Sunday, May 11, 2008

Theodoric, AKA Dietrich von Bern

This is going to be the summer of Gregory for me.  I have not gotten past Book II yet and I have a new topic that will stretch on and on to Germanic legends and is hinted at in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  To deal with this in full will require more than one installment since I prefer not to write long essays and risk boring you. That being said, I will press on with this week's topic: Theodoric I, King of the Ostrogoths.

Theodoric I

      There are two Theodorics in Gregory of Tours's history - the king of the Visigoths, and the king of the Ostrogoths, both of whom lived in the fifth century.  One of them, or perhaps it took parts of both, became in legend Dietrich Von Bern, the man who Kriemhild asks to avenge Siegfried by killing Hagen in The Song of the Nibelungs
     The Song of the Nibelungs is like Beowulf in which there is a powerful and noble warrior famed for his deeds as well as his dragon.   Like Beowulf, certain characters in the story were people who were confirmed to have existed like Attila the Hun, called Etzel in this story.  This is where the subject becomes larger than I can cover in one half page of writing - identifying and discussing the other people in the Nibelunglied who have a place in history and their mutation into the subjects of fable.  The Nibelungs are also known by another more recognizable name: Burgundians. 
     Details about the other Theodoric may have crept into the legend of Dietrich because it was he that fought Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Fields of Cataluanian, called that in Jordanes's history but named as the Fields of Moirey by Gregory.  This Theodoric died in the battle, which strongly calls to mind the death of Theoden in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.  He is notable for another reason and that is that he is the son and heir of Alaric, the Visigoth whose sacking of Rome in 410 A.D. heralded the beginning of the period we call the Middle Ages.
     The Ostrothic Theodoric had a daughter Araigna, who he married to Sigismund, the King of Burgundy. Araigna resembles in no way the name of Kriemhild but the father of the legendary Siegfried is called Siegmund.  Since there is no standard spelling for names and things; spelling varies a great deal depending on the writer at this time.  However the Nibelungenlied calls this Siegmund 'King of the Netherlands' and his son Siegfried is born in Xanten along the Rhine, now part of Germany.  To this I would add that Clovis's queen, Clotild, was a Burgundian princess and the history of the Merovinians may have been added to the soup.
     Gregory had little to say about either Theodoric.  To know more, you have to turn to Jordanes's The Origins and Deeds of the Goths, a book written around 551 A.D. probably in Constantinople.  It is a summary of a multi-volume work by the scholar Cassiodorus in the service and at the court of Dietrich.   The history written by Cassiodorus is lost and all that remains now is the summary written by Jordanes as a favor to a friend.
     If you wonder what happened to many of these books, look no further than the book burners at the Catholic Church.  "What has Ingeld to do with Christ?" was the famous pronouncement of Alcuin of York.  the Church burned many a book that they deemed was not suitably Christian in nature.  St. Patrick of Ireland himself destroyed 71 books!  I find it ironic that a man, whose life is so celebrated in Ireland, did so much to destroy its culture and heritage.  I cannot bring myself to drink green beer anymore since I read about this in a preface to a book by Peter Berresford Ellis.

I am stopping here but there clearly is more to say on the topic of both Theodorics.

Beatles Song of the Week

"Fuit viginti anni abhinc hodie,
Centurion Piper docuit symphoria ludere,
Agebant interior et exterior moris,
Sed sponsi sunt subrisum tollere.
Tunc licet ad vos tradere,
Actores sciebatis pro omnibus his annis, 
Centurion Piperi  Cordum Solitariorum Symphonia."


Anonymous said...

Well, I can certainly see the similarity between Theodoric and Theoden. And yes, the burning of books by religious zealots of whatever church is depressing, but as expected for the unenlightened times. It's more depressing when books are burned/banned in our supposedly more modern times.

The Beatles song - sergeant pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Red Witch said...

I'll bet you Terry checks the comments to see if anyone guessed the Beatles lyric so he doesn't have to.
I was going to expand a bit next week about Theoden. If I can get my hands on a copy of Procopius's history, not the secret one, I might be able to expand more.

Unknown said...

burning of the books very sad, what else can you expect from catholics, still happening today
i say burn them
anyway sergeant pepper is my guess too
good reading by the way
elisabetta says

Anonymous said...

My Latin is horrible, so I'll go along with Sgt. Pepper. LOL

Book burning is, IMO, the worst crime ever...and not just for Catholics. When I think of how much was lost at Alexandria it just makes me sick.

On the other hand, I wonder if my dear ex-husband is related to Dietrich at all. Gee, can I claim royalty by marriage?


Anonymous said...

Let's not be too hard as Catholicism did not start until after Protestantism. Luther's real problem with Rome had as much to do with politics and economics as faith. E.G., his German bible translation was taken whole cloth by the Catholics by the time of Mozart;-)

The Red Witch said...

There were good Catholics but for every Gregory the Great or Peter the Venerable, there were ten Bernard de Clairvaux. The Catholic Church was called that from the beginning. The name Catholic is old Greek for Universal. And most of the narrow minds got rid of anything that might be fun cause you were supposed to spend your life on your knees praying and starving until you kacked and went on to your reward. I'll bet if some of those guys would have had a big juicy burger once in a while, they would have felt a whole lot better and the Church might still be relevant today. :-D

Anonymous said...

Henry, where did you get the idea that Catholicism didn't start until after the Reformation? As far as I know, Catholicism is the universal Christianity practiced before the Reformation and the split. The word "catholic" means "universal", after all. We've called them "Catholic" and "Protestant" ever since as a way to differentiate between them, but Catholicism was Christianity in its universal form.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Red Witch said...

That deleted post was spam about viagra.

Kristin said...

You know, I do NOT want to think that my ex-husband is related to royalty.