the same things;7 Theo’s take here, and Steffen’s behind it, may give me the means to nuance this. I also really liked Theo’s statement in questions that “Canossa breaks deditio, you can’t use it any more” (deditio being a ritual of simulated self-abasement to demand forgiveness from a ruler for disobeying him). This is one of many ways in which the contest between King Henry IV of Germany and Pope Gregory VII overdrives medieval politics, he’s right, things do break in that contest, and arguably not least the Holy Roman Empire…
  • Steven Robbie, “The Duchy of Alemannia in the Early Tenth Century: an ethnic community?” followed Theo, which is hard enough to do, but Theo speaks quite loudly and Steven speaks quite softly; also, it was after lunch and the room was hot and stuffy. I fear Steven may have lost some of the attention of his audience for what was quite a subtle take on the question of the Stamme, the core ‘ethnic’ territories that are supposed to underlie German duchies in a certain old-fashioned sort of historiography. Steven illustrated that this won’t work for Alemannia, which is reconstructed pretty much as needed in the political circumstances of each age and only maps to later Swabia in fairly transient ways. When all of Alemans, Thuringians and Swabians are supposed to be the same ancestral community, you realise that ethnogenesis is a game that many can play.
  • Simon Williams, “Playing to the Gallery: reinterpreting Liudprand of Cremona’s Antapadosis in its contemporary context”, did indeed play to the gallery in as much while I may some day hear a Liutprand paper in which the speaker does not tell the story everyone’s favourite Italian scandalmonger reports about Queen Guilla hiding a valuable belt where only a woman could, this was not it (and neither, of course, is my report of it). However, he did do some interesting stuff pointing out how quickly Liutprand’s work circulated, well within his lifetime too, so even if he was initially writing for a small audience that wasn’t what he revised for. Simon in fact suggested that the target audience was Bishop Abraham of Freising and perhaps Bishop Dietrich of Metz as well as Bishop Rather of Verona, and that we underestimate Liutprand if we see him as a marginal player. Liutprand writing about you, in other words, was something like being mentioned in Tatler; probably unpleasant and trivial but unfortunately read by people whose good opinion of you may be important some day…

Coffee break next but I find it combines badly with adrenalin, so I didn’t, because next was nothing less than my paper!

301. Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Caliph, King, or Grandfather: strategies of legitimization on the Spanish March in the reign of Lothar III” is actually one of my better pieces of work, I think, and compares three contemporary Catalan counts’ reactions to what I’m now arguing is a resurgent Carolingian royal self-assertion by King Lothar III. This is kind of part two of my Haskins paper from 2008 and I hope to have them both in process soon so I’ll say no more here unless people are curious enough to ask.
Grant of King Æthelred II to Abingdon Abbey, 993 (Sawyer 876)

Grant of King Æthelred II to Abingdon Abbey, 993 (Sawyer 876)

  • Levi Roach, “The Voice of Æthelred?” explored the group of lengthy royal charters of King Æthelred the Unready in which he apologises for the misdeeds of his youth and makes compensation gifts. Levi was arguing that the imagery employed here is sufficiently consistent, across several archives and many scribes, that these documents must represent an actual statement of sorts by the king, even if he probably didn’t choose the actual written phrasing. Charles Insley, who gave a not dissimilar paper a few years ago,8 was generous enough not to point this out in questions, but Levi rallied to what I think is actually new ground in reaction to a question from Steven Robbie about how long it can possibly take to be sorry; these documents after all span most of a decade. Levi’s response was that the only way it all makes sense is a rather paranoid policy of penitence till the bad stuff stops happening, which after these charters stopped was shifted onto the whole kingdom under the influence of Archbishop Wulfstan; in other words, this court’s response to crisis is to escalate repentance until the handles come off and it all goes to Hell… Which, even if it’s overstated, gives one to wonder how neutral a perspective on things anyone at Æthelred’s court could possibly have maintained… What price groupthink? and so on.
  • David Woodman, “The Rewriting of the Anglo-Saxon Past: a Middle English Rhyming Charter of King Æthelstan and the Beverley Cartulary (BL, MS Additional 61901) in context”, lastly, dealt with a rather lovely piece of Middle English fabrication in which Beverley Minster tried to claim foundation by the selfsame rex totius Britanniae in the fourteenth century. The result looks and reads nothing like an Anglo-Saxon charter, and nor does much of the stuff it’s put into a beautiful cartulary with, but it still won them several cases. David set out exactly who the enemies were in this case, and explained the success of the claim not in terms of the cluelessness of the panel judging but of opposition between the abbey, Archbishop Neville of York and Richard, Second of That Name, Kynge, but one was still left with echoes of the story in the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where the eponymous publication’s lawyers successfully argue that beauty is truth so the prettier story is automatically true, as one would like rather like Æthelstan to have been one of those congenial souls

Now. I want to talk to you, Internet, about the Problems and Possibilities strand and what’s happening with it, but this is long enough already. I’ll do it in a separate post later on. Instead let it be noted that I managed to miss two separate receptions where free wine was available, somehow, mainly to get lightly drunk with such fine upstanding members of the Internet as Another Damned Medievalist and Ealuscerwen, in the same place but not with Gesta, which seems to be the usual way of things, and a few people who have real names, and I went to bed merry and exhausted.


1. Something that all of us who were in Siena and now also commenting at In The Medieval Middle seem to be agreeing on; a conceptual map of that city might be a lot more use than a strictly geographical one.

2. Pronounced, as I once heard Roger Collins say in a paper he was giving on the author in question, “with the inverted commas silent, like the P in Psmith”.

3. In fact, it surprises me that in a session about Merovingian queens not only did Balthild only get a passing mention, but her supposed seal was completely omitted. It’s got to be part of any discussion about how queenship is visualised, hasn’t it, especially since if it is what is claimed, it’s actually a source generated by or at least for the queen. I begin to wonder if there’s a perhaps a case for asking medieval historians to ask themselves, “is there a good reason your paper is entirely text-based?” And I am not just saying this because it’s lewd, I am saying this because I think we were already dancing near the lewd and it would have been a way to let it in without risking sounding as if one actually wanted to talk about sex.

4. Referring to T. Reuter, “Debate: the ‘Feudal Revolution’. III” in Past and Present no. 155 (Oxford 1997), pp. 177-195.

5. Referring here to Gerd Althoff, Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter: Kommunikation in Frieden und Fehde (Darmstadt 1997) and S. Patzold, Konflikte im Kloster. Studien zu Auseinandersetzungen in monastischen Gemeinschaften des ottonisch-salischen Reichs, Historische Studien 463 (Husum 2000).

6. See, if you should really want to, my review of Stephen D. White, Feuding and Peacemaking in Eleventh-Century France, Variorum Collected Studies 817 (Aldershot 2005) in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 15 (Oxford 2006), pp. 124-125.

7. J. Jarrett, “Sales, Swindles and Sanctions: Bishop Sal·la of Urgell and the counts of Catalonia”, paper presented in session ‘Telling Laymen What to Do’, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 21 July 2005, available to you as J. Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (University of London 2005), pp. 289-313, online here.

8. His webpages mention a chapter, “Rhetoric and Ritual in Late Anglo-Saxon Charters” in P. Barnwell and M. Mostert (edd.), Medieval Legal Process: Physical, Spoken and Written Performance in the Middle Ages, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 19 (Brepols 2009), which will probably be worth consulting on this if it’s actually out; a rapid web-search reveals publication dates of 2008, 2009 and ‘in preparation 2008-2009’, but the publishers seem less sanguine. In fact, damn, I need that book even though I heard half the papers…