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The German Aristocracy from the Ninth to the Early Twelfth Century. A Historical and Cultural Sketch Author(s): K. Leyser Source: Past & Present, No. 41 (Dec., 1968), pp. 25-53 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/650002 Accessed: 15/10/2009 06:26
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THE GERMANARISTOCRACY FROMTHE NINTH TO THE EARLYTWELFTHCENTURY A HISTORICAL AND CULTURALSKETCH


THE HISTORY OF GERMANSOCIETYIN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES IS FOR

the most part the history of the German aristocracy,clerical and lay. For no other social group do we possess the materialsand the resources to form a coherent picture. The agrarian structure of the EastFrankishregions is known to us in patches only: a few estate surveys, censiers and Hofrechte here and there reveal classes of dependants ranging from rent-paying free men under their lord's mundeburdium (protection and lordship) or advocacy to very much more heavily burdened customarytenants with differentnames in differentregions. But the insights these sources afford do not allow us to speak of these men as part of a German society. Nor is this mere accident. These men belonged to so many smaller regional and local societies centred on great monasteries or bishoprics like St. Gallen, Fulda, Werden, Corvey, St. Emmeran (Regensburg) and Worms. Except for the services and taxes they owed and the placita (pleas) which they had to attend, sometimes to be punished and always to be mulcted, the doings of their masters entered but dimly into their horizon. The same cannot, of course, be said of the men who later came to challenge and to enter the aristocracy,the ministeriales.But if they, or rather their fore-runners,served in the wars and at the courts of their betters they still belonged to and rose only in their own lord's familia and household. Theirs too was an enclosed and confined world. There is little evidence in the early eleventh century tllat they and their like, for instance the more honoured servants of the abbots of Fulda and Hersfeld formed independent connections, joined forces or nursed common grievances.l Until they did, from about IIOO onwards, it is difficult to speak of them as a class.9 Their self-assertion in the
1According to the service-code (Dienstrecht)of the Bamberg ministeriales a man could however seek employment outside the lordship of his master if the latter had no use for him and would not give him a fief. See Monumenta Bambergensia, ed. P. Jaffe (BibliothecaRerum Germanicarum,v, Berlin, I869), p. 5I. Some of ArchbishopBardoof Mainz's servientes deserted him to join the emperorConradII (I024-39). 2 An important,early case of ministeriales belonging to various lords joining forcesin defenceof their statuswas the murderof Count Sigehardof Burghausen at Regensburg in II04. He had tried to worsen the rights of his own men. For this incident see G. Meyer von Knonau, 3fahrbucher des Deutschen Reiches unterHeinrichIV. und Heixlrich V. (Leipzig, I904), V, pp. I95-8.
(I057-64)

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royal service which so infuriateda Lampertof Hersfeldand the SaxonBrunocouldnot achievethis in a day. Theirnew solidarities and corporaterights were at first local. The aristocracyalone formeda politicaland culturalsociety(albeitanarchic) in the Reich as a whole. The narrative sources of the tenthandearlyeleventhcenturies were overwhelmingly the workof the moreor less privileged inhabitants of monasteries, cathedral communities and courts. When they spoke of the poor,the pamperi, they sometimes meantthe non-nobles rather than the destitute, but they rarely did speak of them.3 In the biographies of greatpersonages, likethe ladiesof the Ottonian house, HenryI's queenMathilda and Otto I's Adelheid,almsgiving played a largepartand in describing it the authorsof these worksimitated the commonplaces of hagiography and the vitae (Lives) of great prelates. But throughoutthe accent lay not on the social good achieved or on socialservice,but on the purchasing powerin heaven whichthesecharities commanded. Thietmar of Merseburg wroteof Tagino, the archbishopof Magdeburg(I004-IOI2): "becausehis weakconstitution did not allowhim to fast he madeamendsfor this by the lavishnessof his alms-giving".4 Alms and washingthe feet of the needyweregoodfor the souls of the donors;wheresuchthings are describedin the vitae, they belonged to a widely accepted devotionalrepertoirewhereby the great could practise humility. They did not denoteeithera closerrelationship to the unfortunate or, on the part of the biographers, any interestin their lot. On the contrarythat interest was all self-centred:their own privileged connection withthe patron or the subjectof theirliterary toil. When timesweredangerous, as they werein the earlytenth centuryduring the Hungarian raids, and when monksand clerkshad to flee with their shrinesto find shelterin some walledcity or countryhide-out whattheyresented mostwashavingto minglewiththe common herd, the vulgus. 5 To return to Archbishop Taginoof Magdeburg: he had
3 On this see K. Bosl, "Potens und Pauper. Begriffsgeschichtliche Studien zur gesellschaftlichen Differenzierung im fruhen Mittelalter. . ." in Fruhformen der Gesellschaft im mittelalterlichen Europa(Munich-Vienna,I964), pp. I06-34. 4 Thietmar of Merseburg,Chronicon, Vi.64 (ed. R. Holtzmann, Monumenta Germaniae Historica [hereafter MGH], Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum [hereafterSRG], new ser. ix, Berlin, I955), p. 354. 5Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hamtnaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum,i.s3 (ed. B. Schmeidler[MGH. SRG., Hanoverand Leipzig, I9I7], p. 54): "clerumvulgo mixtum". Cf. also the Chronicle of Moyenmoutier, ch. 6 (MGH. Scriptorum Tomus [hereafterSS], iv, p. 89): "In Mediano autem coenobio . . . vix singuli clerici feruntur resedisse nonnullis mensibus, easdem tantum observantes excubiasvulgarisparrochiae".

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the gifts of gentlenessand compassion but preferred to be on close termsonlywith noblesandto keepthe low-born out of his company. 6 Annals,chronicles, Livesand Gestawerewrittenfor an aristocratic audience, whether it wastonsured or belted,a minority, or as shallbe seen, a tiny minorityamongwhat was a minorityof the population in anycase. It couldnotbe otherwise fortheseveryfew werethe only menandwomenworthinfluencing or elltertaining. The assumption wasthat nobilityhad meritand meritagairl wasinnatein blood. In the episcopalbiographies of the tenth and early eleventhcenturies the noble ancestryof the futurebishopwas set down as a matterof courseandalwaysfollowedby an accountof his evennoblervirtues. 7 Degeneracy,a problem to most aristocracies, was an individual failing. Noble kinscoulddecay,cometo griefin a feudandend up in exile or graduallyloose their wealth but this did not shake the confidence and the beliefsof theirfellowsor the writerswho tell us of such misfortunes. Converselythe ascent of a pazcper into the ranksof the high nobilitywas, even in the Church,a rareevent in tenth-centuryGermany. The outstandingexample was Willigis, archbishop of Mainzfrom975 to IOI I . Thietmar of Merseburg who should have known,spoke of his "vile" originsbut to him almost anyoneborn below his own high aristocratic circles was less than equal. Willigis'sparentsseenl to havebeeIlfree and noblebut they werepoorandlivedas peasants. Between merenobiles andnobilissimi a wide gulf stretched. Heavenitself had to interveneto point to Willigis'sfuture greatnessand so we read that on the night of his birth all the draught-cattle in his mother'shouse also had male offspring.8 Prodigiesat the birth of saintswere a stock-in-trade of hagiography, but Thietmar, though he esteemed the archbishop highly, did not think of him as a saint. Only his career was miraculous. In IOI4 and IOI9 the Emperor HenryII, for purposes of his own,promoted two clerksof unfreeparentage to the smalland poor see of Eichstatt. The chronicler of the dioceserecorded their
6 Thietmar, Chronicon, vi.6s, (p. 354). ConverselyBishop Notker of Liege was praised for his affability towards the mediocres. See Anselm's Gesta Episcoporum Leodiensiurn, ch. 30 (MGH. SS., vii, p. 206). The rigoristic Anselm disliked courts and their inhabitants. 7 A strong protest against this literary convention came characteristically from the circle of the early Lotharingianmonastic reformers. See John of St. Arnulf's Life of ffohncf Gorze (abbot of Gorze 960-74), ch. 7 (MGH. SS., iv, p. 339)8 Thietmar, iii.s (p. I02). The standingof Willigis's parentshas been much in dispute. Thietmarwrote (loc. Cit.): "Felix mater,quamDominus pre caeteris contemporalibus suis in tantum visitavit, ut prolem nobilioribuscoequalemvel etiam nonnullismeliorempareret". If Willigis had been altogetherplebeianhe would have had to say "nobilibuscoequalem".

originswith regret,andthe subsequent returnof nobleprelates relief.9 with The culturaland political passivityof rural populationsin variousGerman the regionswas not seriously disturbed, let alonejolted, beforethe last quarter of the eleverlth century. Beforewe turnto the questionof changeit is worth asking whetherthe townsmenof the earliermiddle-ages participated thelife of the greatchurches, more closely than the peasantry castlesand cloisterswhichformed in coreof most urbansettlements. It must be recalledthat in the burghs the most active,independent many and enterprising sectionof the population livedin separate quarters, oftenat somedistance fromthe ecclesiastical foundations. At Trierthe archbishop between994 and I008 built a stone-wall roundthe main clericalcitadel to makethe segregation more effective. 10 However importantthe functions economic andrewards of traders and skilledcraftsmen in these centres mayhavebeenwe onlymeet certain themoccasionally in the writings oftheir betters. Before 955 merchantsfrom Mainz and Verdun served Otto I on embassiesto Constantinople and Cordoba,later when his kingship hadadvanced in eminence onlybishopsandcounts were sent on such missions.ll At merchant andhis wife canbe foundto Regensburg,in 983, a royal of buildingsandlands,withinand havemadeconsiderable grants outsidethe of St. Emmeran for the sakeof theirsouls. city, to the monastery They wereby no means the only ones of theirkindto have doneso.l2 Merchantswere thus men of some consequencein Ottonian Germany andtheirsafetyen roule mattered However, what theirworldwas like we to theirlordsandpatrons. a hostile sourcein the earlyeleventh hearfrom only one and that century,the bookwhich,under the title De Diversitate Temporum, Alpert to Bishop Burchard of BlormsbetweenI020 and of Metzdedicated I024. Alpert had migrated into the diocese of Utrecht and in his work, an accountof temporary coneventsin the region,he paused to describe the merchants
Anonymus Haserensis, chaps. 25-7 (MGH. SS., vii, pp. 0 E. Ennen, FruAgeschichte 260 f.). der 11 Stadt (Bonn, I953), p. I43. Liudprand of Cremona, Europaischen Antapodosis,vi.4 (Die Werke Cremona, ed. J. Becker [MGH. von On theVerdunmerchantsent SRG., Hanover and Leipzig,Liudprands I9I5], p. I54). with John of Gorze as bearer to the Calif Abd ax-RahmanIII of Otto I's presents see the Life of 3fohnof Gorze, SS. iv,p. 370). ch. I I7 (MGH. 12 K. Bosl, "Die Sozialstruktur der mittelalterlichen Residenz- und Fernhandelsstadt Regensburg. Die Entwicklung 9.-I4. ihres Burgertums vom Jahrhundert", in Untersuchungen sur Mittelalterlichen Gesellschaftlichen Stadre in Europa (Vortrage vom und Forschungen Struktur der Konstanzer Arbeitskreis fur mittelalterliche Geschichte,herausgegeben Stuttgart, I966), pp. I2I-5. xi, Konstanz
9

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of Tiel and their diseordantways. He looked upon them as a raee of ruffians whose lawlessness was an offenee and should be stopped. Perjury eounted for nothing in this trading settlement on the Waal: a man of Tiel, if he held something in his fist, would swear with the other hand that it was not there. Adultery did not rank as a erime there and Alpert ended his digression with an aeeount of their faet their guild.l3 drinking-bouts and their eommon funds -in That they had one is important but Tiel, the Imperial toll-station on the way to England, was rather exeeptional. It lay somewhat out of the loeal bishop's reaeh and for at least half a eentury we have nothing to eeho Alpert's deseription of these seeming outeasts who were nonetheless privileged, wealthy and useful. There is evidenee that prelates worried about the rapid growth of population in unexpeeted plaees where there were as yet few ehurehes arld relies and that they wanted to keep an eye on sueh developing towns in their dioeeses. Arehbishop Brun of Cologne (953-965), Otto I's brother sent the body of St. Patroclus to Soest in Westphalia beeause this flourishing ignorant of worship''.l4 and populous eentre was C'almost In general the towns too belonged to or were dominated by the aristoeraeyand its leaders, espeeially the bishops, some abbots and, of and their eourse, the kings. NVe must now return to them, the nobiles eultural roots in early medieval Germany. Historians of institutions and erities of writers sueh as the great Saxon historian Widukind of Corvey no longer like to eontrast too sharply purely Germanie, Christian and elassieal elements in this context. Even the most heroie saga in the form we possess it eonErontsus with literacy and this was only possible through christianization. When Widukind of Corvey related the pre-Christiantraditions of his people, the Saxons, he weighed the report of their rlordieorigins against the story he had lleard in his youth that they were deseended from the Macedoniansof Alexander'sarmy and in the end he thought that the latter was nearer the truth. Etymologieal refleetions led him to tllis view, and for all his family- and Saxon stem-pride he looked baek as a seholar.lo Again, the famous ox-earts on which the last Merovingian kings, in Einhard's derisory story, were seen going to the assemblies of the Franks are now thought to be imitations of the mode of travel used by late-Roman provincial governors. Their link with the primeval
locum . . . rebusseculi opulentum,populo plenum, . . . sed religionisadhucpene ignarum". Libri Tres, i.2, (ed. 15 Widukind of Corvey, Rerum GestarumSaxonicarum H.-E. Lohmann and P. Hirsch [MGH. SRG., Hanover, I935], p. 4) and cf. i.I2 (p. 20 f.). ii.20 (MGH. SS., iv, pp. 7I8 3 Alpert, D? DiversitateTemporum, 14 De Translatione Sancti Patrocli (MGH. SS., iv, p. 28I): ". . .

f.).

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forests is doubtful.l6 We must therefore be careful also when we speak of a secular aristocratic culture as against that of the Church. The inmates of great monasterieslike St. Gallen or Tegernsee were the cousins and brothers of lay nobles whose values and interests in the tenth century they went on sharing-to some extent. These two houses have been mentioned here because two of Germany's greatest early medieval Latin epics are associated with them, the Waltharius and Ruodlieb.l7 Both poems had for their subjects heroes who were forced to serve distant rulers and founded their ascent, fortunes and families by proving themselves in all situations. They appealed to the day-dreams, if not also the conscience of the lay nobility. Waltharius and Ruodliebmoreover did not stand alone and the secular clergy were no less interested in this genre of literature than the monks. Sometime between Ios7 and I064 the scholastic2>s (master of the school) of Bamberg cathedral,Meinhard, wrote to one of his fellow-clerks bewailing the life of their bishop, Gunther, who instead of reading St. Augustine and Gregory the Great spent his time with Attila and Dietrich and may even have composed epics for his court-entertainers.l8 Charlemagnecaused the age-old songs praisingthe deeds of ancient kings, possibly his predecessors, to be written down. His son Louis the Pious was anxious to forget all those he had learned as a boy.l9 Of Otto the Great we do not know whether he personally patronised and encouraged the cult of the Saxon stem-saga as Widukind has rendered it but we can be sure that the king, his nobles and the
16See J. M. Wallace-Hadrill's review of A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire,in the Eng. Hist. Rev., 1xxx(I965), p. 789. 17 The debateabout the origin of the surviving Waltharius has not yet closed. If it is Carolingian,then anotherand now lost version remainsconnected with EkkehardI of St. Gallen and the earlier tenth century. See EkkehardIV Casus S. Galli, ch. g (MGH. SS., ii, p. I I8). Ruodliebwas written at Tegernsee, probablyby a monk not long after I050. For a text with a line by line English translationsee Ruodlieb,TheEarliestCourtlyNovel. Introdfuction Text, Translation Commentary and TextualNotes, by E. H. Zeydel (University of North CarolinaStudies in the Germanic Languagesand Literatures,xxiii Chapel ffill, I959). This edition will be referred to here for the sake of convenience. 18 See Briefsammlungen derZeit Heinrichs I V, ed. C. Erdmannand N. Fickermann (MGH. Die Briefe der deutschen Kaiserzeit,v, Weimar, I950), no. 73 p. I2I; and C. Erdmann, Studieszzur BriefliteraturDeutschlands im elften ffahrhundert, (Schriftendes Reichsinstitutsfur alteredeutscheGeschichtskunde, i, Leipzig, I938), p. I02. For all Meinhard's grumbles Bishop Gunther (Ios7-6s) was also the patronof one of the noblest earlyGermanreligioussongs, the Ezzolted. 19 Einhard, VitaKaroli Magni, ch. 29 (6th edn., O. Holder-Egger [MGH. SRG., Hanover and Leipzig, I9I I], p. 33) and Thegan, Vita Hludowici Imperatoris, ch. I9 (MGH. SS., ii, p. 594).

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clerical elite of the bishoprics and royal monasteries nursed common beliefs about the ancestralnobility of their kind. It was to them not but at least the that would have been blasphemous the cause necessary condition of their recent successes both in the militia and the even more tangible militiaagainst Slavs, Hungarians Christi and enemies within, successes which, the victors claimed, supported the militiaChristiby creating peace and prosperity. These again were measured by the extent of lordship, the size of tribute and the amount of booty gained. The Ottonian empire did not differ very much from the Frankish in the value its aristocracy attached to the wealth and power which might be acquired by successful wars of moresof conquest. They were the rewards of those nobilissimi which Widukind had spoken to justify the transfer of kingship from a Frankishhouse to the Saxon Herlry I.20 We must not be surprised however to find these values looking different in Widukind and the poems from what they looked like in practice. The aristocracyof early medieval Germany, or rather her disparate and in themselves only half-formed stem-regions - Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria, Saxony and Lotharingia - has been studied from many points of view: all-German political and constitutional as well as local, dynastic and genealogical. Its egotism and unconstructive behaviour towards rulers who were thought to be concerned with Germanunity in the tenth and eleventh centuriesincurredthe censures of patriotic historians of the Medieval Reich, especially Giesebrecht's.2l The unpredictability of its feuds and its a-political pursuit of patrimonial aims were held to be responsible for the unfortunate territorial structure of Germany which only blood and For the constitutional historians again, the iron could mend in I866. most important problem was the transiormationof the early medieval nobility into a strictly graded hierarchy with an estate of princes followed by counts and free lords, down to the humblest ranks of themselves the vassals of other ministeriales.This ministeriales, known in the first place from the legal sources order, the Heerschild, of the thirteenth century, seemed to prescribe for the empire a much more immobile and caste-ridden aristocratic society than existed in England or even France. There the initiative of the kings was or came to be greater than in Germany and restricted the autogenous, inherent kind of authority and lordship their vassals claimed. In this school of studies, pioneered by Julius Ficker in the I860S and holding i.2s (p. 38). Saxonicae, Widukindof Corvey, Resgestae sth edn. Kaiserzeit, der deutschen See W. von Giesebrecht, Geschichte (Leipzig, I88I), i, pp. 284-95as an example.
20 21

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its own with HeinrichMitteis's fine comparative legal and feudal surveys,the idea of the state still held the centre of the stage.22 Another group of scholars,in particularWalter Schlesinger,has shownthat from the startthe noblespossessedlordshipand powers in their own right, outside the king's reach, and that the Reich thereforewas born particularistic and did not merelydrift in that directionbecauseof mishapsand catastrophes like the extinctionof dynasties,royal minorities and the collision with the papacy.23 However this schooltoo hasnot quiteabandoned the ideaof a "central authority" which,in the guise of the kingship,mightor shouldhave prevailed. More recentlystill a mainlyprosopographical approach to the nobility,its functionsand achievements in the Frankish and post-Erankish Reich hasled to a re-examination of thefamily-structure of the aristocracy in the earlymiddleages. The inspiration beEnd theseefforts camefrom GerdTellenbach whoseschool,especially the workof Karl Schmid,has greatlyalteredall existingperspectives on the subjectand could be important also for the study of the AngloSaxonnobilityof this period. Manyyearsago Tellenbachdrewattentionto the decisiverole of a smallgroupof leadingfamiliesin the ninth-century East-Frankish kingdom whosemarriage-alliances withthe Carolingians andfar-flung connections with one another in his view set them off againstnobles withonlylocalroots.24 The historyandgenealogies of thesefamilies thus becameimportant in orderto understand the workingsof the Frankish empirein its good daysandbad. It was KarlSchmidwho concluded,in the courseof such investigations, that until the mideleventhcenturyat least it is quite impossibleto look upon these aristocratic clansas dynasties in the modern sense,families whichcan be tracedfrom generation to generation and identified by theirplace of residenceand high officeslike countshipsand duchies. In tlle ninth and tenth centuriestlle historianis at a loss to Snd this continuity not becausethe sourcesare poorer,but becausethe very structure of familieswas different. The aristocracies of Carolingian Europeweremadeup of verylargefamily-groups consciousof their nobility by their descent from a great ancestorwhose name was
22 J Ficker, Vom Heerschilde (Innsbruck, I862); H. Mitteis, Der Staat des hohezMittelalters,4th edn. (Weimar, I953). 23 W. Schlesinger,Die Entstehung der Lardesherrschczft (Dresden, I94I), and reprinted with a new introduction (WissenschaRliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, I964), esp. pp. 26I-S 24 G. Tellenbach, "Vom Karolingischen Reichsadel zum deutschen Reichsfurstenstand",in Herrschaft und Staat im Mittelalter (Wege der Forschung,ii, Darmstadt, I956)t pp. I9I-242.

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perpetuated in their own and by their membership of the group. Maternal kin mattered as much as paternal and even moreif it was deemedto be nobler. A nice exampleof its importance is that of Eadgith,the half-sisterof the English king Athelstanwho in 929 marriedOtto, alreadymarkedout amonghis brothersas Henry I's successor. Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim described this matchin her GestaOltonis anddweltcarefully on the ancestory of the bride. She wasthe daughter of Edward the Elderby a "mostillustrious" mother whereas Athelstan had sprungfroman unequalunionwith a woman of ratherindifferent birth.25 In some caseswe knowthe motherof a greatmagnate ratherthan his fatherand this is thoughtto be not merelyaccidental. The most importarlt sourceswhich Tellenbach and his schoolemployedwith muchsuccessto recognize andidentify these large families are the Libri Memoriales of South German, Lotharingian and Italian monasteries, like St. Gallen, Reichenau, Remiremont and S. Giuliain Brescia. Thousandsof noblesduring the ninth and tenth centurieshad their namesenteredon the pages of these booksto participate in the benefitswhichthe prayers of the religious communityconferredboth in life and in death. Here identifiable individuals andchristian namestypicalof a givenfamily recurin groupsof entrieseachtimeassociated withothernameswhich in turn spill over into furtherentries. The persons who caused themselves to be so recorded werethus conscious of belonging to very largekinswhichthrough intermarriage blendedwithotherlargekins, cognatescountingfor no less than agnatesto makethe connection. Someof the individuals we encounter in this wayweredistinguished bishops,counts,margraves and, of coursekingsand dukes;others remained totallyobscure andcannotbe foundin anyothersourcebut the LibriMemoriales.We are a long way off from dynasties named after their castles and endowedfrom fatherto son with the same lordships comital,margravial or less andthe sameadvocacies of monasteries. The transformatiorl of t}leseGrossfamilien into smaller, more circurllscribed and close-knit families with a much more continuous historywas the real significance of the so-calledsCrise of the dynasts"whichan oldergeneration of historians connected with the long cisTil warsof the reignsof HenryIV and HenryV and the InvestitureConflict. The late eleventh and the first half of the twelfthcentury thus sawa fundamental changein the structure of the German aristocracy. Only then did it become possible to base
25 Hrotsvitha,Gesta Ottonis,11. 75-97, in Hrotsvithae Opera,ed. P. v. Winterfeld (MGH. SRG. Berlin and Zurich, I965)) p. 206 f.

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dynastiespermanently on the possessionof great offices,counties, advocacies, not to mentionduchies,landgraviates andmargraviates.26 These viewshavewon a widemeasure of assent,someof it perhaps a little reluctantand weighted with reservations.27 They invite, however, onegeneral observation.Based astheyaresosingularly onthe LibriMemoriales, the religiousassociation of nobleswith the prayers of a monasticcommunity, they run the risk,in a ratherunusualand intriguing form,of confusing consciousness andbeing. They assume that, becausethese men were consciousof being membersof a very largeand fluid groupfor the purposeof havingtheir memorykept, they wereconsciousof this for all otherpurposesas well. In EastFrankish chronicles, annals,episcopaland abbatial Lives and in the miraclesof saints, nobles stand out as individuals,fightingfeuds againstone another,seizing churchlands, restoringthem now and againand foundingreligioushousesfor complexmotives. Kinship andintermarriage between the leading families rather thaninstitutions of government held this worldtogetherin the tenth century,and yet the group-consciousness postulated by the new interpretation of the Libri Memoriales rarely appears outside them. When men had become rich and powerfulagnaticpreferencestended to prevail. Fathers strovefor theirsons andfelt the full bitterness of losingthem prematurely. They did not relish leaving their hereditas to some distantkinsmenbut harsh circumstances like the short expectation of life forcedthemto face this prospect. Evenso manypreferred to found monasteries and nunnerieswith the whole of their fortune instead. Otto I's friend,Margrave Gero,is a good example. Whenninth- and tenth-century writerswere particularly anxious to mentionthe maternal ratherthanthe paternal ancestry of a great
26 K. Schmid, "Zur Problematikvon Familie, Sippe und Geschlecht, Haus und Dynastie beim mittelalterlichenAdel", Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte des Oberrheins, cv (I957), pp. I-62; "Uber die Struktur des Adels iin fruheren Mittelalter", 3rahrbuch fur frankischeLandesforschung, xix (I959), pp. I-23; "Neue Quellen zum Verstandnisdes Adels im I0. Jahrhundert", Zeitschrift f. d. Gesch.d. Oberrheins, CViii (I960), pp. I85-232; "Religioses und sippengebundenes Gemeinschaftsbewusstsein in fruhmittelalterlichen Gedenkbucheintragen",Deutsches Archivfur Erforschung desMittelalters,i (I965), pp. I8-8I. See also Studien und Vorarbeitenzur Geschichtedes grossfrankischen und fruhdeutschen Adels, ed. G. Tellenbach (Forschungen zur oberrheinischen Landesgeschichte,iv, I957). 27 E.g. F. v. Klocke, "Prosopographische Forschungsarbeitund moderne Landesgeschichte",Westfalische Forschungen, xi (I958), pp. I96 ff.; and also tlle interve?ations of K. Lechner, M. Mitterauerand K. F. Werner on the theme "Les classes dirigeantes de l'Antiquite aux Temps modernes", XII Congres International des SciencesHistoriques, v, Actes (Vienna, 29 Aug.-s Sept., I965), pp. I55-8, I58 f., I62-4.

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personagethey did not always wish to pass genealogicalvalueexample but mayhavehadotherreasons. An important judgements (maternal the possible superiorityof cognatio used to demonstrate kin), is the way in whichthe Carolingian kin) over agnatio(paternal secondwife and Charlemagne's spokeof Hildegard, house-historians ancestry laudedher Swabian of Louisthe Pious. Einhard the mother addedthaton hermother's andThegan,Louisthe Pious'sbiographer, side she was descendedfrom the SwabianDuke Godfrid(c. 7IO). her fatherGerold,a Frank. nor Theganmentioned NeitherEinhard nora manto be ashamed Yet we knowthathe wasneithera nonentity hadspecialreasonsfor of, ratherthe contrary. The two biographers Swabianforbears:they wantedto being so fussy over Hildegard's and heal old wounds which make amends for the Carolingians had fatherPippinand especiallyhis uncle Carlmann Charlemagne's struckwhen they orderedthe executionof some leading Swabian kin of theirducatus. Einhard Hildegard's noblesin 746 anddeprived and Thegan's lines of praise for Hildegard'smaternalancestry veileda pastfeud in the hopeit wouldbe forgotten.28 discreetly The term cognatiowas not uniformlyused by early medieval writersor even by the scribes of chartersto mean kinshipon the as in classical generally side. Oftenit stoodfor relationship mother's the abbessof the Westfalian literature. Whenin IOI4 Hildegundis, nunnery of Geseke, placed herself and her house under the of Cologne of the archbishop andlordship) (protection mundeburdium the last of she took this gravestep becauseshe was, as she declared, who could rule the convent. By this she meant her her cognatio Haold, through her direct descent from her paternalgrandfather and this was as it shouldhavebeen. For whenthe fatherBernhard Haold family began to found Geseke in the middle of the tenth centurythey reservedthe abbacyto the women of Haold'slineage sons. OttoI's diploma to his ownandhis brother's andthe advocacy all thesearrangements 952) sanctioned (26 October for the foundation Heribert in the charterof Archbishop and they were remembered recordingthe transfer of IOI4. Here then cognatio (999-IO2I) actuallymeantagnatio,descentfrom a male ancestor. Hildegundis
. . .", pp. 22 ff. Einhard, Vita Karoli, 8 K. Schmid, "Zur Problematik ch. I8 (p. 22) and Thegan, Vita Hludowici,ch. 2 (MGH. SS., ii, p. 590 f.). On the relations of Franks and Alemans in the eighth century see I. DienemannGrundfragen Dietrich, "Der frankischeAdel in Alemannienim 8. Jahrhundert", (Vortrage u. Forschungen, i, Igs2 and reprint, Geschichte der Alemannischen I 962), pp. I 49-92-

36

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was by no meanskinless but her female affinitydid not meet the conditions of the 952 settlement.29 K. Schmidhas rightly questioned the methodsof the traditional schoolof historical genealogists who aimed,at whatever strainto the evidence, at gapless family-trees forearlymedieval aristocratic society. But the fluidityof the kin-groups foundill the LibriMemoriales is so greatthat the excessivecertainties of the old schoolare in dangerof beingreplaced by chaos. The circumstance thatnoblesentered their kindredand affinity, living and dead,does not provethat they failed to distinguish betweennearer andmoredistantties of kinshipor rule out closeagnatic feelingandthinking. The structure of the German nobilitycannotbe perceived solely fromthe LibriMemoriales which reveal but one facet of its "self-awareness".The situationsand enduringnecessities whichdetermirled thatstructure mustbe looked for elsewhere. We must begin with the customsof inheritance. These, as will be seen, did not drawmentogether but, on the contrary, divided them and created endemic unrest and tension especiallyin the more successful andwealthier familiesof the aristocracy. High bloodwas a pre-requisite of nobility,but its most tangibleexpression was the possession of landandlordship. The organization of the Carolingian Reich,the methodsthe Carolingians and their nobles employedto dominate andexploittheirconquests hadcreated new kindsof power in the formof high oices, or rather,as faras Germany is concerned, it hadtransplanted theseformseastof the Rhine. Frankish immigre noblesor localfriendsof the regimein Bavaria, Swabiaand Saxony became counts, margraves or even dukes. These positions were muchcovetedandset new standards for the familieswhesemembers held them and,of course,for thosewho did not. It was not enough to have possesseda high office or a royal connectiononce; these advantages had to be perpetuatedby inheritance. But here the aspirationsof successful individualscame into conflict with the
29 For Otto I's diploma see MGH., Die Urkunden der deutschenKonige und Kaiser, i (Hanover, I879-84), no. I58, pp. 239 f. Archbishop Heribert's charter(Staatsarchiv Munster, Geseke 5) reads: "Modo vero ipsa . . . abbatissa cognationis suae quae huic predicto loco praeesse potuerit in se finem conspiciens. . .". For further referencessee F. W. Oediger, Die Regesten der Erzbischofevon Koln, i, 630 (Publikationender Gesellschaft fur Rheinische Geschichtskunde, xxi, Bonn, I954-6I), p. I88. The text of the charteris silent on the descent of the advocacy and it is possible that this remainedwith the Haold family for a time at least. Their genealogyand history in R. Scholkopf Die Sachsischen Grafen,9I9-I024 (Studien und Vorarbeitenzum Historischen Atlas Niedersachsens,xxii, Gottingen, I957), pp. I4I-7 and table, should be treatedwith caution.

THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES

37

of principle of division, of treating the proprietas time-honoured uncles,cousins,lay and as a wholeto whichbrothers, a family-group Saxonywomen,evennunswere clerk,hada claim. In tenth-century customplacedthembehindthe men,their for although not excluded, of life - and here nuns excelledthemselves betterexpectations meant that large inheritancesaccumulatedin their hands. Cocouldlead by a high rateof mortality, if it wasnot checked hereditas, of a great fortune. It could also fragmentation to the progressive fromkin to kin or at least bringabouta continuous shift possessions of wealth within an importantfamily. This was re-distribution especiallylikely to happen when a father died too soon, leaving was behind him a son or sons of tender years. Their inheritance wicked but theiruncleswereproverbially notbecause thenin jeopardy becausethe house needed a head to take chargeof its lands and whomthey neededa commander (vassals) andthe rnilites dependants couldfollowwith confidence. takeplacepeacefully did not always of property Thesemovements and they suggestthat allod was not reallya stablebase to support or comitaloffice a margraviate high rank. The holderof a ducatus, whichwerepartof his by landsandrevenues wasof courserewarded who kinsmen fief,but theseagainset him apartfromhis less fortunate could not share tilem; nor could they alwaysbe equally divided amongst his sons. The favour Otto I, for instance, showed to within his family:at HermannBillungbadly upset the equilibrium becamean enemyand when he died his firsthis brotherWichmann of of havingcheatedthem in the distribution sons accusedHermann their father'sinheritance.30The dissipationof allods by partition to be ableto passon fiefs madeit all the moreimportant andmarriage arldto possessas manyas possibleof these,so of officelikecountships that at least two sons could enjoy honourswhich, from the tenth if not before,cameto be identifiedmoreand more centuryonwards all sons and occassionally (highnobility). Additional with Hochadel andthe royal wherethe cathedrals but one wereplacedin the Church ambition chapelofferedcareersto those with the best connections, and, not least of all, talent. This left the monasteriesfor the St. Gallensomeof the monkswere but in tenth-century disinherited, to be rich and to live in affluence. Fromthe ninth century reported onwardsa grantof land or revenuesfrom land was expectedwhen abbeysof the andthe reformed placinga childin a houselike Corvey, eleventhdid not rejectsuchgifts either.
30Widukind, op.
cit.,

ii.4 (p. 7o) and iii.24, 25 (p.

II6).

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Promotion to the highest eeelesiastieal honours, arehbishopries, bishopries and royal abbeys, depended on royal favour; this also mattered more than has been thought in the ease of duehies, margraviates and eountships. When kingship was sueeessful and vigilant it eould sometimes make the preearious tenure of honours very real. With so many failures of direet lines and in the newly created eastern marehes of Saxony, nephews and more distant kinsmen depended on the king's goodwill to sueeeed, and the pages of Thietmar of Merseburg reveal what shrewd use the emperor Henry II eould make of these opportunities. If kingship was defeetive it forfeited eontrol over high appointmentsas did Henry IV and later Henry V in Saxony and then it also failed to provide the gains in war whieh inereased the fund of land, rewards and honours available for distribution amongst an ever pressing and numerous nobility. After I077 Henry IV might advanee his followers but it depended on them what they eould make of their new positions. His Hohenstaufen son-in-law sllrvived as duke of Swabia north of the Danube, and Wipreeht of Groitzseh, thanks to his marriagewith the daughter of a Bohemian duke, in the valley of the Mulde and the Upper Elbe. The German aristoeraeystruggled with these problems generation aftergenerationand they explainmost of its perennialfeuds, rebellions, outrages as well as its more positive aehievements like internal colonization. Its needs for more lands and lordship were insatiable, given the system of partible inheritanees from whieh neither kings nor dukes nor lesser powers eould depart against the pressures of established elaims. In the Ottonian Reichonly the highest dignities eseaped partition, and in the eleventh eentury comitatus at least began to break up inside families. Even before, they had not been stable and mappable entities. It is interesting to see the ways in which the family-groupwas to be reeoneiled to the outstandingposition aehieved by one of its members, how eousins or more often brothers were to be made to share the heightened dignity and standing an oEce-fief represented. Joint tenures were not uneommon in early as well as later medieval Germany. For the most part however the lesser kinsmen of a eount or margraveor a bishop had to be content with the opportunities such positions might afford them in the future. Soon after Udo of Reinhausen had become bishop of Hildesheim in I079 his widowed sister Beatrix wrote a long letter to him from Franeonia,asking him to see to it that her daughter Sophia who was being pursued by an inferior suitor should be married as befitted her birth. For the other daughter, Burtgarda,who was "a bride in

IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY

39

Christ" he was to find suitable advancement, no doubt an abbacy. For herself she wanted justice about allods which another brother, by then deceased, had takerlfrom her. Her sons exiled in Saxony were to be included in any peace the Saxons might make with Henry IV. The great war between the Salian king and Rudolf of Rheinfelden was at its height when this Carl Erdmann called it the earliest German written.3l It is arresting because it reveals a family letter-was situation so very like the one described in Ruodlieb. Here the hero has to go illtOexile because his lords have let him down and failed to reward him while landing him with many feuds. Beatrix's sons too had to leave their home because they could not cope with their enemies. Ruodlieb's mother is left in charge of his lands and house while he seeks better service in exile. Like Beatrix she had outlived her husband and it was common for aristocraticwidows to be left in control of family fortunes and to enjoy great authority. The "rex maior" (the greater king) of the poem advises his departing miles, Ruodlieb, never to marry without his mother's collsent and he lets him go home at her request. Needless to say, he, the mother and Ruodlieb himself all echo their horror about unequal marriages.32 Socially the whole kin was meant to share the honour which fell to one of its members. This is nowhere more poignantly expressed than in the speech which Wipo, Conrad II's biographer places in the mouth of his hero at the most critical moment of his career.33 The scene is at Kamba where the archbishops, bishops and princes of all the stemlands of the Reichassembled in I024 to elect a successor to Henry II who had died childless. Nearness to the Ottonians was the criterion but Conrad shared this equally with a younger cousin also called Conrad. The younger man, characteristically,had come to possess the lion's share of the Salian family's patrimony simply because the elder Conrad's father died too soon, leaving his son an orphan- a good example of wealth shiftingwithinakin. Butnowthe outcome of the Kur (election) would mean that one of the cousins must be wholly overshadowed by the other and this is how the older
der Zeit Heinrichs IV, pp. 64-7 and Erdmann, 31 See Briefsammlunge7 p. I64. St^dzen, and 55-7 (ed. Zeydel, pp. 74-5, I30-I, XVi, 1l. I4-I6 1l. 476-87; v, 32 R^codlieb, I 32-3). ch. 2, in Wipowzis Imperatoris, 33 For what follows see Wipo, GestaChuonradi Opera, 3rd edn., ed. H. Bresslau (MGH. SRG., Hanover and Leipzig, I9I5), and esp. p. I7, 1l. 32 ff. Wipo's Gesta are Englished in Imperial pp. I3-20 Lives and Lettersof the EleventhCentury,translatedby T. E. Mommsen and K. F. Morrison (Records of Civilization,lxvii, New York and London, I962), The translationhereis my own. pp. 52-I00.

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Conrad in whosefavoureventswerealready driftingtriedto prepare his relativefor his disappointment:


The greatesthonour and supremepower will now be with us and it comes to us in such a way that it will remainwith one of us if we wish it. Therefore it seems to me that if this honour is joined to one of us the other shall not lack a sharein it in some way or another(quodammodo) .... If the kinsmenof kings arehonouredfor the kings' sake and as all wish to treatus as we treated one anotherso that reallythe promotionof one of us dependson the goodwill of the other, well then who can be more fortunate than either of us if the other reigns?

Conrad the Youngerwas madeto feel the sole kingmaker in Wipo's oratory.
Let us thereforebe careful [the futureking continues]and not put a stranger before a kinsman,an unknown before one who is known lest this day, so far one of joy, shall bring us lasting misfortuneif we deal ill with the goodwill the whole people (populus)wishes to show us.

Wipo, like Widukindbefore him, used the wordpopulus when he meantnobles. But what mattersmost in this homilyby whichthe youngerConrad was to be consoledwith the penumbra of participation is the sentiment: bettera cousinthana stranger. By no meansall the members of a royalgens obeyedthe lesson as the bitterfeuds in the Ottonianhouse,the risingsof 938-40,953-4, the g70s and 984 show,nor did the youngerConrad. The existence of commanding heightswhichcouldnot easilybe shared not onlyhad the consequence of disrupting the solidarity of kinsmenwhichrested It also meantthat the highernobility did not like to see Iessermen, still ingenui but not of the leadinggroups,ride into theirmidst. Duringthe periodof Ottonian military expansion along the easternbordersof Saxonyand Thuringia the best opportunities for advancement were monopolizedby a few, mainly East-Saxon family-groups. Eachclancouldthushopeto accommodate morethaIl one of their own in princelypositions. Onlya handfulof comital kins are knownfor ninth-century Saxony;by the end of the tenth there appearto be at least 27.35 Not all individualcounts can be assignedto a stirps but of those who can, veryfew seem to have belongedto familieswith no countsin their ancestryand even here
on parity.34

34 The feeling that sudden riches alienateda man from his blood-relations is stronglyvoiced in Ruodlieb, v, 1l. 426-9 (pp. 70-I). 35 The five familieslisted in S. Kruger,Studien zur Sachsischen Grafschaftsverfassung im 9. 3rahrh?cndert (Studien u. Vorarbeiten z. Histor. Atlas Niedersachsens,xix, Gottingen, I950) might be comparedwith the twenty-five built up by Scholkopf,Op. cit. The Billungs and the counts of Stade must be added to her figure whatever its justification. For a critical comment see Schmid in Zeitschriftfur Wurttembergische Landesgeschichte, xxiii (I964),

pp.

215-27-

THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES

4I

it is difficult to be sure. Countships and burgraviatesmight come to less important kindreds by way of sub-infeudation and this could mean, from the early eleventh century onwards, through the favour of bishops. Yet even here they had to meet stiff competition from the second or third sons of the most eminent bloods. Of Thietmar of Merselrurg'sfour brothers, for instance, two went into the Church as he hacl done, one, Henry, succeeded his father as count and the other, Frederick, commanded Bishop Thietmar's knights and later became bllrgraveof Magdeburg.36 The distance between great nobles (primores) and lesser ones, their milites (vassals) was vast and the great took care to keep it that way. To prove this there are some good examples. In 938 Otto I had to fight against his half-brother, Thangmar, who had resorted to arms because he thought himself cheated of his mother's inheritance. The king by a rapid march trapped him in the Eresburg. Thangmar fled into the chapel where he placed his weapons and his golden necklace upon the altar, perhaps as a sign of surrenderratherthan the symbolic renunciation of a claim to the kingship. The bastard-son of a noble, Thiadbold, struck at him but was wounded and soon died as he deserved to do. Then another of the mere milites, called Meginzo, killed Thangmar with a lance as he climbed in through the window near the altar. The king did not know about this; he had not been present, as Widukind is anxious to tell his readers, but when he heard he was outraged by his men's presumption. Even as an enemy his half-brother was sacrosanct for underlings and nobodies such as Meginzo. But he could not punish him or his fellows because he needed them. The wars against the enemies who threatened his precarious possession of the kingship had only just begun and he could not demoralize his milites. On the other hand if Thangmar was immune, even as a rebel, his followers were promptly strung up to make an example.37 Another instance of the savage revenge that could await an offending vassal is related by Adam of Bremen. In Io48 Archbishop Adalbert invited the emperor Henry III to visit Bremen which lay quite outside the usual royal itinerary. No king had ever been in these regions before. His very coming was felt to be a threat to the local balance of power between the Billung family and the archSee R. Holtzmann'sintroductionto his edition of Thietmar,p. xv. Widukind, ii.II (p. 77). The story of Thangmar's death should be comparedwith WilliamRufus's narrowescape from the vulgusmilitumat Mont St. Michael: see Williamof Malmesbury,GestaRegum,iv. 309 (ed. W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, London, I889, ii, p. 364).
3 6 37

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NUMBER 4 I

bishopric. Count Thietmar, a brother of Duke Bernhard II, seems to have plotted to ambush the emperor near Lesum, a huge estate which Conrad II had taken from his widowed aunt Emma, the sister of Bishop Meinwerk of Paderborn. It was Billung land and they feared the archbishop's acquisitive ambitions. The emperor escaped, called Thietmar to account and forced him to fight a judicial duel against one of his own vassals who must have acted as accuser and champion. Thietmar perished, but a few days later his son Thiemo seized this man and hung him by the legs between two savagedogs until he was dead. It is true that he paid for his vengeance with arrest aIld lifelong exile but by the standardsof his caste he had done the right thing.38 Throughout this period great lords were not squeamish about hanging or murderingthe vassals of their neighbours. It is as well to know of such incidents because they show what an idealised world that of the poem Ruodlieb really is: idealised, or seeking to establish less savage standards of behaviour. Ruodliebis now dated by scholars about I050 and one of its main themes is that of noble revenge, of forgiving one's enemies with interest rather than perpetuate hostilities. Henry III himself preached these ideas and wished to urge them upon his intractable princes. The circle of clerks and writers about him to which the author of the poem may have belonged, had a task but it was, like the much more ambitious aims of the Carolingiancourt school, one they were unable to fulfil successfully though we are the richer by Wipo's biographyand poems, perhaps Ruodlieb and the Ecbasis Captivi,thanks to their efforts.39 Education alone could not pacify the lay aristocracy or solve its problems. In the very core of the story Ruodlieb depicts a world of wishful thinking, the career of the hero, his ascent from the status of an unconsidered miles who had only his food and clothes to the ranks of the mighty.40 Royal favour was not ubiquitous and the most that his like could normally hope for was, as has been said, to hold oice as
Adam of Bremen, Gesta, iii.8 (p. I49). On the theme of noble revenge in Ruodliebsee W. Braun, Studien zum Ruodlieb(Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der Germanischell Volker,N. F. vii, Berlirl,I962), pp. 22-4, 29 f. The connection of Ruodliebwith Henry III's court and of the Ecbasiseven with his time is disputed. At the very least howeverthe creatorof Ruodlieb wanted to captivate and exhort a noble lay audienceand knew its tastes and resortswell 40 Ruodlieb, v, 11. 274-7 (pp. 64-5). On the theme of socialascentin the poem see K. Hauck, <'Haus- und sippengebundene Literatur mittelalterlicher Adelsgeschlechter",in Geschichtsdenken und Geschichtsbild im Mittelalter, ed. W. Lammers(xRegeder Forschung,xxi, Darmstadt,I96I), pp. I87-90.
38 39

Widukind, ii.36 (p. 97).

THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY IN THE EARLY MIDDI,E AGES

43

the vassalsof greatlay lordsor bishops. Ruodliebat the end of his servieeat the eourt of the greatking is thoughtworthyof eomital honours,perhapsin imitationof Waltharius.4lHe has eondueted warsand embassies with muchskill and yet does not expeeta great deal. Amongthe famouscouneilsof wisdomhis royalpatrongives him beforehe leaveswe also fitld a warning,neverto lend moneyto his lord. It was betterto give outrighton demand. Lendingonly eausedresentment, some trapwouldbe laid to find him guiltyof an offenceso that he wouldbe glad to lose only his moneyand not life aIldlimb as well. The authorof eourseused a biblicalsourcehere (Eeelesiasticus, viii. I5) and adviee so eouched was a11the more authoritative for his audienee.42As a commenton contemporary lordshipit shouldtherefore be takennoticeof, although we must not omitalsoexamples of that largitas whichin all the sourcesappears as a neeessaryvirtue of rulers. Otto I's brother Henry, duke of Bavaria, so Widukind tells us, gave his sister-in-law in marriage to a vassalof modestfortuneand so madehim his socius, his equaland friend. Her husband Burkhardcan be traced as burgrave of Regensburg andmargrave of the Bavarian Eastertl Mareh. Probably his marriage raisedhim to these honoursbut he seemsto havebeen "mediocris"only in relationto the stirps regia which Widukind wantedto exaltaboveall others. 43 Ruodlieb is important to the historianbecausethe poem seems to stand betweenthe Reichof the Ottoniansand the first two Salian emperorsand the cataelysmwhich later overwhelmed the Salian dynastyand its inherited,traditional supports. It is imbuedwith all the pre-oceupations of the lay aristocracy, includingits religious ones. There are the embassies and the lavish presents which denotedthe respeetin which one rulerand his nobleswereheld by another, those gifts whieh placed fortunes into the hands of a sueeessfulwar-lordand whieh he could then distributeas rewards to his followers. OttoI's triumphs followed thoseof the Carolingians in this faithfully. He too reeeived rarities,gold plate, glassware, ivories, perfumes and exotic animalslike apes and ostrichesfrom Greeksand Moslemsafterhis victory at the Lech,and againthe gifts of halfEurope at his last greatcourtat Quedlinburg in 973. OttoIII and HeIlryII andtheirentourage enjoyedno less prestige,we know)
41 Ruodlieb,v, 11. 402-4(pp. 70-I, where however "comitatus" has been mistranslated) . 42 Ibid., v, 11. $02-Io (pp. 74-5) and see Braun, Stzwdie?l ZM1}2 Rodlieb, p. 14.

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becauseso manyof the giftsthey collectedendedup in the treasuries of their bishops. There also, in the poem, are the gesturesof selfdenialwhen the "greater king" declinesmost of what his defeated adversary offers him as compensation.44 This could happen occasionally, for we readthat neitherOtto III at Gnesen(I000) nor Henry II at Ivois in I023 acceptedthe richestemptinglydisplayed for them by their "lesser king", Boleslas and Robert the Pious respectively. They wantedonly relics and took only not to offend. For the rest the moralin Ruodlieb seems to be that aristocratic powerand right shouldbe temperedby discretion. The greatking does not adviseRuodliebto foregoconcubines chosenfrom his own bond-women,only they must not become the mistressesof his household.45 He alsoexhortshim to clingto the road,evenif it was muddy,ratherthan ride roughshod throughthe standingcorn but the motivefor such self-restraint was prudenceand not that nobles owedrespectto the toils of the husbandman. The angered peasants mightill-treatand rob a man of rankwho had damaged their crops and giventhem high wordsinto the bargain. This counselfaintly foreshadows the provincial peace-oaths of the late eleventhcentury andthe Landgrieden of the twelfthwhichsoughtto protectcornfields and vineyardsagainstthe depradations of armiesand travellers.46 Thatwe shouldbe led into a villagecommunity on Ruodlieb's travels is in itself of greatsignificance. The households of the old and the young peasant we can only guess their status were not poor, and one of them, that of the youngman,was accustomed to putting up noblemenon their journeys. A smallpresentin returnfor the, perhapsobligatory, hospitality was not unusual. The behaviour of Ruodlieb'sred-headedcompanion, who mortallywounds his host, alsoshowsthe reverseof the medal. The poet, in whathas survived of his work,tells us nothingaboutthe businessor the standing of this man and yet, characteristically, makesit clearthat evil, by its very nature,was plebeianand not noble. The red-headis tried on the spot and againit is worthnotingthat provisions for the instanttrial of quarrelsome and noxioustravellerscan be found in one of the
Ruodlieb, v, 1l. 203-8 (pp. 60-I). Ibid., v, 11.476-83 (pp. 74-5). Examples of eleventh-century German nobles jeopardizingthe future of their patrimoniesby keeping mistresses and remaining unmarriedare not hard to find. Cf. the case of Count Cuno of Wulflingenbelow p. 49. 46 Ibid., v, 11.457-60 (pp. 72-3); and cf. the Pax Alsatiensis,c.g (MGH. Constitutiones et Acta Publica, i, cd. L. Weiland [Hanover, I893], no. 429, p. 6I3): "Equi . . . et vinee et segetes sub hac pacis condictione perpetuo permaneant. . .".
44 40

THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES

45

peace-oaths of the latereleventhcentury.47 In the villagescenesthe poem seems to heraldthe at least partialemergenceof the rural populationfrom the culturalpassivityand obscurityof the early middleages. Its causes were complex. To say that the growingvolume of colonization within Germanyand on her Easternfrontiersplaced peasant labourat a higherpremium andinducedlordsto granteasier terms to their dependantsis to use an argumentof convenience. More importantwas the great movementof ecclesiastical reform, forit lookednot onlytowards the humiles andthe poorfor support but aimedat bettering theirreligioussituation in a churchless exclusively aristocratic than in the past. It soughtto providebetterparochial serviceswith the help of communities of canonsregular, themselves recruited sometimes fromthe ranksof the ignobiles. The demand for clericalcelibacyfor the most part concerned them. The waves of agitationin SouthernGermany, especiallySwabiaand Alsacefrom aboutI075 to I095 rousedthemfromtheirobscurity andcarried them to the fringesof the monastic reformmovement led by Hirsau. Not all the lay-brethren, Hirsau's moststartling innovation, canhavebeen nobles (or even ministeriales) whateverthe chronicler Bernoldwrote in a momentof elation. In a famouspassagehe has described how aristocratic convertscooked,bakedand lookedafterthe pigs of the monksbut he also mentioned the conversion of wholevillagesandof peasant girls who renounced marriage. 48 That matters is that noblesas lay-brethren andas partof theirnewlivesin religion, should haveimitatedthe laboursof farm-servarlts, the least privilegedclass of agrarian dependants. It is possiblealso to discoverhere and there a new relationship between alms-giversand alms-takers in the literatureof the late eleventhand earlytwelfthcentury,a relationship different fromthat whichspokeso strongly throughthe pagesof earlyIrledieval German Lives of royaltyand bishops. The charitable deeds of kings and prelatesremained, of course,an essentialtopic for their biographers
47 Ruodlieb, viii, 11.II ff. (pp. 94-5) and cf. the Pax Dei of I084, C.8 (MGH. Constitutiones, i, no. 426, p. 609). On these provisions see also J. Gernhuber, Die Landfriedensbewegung in DeutschlGnd bis zum Mainzer Reichslandfrieden von I 235 (Bonner Rechtswissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, xliv, Bonn, I952), pp. 206 ff. 48 Bernold,Chronicon, a. I083 and a. I09I (MGH. SS. v, pp. 439 and 452 f.). On the lay-brethrenat Hirsau see H. Jakobs,Die Hirsauer,(Kolner Historische Abhandlungen,iv, Koln Graz, I96I), passim. A youth "plebeiae libertatis" and his father are mentioned among the lay-brethren,the "fratresbarbati"of Zwiefalten: see Berthold of Zwiefalten's Chronicon,ch. 20 (MGH. SS., x, p * I 07) .

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PAST AND PRESENT

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but now a note of personal interest, of real concern for individual sufferers occasionally appears besides the accepted commonplaces. Abbot William of Hirsau, on his way to found a new cell, paused to visit a hovel. According to Haimo, the author of his Life, he put aside his dignity and severity, sat by the fire with the very poor woman he found within and enquired how she could live. When he discovered that neither she nor her husband knew the creed he taught them as much as they were able to understandand asked them to come and see him at his destination next day. There he received them kindly and looked after their needs. William also seems to have visited the ailing poor in the almonry and even irstheir villages and to have taken care that they were decently buried.49 Comforting the sick of any class was normally the task of the parochialclergy and the critics of Hirsau were not slow to accuse the monks of usurpation. But these incidents in the "Life of Abbot William" should be judged in a different light. Men of his rank and birth had not, in the tenth century, come so close to the pauperi they tried to help. A like concernfor the unfortunatewas, surprisinglyenough, ascribed also to Henry IV himself, the man whom all the reformers detested and damned. In the anonymous Life of the emperor his care for the indigent sick is described with exceptionallylurid, if conventional, details and the authoris anxiousto show that Henry IV did not merely order his servantsto do good for him. He also had a fixed llumber of pauperi fed and supported at his demesne residences and wanted to be told when someone had died so that he could keep his obit and have another appointed in his place.50 Necessity forced strange allies upon the king. Deserted by many of his princes and nobles and some of his bishops Henry IV sought friends amongst the lower orders, especially his ministeriales, raised peasant armies and shocked clerical Germanyby his close ties with the burgesses of Worms and his encouragementof their like up and down the Rhine valley. The East-Saxon princes too made use of petty freemen to enlarge their rising in I073 and to pack their arinies, with disastrous results as it turned out. Lastly we must not reject altogether as mere figures of speech the taunts of the pamphleteers in the long conflict between emperor and pope. When they tell us
SS., xii, Wattenbach and R. Holtzmann, DeutschlandsGeschichtsquellen im Mittelalter, i, 3 (Tubingen, I948), pp. 390 f., and also in Jakobs,op. cit., p. xviii. 50 Vita Heinrici IV. Imperatoris,ch. i, ed. W. Eberhard (MGH. SRG., Hanover, r8gg), pp. IO f., and the English translation, Imperial Lives and Letter.s, p. I03.
49 Vita Willihelmi AbbatisHirsaugiensis, chaps. I7 and 20 (MGH. p. 2I7 and 2I8. The value of this source has been underratedin W.

IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY

47

that the greatquestionsof the day werebeing bandiedaboutin the women'squartersor that the writingsof theiropponentshad been amongstthe crowds,they may have been right for all propagated their rhetoric. Manegold of Lautenbach who amongst others (IO83-IO85) was himself assertedthis in his Liberad Gebehardum of wrotelike one. He was also an agitator a plebeianandsometimes genius; his partisanspraised him for reviving the revolt against Henry IV in Alsacesingle-handed. Nobles and knightsflockedto and promisedobedience him to be absolvedfrom excommunication to Pope Urban II.51 There is little doubt that the writingsand polemicistsin the Reichreached preachingsof the anti-Henrician a muchwidercircleand, morestill, founda muchlargerandsocially mixed audienceamongstthe laity than any literary"publication" had ever done before. the leadingstrataof Germansociety confronted These upheavals with new problemsin additionto the age-old ones that were still the striving for parity between with them: partible inheritances, them andthe rapidflowof estateswithinfamiliesor between brothers through the claims of affinity by marriage. The long wars in of the eleventhcenturyandthe fifty duringthe last quarter Germany electionif anythingaggravated years before FrederickBarbarossa's thatimportant on noblefortunes. The warsdemanded the pressures strengthandto theirmilitary hadto increase familiesandindividuals than theirlandscouldsupport. The keeplargernumbersof milites end of fightingwas in itself dangerous. As long as their men were them out of the activity employedthey could also hope to maintain of war as such: plunder,foraging,ransomsand any other rewards that successfulexpeditionsand raids might procure. The growing with fragments of monastic practice of enfeoing ministeriales to foughtin vain,had,according against whichthe Church advocacies of Aura,its causein the needto keepup war-bands. The Ekkehard authorof the "Life of Henry IV" describedwith biting irony the for too long andwere plightof nobleswho hadlived on a war-footing of Landgriede underthe emperor's with impoverishment threatened of the Welfsin the latertwelfthcentury I IO3. The familyhistorian notedthatWelf IV (ob.I IOI) wasthe firstof his housewho,in return deignedto becomethe vassalof bishopsand abbots. for greatISefs, He did this becausehe had givell too manyestatesto his followers
(ed. K. Francke, MGH. 51 In the preface of his Liber ad Gebehardum et Pontificum,i, p. 3II), Manegold called himself Libelli de Lite I-mperatorum sCgenere abiectus". For his activities in Alsace see Bernold, Chronicon,a. A pestilence helped him. I094 (MGH. SS., v, p. 46I).

48

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 4 I

during the time of the troubles.52 The Welfs of course were not alone irl trying to recoup themselves for over-enfeoSments by extorting ecclesiastical fiefs. The conditions of the late eleventh and early twelfth cerlturythus did not unequivocallyfavour, as is usually thought, the consolidation of noble fortunes and their continuity. The wars between the last two Salian rulers, HexlryIV and Henry V, and their more implacable enemies, especially the East-Saxon nobles, only brought it about that kingship for many years on end was no longer the most important source of rewards and favours in the northern and easterIlregions of the ReicAt.This only intensiSed the endemic feuds amongst aristocraticcontendersfor spoils and inheritances. After IO85 the war of the East-Saxon bishops and nobles against Henry IV began to degenerate iIlto a number of murderous vendettas between them. Yet neither the religious movement with its cautious interest in the rural vulgGs nor the rise of the ministeriales, the serf-knights, blunted the initiative of the high aristocracyor changed their caste very much. It is true that in the expanding society of the twelfth century the families of the nobility could not man all the positions that had to be manned and this gave the ministerisles their opportunities to invade spheres of action in government and justice hitherto closed to them. But the primores) the men with important allods, advocacies, countships, not to mention higher honours, at their disposal on the whole and in most regions remained firmly in control. The distance which had always separateda few score individuals and families, the minority within the minority, from their milites was decisive. It set certain limits to the advanceof the ministeriales and made it easier for many of the less fortunateand economicallyhard-pressednobles to Inergewith them. Germanpolitical society, like the areassettled by its enterprise, could thus grow larger without experiencing any fundamental shift in its leading strata or becoming more homogeneous. There remains the problem of family structure and here the evidence for the persistent and unyielding habits of the aristocracyin the management of its most vital concerns, especially inheritances, must be set against the evidence for change. The complexity of claims upon a given estate was at no time more manifest than when it was proposed to alienate it to the Church. Irl the tenth and early
52 On the sub-advocacies as fiefs for warriors see Ekkehard, Chronicon Universale, a. I099 (MGH. SS., vi, p. 2I0 f.). On the plight of the nobles with overlargewarbandssee the Vita HeinriciIV. Imperatoris, ch. 8 (ed. cit., p. 28; the translation,ed. cit., pp. I20 f.). For Welf IV see the Historia Welforam, ch. I3 (MGH. SS., xxi, p. 462).

IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY

49

eleventh century it had always been difficult to protect proprietary foundations against the importunate resentment of heirs, the kindred of the donor. It was no easier later despite the new libertas of monastic houses warrantedby papal privileges. Men who wished to found monasteries still had to square their kinsmen in all directions lest their plans should come to grief after their deaths. A good example of the difficulties which even devoted lay patrons of reform had to contend with comes from the foundation history of Zwiefalten, near the Danube in Northern Swabia. It was written in the third decade of the twelfth century by one of the monks, Ortlieb, and completed by Berthold who became abbot of the house. When Counts Cuno and Liutold, commonly called after their castle at Achalm, decided to found a monastery sometime before IO89, they had outlived all their brothers so that most of the family's lands amassed in their hands.53 Some of them they held jointly, others in severalty. Cuno left behind him three illegitimate sons who became the property of their unfree mother's lord, Count Hartmann of Dillingen, and could not inherit.54 Liutold was unmarried and childless. To make sure however that Zwiefalten should securely enjoy their gifts they had, first of all, to win over their sister Williberga's son, Count Werner of Gruningen whose claims, Ortlieb declared, came before all the other kin's. He received the castles at as well as half the church and Achalm with most of the ministeriales villa at Dettingen, half the villa of Metzingen and half the church at Endingen.5 That the brothers themselves only possessed halves in these lands and revenues suggests earlier divisions. Sometime after I092 when Count Liutold became the sole survivor, two sons of another sister, Mathilda of Horburg, came forward and demanded their shares. Ortlieb thought that custom allowed them no claims whatsoever and that they had already received their due out of their mother's inheritance. But Count Liutold knew better and gave them the castle of Wulflingen (near Winterthur)with all the lands and knights in this region, including an estate already granted to Zwiefalten.56 This important complex of possessions had come to the family by the marriage of Cuno and Liutold's father, Count Rudolf, with Adelhaid of Mompelgard. The sons of sisters in this case were merely the most importantrelations that had to be reckoned
i, I (MGH. SS., x, p. 72). Ortliebof Zwiefalten,Chronicon, iii, 3 (MGH. SS., xx, p. 649), the chronicle Petrishusensis, CasusMonasterSi of the monasteryof Petershausenof which one of the sons becameabbot. i.7 (p. 76). 55 Ortlieb)Chronicon, 6 Ibid., i.8 (p. 77).
53 54

5o

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 4 I

with, not the only ones. Five brothershad pre-deceasedthe founders of Zwiefalten and of these two, Werner, Bishop of Strassburg, and Egino, had reached manhood and received their shares of the family's lands. Their estates lay partly in Alsace and partly in Swabia and at least one manor, Ebirsheimin Alsace, seems to have been held jointly with Liutold even though Bishop Werner and Egino sided with Henry IV while Liutold and Cuno followed the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden in the great conflict which divided the Swabian aristocracy. After Egino's death his wife Sophia married again and with her second husband, Count Conradof Habsburg,had to be given twenty marks as her share out of the sale of Ebirsheim.57 The monastery had trouble also with two brothers, named after their seat at Mohringen, who claimed an estate by right of their grandmother, a kinswoman of Count Rudolf. They too therefore were distantly related to the founders of Zwiefalten. The abbey however was not always the loser by the endless ramificationsof cohereditas.Werner of Gruningen gave a hamlet to Hirsau which had belonged to his mother Williberga and Abbot Gebhard of Hirsau (another kinsman) had to surrender a holding elsewhere to buy out Count Liutold's rights. The count then gave it to his own monks.58 It will be seen that the lands of Zwiefalten's founders lay widely scattered in Northern Swabia, Alsace and Switzerland. Their parents had lived at Dettingen despite the building of Achalm Castle. Liutold of Achalm himself was occasionally called "of Dettingen".69 Wulflingen seems to have been regarded as a seat of at least equal importance where Count Cuno took up residence. The descent of Achalm is especially instructive. Werner of Gruningen and now also of Achalm seems to have made over his inheritance to the Welf duke, Henry the Blackof Bavariawho promptly gave it to his daughter Sophia as a marriageportion when she was joined to Berthold III of ZShringen.60 Stem-seats could thus permutate with bewildering frequency within families or change hands so that the traditions of one kin were thrown into the keeping of another and then passed on again to a third. It was not only the failure of direct male heirs as in the case of Cuno and Liutold which brought about these situations. The proliferation of castles by which individuals and later whole families came to be named thus did not necessarily stand for a more stable and unequivocally patrilineal family structure. To achieve 57Ibid.,i.5(PP 74f) 58 Loc.cit. (pp. 73 f. and 75). Bertholdof Zwiefalten,Chronicon, ch. I6 (MGH. SS., x, p. cit.,ch. I8 (p. IO6).

59 60 Op

IO5).

IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY

SI

this in full measure the German nobles would have had to limit the claims of female heirs and the fragmentation of estates, including lordships, it gave rise to. G. Duby has shown that from the later escaped eleventh century onwards, at least the droitde commandement division amongst the families of the castellans in the Maconnais.6l The development in the Reichwas not so clear-cut. Perhaps there was more scope for multiplying lordship by colonization and new settlement. As long as the expectations of life did not improve markedly inheritances remained as fluid as before. For the same reason the powerful and wealthy matron who outlived husbands and brothers, did not disappearfrom public life. The political history of Saxony in the first half of the twelfth century was dominated by the large inheritances which the great families of the eleventh had to leave to their surviving womanfolk: Wulfhilde and Eilika Billung, Richenza and Gertrude of Northeim, Oda, Kunigunde and Adelheid of Weimar-Orlamundeand most of all Gertrude, the sister of Margrave Ekbert of Meissen, whose wealth, nobility, and power the chroniclers vied in extolling. C'Saxony'salmighty widow", as the chronicler Ekkehardof Aura called hernwas one of the pillars of the conspiracies against Henry V in which her son-in-law Lothar of Supplinburg took the lead.62 Another bellicose widow, the Welf princess Sophia, whom we have already met as the wife of Berthold of ZShringen, joined her brother Henry the Proud at the siege of Falkenstein (near Regensburg) with 800 knights in II29 shortly after the death of her second husband.63 She could safely be left in charge of the operations when her brother was called away to another and more urgent siege by his father-in-law, Lothar, now king. Eilika Billung after the death of her husband, Count Otto of Ballenstedt, settled at Burgwerben on the river Saale where she built up the castle and became the high-handed "advocatissa" of the monastery of Goseck, forcing out one abbot and chosing his successor. From her other castle at Bernburg she was said to tyrannize the countryside.64 Withthe exception of Wulfhilde Billung allthese noblewomensurvived their husbands by at least some years; Kunigunde and Adelheid of Weimar and the Ekbertine Gertrude outlived no less than three.
(Paris, 61 G. Duby, La Societeaux xie et xiie Sieclesdans la regionmazvonnaise 44In 467I953), pp. 277-8I, a. I I I2 (MGH. SS., vi, p. 247): "illa prepotens per 62 Ekkehard,Chronicon,
I54-6)

Saxoniamvidua". ch. I7 (MGH. SS., xxi, p. 464). 63 Historia Welforum, Gozecense,ii, I9-28 (MGH. SS., x, pp. 64Chronicon a. II38 (MGH. SS., xvi, p. I86). Magdeburgenses,

and Annales

52

PAST AND PRESENT

NUM*BER 4 I

An over-riding sense of their own powers and rights continued to govern the relations between magnates and their non-noble subjects, not least of all in the cause of monastic reform itself. The counts of Achalm evicted their tenants from the site of their planned abbey.65 When Margrave Otakarof Styria in IIo7 wanted to turn his secular canonryat Garsteninto a Benedictine monasteryhe dismissed most of the clerks. Some, however, were his homines propriiand these he forced to stay and become monks, and he answered their pleas that vows should not be extorted from them in no uncertain fashion: "You are mine and so you must agree with me and obey my will in everything". The ringleader of the opposition was beaten until he gave in. The biographerof Garsten's first abbot recorded this story with only faint embarrassment and ended it on a note even of edification.66 The historiographyof the revived and new monasteries was as preoccupied with the nobility of their founders as the Ottonian writers had been. Ortlieb and Berthold of Zwiefalten's devotion to the counts of Achalm was not exceptional. It is echoed by the Pegaue annalist's heroic biography of his founder, Wiprecht of Groitzsch and by the Goseck, Lauterberg and Reinhardsbrunn traditions as recorded by their historians, to mention only a few.67 Genealogy was the most personal and abiding concern of the great mid twelfthcentury Saxon historian known as Annalista Saxo. What has been said about the early medieval German aristocracy could perhaps be said also about its neighbours further west with whom it shared the Frankish past, and even Anglo-Saxon England. Yet the nobility of the Reich differedfrom them in changing much less. This is not to assertthat the development so well set out by K. Schmid did not take place at all, only in Germany it remainedincomplete and equivocal. Nor is it suggested that the German nobles were wholly unreceptive of new ideas whether religious, cultural or in the art of government. They shared, patronized and used the religious reform movement as their many monastic foundationsin the late eleventh and early twelfth century show. Without them it would have been almost unthinkable. They were willing to exploit the great opportunities of colonization and towns which the increase of population made possible and also to administertheir lordships more effectively. But all this was compatible with and often subordinated to their age-old
65 66

Ortlieb, i.2

(p- 72)-

Austriacarum, Leipzig, I725), ii, col. go. 67 On this see H. Patze, "Adel und Stifterchronik",Blatter fur deutsche Landesgeschichte, c (I964), pp. 8-8I and ci (I965), pp. 67-I28.

Vita Beati Bertholdi Abbatis Garstensis, ed. H. Pez (Scriptores Rerum

THE GERMAN ARISTOCRACY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES

53

domesticpredicaments and needs: partibleinheritances, and how to reconcileparityof status amongstkin and fellows with the uneven distributionof wealth and power. Their tenacious conservatism moreoverproved infectious to their only immediaterivals and challengers, the ministeriales.In this way and becausethey had to competewith men who weresociallyso farbeneaththem,the nobles escapedbeing swept awayor floodedby the ever-growing societyof the twelfth century. They remainedits mastersand the enduring featuresof their caste were even more important than the changes. Magdalen College, Oxford K. Leyser

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