The Northern Way

Commentary To the Germanic Laws and Medieval Documents

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In the beginning of the seventh century the Frankish kings promulgated their decrees in the name of their bishops, dukes, counts, domestics, and agentes in rebus, (56) and this formula was again used in the beginning of the eighth century. (57) In the second half of the seventh century the list is more pretentious, the place of the agentes being occupied by domestici, refendarii, siniscalci, comes palati, (58) but occasionally the older form with agentes is employed, and from the exclusion of domestici it is clear that agentes refers to the siniscalci and possibly some others mentioned after them. (59) The siniscalci stand in the same relation to the optimati, comites, graviones, in which the seniores Gotorum are to the comites, iudices of the Visigothic laws, and obviously the comites scanciarum of the Visigothic signatures are identical with the siniscalci. This is conclusively proved by a statement in the St. Gall Codex of the Lex romana raetica curiensis to the effect that the seniores ministri included the camararius, butiglarius, senescalcus, iudex publicus, and comestabulus. (60) As we have already come across the iuniores in connection with the seniores, it is interesting to observe from the same passage that a iunior was a vassal, either a freeman or slave, who by the favor of his lord was allowed to hold a ministerium, apparently a special office like that of the agentes in rebus, but of less importance, since the composition for the death was smaller. (61)

We now can easily determine the Roman office from which the Gothic scancia and the Frankish siniscalcus are derived. Mommsen has shown that the bodyguard of the emperors, called schola, was originally recruited almost exclusively from among the Germanic tribes and that they did not perform field duties, but personally attended on the sovereign. (62) In the fifth century the commander of such a bodyguard was known as comes scholarum and the soldiers themselves as scholares. There were several scholae stationed in the East and the West, a distinction being made between seniores and iuniores, even as many auxiliary troops had this double appellation. The seniores of the Goths and in the St. Gall Codex include all the higher soldiery of the bodyguard, the comites of which are nearest to the person of the sovereign; but the guard doing personal service, the senior scholaris, must, from the beginning of the fifth century have atteneded to the sovereign's food or drink, for it is specifically stated in a law of the year 413 (63) that the comes scholae was admitted to the emperor's table. This senior scholaris has produced seniscalcus even as scholaris has given scalcus. Goth. skalks "servant." The scholae, scholares sacri palatii, or collegii gentilium are several times mentioned in Italian documents of the sixth and seventh centuries, (64) and the combination "schol. colle. gentilium" is particularly interesting, since it may explain the Visigothic term "seniores Gotorum." Two of these recorded scholares have the honorific title vd., that is, vir devotus, hence they were in the same class as the apparitores, and so were equal to the "servi dominici." This, then, explains why scholaris came to mean "servant." As a Burgundian name Guidiscalus is found, (65) it is not easy to determine whether scalus or scalcus is the older form, but the derivation of either from schola, scholaris is certain.

In the Burgundian laws the confiscator is called wittiscalcus or puer noster. (66) Unfortunately the word wittiscalcus occurs but twice in any document, and so it cannot be ascertained whether it was ever popular. But it can be shown that it is a badly corrupted form of an older word, for in the dozen manuscripts preserved, none of them of a period earlier than the ninth century, the spelling varies so much that it obviously was not understood. In the title we have the variations deouitis calcis, de widis calcis, deuitiscalcis, de vitis calcis, de victis calcis, de uitiis caballijs, de utis calcis, de vuittiscalcus, de uuitiscalcis, de uicis calcis, which all seem to be variations of an original devotis scalcis; that is, the name of the "puer noster" was devotus scalcus, in which the de- was thought to be a preposition, producing votis, vutis, vuitis, witis scalcis of the text. This devotus scalcus is precisely the same as the vd. schol., that is vir devotus scholaris of the Italian documents, hence the first part, devotus, is identical with the thiufadus of the Visigothic laws, and this again is in meaning identical with the Frankish thunginus. The conclusive proof of this identity is given by the gloss "in mallobergo ante teoda aut thunginum" of the Salic law, (67) where teoda can be only our thiufadus, devotus, the equal of thunginus.

We can now proceed to investigate the philological and cultural effects of the employment of Germans as agentes in rebus, who later in the Germanic states became the important officers of the courts. The thunginus of the Salic laws is also found in England in the form geþungen "emeritus, prouectus, prefectus, veteranus miles," (68) which at once indicates that it was a veteran soldier who was invested with the dignity of a "prefectus," a splendid confirmation of the edicts of the Theodosian Code in which the office of the ducenarius is mentioned. That this dignity was considerable we have seen not only from the fact that geþungen was mentioned in the same connection as the ealdermon, but also from the abstract noun geþungenness "dignitas, honestas, excellentia, fastigium, elatio, arrogantia," recorded in the Anglo-Saxon glosses. If thunginus has produced AS. geþungen, with the back formation þeón "thrive, flourish, grow, increase," tunginus has produced AS. dugan "to profit, avail, be virtuous, good," duguð "manhood, multitude, troop, army, nobles, nobility, majesty, glory, virtue, excellence." Both groups are represented in the other Germanic languages. We have Goth. dugan "to be of avail," þeihan "to flourish," OHG. tûgan "valere, pollere, prodesse," toht "bonus, utilis, valens," tugad, tugund "virtus, nobilitas," dîhan "proficere, pollere, florere, crescere, excellere," ONorse þungr "heavy, weighty."

If we turn to the Slavic languages, we again find both groups represented. We have the root dong- "strong (Pol. duzy "large," Lith. daug "much") and the far more important root tong- (69) which has developed a variety of meanings. It will suffice to quote tuga "oppression, weight, sorrow, grief, exhaustion, misfortune, oppression," tyaza "lawsuit, quarrel, disagreement, enmity," tyagati sya "to go to law," tyagati "to pull," in order to show that we are dealing with direct derivatives of tunginus "exactor." But they show us much more, namely that AS. þing, þinc "council, office, gift, thing." þingian "to intercede, ask forgiveness, plead, address," þingung "pleading, intercession, mediation," þingere "interceder, mediator, advocate," OHG. ding "conventus, concilium, mallum, forum, causa, res," gadingon "pacisci, judicare, convenire, contendere, fedus pangere," gadingi "placitum, pactum, conditio, spes," gadingo "patronus," and other similar forms are directly derived from the same thunginus, tunginus, and that, therefore, OHG. dûhjan "premere," ziuhan "pull" etc., are equally back formations of the same root thung-, tung-.

From the Salic trustis are derived not only OHG. trôst "confidence, security, etc.," but also, by a back formation, AS. treow "troth, trust," OHG. triuwa "true," Goth. trauan "to trust," OPrussian druwis "faith," Slavic druh, drug, "companion, friend, other." Gothic triggwa "true" was obviously formed at a time when OHG. triuwa had already produced OFrench triues "truce, compact," LLatin tregua "peace of God." Far more important are the derivatives from devotus. As the Goths were the chief apparitors and nearest servants of the Roman emperors, they were considered not only as "servi dominici," but as the "devoted people," as which they were frequently addressed, (70) hence devotus produces not only the connotations "servant," but also "people, gentiles." We have Goth. þiwadw, AS. þeowot, þeowet "servitude," from which come AS. þeow "servant, bondsman, slave," þeowe, þeowen, þeowin, þeown "a female servant," and Gothic has þius "slave," þiwi "a female slave," þewisa "servants," while OHG. has exclusively diu, diwa "female servant," diorna "girl, maid." From the OHG. is derived OSlavic dêva, dêvaya "girl," while OHG. has lost the masculine from which diu "female servant" was formed, the Slavic dêti "children," Russ. ditya "child," originally "puer noster, regius," as used in old documents, prove that a form diot, diet, now preserved only in OHG. in the sense of "people," originally meant "puer noster," and this is proved conclusively by Finnish dievddo, divdo "mas, vir," which has preserved both the old form devotus and the meaning attached to it. Similarly the OHG. dionôn "to serve," ONorse þjónari "servant," ORussian tiun, tivun "servant, officer, ruler," have lost a d, as is again proved conclusively by the Finnish teudnar "servus, famulus."

Goth. þiuda, OHG. diota, diot, diet, AS. þioda, þiod "people ," Goth. þiudans "ruler" have been referred to Umbrian tota-, tuta- "urbs," Sabinian touta "community," Oscan touto "civitas, populus," túvtíks "publicus," but that is totally impossible since the dialectic Italian words proceed obviously from a meaning "common, whole," that is, from Latin totus, while the Germanic words cannot be separated from the meaning "servus," a connection which has arisen only through the employment of the German people as "servi dominici." This is further shown by the fact that the seniores Gotorum, with which we have already met, were derived from the schola gentilium seniorum, wherefore þiuda was identical with "gentiles," producing Lettish tauta "foreign country, Germany," OSlavic tuzdi, cuzdi "foreign," cudu "giant;" but these words may have developed directly from the connection of þiuda with the Germans. In addition to derivatives from devotus we have also others, such as AS. penian "to serve," þen, þegn, þaegn "servant, attendant, valiant man, soldier knight," ONorse þegn "subditus, homo liber," OHG. degan "masculus, herus, miles," which have arisen from Latin decanus, which was confused with ducena, ducenarius, as is specifically stated in the Pithoean glosses. The Celtic languages have also this confusion, for from devotus are derived Irish tuath, Welsh tûd, Cornish tûs, "nation, people, men," while decanus has given Breton dên, Cornish den, Welsh dyn, Irish duine "man."


56. "Viris inlustrebus Vuandelberto duci, Gaganrico domestico et omnibus agentibus" (632), Lauer and Samaran, op. cit., p. 5; "duci....grafioni vel omnebus agentebus" (639), ibid., p. 8; "episcopis....ducibus......comiti, vel omnibus agentibus" (640), ibid., p. 19. [Back]

57. "Viris apostolicis, patribus episcopis, necnon inlustribus viris: ducibus, patriciis, comitibus, vel omnibus agentibus" (727), ibid., p. 85; "viris inlustribus, gravionibus atque omnibus agentibus, vel iunioribus eorum" (743), ibid., p. 86; "viris apostolicis patribus nostris, necnom et imperatoribus omnibus comitibus vel omnibus agentibus" (744), ibid., p. 87. [Back]

58. "Grafionibus..... siniscalcis..... comite palati" (657), ibid., p. 9;
"..... seniscalcis..... refendariis ...comite palati" (657), ibid., p. 10;
"episcopis ....optimatis .....gravionebus .....seniscalcis ....comite palati"
(691), ibid., p. 14; "episcopis .....optematis ....comitebus .....grafionibus
....domesticis .....referendariis .....seniscalcis .....comite palati" (693),
ibid., p. 16; "episcopis ....majore domus nostro .....optimatis .....comitebus
......domesticis ......seniscalcis .....comite palati" (697), ibid., p. 19. [Back]

59. "Viris inlustribus ducibus, comitibus, domesticis, vel omnibus agentibus" (675), MGH., Dip., vol. I, p. 41; "patriciis et omnebus ducis seu comitebus vel actorebus publicis" (667), ibid., p. 44. [Back]

60. "Si quis de senioribus quinque ministribus occiderit, de qualecumque linia fuerit, ad CXX solidos fiat recompensatus," MGH., Leg. v. p. 442. [Back]

61. "Si vassallum domnicum de casa sine ministerio aut iunior in ministerio fuit, et domnus eum honoratum habuit, si ingenuus fuit, fiat conpositus ad solidos XC, si servus ad LX," ibid. [Back]

62. Hermes, vol. XXIV, p. 223 f. [Back]

63. Cod. Theod. VI. 13. 1. [Back]

64. "Cautio Valeri Schol," Marini, I pap. dipl., p. 205; "vd. scol. colle. gentilium," ibid., p. 170; "Johannis vd. schol. sacr. pal." (639), ibid., p. 148. [Back]

65. MGH., Lex Burgundionum, p. 199, note. [Back]

66. "De wittiscalcis. Comitum nostrorum querela processit, quod aliqui in populo nostro eiusmodi praesumptionibus abutantur, ut pueros nostros, qui iudicia exsequuntur, quibusque multam iubemus exigere, et caede conlidant et sublata iussum comitum pignora non dubitent violenter auferre. Qua de re presenti lege decernimus: ut quicumque post hac pueros nostros ceciderit et insolentur abstulerit, quod ex ordinatione iudicis docebitur fuisse praesumptum, tripla satisfactione teneatur obnoxius, hoc est: ut per singulos ictus, pro quibus singuli solidi ab his inferuntur, ternos solidos is qui percusserit, cogatur exsolvere ....Mulieres quoque, si wittiscalcos nostros contempserint, ad solutionem multae similiter tenebuntur," LXXVI. [Back]

67. "Ista omnia illi iurati dicere debent et alii testes hoc quod in mallo publico ille qui accepit in laisum furtuna ipsa aut ante regem aut in mallo publico h. e. in mallobergo ante teoda aut thunginum," XLVI. [Back]

68. Th. Wright, Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies. [Back]

69. "Teng- eine wurzel, aus deren grundbedeutung 'ziehen' sich theilweise mit hilfe von praefixen, eine fülle von schwer zu vermittelnden bedeutungen entwickelt hat, die unter die folgenden schlagworte gebracht werden können: (1) ziehen, dehnen, spannen; (2) binden; (3) fordern, streiten; (4) leiden; (5) arbeiten; (6) erwerben; (7) schwer sein; (8) lästig sein; (9) bangen. Die wurzel nimmt durch steigerung die form tong- an," Miklosich, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der slavischen Sprachen. [Back]

70. "Aequabili ordinatione disponas populumque nobis devotum per tuam iustitiam facias esse gratissimum," Cassiodorus, Variae, IX. 8; "nec moram fas est incurrere iussionem, quae devotos maxime noscitur adiuvare," ibid., 1. 17. [Back]

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