Origo et religio. Ethnic Traditions and Literature in Early Medieval Texts
Focusing on the example of two early medieval barbarian peoples, the Goths and the Langobards, the author examines how reliable origin myths and genealogy of ruling families are as historical sources. Arguing primarily with Walter Goffart, he claims that these two genres are naturally literary products, but they do have political functions and a role in constructing identity, and they also cast light on the cults and the mythical corpus of early German peoples. They reflect those critical changes that are connected to the primordial deed or the stages of migration (the exodus of the Winils), or those that came with the emergence of a new dynasty (the Goth Amals); they show the strong legitimating force of long descent. Genealogies that trace origins back to the distant past, to half gods or gods, were common primarily among the Langobards and the Goths, as well as among the peoples of the British Isles. It is important that these passed on authentic names to us. At the same time, it is clear that as strict historical sources their value is modest, they condense a diverging oral tradition that originates from the distant past. Studying the theme of the exodus from Scandinavia, the author concludes that Scandinavia exported not so much crowds of peoples and warriors, but rather such sacred traditions which spread with smaller groups (the Amals) or travelled long distances without any mediator.
King Rothari's Edict and Langobard Society in the Seventh Century
Analysing the edict of Rothari, king of the Langobards (636–652), the paper attempts to answer the question whether Italian society preserved continuity with late ancient antecedents after the Langobard conquest. The author compares the passages concerning various criminal sanctions, the influence of public authority on these sanctions, the legal status of families and their role in succession with the relevant sections of Liber Iudiciorum compiled in 7th-century Spain, ruled by the Visigoths at the time. He found that while Visigoth legal mentality and practice have continuity, relatively unbroken, with late ancient Roman legal culture, the more archaic Langobard law bears witness to the discontinuity of Italy's legal, social and economic life. At the same time, he points out that the edict is not a mere rehash of ancient German traditions, but a result of Rothari's endeavours to establish cohesion and a sense of identity among the inhabitants of his kingdom – including the indigenous Roman people – and to construct a social model after the conquest. It is apparent that the king meant to extend the power of the law to the non-Langobard peoples as well. Roman traditions lived on in Italy in a more fragile and local way, mixing with Langobard traditions, which made it possible for legislation to substitute ancient organizing principles of society with new ones.
Kungahälla, the Center of Power (The Foreign Policy of Norway in the Baltic Sea Region between 1123 and 1135)
On August 10, 1135, Ratibor, Duke of the Wends invaded the city of Kungahälla. According to the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, King Sigurd Jorsalfar (1103–1130) "made it the biggest city in Norway." However, archeological excavations have demonstrated that the town had but very little economic importance at the time, so the Wends could hardly expect much plunder. Then why did Duke Ratibor invade Kungahälla? The answer lies in the northern alliances. At that time, two opposing alliances existed: on one side there was the Danish-Russian-Norwegian alliance, and on the other the Polish-Wendic one. Contrary to what contemporary sources claim, the Wends must have been Christians. This seems to be supported by the fact that they married Christian princely families and that Ratibor treated the sacred relics of Kungahälla with respect. King Sigurd used Kungahälla as a military assembly area before his campaigns. Such a military operation was his campaign to Smĺland in 1123. Also, he placed there a piece of Christ's cross he fetched from the Holy Land. As a result, it was the military and ideological importance of the city that grew. Making use of the break-up of the Danish-Russian-Norwegian alliance, Duke Ratibor, as a demonstration of his power, showed who rules the roost on the Baltic Sea.
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