Sunday, 26 October 2014

Einhard: an almost lasting legacy of Charlemagne.

When at Christmas 800 Charlemagne was crowned as emperor, he was at the height of his power. With great zeal he undertook all kind of reforms regarding the government of his empire and one of these reforms was harmonizing the two Germanic law systems – the lex Salica and the lex Ribuaria.  For reasons not explained by Einhard, this was one of the few things Charlemagne was not successful in. As Einhard’s vita is a eulogy rather than a scholarly account of Charlemagne’s life, it was probably seen is a minor failure, Charlemagne also ordered that ancient heroic lays should be written down. Alas! Not a single copy has survived – to the deep regret of scholars of Germanic languages and literature.
What has been a legacy almost till the 20th are the Germanic names for the months. True, the Anglo-Saxons were earlier, but their names only partially overlap and the names of the months devised by Charlemagne were in use for a thousand years in parts of Western Europe.
Finally he gave Germanic names to the twelve winds. The Latin names for these winds go back to Isodore of Sevilla. Whereas the names of the months are imaginative and connected with agriculture, the names of the winds are just combinations of north, east, south and west. It is easy to reconstruct from the Germanic names the direction of the winds: north is nord, east is ost, south is sund and west is uuest. The suffix – roni makes the word an adjective.

Einhard, Vita Karoli Magni, c.29

[29] Post susceptum imperiale nomen, cum adverteret multa legibus populi sui deesse - nam Franci duas habent leges, in plurimis locis valde diversas - cogitavit quae deerant addere et discrepantia unire, prava quoque ac perperam prolata corrigere, sed de his nihil aliud ab eo factum est, nisi quod pauca capitula, et ea inperfecta, legibus addidit. Omnium tamen nationum, quae sub eius dominatu erant, iura quae scripta non erant describere ac litteris mandari fecit. Item barbara et antiquissima carmina, quibus veterum regum actus et bella canebantur, scripsit memoriaeque mandavit. Inchoavit et grammaticam patrii sermonis. Mensibus etiam iuxta propriam linguam vocabula inposuit, cum ante id temporis apud Francos partim Latinis, partim barbaris nominibus pronuntiarentur. Item ventos duodecim propriis appellationibus insignivit, cum prius non amplius quam vix quattuor ventorum vocabula possent inveniri. Et de mensibus quidem Ianuarium uuintarmanoth, Februarium hornung, Martium lenzinmanoth, Aprilem ostarmanoth, Maium uuinnemanoth, Iunium brachmanoth, Iulium heuuimanoth, Augustum aranmanoth, Septembrem uuitumanoth, Octobrem uuindumemanoth, Novembrem herbistmanoth, Decembrem heilagmanoth appellavit.

Ventis vero hoc modo nomina inposuit, ut subsolanum vocaret ostroniuuint, eurum ostsundroni, euroaustrum sundostroni, austrum sundroni, austroafricum sunduuestroni, africum uuestsundroni, zefyrum uuestroni, chorum uuestnordroni, circium norduuestroni, septentrionem nordroni, aquilonem nordostroni, vulturnum ostnordroni.

adverteret = animadverteret
prava quoque ac perperam prolata corrigere: to correct the distorted and wrongly (perperam adv.) transmitted (things)
Omnium tamen nationum: Saxons, Thuringians and Frisians
litteris mandari:  to be entrusted to writings (No copies have survived: the oldest extant law books are from the 13th century and probably don’t derive directly from the Carolingian manuscripts, though in content they are likely to be much the same.)
barbara  = Germanica (i.e. non-Christian)
inchoavit: the word indicates that is was never completed
iuxta propriam linguam: according to his own language
uuintarmanoth: winter month
horning: the shedding of antlers
lenzinmanoth: spring month (lenzin = lent)
ostarmanoth: Easter month (Eostra was a Germanic  goddess in whose honour celebrations took place in April. Her name was transferred to Cristian feast of the death and resurrection of Jesus.)
uuinnemanoth: pasture month (winne is an Old High German word for pasture, but as the word became obsolete at a quite early stage, it was connected with Wonne `love’.)
brachmanoth: breaking month (i.e. breaking the soil, ploughing
heuuimanoth: hay month
aranmanoth: harvest month
uuitumanoth:  wood month (gathering wood for winter)
uuindumemanoth: month of raping grapes
herbistmanoth:  autumn month (herbist is connected with English `harvest’ and Latin carpo.)
heilagmanoth: holy month (because of Christmas.)

Translation by Samuel Epes Turner (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880)

It was after he had received the imperial name that, finding the laws of his people very defective (the Franks have two sets of laws, very different in many particulars), he determined to add what was wanting, to reconcile the discrepancies, and to correct what was vicious and wrongly cited in them. However, he went no further in this matter than to supplement the laws by a few capitularies, and those imperfect ones; but he caused the unwritten laws of all the tribes that came under his rule to be compiled and reduced to writing . He also had the old rude songs that celebrate the deeds and wars of the ancient kings written out for transmission to posterity. He began a grammar of his native language. He gave the months names in his own tongue, in place of the Latin and barbarous names by which they were formerly known among the Franks. He likewise designated the winds by twelve appropriate names; there were hardly more than four distinctive ones in use before. He called January, Wintarmanoth; February, Hornung; March, Lentzinmanoth; April, Ostarmanoth; May, Winnemanoth; June, Brachmanoth; July, Heuvimanoth; August, Aranmanoth; September, Witumanoth; October, Windumemanoth; Novemher, Herbistmanoth; December, Heilagmanoth. He styled the winds as follows; Subsolanus, Ostroniwint; Eurus, Ostsundroni-, Euroauster, Sundostroni; Auster, Sundroni; Austro-Africus, Sundwestroni; Africus, Westsundroni; Zephyrus, Westroni; Caurus, Westnordroni; Circius, Nordwestroni; Septentrio, Nordroni; Aquilo, Nordostroni; Vulturnus, Ostnordroni.

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