Saturday, 16 November 2013

Gregory of Tours: A rebellious daughter.

The Latin of Gregory of Tours (538 – 594) is probably the worst possible: carelessness in the use of cases and gender, contaminations of construction, errors in spelling, as well as the use of new words. For a linguist however such texts are precious as they show the transition from Latin to Romance languages. The Latin of Gregory shows that word order is taking over the function of cases in determining the grammatical function of a word. One can almost treat his sentences as if it were English:  forget Latin school grammar and read the sentences as if they are depending on word order.
The following story tells about the daughter of Theodoric the Great (454-526), whose marvellous tomb can still be seen in Ravenna. For political reasons Theodoric married Audofleda (around 470 – after 526), sister of king Clovis, and they had only one child, Amalasuntha (c. 495 – 30 April 534/535).  Gregory tells us that at the death of Theodoric, Amalasuntha was still a little child and that when she was an adult she fled away with her servant Tragulila as lover. Her mother was enraged as she had a prince in mind for her daughter and sent an army after them. Traguila was killed and Amalasuntha was brought back to her mother. Amalasuntha took revenge on her mother by poisoning the wine used for the Eucharist. To his great satisfaction Gregory noticed that the poison worked. Theodoric and his family were Goths and the Goths had the Arian form of Christianity. Arians denied the holy trinity in its catholic form. Father, Son and Holy Ghost had not an equal position (in una aequalitate pariter), but Jesus was subordinate to God. So Arian Christians were heretics in the eyes of the pious Catholic Gregory. The poison would not have worked if Audofleda would have been Catholic, as God would surely have protected her!
The whole story is completely unfounded: Amalasuntha was already an adult when her father died and other sources say nothing about a servant as lover or having trouble with her mother. Actually she served as a regent for her young son after the death of Theodoric. Her husband died in the early years of her marriage when Theodoric was still alive and she did not marry again. Even the way of her death is uncertain. At the end of this chapter, which I have not included, Gregory tells that Amalasuntha was killed while taking a bath. This is possible, but according to the historian Jordanes she was strangled. Fact is that she could not control the intrigues and fight for power by the various factions at her court and she was sent into exile to Bologna. There she was murdered by some men whom she had ordered earlier to be killed: revenge! A fate she shared with many others of Germanic royalty in the early Middle Ages.

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum. book 3, chapter 31 (first half)

Et quia Theudoricus Italiae Chlodovechi regis sororem in matrimonio habuit, mortuus parvolam filiam cum uxore reliquid. Hic autem cum adulta facta esset, per levitatem animi sui, relicto matris consilio, quae ei regis filium providebat, servum suum Traguilanem nomen accepit et cum eum ad civitatem, qua defensare possit, aufugit. Cumque mater eius contra eam valde frenderet petiretque ab ea, ne humiliaret diutius nobile genus, sed, demisso servo, similem sibi de genere regio, quem mater providerat, deberet accipere, nullatinus voluit adquiescere. Tunc mater eius contra eam frendens, exercitum commovit. At illi venientes super eos, Traguilanem interfecerunt gladio, ipsam quoque caedentes, in domo matris reduxerunt. Erant autem sub Arriana secta viventes, et quia consuetudo eorum est, ut ad altarium venientes de alio calice reges accepiant et ex alio populus minor, veninum in calice illo posuit, de quo mater commonicatura erat. Quod illa hausto, protinus mortua est. Non enim dubium est, tale maleficium esse de parte diabuli. Quid contra haec miseri heretici respondebunt, ut in sanctam eorum locum habeat inimicus? Nos vero Trinitate in una aequalitate pariter et omnipotentia confitentes, etiam si mortiferum bibamus, in nomine Patres et Filii et Spiritus sancti, veri atque incorruptibilis Dei, nihil nos nocebit.

quia: (here) when (not classical!)
in matrimonio habeo: to be married
reliquid = reliquit
hic = haec
cum adulta facta esset: when she became an adult
levitas, -atis (f.): lightness, light-mindedness
provideo providi provisum: to look out, to have in mind
cum eum = cum eo
valde: very much, strongly
frendo and frendeo , frendui, frēsum and fressum (2 and 3): to gnash, rage
nullatinus: in no way
Cumque mater eius contra eam valde frenderet petiretque ab ea, ne humiliaret diutius nobile genus, sed, demisso servo, similem sibi de genere regio, quem mater providerat, deberet accipere, nullatinus voluit adquiescere: a good example of a sentence as if Latin syntax were almost English `And when her mother raged strongly against her and asked her not to humiliate a noble family any longer but, having sent away the servant, should accept an equal to her from a royal family, whom her mother had in mind, she definitely didn’t want to comply.
interficio interfeci interfectum: to kill
caedo cecidi caesum: to strike down
ut ad altarium venientes de alio calice reges accepiant et ex alio populus minor: that coming to the altar kings received from one cup (calix, m.) and the lower people from another. (A missing vinum `wine’ must be understood.  Note also the word alterium, which is not found in Classical Latin.)
veninum = venenum: venom, poison
de quo mater commonicatura erat: from which her mother was about to receive communion
haurio hausi haustum: to drink, consume, swallow
Quod illa hausto is a contamination of quo hausto and cum illa hauriret, but the meaning is clear: when she drank that.
protinus: immediately
locum habeo: to find a place
inimicus: the Fiend,  Satan
confiteor confessus sum: to confess, believe
mortiferus: deadly
bibo bibi: to drink
noceo nocui: to harm



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