Source Translation: A Challenger Appears! Pt. 1 (A Small Bavarian History)

Over in Sheffield recently, they’ve been having a burst of translation activity, most recently this very useful translation of Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims’ round letter responding to Louis the German’s invasion of the West Frankish kingdom in 858, about which we have previously spoken on this very blog. This is all very well and good, but it definitely poses a threat to The Historian’s Sketchpad’s incipient predominance in the blogological field of late- and post-Carolingian source translations. Like any good Carolingian king, of course, I can do only one thing: performatively issue another translation to establish my dominance!

(In all seriousness, this colloborative translation activity is a fantastic idea, and it has actually reminded me that I’ve been remiss in not providing you all with the goods lately. Incidentally, if any of the people involved are reading this, hello! And, have you considered doing one of Hincmar’s 875 round letter? I’ll swap you Archbishop Fulk’s letter to Arnulf of Carinthia…)

So, here you go:

… and if the resources had been to hand, over the whole realm and over the throne committed to him. Then, the same Henry the Saxon, as many witness, at the exhortation and with the counsel of the same bishop [possibly Salomon III of Constance or Teudo of Würzburg], entered the realm of Bavaria in a hostile manner, where none of his relatives had been seen to hold so much as a foot of land! For that reason, we believe, on his first entry [into Bavaria] he was by God’s will overcome by the inhabitants of one city; and he withdrew defeated, with many of his men slain.

Before this – that is, in the time of King Conrad [I] – they accused the same bishop, with the king and his army, of entering the province in a manner not royal but hostile, and to have set no small number of fires, and to have choked widows and orphans with many miseries. During the same attack, they came to a certain city [i.e. Regensburg], full and inhabited by the household of the blessed apostle Peter and Saint Emmeram, which they assaulted and burned, and they despoiled over 170 of them [his et illis], and left the rest afflicted with many sorrows. Stuffed and burdened by these sins, they perished by divine will, and were compelled to leave.

After these and other events had transpired, our glorious duke Arnulf, clothed in virtue from on high, shining in courage and extraordinary in victory, shone forth, because he was born from the family of kings and emperors, and through him the Christian people were redeemed from the ravaging sword of the pagans and brought into the liberty of life.

This is a tiny work known as the Fragment concerning Duke Arnulf of Bavaria. It has survived completely by chance: originally written in the monastery of St. Emmeram in Regensburg, in Bavaria, probably during the second quarter of the tenth century, this is the only bit which survives. It’s therefore useful not least because King Henry (the Fowler)’s family eventually did assert themselves over Bavaria, and got to write most of the histories, hence why Duke Arnulf is known as Arnulf the Bad… So this work explicitly glorifying Arnulf and setting out a point of view wherein the king is best of staying out leaving the regnum to the essentially-royal local prince anyway is a neat little corrective.

Seal of Henry the Fowler (source)

But, I hear you ask, why are you looking at it? Aren’t you interested in places where the wine is better than the beer, not vice-versa? Well, yes, that’s true; and I admit putting this text up here is more of a setting out of a research agenda than the fruit of one. It’s always seemed to me that Bavaria in the East Frankish kingdom is a good comparison with Aquitaine in the Western one, a southern region with a tradition of resistance to northern and, initially, Carolingian rule which spends most of the tenth century resenting or ignoring its nominal superiors in the north. Of course, there is one huge difference, which is that Bavaria actually is a central place for the East Frankish Carolingians a lot of the time, whereas Aquitaine always remains basically peripheral; but it’ll do for loose parallels.

Why is this interesting? Because one of the big things which is supposed to show how bad the tenth-century West Frankish kings are is that they don’t go into Aquitaine anymore. Now, we’ve already seen that as a picture this is not actually right, but I want to approach it from the other side: that is, Aquitaine was always a bit out of frame for the ninth-century Carolingians, and under William the Pious, I think you can see hints of what we seem to see here in Bavaria: a meridional region with a lot of very exalted quasi-regal language which basically just wants to be left alone by kings who have no real business being there. Like I say, it’ll be an interesting point of comparison if nothing else.


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