The Northern Way

HISTORY OF THE LANGOBARDS
(Historia Langobardorum)

BOOK I.

Chapter XIX


In these times the fuel of great enmities was consumed between Odoacar who was ruling in Italy now for some years, [1] and Feletheus, who is also called Feva, [2] king of the Rugii. This Feletheus dwelt in those days on the further shore of the Danube, which the Danube itself separates from the territories of Noricum. In these territories of the Noricans at that time was the monastery of the blessed Severinus, [3] who, endowed with the sanctity of every abstinence, was already renowned for his many virtues, and though he dwelt in these places up to the end of his life, now however, Neapolis (Naples) keeps his remains. [4] He often admonished this Feletheus of whom we have spoken and his wife, whose name was Gisa, in saintly language that they should desist from iniquity, and when they spurned his pious words, he predicted a long while beforehand that that would occur which afterwards befell them. Odoacar then, having collected together the nations which were subject to his sovereignty, that is the Turcilingi and the Heroli and the portion of the Rugii he already possessed [5] and also the peoples of Italy, came into Rugiland and fought with the Rugii, and sweeping them away in final defeat he destroyed also Feletheus their king, and after the whole province was devastated, he returned to Italy and [6] carried off with him an abundant multitude of captives. Then the Langobards, having moved out of their own territories, came into Rugiland, [7] which is called in the Latin tongue the country of the Rugii, and because it was fertile in soil they remained in it a number of years.

[1] Here the tradition of the Langobards, as stated by Paul, begins again to correspond, at least in part, with known or probable historical facts.
[2] The manuscripts of the " Origo Centis Langobardorum " spell this Theuvane (M. G., Script. Rer. Langob., p. 3) which is required by the meter if the word comes from an epic song (Bruckner, Zeitschrift fiir Ueutches Alterthum, Vol. 43, p. 56).
[3] At Eiferingen, at the foot of Mount Kalenberg, not far from Vienna (Waitz).
[4] St. Severinus was the apostle of Noricum. He was born either in Southern Italy or in Africa. After the death of Attila he traveled through the territory along the Danube preaching Christianity and converting many. He died A. II. 482, and his body was taken to Italy and finally buried at Naples (Waitz).
[5] The statement that Rugians fought upon both sides was the result of Paul's effort to reconcile the accounts of two contradictory authorities (Mommsen, 103).
[6] Wiese (p. 33) believes that they were then dwelling in upper Silesia not far from the head waters of the Vistula.
[7] Bluhme considers this to be Moravia (Hodgkin, V, 142). It is more probably the region on the left bank of the Danube between Linz and Vienna (Schmidt, 51).



Chapter XX


Meanwhile, Gudeoc died, and Claffo, his son, succeeded him. Claffo also having died, Tato, his son, rose as the seventh to the kingly power. The Langobards also departed from Rugiland, and dwelt in open fields, which are called "feld" in the barbarian tongue. [1] While they sojourned there for the space of three years, a war sprang up between Tato and Rodolf, king of the Heroli.[2] Treaties formerly bound them together, and the cause of the discord between them was this: the brother of king Rodolf had come to Tato for the purpose of concluding peace, and when, upon the completion of his mission, he sought again his native country, it happened that his way passed in front of the house of the king's daughter, who was called Rumetruda. Looking upon the company of men and the noble escort, she asked who this might be who had such a magnificent train. And it was said to her that the brother of king Rodolf was returning to his native country, having accomplished his mission. The girl sent to invite him to deign to take a cup of wine. He with simple heart came as he had been invited, and because he was small in stature, the girl looked down upon him in contemptuous pride and uttered against him mocking words. But he, overcome equally with shame and rage, answered back such words as brought still greater confusion upon the girl. Then she, inflamed by a woman's fury and unable to restrain the rage of her heart, sought to accomplish a wicked deed she had conceived in her mind. She feigned patience, put on a lively countenance, and stroking him down with merry words, she invited him to take a seat, and arranged that he should sit in such a place that he would have the window in the wall at his shoulders. She had covered this window with costly drapery as if in honor of her guest, but really, lest any suspicion should strike him, and the atrocious monster directed her own servants that when she should say, as if speaking to the cup-bearer, " Prepare the drink," they should stab him from behind with their lances. And it was done; presently the cruel woman gave the sign, her wicked orders were accomplished, and he, pierced with wounds and falling to the earth, expired. When these things were announced to king Rodolf he bewailed his brother's cruel murder, and impatient in his rage, burned to avenge that brother's death, Breaking the treaty he had negotiated with Tato, he declared war against him. [3] Why say more? The lines of battle on both sides come together in the open fields. Rodolf sends his men into the fight, but staying himself in camp, he plays at draughts, not at all wavering in his hope of victory. The Heroli were indeed at that time well trained in martial exercises, and already very famous from their many victories. And either to fight more freely or to show their contempt for a wound inflicted by the enemy, they fought naked, covering only the shameful things of the body. [4] Therefore, while the king himself in undoubting reliance on the power of these men, was safely playing at draughts, he ordered one of his followers to climb into a tree which happened to be by, that he might tell him more quickly of the victory of his troops, and he threatened to cut off the man's head if he announced that the ranks of the Heroli were fleeing. The man, when he saw that the line of the Heroli was bent, and that they were hard pressed by the Langobards, being often asked by the king what the Heroli were doing, answered that they were fighting excellently. And not daring to speak, he did not reveal the calamity he saw until all the troops had turned their backs upon the foe. At last, though late, breaking into voice he cried: "Woe to thee wretched Herolia who art punished by the anger of the Lord of Heaven." Moved by these words the king said: "Are my Heroli fleeing?" And he replied: "Not I, but thou, king, thyself hast said this." Then, as is wont to happen in such circumstances, while the king and all, greatly alarmed, hesitated what to do, the Langobards came upon them and they were violently cut to pieces. The king himself, acting bravely to no purpose, was also slain. While the army of the Heroli indeed was scattering hither and thither, so great was the anger of heaven upon them, that when they saw the green-growing flax of the fields, they thought it was water fit for swimming, and while they stretched out their arms as if to swim, they were cruelly smitten by the swords of the enemy. [5] Then the Langobards, when the victory was won, divide among themselves the huge booty they had found in the camp. Tato indeed carried off the banner of Rodolf which they call Bandum, and his helmet which he had been accustomed to wear in war. [6] And now from that time all the courage of the Heroli so decayed that thereafter they had no king over them in any way. [7] From this time on the Langobards, having become richer, and their army having been augmented from the various nations they had conquered, began to aspire to further wars, and to push forward upon every side the glory of their courage.

[1] The country between the Theiss and the Danube in Hungary as Schmidt (52) believes, quoting a passage from the Annals of Eginhard for the year 796: " Pippin having driven the Huns beyond the Theiss, destroyed completely the royal residence which these people called the Ring, and the Langobards the Feld." Since Procopius, (B. G. II, 14) says that the Langobards were then tributary to the Heroli, Wiese believes (p. 35, 36) that they were compelled by the Heroli to give up their fertile Rugiland. The Langobards became Christianized, at least in part, about this time (Abel, 241; Schmidt, 51, 52).
[2] The Heroli were, says Zeuss (p. 476), the most migratory among all the German tribes and have wandered over nearly the whole of Europe. They appeared on the Dneister and Rhine; they plundered in Greece and in Spain, and were found in Italy and in Scandinavia. Hodgkin believes that the tribe was split up into two divisions, one of which moved from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and the other eventually made its appearance on the Rhine. It was the eastern branch, which at the close of the 5th century was in Hungary on the eastern shore of the Danube, with which the Langobards had their struggle (Hodgkin, V, 104). The customs of the tribe were barbarous. They engaged in human sacrifices, put the sick and the aged to death, and it was the duty of a warrior's widow to die upon her husband's tomb (Hodgkin, 105).
[3] Procopius (B. G., II, 14 et seq.) gives a different account of the origin of this war. He states (Hodgkin, V, 106) that the warriors of the tribe having lived in peace for three years, chafed at this inaction and taunted Rodolf, calling him womanish and soft-hearted, until he determined to make war upon the Langobards, but gave no pretext for his attack. Three times the Langobards sent ambassadors to placate him, who offered to increase the tribute paid by their nation, but Rodolf drove them from his presence. Procopius' reason for the war is more favorable to the Langobards than that given by Paul. But it is quite possible that a rude people such as they were, might consider it more disgraceful to admit that they had paid tribute and humbly besought justice than that they had themselves given just cause for war.
[4] Jordanis (ch. 49) says they fought light-armed. Procopius (Persian war, II, 25) speaks of their lack of defensive armor.
[5] 'Procopius (B. G., II, 14) gives another account of the battle. He says the sky above the Langobards was covered with black clouds, while above the Heroli it was clear, an omen which portended ruin to the Heroli, since the war god was in the storm cloud (Wiese, 39). They disregarded it, however, and pressed on hoping to win by their superior numbers, but when they fought hand to hand, many of the Heroli were slain, including Rodolf himself, whereupon his forces fled in headlong haste and most of them were killed by the pursuing Langobards. The account of Procopius, a contemporary (490-565), is in the main more reliable than that of Paul, whose story is clearly of a legendary character. The place of the battle is uncertain. The date, too, is doubtful. Procopius places it at 494, but after a careful argument, Schmidt (53, 54) places it about 508.
[6] Bruckner sees in the superfluous phrase '' which he had been accustomed to wear in war,'' the marks of the translation of a German composite word used probably in some early Langobard song (Zeitschrift fiir Deutsches Alterthum, vol. 43, part I, p. 55).
[7] It is not true that the Heroli never afterwards had a king (see next chapter). As to their subsequent history, Procopius says (15. Ci., II, 14) they first went to Rugiland, and driven thence by hunger, they entered Pannonia and became tributaries of the Gepidae, then they crossed the Danube, probably into upper Moesia and obtained permission of the Greek emperor to dwell there as his allies. This took place in the year 512 (Hodgkin, V, 112). They soon quarreled with the Romans and although under Justinian they came to profess Christianity they were guilty of many outrages. They killed their king Ochon, but finding the anarchy which followed unendurable, they sent to Thule (Scandinavia) for a royal prince to rule them (Hodgkin, 113), and Todasius set forth for that purpose with two hundred young men to the country where the Heroli were living. That fickle people had now obtained a king, Suartuas, from the emperor Justinian, but they changed their minds again and deserted to Todasius, whereupon Suartuas escaped to Constantinople, and when Justinian determined to support him by force of arms, the Heroli joined the confederacy of the Gepidae (p. 116).

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page