Thietmar of Merseburg
Thietmar of Merseburg, son of graf Siegmund von Walbeck (25.07-975 – 1.12.1018) was a German bishop of Merseburg and an author of a famous chronicle, especially important for early history of Polan state.
As a resident of Magdeburg for some time, he understood a political importance of christianisation of Polabian Slavs (Wends) for the the german Holy Roman Empire and supported actions in that direction. The Chronicle itself is a mix of hagiographic or legendary information, rumours and his own knowledge. It has a particular value when it comes to the information he possesed on political events. The chronicle, apart of describing mythical God’s miracles (like a golden Hand’s of God manifestations – physically saving people or punishing them), sheds some important light on Western Slavonic (especially Polan and Czech) culture, warfare and politics of IXc/Xc. Thanks to the chronicle, we can learn that Bolesław Chrobry (Boleslaus the Brave, known as Burisleif to the Norse), the first Polan king, was a cunning politician, juggling with alliances, pacts, treason, flattery and warfare, winning one’s support against the other.
We can learn tactics used by German armoured horsemen (charges) and Polan troops (hiding behind trees and releasing archery volleys on charging imperial knighs) in the first moments of battles:
“The enemy, very cautiously, hid behind thickly lying cut down trees, to harass charging units even more. By releasing arrows, as usual, which are a main defense of the enemy”.
Very interesting are difficulties of Wend christianisation, depicted by Thietmar. When one of the missionaries reached the phrase “Kyrie eleison!” during mass, Wends as one bursted into laughter. The poor missionary didn’t know that his pronounciation made Wends to understand it as “urkivolsa”(Thietmar’s transcription) – which in fact was “u kriv olsa” – “there’s an alder tree in the bush”. Rather interesting sense of Slavonic humour 🙂