Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Paulus Diaconus: a treacherous widow (part 1).



In 611 the Avars attacked the Langobards living at Venetia. The Langobards proved to be no match and their duke Gisulfus of Friuli (Foroiulanus dux ) was killed with almost all of his men. The remainder of the Langobards withdrew in their fortified settlements, believed to be immune for attacks. However Romilda, the widow of the duke, sees the young leader of the Avars in full armour on his horse and is overwhelmed by lust and passion (meretrix `whore, harlot’ is how Paulus calls her). She comes to a secret understanding with him that she will open the gates and he will marry her. After the gates are opened, the leader of the Avars doesn’t keep his promise: the sity is looted, but the Langobards are promised to be settled in Pannonia, where the Avars came from, but on their way to that place the Avars decided that all adult males (in maiori aetate constituti) should be killed by the sword. Women and small children were divided amongst their captors
How this story evolves will be told in the next post.
Paulus Diaconus  (720-799) writes with great indignation about the betrayal by the widow, but it is impossible to say how much his picture of the events corresponds to what really happened. It is though sure that the Avars made attempts to conquer the north of Italy, but were repelled. The Avars are a very enigmatic nomadic people, whose exact ethnic and linguistic backgrounds are unclear. It is possible that they were a confederation of various tribes rather than single ethnic group, but some Turkish component seems likely. They are not Huns, as Paulus thinks, but in their way of operating they look similar.
Paulus’ Latin is not that difficult. This edition of the Bibliotheca Augustana has sometimes e for ae.


Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum 4.37 (first part)

Circa haec tempora rex Avarum, quem sua lingua Cacanum appellant, cum innumerabili multitudine veniens, Venetiarum fines ingressus est. Huic Gisulfus Foroiulanus dux cum Langobardis, quos habere poterat, audacter occurrit; sed quamvis forti animositate contra inmensam multitudinem bellum cum paucis gereret, undique tamen circumseptus, cum omnibus pene suis extinctus est. Uxor vero eiusdem Gisulfi nomine Romilda cum Langobardis qui evaserant sive eorum uxoribus et filiis qui in bello perierant, intra murorum Foroiulani castri [se] muniit septa. Huic erant filii Taso et Cacco iam adulescentes, Raduald vero et Grimuald adhuc in puerili aetate constituti. Habebat vero et filias quattuor, quarum una Appa, alia Gaila vocabatur, duarum vero nomina non retinemus. Communierant se quoque Langobardi et in reliquis castris quae his vicina erant, hoc est in Cormones, Nemas, Osopo, Artenia, Reunia, Glemona, vel etiam in Ibligine, cuius positio omnino inexpugnabilis existit. Pari etiam modo et in reliquis castellis, ne Hunnis, hoc est Avaribus, praeda fierent, se communivere. Avares vero per omnes Foroiulanorum fines discurrentes, omnia incendiis et rapinis vastantes, Foroiulanum oppidum obsidione claudunt et totis viribus expugnare moliuntur. Horum rex, id est Cacanus, dum circa muros armatus cum magno equitatu perambularet, ut, qua ex parte urbem facilius expugnare posset, inquireret, hunc Romilda de muris prospiciens, cum eum cerneret iuvenili aetate florentem, meretrix nefaria concupivit, eique mox per nuntium mandavit, ut, si eam in matrimonium sumeret, ipsa eidem civitatem cum omnibus qui aderant traderet. Quod rex barbarus audiens, eidem malignitatis dolo quod mandaverat se facturum promisit eamque se in matrimonium accipere spopondit. Illa vero nihil morata, portas Foroiulensis castri aperuit et ad suam cunctorumque qui aderant perniciem hostem introduxit. Ingressi vero Avares cum rege suo Forumiulii, universa quae invenire poterant rapinis diripiunt; ipsamque urbem flammis concremantes, universos quos reppererant captivos adducunt, fallaciter tamen, eis promittentes, quod eos, unde digressi fuerant, Pannoniae in finibus conlocarent. Qui cum patriam revertentes ad campum quem Sacrum nominant pervenissent, omnes qui iam in maiori aetate constituti erant Langobardos gladio perimere statuunt, mulieres vero et parvulos captivitatis sorte dividunt.

cacanus: khan
animositas –atis (f.): boldness, courage
bellum gero: to wage war
circumseptus : surrounded
filiis qui in bello perierant: with the sons (of those  eorum) who had fallen in the war
munio: to protect
septum: fence
communierant = munierant
Cormones, Nemas, Osopo, Artenia, Reunia, Glemona, Ibligis: modern Cormons, Nimis, Ossopo, Artegna, Racogna, Germona, Iplis
inexpugnabilis: unconquerable
pari modo: in the same way
ne…praeda fierent: in order not to become booty for
rapina: plunder
vasto: to devastate
obsidio, -onis (f.): siege
molior: to strive
cerno crevi certum: to perceive, see
nefarius: impious, nefarious
in matrimonium sumo: to marry
eidem malignitatis dolo quod mandaverat se facturum promisit: he promissed her with a conceit of malignity that he would do what she has demanded
spondeo spopondi sponsum: to assure
moror: to delay
ad suam…perniciem: to her destruction
diripio diripui direptum: to plunder
reperio repperi repertum: to find
fallaciter: falsely
unde digressi fuerant: the Avars
campus Sacrus: location unknown
omnes Langobardos, qui
perimo peremi peremptum: to kill
sors sortis (f.): lot (captivitatis sorte by a lot for captivity)


A translation can be found here:
http://www.thule-italia.org/Nordica/Paul%20the%20Deacon%20-%20History%20of%20the%20Lombards%20%281907%29%20%5BEN%5D.pdf?lbisphpreq=1

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