The Northern Way

The Roman and the Teuton


Page 2

A more serious charge, however, was brought against him for having used the High-German form Dietrich, instead of the original form Theodereiks or Theoderic, or even Theodoric. Should I have altered this? I believe not; for it is clear to me that Kingsley had his good reasons for preferring Dietrich to Theodoric.
        He introduces him first to his hearers as 'Theodoric, known in German song as Dietrich of Bern.' He had spoken before of the Visi-Gothic Theodoric, and of him he never speaks as Dietrich. Then, why should he have adopted this High-German name for the great Theodoric, and why should he speak of Attila too as Etzel?
        One of the greatest of German historians, Johannes von Müller, does the same. He always calls Theodoric, Dietrich of Bern; and though he gives no reasons for it, his reasons can easily be guessed. Soon after Theodoric's death, the influence of the German legends on history, and of history on the German legends, became so great that it was impossible for a time to disentangle two characters, originally totally distinct, viz. Thjóðrekr of the Edda, the Dietrich of the German poetry on ones side, and the King of the Goths, Theodoric, on the other. What had long been said and sung about Thjóðrekr and Dietrich was believed to have happened to King Theodoric, while at the same time historical and local elements in the life of Theodoric, residing at Verona , where absorbed by the legends of Thjóðrekr and Dietrich. The names of the legendary hero and the historical king were probably identical, though even that is not quite certain; (2) but at all events, after Theodoric's death, all the numerous dialectic varieties of the name, whether in High or in Low-German, were understood by the people at large, both of the hero and the king.
        Few names have had a larger number of alias'. They have been carefully collected by Graff, Grimm, Förstemann, Pott, and others. I here give the principal varieties of this name, as actually occuring in MSS., and arranged according to the changes of the principal consonants:----
        (1) With Th--d: Theudoricus, Theudericus,Qeudericoj, Qeodericoj, Thiodiricus, Thiodericus, Thiodric, Thiodricus, Thiodrih, Theodoricus, Theodericus, Theoderic, Theodrich, Thiadric, Thiadrich, Thiedorik, Thiederic, Thiederik, Thiederich, Theidorich, Thiedric, Thiedrich, Thideric, Thiederich, Thidrich, Thodericus, Thiaedric, Thieoderich, Thederich, Thedric.
        (2) With T----d: Teudericus, Teudricus, Tiodericus, Teodoricus, Teodericus, Teodric, Teodrich, Tiadric, Tiedrik, Tiedrich, Ticdric, Tidericus, Tiderich, Tederich.
        (3) With D---d: Deudorix, Diodericus, Deoderich, Deodrich, Diederich, Diderich.
        (4) With Th---t: Thiotiricus, Thiotirih, Thiotiricus, Thiotrih, Theotoricus, Theotericus, Theoterih, Theotrih, Theotrich, Thiatric, Thieterich, Thietrih, Thietrich, Theatrih.
        (5) With T---t: Teutrich, Teoterih, Teotrich, Teotrih, Tieterich, Teatrih, Tiheiterich.
        (6) With D---t: Dioterih, Diotericus, Diotricus, Deotrich, Deotrih, Dieterih, Dieterich, Dietrich, Diterih, Ditricus.
        (7) With Th---th: Theotherich, Theothirich.
        (8) With T-th: deest.
        (9) With D---th: Dietherich.

        It is quite true that, strictly speaking, the forms with Th---d, are Low-German, and those with D---t , High-German, but before we trust ourselves to this division for historical purposes, we must remember three facts: [1] that Proper Names frequently defy Grimm's Law; [2] that in High-German MSS. much depends on the locality in which they are written; [3] that High-German is not in the strict sense of the word a corruption of Low-German, and, at all events, not, as Grimm supposed, chronologically posterior to Low-German, but that the two are parallel dialects, like Doric and Aeolic, the Low-German being represented by the earliest literary documents, Gothic and Saxon, the High-German asserting its literary presence later, not much before the eighth century, but afterwards maintaining its literary and political supremacy from the time of Charlemagne to the present day.
        When Theodoric married Odeflede, the daughter of Childebert, and a sister of Chlodwig, I have little doubt that, at the court of Chlodwig or Clovis, his royal brother-in-law was spoken of in conversation as Dioterih, although in official documents, and in the history of Gregory of Tours, he appears under his classical name of Theodoricus, in Jornandes Theodericus. Those who, with Grimm (3), admit a transition of Low into High-German, and deny that the change of Gothic Th into High-German D took place before the sixth or seventh century, will find it difficult to account, in the first century, for the name of Deudorix, a German captive, the nephew of Melo the Sigambrian, mentioned by Strabo. (4) In the oldest German poem in which the name of Dietrich occurs, the song of Hildebrand and Hadebrand, written down in the beginning of the ninth century, (5) we find both forms, the Low-German Theotrîh, and the High-German Deotrîh, used side by side.
        Very soon, however, when High-German became the more prevalent language in Germany, German historians knew both of the old legendary hero and of the Ost-gothic king, by one and the same name, the High-German Dietrich.
        If therefore Johannes von Müller spoke of Theodoric of Verona as Dietrich von Bern, he simply intended to carry on the historical tradition. He meant to remind his readers of the popular name which they all knew, and to tell them, ----This Dietrich with whom you are all acquainted from your childhood, this Dietrich of whom so much is said and sung in your legendary stories and poems, the famous Dietrich of Bern, this is really the Theoderic, the first German who ruled Italy for thirty-three years, more gloriously than any Roman Emperor before or after. I see no harm in this, as long as it is done on purpose, and as long as the purpose which Johannes von Müller had in his mind, was attained.
        No doubt the best plan for an historian to follow is to call every man by the name by which he called himself. Theodoric, we know, could not write, but he had a gold plate (6) made in which the first four letters of his name were incised, and when it was fixed on the paper, the Kind drew his pen through the intervals. Those four letters were QEOD, and though we should expect that, as a Goth, he would have spelt his name Thiudereik, yet we have no right to doubt, that the vowels were eo, and not iu. But again and again historians spell proper names, not as they were written by the people themselves, but as they appear in the historical documents through which they became chiefly known. We speak of Plato, because we have Roman literature between us and Greece. American names are accepted in history through a Spanish, Indian names through an English medium. The strictly Old High-German form of Carolus Magnus would be Charal, A.S. Carl; yet even in the Oaths of Strassburg (842) the name appears as Karlus and as Karl, and has remained so ever since. (7) In the same document we find Ludher for Lothar, Ludhuwig for Lodhuvig for Ludovicus, the oldest form being Chlodowich: and who would lay down the law, which of these forms shall be used for historical purposes?
        I have little doubt that Kingsley's object in retaining the name Dietrich for the Ost-gothic king was much the same as Johannes von Müller's. You know, he meant to say, of Dietrich of Bern, of all the wonderful things told of him in the Nibelunge and other German poems. Well, that is the Dietrich of the German people, that is what the Germans themselves have made of him, by transferring to their great Gothic king some of the most incredible achievements of one of their oldest legendary heroes. They have changed even his name, and as the children in the schools of Germany (8) still speak of him as their Dietrich von Bern, let him be to us too Dietrich, not simply the Ost-gothic Theoderic, but the German Dietrich.
        I confess I see no harm in that, though a few words on the strange mixture of legend and history might have been useful, because the case of Theodoric is one of the most luculent testimonies for that blending of fact and fancy in strictly historical times which people find it so difficult to believe, but which offers the key, and the only true key, for many of the most perplexing problems, both of history and of mythology.
        Originally nothing could be more different than the Dietrich of the old legend and the Dietrich of history. The former is followed by misfortune through the whole of his life. He is oppressed in his youth by his uncle, the famous Ermanrich; (9) he has to spend the greater part of his life (thirty years) in exile, and only returns to his kingdom after the death of his enemy. Yet whenever he is called Dietrich of Bern, it is because the real Theodoric, the most successful of Gothic conquerors, ruled at Verona. When his enemy was called Otacher, instead of Sibich, it is because the real Theodoric conquered the real Odoacer. When the king, at whose court he passes his years of exile, is called Etzel, it is because many German heroes had really taken refuge in the camp of Attila. That Attila died two years before Theodoric of Verona was born, is no difficulty to a popular poet, nor even the still more glaring contradiction between the daring and ferocious character of the real Atilla and the cowardice of his namesake Etzel, as represented in the poem of the Nibelunge. Thus was legend quickened by history.
        On the other hand, if historians, such as Gregory I (Dial. iv. 36), (10) tell us that an Italian hermit had been witness in a vision to the damnation of Theodoric, whose soul was plunged, by the ministers of divine vengeance, into the volcano of Lipari, one of the flaming mouths of the infernal world, we may recognise in the heated imagination of the orthodox monk some recollection of the mysterious end of the legendary Dietrich. (11) Later on, the legendary and the real hero were so firmly welded together that, as early as the twelfth century, chroniclers are at their wits' end how to reconcile facts and dates.
        Ekkehard, in his Chronicon Universale, (12) which ends 1126 A.D., points out the chronological contradiction between Jornandes, who places the death of Ermanrich long before Attila, and the popular story which makes him and Dietrich, the son of Dietmar, his contemporaires.
        Otto von Freising, (13) in the first half of the twelfth century, expresses the same perplexity when he finds that Theodoric is made a contemporary of Hermanricus and Attila, though it is certain that Attila ruled long after Hermanric, and that, after the death of Attila, Theodoric, when eight years old, was given by his father as a hostage to the emperor Leo.
        Gottfried von Viterbo, (14) in the second half of the twelfth century, expresses his difficulties in similar words.
        All these chroniclers who handed down the historical traditions of Germany were High-Germans, and thus it has happened that in Germany Theodoric the Great became Dietrich, as Strataburgum became Strassburg, or Turicum, Zürich. Whether because English belongs to the Low German branch, it is less permissible to an English historian than to a German to adopt these High-German names, I cannot say: all I wished to point out was that there was a very intelligible reason why Kingsley should have preferred the popular and poetical name of Dietrich, even though it was High-German, either to his real Gothic name, Theodereik, or to its classical metamorphosis, Theodoricus or Theodorus.
        Some other mistakes, too, which have been pointed out, did not seem to me so serious as to justify their correction in a posthumous edition. It was said, for instance, that Kingsley ought not to have called Odoacer and Theodoric, Kings of Italy, as they were only lieutenants of the Eastern Caesar. Cassiodorus, however, tells us that Odoacer assumed the name of king (nomen regis Odoacer assumpsit), and though Gibbon points out that this may only mean that he assumed the abstract title of a king, without applying it to any particular nation or country, yet that great historian himself calls Odoacer, King of Italy, and shows how he was determined to abolish the useless and expensive office of vicegerent of the emperor. Kingsley guesses very ingeniously, that Odoacer's assumed title, King of nations, may have been the Gothic Theode-reiks, the very name of Theodoric. As to Theodoric himself, Kingsley surely knew his real status, for he says: 'Why did he not set himself up as Caesar of Rome? Why did he always consider himself as son-in-arms, and quasi-vassal of the Caesar of Constantinople?'
        Lastly, in speaking of the extinction of the Western Empire with Romulus Augustulus, Kingsley again simply followed the lead of Gibbon and other historians; nor can it be said that the expression is not perfectly legitimate, however clearly modern research may have shown that the Roman Empire, though dead, lived.
        So much in defence, or at all events, in explanation, of expressions and statements which have been pointed out as most glaring mistakes in Kingsley's lectures. I think it must be clear that in all these cases alterations would have been impossible. There were other passages, where I should gladly have altered or struck out whole lines, particularly in the ethnological passages, and in the attempted etymologies of German proper names. Neither the one nor the other, I believe, are Kingsley's onw, though I hve tried in vain to find out whence he could possibly have taken them.
        These, however, are minor matters which are mentioned chiefly in order to guard against the impression that, because I left them unchanged, I approved of them. The permanent interest attaching to these lectures does not spring from the facts that they give. For these, students will refer to Gibbon. They will be valued chiefly for the thoughts which they contain, for the imagination and eloquence which they display, and last, not least, for the sake of the man, a man, it is true, of a warm heart rather than of a cold judment, but a man whom, for that very reason, many admired, many loved, and many will miss, almost every day of their life.

M. M.


2. Grimm, Grammatik, (2nd edit.) vol. i. p. 108; vol. ii. p. 581. Back

3. Lectures on the Science of Language, vol. ii. p. 232. Back

4. Förstemann mentions a Latin inscription of the third century found near Wiesbaden, with the Dative Toutiorigi. Back

5. German Classics, by M. M. p. 12. Back

6. Anonym. Valesian. ad calcem Ann. Marcellin. p. 722. Gibbon, cap. xxxix; now known, through Mommsen, as the Annals of Ravenna. Back

7. Grimm thinks that Charle-maigne and Charlemagne were originally corruptions of Karlo-man, and were interpreted later as Carolus magnus. Grimm, Grammatik, ii. 462; iii. 320. Back

8. Weber, Lehrbuch der Weltgeschichte, § 245: 'Bei Verona von Theoderich (daher Dietrich von Bern) besiegt, barg sich Odoaker hinter die Mauern von Ravenna.' It is much more objectionable when Simrok in his translation of the Edda renders Thjodrekr by Dietrich, though he retains Theodolf and similar names. But it shows at the same time the wide popularity of that name. Back

9. Grimm, Heldensage, p. 344. Back

10. Gibbon, chap. xxxix. sub fin. Back

11. Otto von Freising, in the first half of the twelfth century (Chronicon 5, 3), takes the opposite view, and thinks the fable derived from history: 'Ob ea non multis post diebus, xxx imperii sui anno, subitanea morte rapitur ac juxta beati Gregorii dialogum (4, 36) a Joanne et Symmacho in Aetnam praecipitatus, a quodam homine Dei cernitur. Hinc puto fabulam illam traductam, qua vulgo dicitur: Theodoricus vivus equo sedens ad inferos descendit. Back

12. Grimm, Deutsche Heldensage, p. 36. Chronicon Urspergense, 85ª: Haec Jordanis quidam grammaticus, ex eorundem stirpe Gothorum progenitus, de Getarum origine et Amalorum nobilitate non omnia, quae de eis scribuntur et referuntur, ut ipse dicit, complexus exaravit, sed brevius pro rerum notitia huic opusculo inseruimus. His perlectis diligenterque perspectis perpendat, qui discernere noverit, quomodo illud ratum teneatur, quod non solum vulgari fabulatione et cantilenarum modulatione usitatur, verum etiam in quibusdam chronicis annotatur; scilicet quod Hermenricus tempore Martiani principis super omnes Gothos regnaverit, et Theodoricum Dietmari filium, patruelem suum, ut dicunt, instimulante Odoacre, item, ut ajunt, patruele suo de Verona pulsum, apud Attilam Hunorum regem exulare coegerit, cum historiographus narret, Ermenricum regen Gothorum multis regibus dominantem tempore Valentiniani et Valentis fratrum regnasse et a duobus fratribus Saro et Ammio, quos conjicimus eos fuisse, qui vulgariter Sarelo et Hamidiecus dicuntur, vulneratum in primordio egressionis Hunorum per Maeotidem paludem, quibus rex fuit Valamber, tam vulneris quam Hunorum irruptionis dolore defunctum fuisse, Attilam vero postea ultra LXX annos sub Martiano et Valentiniano cum Romanis et Wisigothis Aetioque duce Romanorum pugnasse et sub eisdem principibus regno vitaque decessisse....Hinc rerum diligens inspector perpendat, quomodo Ermenricus Theodoricum Dietmari filium apud Attilam exulare coegerit, cum juxta hunc historiographum contemporalis ejus non fuit. Igitur aut hic falsa conscripsit, aut vulgaris opinio fallitur et fallit, aut alius Ermenricus et alius Theodoricus dandi sunt Attilae contemporanei, in quibus hujus modi rerum convenientia rata possit haberi. Hic enim Ermenricus longe ante Attilam legitur defunctus. Back

13. Chronicon, 5, 3: Quod autem rursum narrat, eum Hermanarico Attilaeque contemporaneum fuisse, omnino stare non potest, dum Attilam longe post Hermanaricum constat exercuisse tyrannidem istumque post mortem Attilae octennem a patre obsidem Leoni Augusto traditum. Back

14. Chronicon, 16, 481: Quod autem quidam dicunt, ipsum Theodoricum fuisse Hermenrico Veronensi et Attilae contemporaneum, non est verum. Constat enim Attilam longe post Hermenricum fuisse Theodoricum etiam longe post mortem Attilae, quum esset puer octennis, Leoni imperatori in obsidem datum fuisse. Back

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