Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chicken or Egg?

Chicken or Egg


So I'm looking at Stafford's Queens, Concubines and Dowagers to see if there's anything useful for the paper-to-article thing. And she says, "During the sixth century the Merovingian kings extended Frankish control and won great though not always lasting victories over Thuringians, Burgundians, and Bavarians" (p. x)

So here's my question, and it's one that has been floating around in my head since I started my PhD thesis:

The who? This is particularly in reference to the Thuringians. Oh -- let me preface this by saying I haven't yet read any of the (end of) Rome/Barbarian books that have come out in the last year or so, nor Wickham. Sorry -- heavy teaching load and job searches kind of got in the way. But anyway ...The who?

Do we actually know anything about the Thuringians, except that we have a law code and Fredegar and (I think) the Annales Regni Francorum. And some of Boniface's correspondence. At least, that's all I can think of in terms of pre-Carolingian stuff. I assume Stafford is talking about the Basina/Basinus/Chlothilde stuff (also in Gregory -- sorry LDW!), and perhaps Radulf, who is put in as dux. But does anyone know of a anything that ties all of these sources together into the same group of people? Because IIRC, Schlesinger, in Geschichte Thüringens discusses the arguments that the Thuringian duces (or is it just the Würzburger duces?) at the time of Boniface's mission are possibly (probably? -- oh hell, that may be Prinz. I should check that.) the descendants of Radulf, which I suppose makes him an analog for Agilolf in Bavaria.

Why am I rambling about this? To figure out one small point that may or may not make it into this article. It would be nice to know which law obtained in the area I'm studying in the period between Boniface's mission and, say the reigns of Pippin or more likely, Charlemagne. And of course, "this area" is also problematic. Anybody know of good maps for C7, C8, and C9 on what areas were considered parts of Thuringia then? Anyway, I'm looking at women and property in this area, and it would be nice to know whether we modern people are calling it Thuringia because that's where the Thuringians were, or if we're calling the people Thuringians because that's where they live.

And yes, I realise that the real answer is probably that we just don't know and who cares? But it's these little details that keep me from fretting about the rest of my life.

Also, yes, I am very aware of Innes' State and Society. It doesn't answer my questions per se, but I suppose I should just break down and buy a damned copy, since CUP lost LDW's order when he tried to get it for me as a gift.

PS -- If this entry tells you for sure who ADM is IRL and you didn't already know, I'd appreciate your not passing it on. Cheers.

11 comments:

Wegie said...

Ack! I had a comment all ready to go, and then Firefox died on me.

So, as I was about to say . . .

I've got a copy of Wickham beside me in the bed (not recommended, by the way, it's a bit obtrusive if you fall asleep) as I attempt to plough my way through, and a quick check of the index gives two entries for Thuringia, the most interesting of which from your pov is the one (p46) that says in passing that Thuringia was effectively independent in the late C7/early C8 and presents as reference Werner, K. F., "Les Principautes peripheriques dans la monde franc du VIII siecle", Settimane di studio, XX (1972), pp. 483 - 514/

Ward-Perkins and Heather both only mention the Thuringi in passing as part of the problem in Noricum (yup, dear old St Severinus).

And much the other recent decline of Rome/Late Antiquity stuff is in an Amazon order that's due to arrive tomorrow.

And I didn't know about the Innes (embarrassingly enough for somebody who was at Birkbeck recently). I've added it to my wishlist, thanks!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Lord, I hope I've got notes for that. It's always bloody Werner. Or Schultze. Or Mitterauer. Or Staab. Or Borgolte. And now bloody Werner in bloody French. Bugger. Game. Soldiers.

Rebecca said...

If you read Peter Heather's new book, will you review it on the blog? I want to read it (had a class with him at UCL) but probably won't have time!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

It's more when I read the book. It's kind of a requirement, I think. But yeah, I will do that.

Wegie said...

The Heather has the advantage that it's paced almost like a novel; a real page turner. However, an extra-strong tolerance of really bad puns will definitely come in useful.

Jonathan Jarrett said...

"Lord, I hope I've got notes for that. It's always bloody Werner. Or Schultze. Or Mitterauer. Or Staab. Or Borgolte. And now bloody Werner in bloody French. Bugger. Game. Soldiers."

Argh. I know this pain all too well. As to the actual question, though, I would say that Innes's book may be the most helpful thing you can get hold of, at least that I know of. But then I would say that, he was my supervisor and a lot of my ideas started in that book. I haven't read Heather, but I did go to a launch conference where he, Stephen Mitchell, Ward-Perkins and Wickham and Julia Smith all talked about their new books and then responded to some commentary presentations, and from what was said there I'd more expect Heather to share your doubt as to whether the Thuringians counted as a gens rather than a `political expression'. That may not be news you like however, and fair enough. It's always bloody Werner, in the end.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Oh, I'm happy if someone like Peter Heather shares my doubt! Of course, it's no damned use if I'm trying to figure out what legal codes -- or even traditions -- these people are following in terms of land transactions. Are they following Roman practices because they all live near an old civitas (not sayin' which one) and hold/own property there? Sometimes, I really wish I worked with more literary sources.

Wegie said...

To be fair, the most recent Heather is written much more with a general audience in mind, so doesn't delve too deeply into the murky questions of Germanic identity.

The new(ish) Goffart, Barbarian Tides, which has just landed on my mat, has what looks like a very entertaining chapter entitled "None of Them Were Germans: Northern Barbarians in Late Antiquity", which includes some thumbnail sketches of what is known about the various named tribes and kingdoms. His section on the Thuringians (pp. 215 - 218) is long on polysyllabic names of ephemeral kinglets, but short on the practicalities of the legal situation post the murder of Herminifred. He also doesn't suggest that any of the remnants of the ruling line(s) hung around to have highly placed descendants by the time of Boniface. As for location, he seems to be implying that Thuringia then is pretty much the same place as Thuringia now, but the damn book doesn't have any maps!

Smith mentions Thuringian law in passing, as "more hostile to women owning land than any other law code" in her section on inheritance customs and women's access to property, but she doesn't specify where the law applied. And, of course, if the Franks had given the Thuringians such a good kicking that Thuringia was no longer effectively a fully independent entity, what does this make the Thuringian law code? A compilation of things our ancestors did or a living document? And if it's the latter, you're back to the question of how, where and when said law code's writ actually ran. Still, it'll all be good fodder for your next K'zoo or Leeds paper, tentatively entitled "Where The Sodding Hell is Thuringia? Locating Lands, Peoples and Laws in Space and Time" ;-)

Oh, and if you want a scan of the pages from Goffart or of Smith's bibliography on women and laws in case there's anything new in there, just drop me a line.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I really like that idea! I'm sure there's some German who's done it, though. What I find annoying is that we can get our hands on maps with details of various gaues, but not on a big geographical area. I do have Smith, thanks, and shall look for Goffart at Big University library today. And thanks for the help. One of these days, I shall have to submit an article with an acknowledgement to the blogger known as wegie!

Wegie said...

I've now dug out my extremely ancient historical atlas (original publication 1964 in German), and even allowing for the degree of compression caused by turning the original atlas into penguin size, it's pretty clear that the authors were about as clear as mud about the location of Thuringia.

One map shows the somewhat ephemeral Thuringian kingdom stretching as far south as the Danube, pretty much all the way to Regensburg. An earlier map in the time series has part of the Thuringian territory to the west of the Weser (as do some of the high middle ages maps) whilst the rest place it fairly firmly between the Weser and the Elbe-Saale line . . . apart from the one with Thuringia planted very firmly straight across the Saale, that is!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I just read today that in C8 (I think -- and I think it was in Büttner) that the Saale marked the eastern edge of Thuringia.