For well over a millennium after his death in the fifth century, Attila the Hun was victim to calumnious artistic and verbal representations as the quintessential barbarian and Other. Some historians defamed him a half-human. Others slandered his name by adapting a brief corporeal catalog compiled by Jordanes in the Getica (c. 551), a history of the Goths. Jordanes’ pejorative assessment of Attila’s supposed physical characteristics (arrogant gait and gaze, snub nose, alleged offensive skin pigmentation) served later chroniclers as an explanation for the failures and successes of Attila, helping to influence reader perception. Medieval and early modern representations of Attila call to mind the campaign against Tamerlane in art and print. Here are gathered for the first time several early German versions of the physical features of Attila, as transmitted by Jordanes.
The emendation of the manuscript reading beþuncan to beþencan in line 7b of the Exeter Book’s Riddle 48 has been widely accepted. The Old English Dialogues, however, provide evidence that a strong passive participle beþuncen had been introduced into the paradigm of the weak verb beþencan (to entrust) in the Mercian dialect, admitting the possibility that beþuncan is a genuine preterite plural form. The passive participle brungen, attested in Mercian, is a possible analogical basis for the development of beþuncen in the same dialect, from which other strong forms may subsequently have arisen. The meter and the motives for scribal alteration in Riddle 48 make it probable that beþuncan is original and that it is rather ongietan in line 6a that should be emended.
Five late-medieval historical chronicles from Frisia present a series of legends about the Frisians, concerning their origin and the acquisition of their freedom. Each of these legends opens with a concrete parallel from the history of the Jewish people, making it clear that the Frisians, too, enjoyed God’s exceptional protection. This article tries to establish when and why these works were written. The many divergences between the five texts demonstrate that many more versions and copies were once in circulation. In particular, the chronicles were intended to reach the inhabitants of Frisia west of the Lauwers. It can be shown that the base versions of the vernacular editions were written between 1464 and 1479. One of the places where editing of these took place was the Cistercian abbey of Klaarkamp. However, the author of the Latin base text, the Historia Frisiae, does not seem to have been a monk given that his work has a more militant character than the popular versions. Nevertheless, all of the texts were intended to reinforce of the patriotic awareness of the Frisians at a time when their political autonomy was threatened by the dukes of Burgundy.
OIr. cing ‘hero’ and cingid ‘steps (marches)’ are reflected in the aristocratic Gaulish name Cingetorix ‘king of marchers (warriors), heroes’. These Celtic tokens, altogether lacking in Italic, have sometimes been considered reflexes of IE *(s)keng- which appears in Classical Sanskrit as khā̆ñjati ‘limps’ and in Greek as σκάζω ‘limp’. It has also been argued that late prehistoric Germanic borrowed a Celtic *kanxsto- ‘stepper, trotter’ (or the like) which it deployed in equestrian terms; so, for example, Old English hengest, hengst ‘gelding, horse’. The pejorative ‘limping’ sense of IE *(s)keng-, which is still maintained in German hinken, was mistakenly thought to have been ameliorated in Celtic allowing cingid to express ‘to step, proceed go, stride, march’. Here, however, it is shown that, other than in loans from Germanic, Celtic lacked reflexes of IE *(s)keng-. It is then demonstrated that Celtic *keng-, as in OIr. cingid, was derived by dissimilation of IE *g̑hengh- ‘to go, stride, ride’. Finally, it is remarked that Proto-Finnic borrowed Proto-Germanic *skenka- < IE *(s)keng- and adapted it as *kenkä > Finnish kenkä / kengä ‘shoe/boot (anything resembling a shoe in function, a heavy boot … for walking or striding in snow)’.
Horribile dictu, the twenty-first century is witnessing a steady decline of democracy and the rise of autocratic, self-aggrandizing rulers in many countries across the world. How long will they stay in power, however? Already since the high Middle Ages, numerous poets across Europe explored the topic of the ‘emperor in misery,’ in which an angel takes on the appearance of the emperor, which forces the latter to go through a long period of extreme suffering, being denied all respect, rejected, beaten, imprisoned, suffering from hunger and cold. Eventually, the poor emperor learns to accept his destiny, repents his previous hubris, confesses his sins, and suddenly realizes that his doppelgänger is actually an angel sent from God to teach him a lesson. Once this transformation in his soul has happened, the angel explains the entire situation, warns the emperor never to commit his sins again, and disappears. Of course, it is doubtful whether these narratives might have ever had a direct impact on the political situation, but the warning for evil rulers resonated throughout the centuries and found a remarkable continuation in one of the novellas of the Baltic-German author Werner Bergengruen (1946).
One of the very few ‘rules’ that operate (almost) without exceptions in Old English prose and poetry is that in se-relatives, se is preceded by the preposition that governs it. In the entire Old English corpus, Mitchell (1985: §2244) finds only one counterexample in the Exeter Book Riddle 6, lines 7–8. In this relative clause, the preposition on governing the demonstrative þa that functions as both antecedent and relative is postposed. The present article suggests grouping the preposition on (7b) with the adverb feorran ‘far’ (8a) that immediately follows it and analysing the main verb of the relative clause as transitive. As a result, the relative clause follows the ‘rule’: the preposition on is no longer postposed, and the pronoun þa, which functions as a direct object in the principal and relative clauses, is assigned accusative by the main verbs of both clauses.
This article argues that the traditional etymology of Latin sāpō as a loanword from the Germanic words for ‘soap’ is phonologically not possible. Instead, it proposes a phonologically regular explanation: a loanword in both Germanic and Latin from the common Celtic-Germanic substrate (with Gaulish transmission in the case of Latin).
The sound changes of ‘breaking’ and ‘labial mutation’ in Old Frisian are often referred to as distinct and unrelated phenomena only having been subject to similar processes. In the study at hand, this view is revisited by taking into account arguments on the basis of Old Frisian syllable structure and the particular environments in which these changes arise. The findings suggest that both Old Frisian breaking and labial mutation are concatenations of very similar consecutive but independent changes. This article argues for a reinterpretation of the two processes as caused by the same core phonetic process which is in its essence a backness levelling phenomenon. The two proposed phonological rules governing this process cross-cut previous assumptions about the triggers of epenthesis and thus provide a better fit to the data than positing two unrelated changes does.
The identification of characters in some prophylactic runic inscriptions as representative not of their names or as loan words from other magic traditions but as abbreviations based on initial sounds of other early Germanic words not previously adduced in the interpretive context resolves problems associated with the signification and encoding practice of such Migration Age forms as alu, laukaz, and the stand-alone uses of the L- and N-runes.
This article presents evidence that Sal-Frankish had a word for ‘500’, sunde, which corresponds to the Roman numeral D, being half of M ‘1000’. With this analysis, the Sal-Frankish numbers become transparent, even the two higher values of the so-called chunnas. The neologism sunde was a back formation from tusunde ‘thousand’, which was analysed as tu ‘two’ + sunde ‘500’. This back formation was possible in the contact language Sal-Frankish for both segmental reasons (ongoing occlusion of [θ] to [t]) and stress, but not in Old Low Franconian, Old Middle Franconian, Old Saxon or OHG.