Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The first attempt of the Vikings...

The earliest record of the Vikings raiding successfully the shores of Europe is from the 790s, but already at the beginning of the 6th century there was a raid on the coast of the Frankish empire by the Danes under Chlochilaichus.  In a short chapter this event is related by Gregory of Tours in his treatment of the reign of king Theuderic  (born between 482 -84  - 533). What Gregory could not know is that Chlochilaichus (or better Chochilaicus) became a character in the Old-English epic Beowulf, under the name Hygelac, king of the Geats..The death of Chlochilaichus has been put between 516 and 522. Let us count: Chlochilaichus was slain by Theudebert I, son of Theuderic. The birth of Theudebert is put at 500, meaning that Theuderic was father around his 17th and that Theudebert was between 16 and 22 when he killed Chlochilaichus.  Modern social workers would frown upon such a family and indeed, according to modern standards the Merovingians  were a rather dysfunctional family, as Gregory has abundantly given proof of in his Historia Francorum . But may be one needs such rough characters to ward off the Vikings, at least they didn’t try for the next few centuries!

There is no translation in English of this passage available, but the Latin is not that difficult. It is however sometimes very ungrammatical, but that does not influence the understanding of the text. The Latin of Gregory is already tending to word order for the grammatical function of a word instead of its case.

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum  Book III,3. Quod Dani Gallias appetierunt.

His ita gestis, Dani cum rege suo nomen Chlochilaichum evectu navale per mare Gallias appetunt. Egressique ad terras, pagum unum de regno Theudorici devastant atque captivant, oneratisque navibus tam de captivis quam de reliquis spoliis, reverti ad patriam cupiunt; sed rex eorum in litus resedebat, donec navis alto mare conpraehenderent, ipse deinceps secuturus. Quod cum Theudorico nuntiatum fuisset, quod scilicet regio eius fuerit ab extraneis devastata, Theudobertum, filium suum, in illis partibus cum valido exercitu ac magno armorum apparatu direxit. Qui, interfectu rege, hostibus navali proelio superatis oppraemit omnemque rapinam terrae restituit.

appeto  appetii (appetivi) appetivum: to assault, attack
His ita gestis: refers to the previous chapter about the short episcopate of Quintianus.
evectu navale: `with a fleet’
pagus: province
de regno: in vulgair Latin de and ex were used instead of a genitive. One doesn’t need to be a great philologist to see now where the French de comes from.
onero: to load (from onus oneris (n): load, burden. As a rule the a-conjugation is derived from nouns, but supero (below) from the preposition super.)
spolium: booty
litus litoris (n):  shore, beach
alto mare: on high sea
comprehendo –hendi –hensum: here  `to reach’  (note the hypercorrect spelling conpraehenderent.)
ipse deinceps secuturus: he would follow after
scilitet: for sure, indeed
extraneus: foreigner
in illis partibus: Gregory was often far from correct in using the right cases, of course he should have used the accusative!)
hostibus navali proelio superatis oppraemit (=opprimit): loose syntax or rather a contamination of two constructions: either hostes navali proelia superatos oppraemit, in which case superatos is a resultative adjective (`so that they were defeated’) or oppraemit is redundant, and the clause is an abl. abs., which I think is the case. I my experience such texts can best be understood with an English (or in my case Dutch) syntax in mind.
navale proelium: naval battle
supero: to subdue, defeat

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