Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bohemond of Taranto

     Bohemond was one of the leaders of the First Crusade.  In fact, he was the leader of the First Crusade until they took Antioch.  After he claimed that city for his own, he settled down to empire building and went no further.  This is why Godfrey de Bouillon  is held to be the leader of the Crusade.
     He was named Mark when he was born but because of his size, even as an infant, he was renamed Bohemond for   
Boamundus Gigas the giant.         Siege of Antioch, Wikipedia
The Gestae Francorum
written by an anonymous supporter of Bohemond, gives an account of the Crusades from the Frankish point of view.  An opposing point of view is put forth by Anna Comnena in her Alexiad
     Anna Comnena was the eldest child of the Emperor Alexius in Constantiople and was well placed to observe all of the players as they passed through the imperial court. It has been frequently noted that she was fascinated by Bohemond and, as a result of this fascination, we have one of the few full physical descriptions of a historical character.  It is amusing to me that , in paintings he is often depicted with long hair and a moustache (like in this engraving by Gustave Dore) , even a beard, when Anna clearly states that he was so clean shaven she could only guess at the color of his beard. He also kept his hair short, in contrast with his Frankish allies.  Anna refers to them variously as Franks and Kelts but Bohemond was neither of these.  
     His father, Robert Guiscard, was a Norman.  His brother was Roger II of Sicily and, although Anna comments on his low birth, Bohemond was married to Constance, the sister of the King of France,  Louis VI.  The First Crusade was largely a Frankish campaigning so Anna can be forgiven for being mistaken.  The king himself could not participate because he was excommunicated at the time. 
     As a younger brother, with no kingdom to inherit, he saw the Crusades as an opportunity to carve out a kingdom for himself.  At first, he and his father set their sights on Constantinople; thinking that it was in a weakened state and ripe for picking, although the call to arms was not just to recover Jerusalem but to save the Christian Byzantine empire from attacks by the Turks.  This is why Anna despises Bohemond; he was an enemy of her father.
      In spite of that, she says "the sight of him inspired admiration, the mention of his name terror."  He was a "full cubit over the tallest man".  Indeed, she wrote that the man who brought him in as a prisoner to the emperor barely come up to his buttocks.  Bohemond was "perfectly proportioned" with very white skin, light brown hair, and pale blue eyes. "in him both courage and love were armed, both ready for combat".  She mentions on several occasions that he has large nostrils, which is Medieval for big nostrils, big..........  Like large hands, which he also had.
      Shortly after the Crusaders had taken Antioch, they were besieged by Turks.  The Gestae Francorum relates how they were in dire straits since they had only just won the city through siege and supplies were low.  A priest had a vision that the spear of Longinus was buried in Antioch and the angel who came to him had shown him where it was buried.   It was duly excavated and carried before them while they mounted an assault on the Turks and defeated them. 
      Bohemond became the Prince of Antioch and one of the possessors of the "Spear of Destiny".  Ownership of this spear is supposed to confer invincibility in battle, Bohemond as a ferocious warrior was a fitting owner of the spear.  Others who are said to have owned it are Theodosius, Alaric, Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Frederic Barbarosa, and, mostly infamously, Adolf Hitler. There is more than one spear that is claimed to be the spear. If it sounds a little like the Elder Wand or the "Wand of Destiny" from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that is no accident.  If you doubt that, consider this: the Peverell brother who owned it first was called Antioch. 
      Bohemond enjoyed a long and exciting career, too long to cover here but perhaps this will pique your interest enough to read more.  He died in Apula in 1111, at the age of 53, leaving his principality to his son, Bohemond II.  The spear that was found in Antioch was taken by the Turks when Antioch fell and is now in the museum of a monastery in Echmiadzin. 

Beatles Song of the Week

Vir Alienus verus est,
In Terra Aliena sedet,
Omnes consilium alienum pro nemone capet.
Non opinionem habet, 
Non scit ubi agit,
Estne similiter cum te et meo?
Vir Alienus, placebisne audire,
Quod amissis non scis, 
Vir Alienus, mundus tibi imperare est.
Caecus cum potente est,
Solum quod volet videre videt,
Vir Alienus potestne meum omnino videre?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why was Gregory of Tours wrong about Amalasuntha?

      Considering that he is an otherwise reliable source, it must be strange to see this passage on Theodoric's daughter that has no basis in fact except the part that she was murdered, possibly  by complicity with the empress Theodora, by her cousin, Theodat.  Why do I say Gregory of Tours is wrong?
       There are three other historians with first hand knowledge of the situation in Ravenna.  There is Cassiodorus, who was Theodoric's and then Amalasunth's secretary.  His History of the Goths did not survive but many of his letters did and they support much of what Jordanes put in his abbreviated version of the history.  Jordanes was writing at the court of Constantinople about fifteen years after Cassiodorus left Ravenna and moved to Constantinople.  Jordanes had contact with people who had first hand knowledge of the events in Ravenna, especially since Amalasuntha's daughter Mathesuntha had moved to Constantinople with her husband Germanus, nephew of the emperor, Justinian.
      The last historian was Procopius, who was the legal adviser to Justinian's general Belisarius, the man who was sent to Ravenna to punish Theodat.  It is not known if Procopius accompanied Belisarius on this campaign but he had accompanied him on others so it is possible that he was there also. 
     Gregory was born about five years after Amalasuntha died and he was a Frank not a Goth.  The Ostrogoths were Arians, on the wrong side of the Trinity debate to Gregory, but still Gregory does not give such an unflattering and erroneous portrait of other Ostrogoths.  There is no doubt that he is wrong.  Amalasuntha not only married a prince like her parents wanted her to but she had children, which Gregory denies.  She is also the niece of Clovis, whom Gregory approved of .  It is so strange. 

Beatles Song of the Week

Pro commodum Milvorum Papyraceus,
Spectaculum hodie nocte in petaurum erit,
Hendersoni toti illic erunt,
Recens Pablorum Fanquorum de nundino.
Quam spectaculum!

Super viros et equos et trochos et rebus,
Et ultime per cado de flamma vera!
Sic M.P mundum provocabit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amalasuntha, Daughter of the King

     Amalasuntha died around 534 AD, strangled in her bath according to Jordanes. Procopius agrees she was murdered.  You may ask who was Amalasuntha and why do we care.  I shall try to answer that.
     She was firstly the daughter of Theodoric the Great, the Ostrogoth King of Italy.  When Theodoric died, his throne passed on to Amalasuntha's son, Athalaric, a sickly lad of ten.  The kingdom had peace for eight years under his rule and the regency of his mother but it was not to last.  Athalaric died at the age of eighteen, leaving his mother alone to rule the kingdom.  His father Eutharic had died before Theodoric.   The Goths were not disposed to follow the rule of a woman even the daughter of Theodoric the Great so Amalasuntha asked her cousin Theohadad, who was the king of Tuscany, to be her co-ruler.  He immediately exiled her, seized her throne and, within a few days, Jordanes related, he had her strangled in her bath. 
     Procopius also had a few things to say about Amalasuntha since her father had been fostered at the court in Constantinople and the rule of Italy had been conferred on Theodoric and his family by the Byzantine emperor.  They were under his protection and, after the death of Amalasuntha and Athalaric, Mathesuentha moved to Constantinople with her second husband Germanus, the nephew of Justinian. 
     Procopius would never accuse the empress Theodora during his lifetime.  Far too risky.  He wrote about it in his Secret History that was not published until after his death.  He wrote that Amalasuntha was planning to move to Constantinople and Theodora sent a man to assassinate her before she could arrive and possibly become a rival for the emperor's affections.  Amalasuntha was still young and beautiful, a widow and the daughter of a king.  
     This could have been the case because Amalasuntha's mother was Audofleda, the sister of Clovis and the oft warring Merovingian kings were her cousins.  Yet they seemed to do nothing about her murder but Justinian, the emperor, took this opportunity to launch an invasion to reclaim Italy. 
     Faced with the large and well armed Byzantine army, the Goths deposed Theohadad and chose his armor bearer, Vitiges, as his replacement.  Theohadad then fled and was pursued and killed by Vitiges's men.  Vitiges then married the last surviving member of Theodoric's family, Amalasuntha's daughter Mathesuentha, and prepared to defend Italy against the Byzantines. 
     Where is Gregory of Tours account in all of this since it involves a member of the Merovingian clan?  He does write an account of Amalasuntha but it is slanderous and full of malice towards her.  Amalasuntha was a virtuous woman, whose mother died of old age before she did.  She married a prince willingly and had two children with him but Gregory says nothing about that.  He wrote that she was a wicked woman who ran off with a slave and murdered her mother and that Theodat (as he named him) was the avenger who did right to have her killed.  Gregory also wrote that Childebert, Lothar, and Theudebert did demand wergeld from Theodat for her death, not that they cared but that it was an opportunity for a cash grab. 
    One has to wonder why a good Christian man like Gregory would formulate such lies about Amalasuntha when it is a sin to do so.  I read one suggestion that it may have been because she was a member, like most Goths, of the Arian sect and if there is one thing Gregory clearly despises it is a heretic especially the Arians.  This story may have been just to discredit one more Arian since it is probably not a sin if you lie for the purpose of turning people towards the true faith. 
     Now for the second question, why do we care?  There are lines in Jordanes, sec. XLVIII, 
"For his son Beremud, as we have said before, at last grew to despise the race of the Ostrogoths because of the overlordship of the Huns, and so had followed the tribe of the Visigoths to the western country, and it was from him Veteric was descended.  Veteric also had a son Eutharic, who married Amalasuentha, the daughter of Theodoric, thus uniting again the stock of the Amali which had divided long ago."
If Tolkien was in part inspired by Jordanes, compare those lines with this line from Appendix A in Return of the King, " ... Arwen and Aragorn.  By the last the long-sundered branches of the Half-elven were reunited and their line was restored."  I had a thought that Eutharic might have been the historical Aragorn, he is a descendant of Theodoric the Visigoth who stood with the last might of Rome to repel Attila the Hun,  but nothing else about him fits.  But, if he were Aragorn, then Amalasuntha would be Arwen.  I guess they were just one more ingredient that went into the soup.   The search for Aragorn still goes on.

From Wikipedia:
"The Amali were one of the leading dynasties of the Goths, a Germanic people who confronted the Roman Empire in its declining years in the west.  They were also called the Amals, Amaler, or Amaling and were at one point considered highest in rank among Gothic fighters and royal dignity.  According to Gothic legend, the Amali were descended from an ancient hero whose deeds earned him the title of Amala or 'mighty'."  Beren One-Hand, anyone?

Beatles Song of the Week

Te amat, heia, heia, heia!
Te amat, heia, heia, heia!
Cogitas tuum amorem amissis,
Certe eam heri vidi,
Dicit te amat,
Et scis mallum non est.
Heia, te amat,
Et scis laetus sis. 
Dixit eam multum nocuis,
Paene eam mentum amissit,
Et nunc dicit ea scit,
Genus qui nocere non es,
Dicit te amat,
Et scis malum non est,
Dicit te amat,
Et scis laetus  sis.
Te amat, heia, heia, heia......

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cato and Cautinus, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum

    In the early days of the Catholic church, rules had not been fully established and enforcement was weak for those that did exist.  A Wild West attitude permeated the offices of the clergymen and Tombstone was Clermont-Ferrand.

     When the Bishop of Clemont-Ferrand, Saint Gall, died, a rivalry began between two local priests for the succession.  The first, Cato, Tweedle-Dee, received the nomination by the local clergy.  The bishops who had come to Saint Gall's funeral agreed with this choice and gave it their blessing.
     At that time, the king had the right to make these appointments, but the king Theudebald was rather young, having succeeded his father at the age of 13.  Gregory does not appear to have approved of Cato, writing that he "was a man filled with self-esteem and silly self-admiration".  Harsh words.   Indeed when Cato received the bishops' blessings, his response was that he deserved this appointment as he had always been properly religious: fasting, giving alms, holding up the dignity of the priesthood, etc..  I suppose he was expected to grovel and exclaim that he was not worthy because the bishops went on their way home cursing him for his pride.
     Tweedle-Dee did not get along with his Arch-Deacon Cautinus, Tweedle-Dum.  For some reason, he threatened him with disgrace and death.   So Cautinus went to King Theudebald and informed him that Saint Gall had died and the Bishoporic of Clermont-Ferrand was vacant.  For this service, the king gave the appointment to Cautinus in spite of the fact the bishops had already blessed Cato.  Since Cato had all these terrible flaws, it might seem that the better man had won.  Or had he?
     Gregory went on to relate what Tweedle-Dum made of his position.   Cato refused to submit to the new bishop; so he and his friends were stripped of all church benefits, leaving them unable to feed themselves.   Anyone willing to come over to Cautinus's side would have all their holdings back so many did.  Then Cautinus went on to drink heavily and in public, steal land, go to court to steal land, and buried one Anastasius alive to steal his land.  He would not bother with books, consorted with Jews and left the city to save himself when the plague broke out.  
    Cato, meanwhile, was offered the bishoporic of Tours, which he turned down.  It was probably proposed by Cautinus to get rid of him.  Gregory does write that, when the plague broke out, while Cautinus fled, Cato stayed and ministered to the people until the plague killed him too. That is why he is Tweedle-Dee and not Tweede-Dum.

Beatles Song of the Week

Semel puellam habui, aut ego dicam, 
Semel me habuit. 
Eam cellam ad me monstravit, estne bona, lignum de Via Borea.
Manere me rogavit et alicubi sedere dixit,
Tunc circum aspexi et non sellam fuit cognovi,
Stragulum supersedi, meum tempus opperior, eum vinum bibebam. 
Usque ad hora secundus locuti sum et tunc "Tempus pro lecto est" dixit.
Laboravit mane me dixit et ridere incepit,
Non egi eam dixi et dormire in solo procul repsi.
Et ut excitavi, solus fui, hac avis voleraverat,
Tunc flammam concepi, estne bona, lignum de Via Borea. 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Don't Throw The Engineer Out With The Water

    The story of Urbicus, whose wife stood outside the church house screaming for him to come out and give her sex as is her right, is funny.  Almost as funny is the story of an invasion of Vienne by Gundobad.
     Gundobad and Godigisel were two brothers who were fighting each other to take each other's land.  They were not Franks but Clovis kept encouraging them to fight probably hoping they would kill each other and then he would take both lands.  Gundobad marched on Vienne, which was held by his brother, put it under a siege.  When the stocks of food in the city began to run low, Godigisel, fearing there would not be enough for himself and he might have to miss a meal, rounded up a bunch of people that he considered superfluous and booted them out to be killed, enslaved, whatever. 
     One of the people, he kicked out was the city engineer; who was understandably pissed off.  So, this fellow told Gundobad how he might sneak into the city through the aquaduct.  He lead them personally through the system. Vienne fell to the besiegers.  Almost everyone inside, except the Franks, was put to the sword, including Godigisel.  The Germanic tribes were never very shy about kinslaying.  This land became part of the Burgundy of the Nibelungs. 
     There is a lesson here.  If you are the leader of a city that is being attacked, you should have a list of people who are too important to leave outside the city walls and make sure that none of the people on that list end up there.   Or their families. 
    Clovis had social opportunities to mess with Godigisel's and Gundobad's heads since their niece, Clothide was his wife. 
From Gregory Book II, section 33

Beatles' Song of the Week

Per fenestra latrinae intus venit,
Ab cocleare argentum protectus est, 
Sed nunc eam pollicem sugit et errat,
Ad ripis ipse lacunae. 

Dixitne eam aliquis?
Viditne aliquis?
Dies Solis Dies Lunae phonice vocat,
Dies Martis me phonice vocat.