Development of KingТs Authority in a Traditional Germanic Society: specific features
of political genesis

(according to the material of ancient German and Medieval Scandinavian societies)


Novosibirsk State University

The problem of development of kingТs authority in a traditional German society has been observed by many researchers during last hundred years. Relevance of this problem increases since its observation is connected with a number of debatable questions of historical macrosociology such as: the genesis and essence of state, the ways of development of social stratification, characteristics of the organization of public authority in early stratificated societies. Consideration of different aspects of social organization is connected with the methods of research, appropriate theoretical background for more effective realization of the available data. The majority of modern researchers, studying problems of theoretical history, infer that the most considerable contribution to understanding of early stratificated societies during the XX century has been made by the theorists of cultural materialism, who suggested to interpret different historical forms of social organization as a consequently developed structural types. Application of the new social anthropological methods of research for study of the early stages of social history allowed researchers to produce a new, more clear, understanding of the political genesis. As one of the most essential achievement in that area may be considered the demonstration of existence of a specific intermediate stage of social evolution between a tribal and a state organization made by Elman Service. This intermediate stage is characterized by existence of the centralized political structures, which have some indications of an early state organization and some considerable features of a tribal society at the same time.а These structures were designated as лchiefdoms╗, and were observed in a number of researches of American and European authors. Nevertheless, despite a wide acknowledgement of the theory of chiefdoms in a modern science, adoption of this theory to the study of German and Scandinavian societies is still not complete. In this article an observation of political genesis in a traditional German and Scandinavian society in context of neo-evotionism theory has been offered. This research allows to compare the historical development of the ancient societies of Northern Europe both with its historical anologues and with the theoreticaly constructed social types, to revise a number of existent stereotypes about the development of лbarbarian╗ societies, to supplement the theoretical data of the historical macrosociologywith the comparative aspects.

The existent data about the character of social organization of ancient Scandinavia is strictly limited and may be obtained only from fragmentary, but rather valuable, information, involved in late texts. As one of these sources may be considered the лGutasaga╗ [1], throwing light upon the social organization of Gotland before the inclusion of this island into the sphere of power of Swedish konungs. As it is possible to discern from the text, the territory of the island was divided into three лthirds╗ [2],а population of which gathered at regular лtings╗ [3] for human sacrifices and in extraordinary occasions for the лGutnal þing╗ [4], which was a national meeting. According to the existent tradition, the judicial discords used to be settled лat the same tritiung, where it arose╗ [5], and if the argue was not settled, it had to be brought to the negotiations of all the people (лtil aldra manna samtalan╗) [6], e.i. to the Gutnal ting. Common decision was a kind of equivalent of the лcouncil of the country╗ and considered to be an expression of the superior judicial power. Despite the absence of a common government on the island, лGutes used to keep their law steadily╗ [7]. Another source, that gives us a similar information about the ancient Scandinavian social organization is the extract from the legend of Saint Sigfrid, containing the information about the ancient organization of the Verend region: лThere were twelve thirds (tribus), which were ruled by influential people or nobles (magnates seu nobiles)╗ [8]. In the same way influential or noble people of Gotland (the most considerable statesmen) were distinguished. This information corresponds to the evidence of Ancient Roman authors about the traditions of German society, where was лno common government (communis magistratus) during the peaceful time, but the leaders of separate regions and provinces (principes regionum atque pagorum) were making justice and settling the argues╗ [9]. This order could be broken only during the time of war when Germans elected special leaders, who had the right to лpunish and execute╗ [10].

This kind of society has considerable indications of a лtribal╗ organization (according to the definition of tribe, made by Elman Service). The main indication of a tribal society is the dominance of the economically independent resident groups, that take the right to protect themselves, due to the absence of the superior power. The gathering of a public home guard (described by Julius Caesar), made by Germans in case of any external agression, is very similar to the mechanism of deliver of the лwar arrows╗, made by Scandinavian bondes in the same situation: л...bondes turned the invitation to a ting into the war arrow, and called every person in Trandheim for war╗ [11]. Thus, the superior social structures in this kind of society have a secondary, determined by any external aggression, character (e.i. there exists a tendency of a so-called tribalism). The resident groups are presented by the provinces and regions, ruled by some лprincipes╗, whose social role may be considered debatable. Most likely, the post of elected leader, which used to make judgement in separate regions in ancient German society, may be compared with the Early Medieval Swedish лlaghman╗, the interpreter of the law, who ruled the province with the council of лhofdings╗ (höfðingi). Taking into account high social influence of such members of community, it is possible to conclude that every person of them was an actual chief, who was pretending to take a high place in a social hierarchy. Snorri Sturluson, describing a Scandinavian social structure of his time, mentioned, that such members of community are лthe respectable bondes, who are enjoying full rights╗ [12]. It is necessary to note that in the given poetical name (kenning) of these bondes (лthose who distribute the riches╗ [13], veitanda fjar) exists an allusion to the age of reciprocal economical relations, that indicates an early origin of this kind of a public figure.

The organization of authority in such kind of society has a form of a public meeting, which involved a council of nobles, and gathering of all the free people of the tribe, as it might be illustrated by the ancient German tradition: лThe less important problems are discussed by a council of nobles, more important Ц by all the people; moreover, the problems, discussed by all the people, are considered by the nobles╗ [14]. The similar situation might be noticed in a Scandinavian society of the tribal age: лThe oldest men... from the twelve tribus, had convoked the common council of the land (communae terrae placitum), and decreed that from each third (tribus) should be elected people, who would be empowered to act for the others╗ [15]. It is also necessary to note that this society still remains to be the subject of authority, since no participant of the council could infringe the rights of any of the free members of the tribe (л execute, to chain and punish is not allowed for anyone╗) [16], except the case of making a common decision (if, for instance, the case was a punishment of a criminal): лIn a common meeting one may have a speech of accusation and offer for investigation the cases, that entail an execution╗ [17]. Restriction of the right to carry weapons and to participate in the common meetings applied only to slaves, whose life conditions, however, were not so hard. This fact allows to characterize the primary evolution type of the social organization of Germans as a tribal лmilitary democratic╗ [18].

Influence of a tribal military democratic type of political organization on the formation of social consciousness of Germans was very considerable, what was constantly confirmed during the Early Medieval history. This influence has been reflected by Early Medieval Germanic laws (by which was adopted the idea of a free man, a valuable person, that was produced by the tribal age), and by the ethnical designations of German tribes, in which the idea of the union of free (e.i. armed) persons in a collective name of Alamanni (e.i. all-the-men) had been adopted. The freedom itself was identified with the right of carrying weapons, and participation in public gatherings and military raids. For instance, the tribe of Tencters, who were raising their claims against the Romans, declared that under the Roman restrictions Germans were лnot allowed to gather to discuss their cases, and even if they were allowed to do so, the intolerable conditions for people who live for war Ц to gather unarmed - were set╗ [19]. The significance of a democratic tradition had been reflected in repeated revivals of a public councilТs tradition during the periods of military or dynastic crisises. For example, during the hard war against the Byzantine forces, king of Ostrogoths Badvila (Totila) had mentioned the existence of a good council of elders [20], as one of the factors, essential for the victory. Ordinary Ostrogothic warriors, in a critical moment of history of their kingdom, had elected a лmartial king╗ (regem Martium) [21] right in the battle-field. The tribal form of social organization substituted kingТs reign in a Langobardian society after the death of king Klef for a long period of time: лLangobards after his (KlefТs Ц S.S.) death remained without a king for ten years, during this time they were ruled by the dukes (ducibus)╗ [22]. The same phenomenon can be noticed in Ostrogothic society after the death of king Torismuth: л...Ostrogoths bemoaned his death so much, that no one king did took his place instead of him for forty (!) years╗ [23]. It is necessary to note that the author (Iordanes) distinguishes the authority of a king from the authority of a duke, saying that Visigoths were ruled by лtheir chiefs and dukes (primates eorum et duces), who led them instead of the kings (regum vice illis praeerant)╗ [24]. Military-democratic traditions remained the prevailing form of organization of German tribes during a long period of time, and even some cases of a strict resistance of a tribal nobility against the establishment of any form of a personal authority might be noticed. For instance, the tribe of Geruls, wishing to live without any ruler, killed a man, who was carrying out the title of a king [25].

The similar tendencies can be noticed in the development of Medieval Scandinavian society. The basis of the social structure of Early Medieval Scandinavia was formed by the organization of free land possessors, owners of the лdurable patrimony and the old othal (Fastae faethaerni ok aldae othal) [26]. Influence of the bondes remained strong even during the age of the Vikings. For instance, bondes repeatedly eliminated unsuitable konungs and continued living according to the ancient law, declaring to any konung лif you wonТt satisfy our demands, we will rise against you and kill you. We donТt want to suffer from pressure and crime. That is like did our ancestors: they had drown five konungs in a quag at the Mulating because they were as arrogant as you are╗ [27]. The use of force against any of free people was strictly prohibited: лIf you will... use force against us, then all of us, bondes, will refuse from you and will take another ruler╗ [28]. Norms of traditional Scandinavian law fixed that лSwedes have a right to take and to refuse a king (...svaer egho konong at taka ok sva vraekae) [29]. This fact explains why during a long period of Scandinavian history the real power was in the hands of bondes (лAll the kings of Sweons let bondes to consult them any questions╗) [30], that made them become a very influential social force, quite often standing in opposition to a kingТs authority. As it is shown in later sources, during a peaceful time chiefТs authority was restricted by a will of the council of bondes. Rimbertus says that Sweons have such a custom лthat every common case depends more on unanimous will of the nation (in populi unanima voluntate), than on a kingТs authority╗ [31].

Nevertheless, despite an existence of deep military democratic traditions in the considered kind of society, it's organization was far from the principle of equality. Many of the evidences confirm the existence of a stratum of noble people, possessing much more considerable wealth than the ordinary tribesmen. As a quite significant heritage of that age might be considered luxuriousMedievalking feasts, which were organized to show the status of the host of the feast. During the time described by Tacitus, all the important questions used to be discussed among the tribal nobility at the feasts: л...during the feasts they usually discuss the conciliation of the enemies, the conclusion of the weddings, the election of the elders (principes), and, finally, the war and peace╗ [32]. These feasts, being the relic of the ancient reciprocal economic relations, were organized by people from the famous clans, who wished to obtain the sympathies of the tribesmen. The feasts were most common among the military leaders, whose influence was strictly related to the realization of such kind of actions. An influential person, a strong bonde (storbondi), who claimed to be a military raid leader, was asking for the support of his tribesmen and other influential bondes, what required a manifestation of a considerable generosity from that person. For instance, someone Tunni л...distributed the goods to his people. Therefore he was beloved, and people willingly joined him╗ [33]. It is necessary to note that the wealth of a candidate for the role of a military leader had a sacred meaning, and its existence signified that the leader is beloved by the gods, and his fortune (Hamingja) will spread upon his war comrades. Generous for presents and feasts leader became known in a forming epic tradition as лone who distributes the gold╗ (gullbrjota) or лgenerous for the distribution of riches╗ (auðmilding). Such fame made leader very popular among the hostmen, that is also reflected in Medieval epic tradition: л...ruler of the Goths was giving me presents generously... let him be glorious for all the times╗ [34].

It is possible to suppose that exactly during that time starts the formation of a permanent chiefТs bodyguard (hird, drott), which size can be shown by the evidence of Snorri Sturluson that лtwenty people are called the host╗ (drott eru tuttugu menn) [35]. This information may be compared with the information from the лBeowulf╗, where the main hero starts his venture with fourteen men, himself being the fifteenth [36]. Comparison of this numbers with the data about the strength of the hosts of the Great MigrationТs period (which number some hundred persons) let us state that in the considered texts is described the formation of only the house-troop, which becomes the chiefТs most close milieu. Relations between the chief and his men were determined by the keeping of the promises and oathes of the reciprocal engagements. The chief engaged himself to lead his host to the victory, showing high military skills (лIn battle it is a shame for a chief to be emulated by somebodyТs bravery... chief fights for the victory╗ [37]), and to bring his bodyguard everything needed for a prosperous life (лHostmen are longing for a battle horse, and a victorious spear, stained with blood; instead of payment they receive feasts╗ [38]). Taking into account the fact that initially the reward of hostmen was in most cases of a natural character, it is possible to conclude that hostmen became dependent on his chief voluntarily, sharing with him dwelling and meals. This order was confirmed by making oath of faithfulness to a chief. Breaking of that oath considered a serious and disgraceful crime: лThose who swore, and didnТt follow the chief, are considered as fugitives and traitors and they donТt get trust any more╗ [39]. The relations between a chief and his bodyguards were becoming so important that its breaking soon became considered a sign of a forthcoming death: л...not gifted by the gold, but feeling cold with his flesh, he, who had lost his chief... sees the dark waves╗ [40].

The military success reflected directly upon the material maintenance of chief and his house-troop, producing a rapid increase of the role of the war in life of nobility. As the work of Tacitus shows, the military activity soon becomes a main occupation of a chief. This evidence may be supported by the activity of a famous German chief Ariovistus, whose host, according to the data of Julius Caesar, лhavenТt seen a roof above their heads (tectum non subissent) for fourteen years╗ [41]. Similar phenomena might be seen during the early age of the Vikings (of the period of the лinner colonization╗ of Sweden), when only лthat one could be called a sea konung (saekonungr), who had never slept under the blacken roof, and never celebrated with feasting besides the fire-place╗ [42]. Proceeding from the composition of AriovistusТ host, which was recruited from different German tribes, we may conclude that his host was formed in according to the principle, described by Tacitus, when young people joined a host of influential person in order to heighten their social position. The causes of the AriovistusТ raid can be seen in some of his expressions, when he said that лhe (Ariovistus Ц S.S.) had left his home and his relatives not without a great hope for a big reward (non sine magna spe magnisque praemiis)╗ [43], and that лCaesar has made a big unfairness to him (Ariovistus Ц S.S.) by decreasing his (AriovistusТ Ц S.S.) income (vectigalia) because of his (CaesarТ Ц S.S.) coming╗ [44]. Mentioned income of Ariovistus consisted in collecting the tribute from Celtic tribe of Aedui (placed under his authority) and of seizing the lands for settling his hostmen with their families. Thus, there are enough reasons to suppose that in case of successful realization of the raid Ariovistus would both find sufficient means for maintenance of his host (л...for to feed a big host is possible only by the plunderage and war╗ [45]) and seriously heighten his social rank and authority. Maintaining of the positions of the tribal nobility entailed the process of rising of social importance of a chiefТs person, supported by spacious landowning (as example, лthe villas and fields (agros villasque)╗ [46] of chief of Bataves Julius Civilis), raising the tribute, and the increase of the personal prestige. Around the person of chief there was formation of the surroundings consisted of body-guards, hostmen, servants and slaves, who followed a chief even in his business trips. The special importance in konungТs activity had the host of лfaithful╗ (fideles) body-guards, who didnТt left their chief in any circumstances. Such maintaining of a social role of German chiefs (hofdings), entailed by a successful realization of military raids (similar to the invasion of Ariovistus to the territory of Seqanes and Aeduis), accompanied by the formation of a permanent chiefТs host, produced arising and development of a new type of political organization.

This new type of political organization, being developed during the evolution of a tribal society, can be characterized as a лsimple chiefdom╗ [47], which distinctive features are the certain centralization of the government, the existence of the group of local leaders, subordinated to central leader, and the arising of a permanent civilian authority of the superior military leader (the chief), who was named лrex╗ in a Latin variant. This kind of social organization might be obviously seen as evolutionary developed one, since there are several evidences, fixing the intermediate forms of development of society from the tribal structure to the structure of simple chiefdom. For instance, it is possible to discern it from the description of the ancient German tribe of Geruls, made by Procopius Caesariensis, who had described the very beginning of the centralization process in that tribe, that was the appearance of a permanent tribal chief, whose authority was yet quite nominal: л...their king was a ruler only symbolically, having no advantages in comparison with the ordinary tribesmen╗ [48]. The similar situation is reflected in TacitusТ evidence that among Germans лthe chiefs dominate more by their personal example, than by any right to command╗ [49]. From another extract of Procopius it is possible to see that the numerous representatives of nobility maintained their high social ranks, producing the situation of a real multiple authority. For instance, when Gerules were conquered by Langobards, and they had to leave the place of their living, they were led by the лnumerous chiefs of kingТs kin╗ [50], although they had lost their superior chief in a battle recently. The multiple authority manifested itself in a form of a hierarchical coordination, that was realized with the observance of all necessary rites of the interaction. For instance, Hortarius (Hortar), king of Allemans, according to the evidence of Ammianus Marcellinus, summoned for the feast лall the kings (reges), people of kingТs kin (regales), and dukes (regulos) of separate regions╗ [51], and such feasts were a regular action.

Genetic relation between the kingТs authority and the early tribal military leadership can be retraced during all the period of the early development of chiefdoms. Chief, getting a superior status, maintained his unconditional right-duty to lead big military and predatory actions. Moreover, his tribesmen had a right to demand that kind of activity from the chief. For instance, the Geruls, лbeing full of anger, abused their king Rodulf without any restraint, and, coming to him, called him effeminate and weak╗ [52], because their king didnТt organized any war action during a period of three years. Permanent military actions of Germans prove that the war was the optimal method of maximization of the economical effect, which is the pledge of social development. In fact, the war factor was exactly the basis for development of superior social structures in a traditional German society, that had entailed the rise of the social status of nobility.

The military promotion of chief to the kingТs title might be illustrated by the examples from the sources. Usually for obtaining the kingТs authority one needed a noble origin, as it was noticed by Tacitus: лGermans choose their kings from the nobility (ex nobilitate)╗ [53]. Nevertheless, belonging to a kingТs kin could be substituted by the military achievments of the ancestors, for instance, as it were with Brinno, chief of Canninefates: лHe was a son of noble people... his father had risen against the Romans for many times... the fame of that family attracted the tribesmen to Brinno╗ [54]. In any case, fame of the relatives was very important for the promotion of a person, what can be obviously seen, for instance, in Ostrogothic society Ц the chief of Ostrogoths, Uraia, told his tribesmen that he is a relative of king Vitigis, and that kingТs failures may pass on him [55]. Having an appropriate origin, chief used to obtain sympathies of his tribesmen by the bravery and perky speeches. As Tacitus noticed, лamong the barbarians that one has more trust, who has more impertinence╗ [56]. This situation might be illustrated by the line-up of Allemanian military forces before the battle of Argentoratus, where a successful chief Chonodomarius, raised for his perky military actions, had the privileged place not only among his host, but also among other German people [57]. Mentioned by Tacitus chief Brinno was also famous for his лboundless, but quite stupid bravery╗ [58].

After the procedure of a public acclamation and confirmation, chief had to be placed on a big shield and raised on the shoulders of warriors, according to the лancient custom╗ (more maiorum) [59]. This procedure, as it goes from the colourful description of Cassiodorus, was committed лamong the unsheathed swords... not in the closeness of rooms, but in the broad battle-field, with the roar of the battle-horns╗ [60]. During that procedure the chief was entrusted the duty of a superior commander, who operated in agree with the leaders of different clans, voluntarily submitted to his authority. Generally, it is possible to state the correspondence of ancient German лreges╗ to Medieval Scandinavian лkonungs╗. The hierarchicaly submited to konungs ancient German лdukes╗ (лpeople of kingТs kin╗, as they are called by Procopius and Ammianus) are seemingly correspondent to the Scandinacian лjarls╗ and лhersirs╗. According to the evidence of Snorri Sturluson, лjarls, hersirs and hostmen are called the friends, interlocutors or table-companions of konung (konungs rúnar eða málar eða sessar)╗ [61], what can be well correlatedа with the given evidence of Ammianus Marcellinus about the interaction of chiefs of different level. Konungs themselves could face some difficulties in forming their surroundings from the number of chiefs of the equal or lower rank, because of the strength of democratic traditions of German society. For instance, when konung Olaf had offered the title of jarl to a noble person, he received the answer that the ancestors of that man were hersirs, and лhe didnТt want to have a higher rank than they had╗ [62]. Thus, around a German chief quite often was formed a hierarchy of chiefs, with whom konung could have some problematic relations. For instance, when Tacitus describes the struggle between the chief of Cheruscks Arminius and the Romans, Tacitus says that there were лuneasily among the Germans, who were excited by the hopes, impatience, and disagreement among the chiefs╗ [63]. Even though Arminius tried to operate in agreement with other famous chiefs of Germans, Romans knew well about the existence of serious disagreements among the German nobility: лWe (Romans Ц S.S.) may left Cheruscks and other unruly German tribes by themselves and their own dissentions╗ [64]. The only support for chiefТs struggle for authority against other chiefs, was his host and his personal bravery. For instance, Arminius, during the hard battle with Romans, was in the front file of warriors, лby his words, and his own example, and his firmness in suffer of wounds, making people hold on╗ [65]. The similar deeds can be noticed in activity of Chonodomarius Ц in the decisive battle with Romans he was лfull of bravery, and, relying on the strength of his arms, came forward in the front line, shaking his heavy spear╗ [66], at the same time when other chiefs led more safe sectors of battle. Seemingly, the post of chief-konung remained elective for a long time. According to the evidence of Ammianus Marcellinus, лevery Burgundian king is forced to renunciation if the tribe will face military defeats or failure of crops during his reign╗ [67]. This tradition was also widely spread in Early Medieval Scandinavian society. For instance, лthe nation of Sweons had such a custom to put down the quality of harvest to a king╗ [68], and konung could be even sacrificed if his reign was not very successful [69]. The struggle for the superior power also quite often led to the death of konung Ц for instance, Arminius had failed his pursuit for kingТs title, and felt in struggle with the nobility.

We might suppose that arising of early Scandinavian kingdoms (chiefdoms) of the Vendel age (VI-VIII c.) was reflected in Anglo-Saxon poetry, particularly, in the famous poem лBeowulf╗, which tells us about the legendary events of the history of Danes and Geates. Main characters of the poem are лkings╗ (cyning), leaders of the army and nation (leodcyning). Leaders of that level are known in Medieval Islandic literature tradition as лsmall konungs╗ (småkonungr). According to the characteristics of these leaders and specific nature of their activity (лSo ought a young man... deserve... by fine treasure-gifts, while in his father's keeping, that him in old age shall again stand by willing companions╗ [70]), we may conclude that in the poem steady tradition of German chiefdom and succession of kingТs title by representatives of the nobles are described. This supposition might be confirmed by the лYnglinga saga╗, which describes the governing of the ancient konungs. According to this saga, during the rite of initiation, a successor-konung лhad to stand up, take and drain a goblet... by making that he inherited the estate of his father╗ [71]. One of the features, that was inherited by Medieval Scandinavian society from the ancient German times (when kings were elected in the battle-field), was a custom of лadoption with the arms╗, when a future king (chief) of any nation passed a special initiation of taking arms from the hands of a king of another nation: л...we have such a custom, that son of a king shouldnТt take a place at the table with his father, before he will get arms from a king of another nation╗ [72]. The similar tradition is seemingly presented in the text of лBeowulf╗, when a young leader of Geats went to konung of Danes, to glorify himself by heroical deeds: лI was advised that, by my people, the best ones, the clever chaps, that it were thee I should seek, for that they the force of the strength of mine knew╗ [73]. For a successful service konung of Danes calls young duke of Geats his son: лNow, I, Beowulf, you, the best of men, for me like a son would love in life╗ [74].

Konungs (kings) and jarls (dukes) of that period were representatives of a close circle of noble clans, and their upbringing was determined by a specific nature of their predestination. The main occupation of a young duke can be shown by the following extract: лIn chamber jarl started to grow; he brandished the shield, interlaced bow-strings, bent bows, and sharpened arrows, threw the javelins and spears, rode a horse, set a dogs, and waved a sword, swam skillfully╗ [75]. As we may see, in this extract a high specialization level of military aristocracy, which supplied candidates for the post of a konung, can be noticed. Such a candidate had to win sympathies of his fellow-tribesmen by successful military actions (just like in ancient German tribal society): лwas to Hrothgar success in warcraft given, so that his retainers eagerly served him╗ [76]. Becoming a konung, duke accepted лin his own homeland earthly bliss to command a stronghold of men╗ [77]. But it is necessary to notice that konungТs power was sometimes more nominal, than real, because in case of making serious decisions, the initiative belonged to the council of the elders (лMany often sat the mighty at counsel╗ [78], л...with blended-hair aged... together they spoke╗ [79]), that is an obvious heritage of an ancient German tribal tradition.

In purpose of maintaining their authority, konungs resorted to the distribution of lands for the encouragement of outstanding hostmen: л...gave him seven thousand hides of land, residence and ruler's seat╗ [80]. The purpose of such distributions was to tie chieftains to konung strongly with the bonds of hostТs faithfulness. DukeТs service was to participate konungТs army with their hosts: лI to you a thousand thanes will bring, heroes as help... and to you in aid bring a forest of spears, the support of strength, where you be needful of men╗ [81]. We may also suppose that konungs used to take care of the hosts of the dukes that were killed in the war: лbe you hand-bearer to my young retainers, hand-companions, if battle takes me╗ [82]. It is possible to suppose that the local hosts, that had lost their leaders in a hard battle, joined the konungТs host.

KonungТs figure becomes very important in English and Scandinavian culture of the Vendel age. Northgerman folklore is full of similar descriptions of an idealized image of chiefТs dwelling, kingТs chamber where brave warriors find a shelter. These are Heorot of Hrothgar konung, and Vallhallar of leader of einherjers Odin, and Bilskirnir of Tor. The size of such buildings impresses the imagination of contemporaries and becomes even more fantastical in a mythological reflection. So the Bilskirnir chamber was legendary famous for its immense size: л has five hundreds rooms and forty more. It is larger then any house people ever built╗ [83]. Most part of his spare time konung spent in his chamber with his host, maintaining the sympathies of his comrades by lavish feasts: л...that chamber belongs to... konung... there are many rooms and a great number of people: some of them were playing, other were celebrating with feast, others fought, using the arms╗ [84]. In the text of лBeowulf╗ is an allusion to the immanent activity in the area of such structures, - author laments: лthere was not harp's joy, delight of glee-wood, nor good hawk soaring through the hall, nor swift horse trampling the courtyard╗ [85]. According to the лYnglinga saga╗, one of influential kings of the Vendel age лhad at his court many different jesters, harpists, and fiddlers╗ [86].

The development of kingТs authority entailed a growth of hosts and even an immanent staying of host in adjacent rooms with konung: л in Heorot may sleep without sorrow with you company of soldiers╗ [87], лhe found then therein the nobles' company slumbering after the feast╗ [88]. Such staying was a corollary of a structural apportionment of a лclose╗ host from the number of kingТs comrades: лafter evening came, and Hrothgar went to his quarters, the ruler to rest, the hall guarded countless earls╗ [89]. This host had to show the greatest honour fighting for kingТs life [90]. This feature was also inherited from the Ancient German society; as Tacitus noticed, лto return from the battle, where the duke felt, means for a hostman to disgrace himself for all the rest of his life╗ [91]. The лclose╗ host was a military council of king [92], who followed him in all his ventures: лtheir custom was that they were often ready for a battle both at home and out harrying, and either of these, for just such times as for their liege-lord the need arose╗ [93]. The лclose╗ hostТs reward was the most generous: лThe full cup was brought to him, and a friendly invitation proffered in words, and twisted gold kindly offered: two arm-ornaments, robe and rings, the largest necklace of those which I on earth have heard of╗ [94].

The symbolical reflection of the kingТs power we may find in an interior structure of the konungТs chamber. The center of the hall was a feast table (or there were a special hierarchy of tables by an indication of proximity to the konungТs table), around which hostmen settled and where the most important questions were discussed. King observed the feast hall from his seat (лthe gift-throne╗ [95]), which was raised at the main place of a table. At the feet of a king was a place for outstanding hostmen, heroes of battles and campaigns: лUnferth... was also there sitting at the feet of the Scylding lord╗ [96]. Every hostmen had his own definite place that signified his status: л the bench, where... boys were, Hrethric and Hrothmund, and heroes' sons, the young company all together╗ [97]; лI first came there to that ring-hall to greet Hrothgar; straightaway to me... with his own sons he appointed a seat╗ [98]. The place of a hostman had a special meaning even in ancient German tradition, for instance, son of Lombardian king, Alboin, who came to meet a king of Gepids, Turisind, went to the court of a king, where he was лkindly greeted, and invited to the kings table, where for him was appointed a seat near the king, by the right side, were used to seat kingТs own son, Turismod╗ [99]. The kingТs place at the table was sanctified by a sacred authority of the superior power, and, according to the ideas of contemporaries, had ability even to frighten off the evil: лthe dark death-shade... in the black nights...а he the gift-throne was compelled to respect╗ [100].

Traditions of military leadership remained considerable exactly during the early stages of the development of chiefdom, what can be proved by the description of a chief, who led such a formation. For example, king Olaf лused to have fun and to joke, was friendly and easy in converse, starting everything fiery, very generous, loving to stand out for his bright clothes, and excelling everybody in battle by his bravery╗ [101]. At the same time, the successful realization of big military campaigns certainly led to the consolidation of chiefdom, and even to the development of an absolute hereditary power of konung. The bright example of establishment of a hereditary personal power can be shown by the activity of chief of Vandals Geizerich, who had cruelly suppressed the mutiny of nobility in the year 442, and established a steady kingТs reign. Special value has the survived description of temper and appearance of Geizerich, which let us trace the changes, that were taking place in image of a typical German leader: л...he was shortish and lame, reserved, taciturn, despising the luxury, stormy in his anger, extremely farseeing, when perturbing the tribes, ready to sow the discord and to incite the hate╗ [102]. As we may see, at this stage of development of chiefdom occurs a substitution of a generous enterprising kind of chief for a far-seeing statesman, who was a calculating commander and cruel politician.

This new kind of society is distinctive for the development of relations, that are typical for stratificated societies. This feature is reflected in the evidence of Tacitus about the hate that felt the citizens of Svebian nation to chiefs Vangionus and Sidonus because of the лslavery╗ [103] they made for people. The hostility that nobility felt for the chiefs produced regular attempts of revolution and overthrow of chiefТs authority. For example, king of Svebs Vannius лoriginally used to be loved by his people, but his prolonged reign made him proud and he fell because of the hate of his neighbours and the inner dissentions╗ [104]. The hostility was intensified by the sizeable accumulation of material means: лThere were rumours about the riches of Svebian kingdom, which were accumulated by Vannius during thirty years of depredation and collection of tributes╗ [105]. Also there must be existed the tendency of opposition between the central authority and local communities, that had a big influence on the proceeding social development, which was accomonied by the incessant military consolidation of the central authority, involving the periphery social formations into its sphere of influence more hard.

Further development of the outlined tendencies entailed the development of a compound chiefdom [106], which arose from the incorporation of simple chiefdoms, and is distincted for the despotic authority of the superior chief upon the local leaders. Snorri Sturluson characterizes (in a kenning form) the title of a chief, лto whom tributary konungs (skattkonungar) are submitted╗ as лkonung of konungs╗ (konungr konunga) or лsovereign konung╗ (þjóðkonungr), saying that only such konung may have that name, who лrules a big state╗ (ræðr fyrir þjóðlandi) [107]. States of the konungs were formed from the seized lands of other chiefs. For instance, Ingjald konung had лvowed that he will enlarge his state to all the directions or he will die... after that Ingjald konung had subdued all that lands of konungs, and collected the tribute from the possessions╗ [108]. The essential background for establishment of a compound chiefdom existed even in frame of a simple chiefdom. For instance, it existed in the activity of Julius Civilis, who лdecided to subdue all the neighbouring tribes, and if someone will resist, those should be compelled by the strength of arms╗ [109]. The successful campaign entailed the situation when лmany tribes joined Civilis, some because of fear, other voluntarily╗ [110].

The evolutional factor of the development of compound chiefdom can be seen from the history of Suebish-Marcomanian community of king Marobodus, лwho had reached the superior authority among his tribesmen not by the compulsion, but, on the contrary, by the consent of people╗ [111]. That evidence of Vellius Paterculus let us state the fact of establishing of a simple chiefdom among the Marcomans during the reign of Marobodus. Further, he with his tribesmen had occupied the territory to the east from the Herzingian wood, and had лsubdued all the neigbours partially by the strength of arms, partially by the parley╗ [112]. The basis of this new social structure was formed as the simple chiefdom, with the inherent feature of the multiple authority. For instance, the representative of the GothsТ nobility, someone Katualda, who planned the attempt at Marobodus, had лfirst to seduce the chiefs of Marcomans by the bribery╗ [113]. But at the same time the authority of Marobodus upon the subordinated chiefdoms had an undisguised despotic character. For example, Katualda longed for revenge himself upon for his flight лfrom the injustice of Marobodus╗ [114]. The Romans had even threatened Suebians, that they will restore MorobusТ authority upon the Germans if Suebians are unruly, what was a kind of threat of a recurring enslavement [115]. The state of Marobodus had its permanent лcapital city╗ (regia) with the лfortifications╗ (castellum), where merchants from the neighbouring territories gathered, being attracted by the military plunder and the riches of the chief [116]. Among the surroundings of Marobodus outstanding place was kept by his personal Guards of hostmen, which was formed during the times of simple chiefdom, and which followed chief in all his ventures. According to the evidence of Vellius Paterculus, лhe was always accompanied by the Guard, consisting of his tribesmen╗ [117]. It is also necessary to note that despite the existence of extensive territories, submitted to the chief, and the well-developed machinery of authority, there are still not enough reasons to consider the chiefdom of Marobodus as the state, because his chiefdom was based more on the traditional for pre-classed societies system of collecting the tributes from the subdued tribes, than on any modern system of taxes, that is traditional for state formations.

Most part of German tribes was at the stage of a simple chiefdom to the moment of their invasion into the Roman provinces. According to the evidence of Ennodius, Theodorich Amal had united under his leadership as many chiefs, as his army was able to contain [118]. The simple chiefdom was the organization of Lombardians, when they had invaded in Italy: they were choosing a king on a common council (omnes communi consilio) [119]. Salic Franks also during the long time kept considerable elements of the military democratic traditions. For instance, when Franks had successfully realized their raid to the city of Soissons, their chief Chlovis couldnТt get a valuable chalice, because it was not awarded to him by the drawing. As Gregory of Tour had noticed, лthe king endured the insult with the gentleness of patience╗ [120], what was seemingly connected with the weakness of social positions of the young king. Nevertheless, after some time, probably spent for the consolidation of kingТs surroundings, had passed, the king revenged himself cruelly, having publicly killed the representative of unruly nobility. This event, as Gregory says, had raised a лgreat dread╗ [121] of Clovis among people. The consolidation of konungТs power was accompanied by his military deeds and victories. In this way appropriate preconditions for establishment of compound chiefdom were formed. Formation of that kind of social organization commenced from the elimination of the chiefs of Ripuarian Franks and the usurpation of authority by Chlovis, using different grounds. At that time Ripuarian Franks had more simple way of social organization than Salic Franks. For instance, in Köln, local Franks had raised Chlodvis on a shield, according the existent military democratic tradition of confirmation of authority [122]. The authority of Chlodvis soon had turned into undisguised despotism, as it may be seen from his expressions, for example, about the representatives of Frankish nobility, that лit ought to suffice them that they were alive and were not put to death╗ [123]. It is necessary to note that both of the chiefs, to whom the words were addressed, hastened to prove that лit was enough for them if they were allowed to live╗ [124].

KonungТs deeds for enlargement of the lands were extremely cruel. For instance, Norwegian konung Harald had лordered to kill all the people and burn the settlements... some people were begging for mercy and they received it if they joined the konung╗ [125]. Subduing the lands, konung established the following order: лHe set a jarl, which had to maintain the law and collect the taxes in every fulk. Jarl had to take the third part of the taxes for his own needs. Every jarl had at his disposal four hersirs or more, and every hersir received twenty marks for his keeping and expenses. Every jarl had to supply sixty warriors to konung, and every hersir Ц twenty. Harald the konung had augmented the taxes and tributes so much, that jarls obtained more riches than konungs had before. When it became known in Trandheim, many of the nobles joined the konung╗ [126]. It is important to note, that the autocracy of konungs sometimes had a really unlimited character. For instance, konung of Uppland, Eistein the Wicked лinvaded the Trandheim and ravaged the country, and subdued it. He offered the choice for people of Trandheim: to accept his slave Torir the Shaggy as a konung, or to accept his dog, named Saur. They chose a dog, because they thought it will bring them more freedom╗ [127]. Sometimes bondes wanted to opposite the authority of konungs, but they often were not able to do it: лOlaf the Konungr stood up and... said that everyone who will resist and who wonТt obey his command, will bring his anger on himself, and that person will be punished by the most serious methods which exist at his disposal╗ [128]. And after that л one ventured among the bondes to contradict konung. And since bondes couldnТt reply the konung, he hadnТt met any resistance. And that is why everybody obeyed the command of the konung╗ [129]. In that situation, konungs and jarls used to break easily different ancient laws and rights. For instance, one of the Norwegian jarls лstarted to lead a dissolute life. His people took the daughters of respectable people and brought them to him, and he shared the bed with them for a week or two, and after that he sent them away. By this deeds he brought a big anger of the relatives of that women upon himself╗ [130]. To appraise these deeds of konung correctly, we should notice that crime against the morals considered most hard in a traditional German society: лAdulteries are extremely rare among the Germans: the punishment is immediate╗ [131]; лIf someone seduces anotherТs wife, or forces a girl, he will be executed╗ [132]. The essence of the changes, that had taken place in organization of society, may be noticed from the appraisals of the contemporaries, who used to notice the positive characteristics of the leader, notwithstanding a great number of crimes he had made: лThe enmity against Hakon jarl was so great, that everybody called him nothing but the Wicked jarl. That nick-name remained for a long time after him, but if to be honest, we should say that Hakon jarl had many of the qualities, needed by a good ruler: firstly, a noble lineage, secondly, a wit and the ability to rule a state, bravery in battles, and finally, a good fortune in war and in fights with the enemies╗ [133].

Despite the frequent violation of the ancient customs, konungs used to pay much attention to the codification of the laws: лHakon konung was very clever and he paid much attention to the establishment of the laws. He had established the laws of Gulating according to the advices of Torleif the Clever, and the laws of Frostating according to the advices of Sigurd jarl and other people of Trandheim, who considered the most clever ones╗ [134]. That kind of activity was provoked by the opportunity to regulate the military forces in the regions, and to put them under konungТs control: л...Hakon konung established a statue that all the settled lands should be divided into the ship provinces... It was determined how many ships had every fulk to supply in case of the convocation of the home guard; and the home guard should be convoked when enemy army invaded the country╗ [135]. Establishing of the efficient military system facilitated the convocation of the army for konung in case of the organization of a campaign: лHe declared to people that this summer he will recruit the army for the campaign outside the country, and he will demand ships and people from every fulk, and he told the number of ships the fulks were ought to supply╗ [136]. The consolidation of the military power of konungs was accompanied by the broad building of the fortified constructions, the centralization of the defences: л...konung of Danes ordered to put the defense of the country in good order, to strengthen the Danish Rampart, and to equip the military ships╗ [137]. The Danish Rampart was constructed this way: лTwo fjords cut into the land from the different sides, and between the summits of the fjords Danes made a big rampart of stones, turf and logs, and they dug a wide and deep ditch outside the rampart, and built the fortifications in front of every gate╗ [138].

Realization of such a large-scale projects required a permanent replenishment of the treasury, which couldnТt not be supplied by the military actions only. As a universal form of collection of the taxes from the dependent people konungs established the institute of a kingТs feasts (veizla): л...konung demanded the payment of his expenses... but bondes prefer konung to be on a visit in their possessions while he needed it, and konung had accepted that offer, and he was travelling over the feasts across his country with the host, while part of his army was defending the ships╗ [139]. Konungs used to establish special structures for realization of control over the territories: лAnund konung had built country estates in all the regions of Sweden, and he was visiting his estates with the host╗ [140]. Such kind of building entailed the clearing of territories and construction of roads, development of infrastructure and integrity of regions. лSweden is the woodland, and the wood thickets are so extensive there, that one canТt cross them even in many days. Anund konung had spent many efforts and means to clean the territories and to populate the places. He also ordered to construct the roads through the thickets of woods, and since than appeared many safe lands in the middle of the woods, and people started to settle there╗ [141]. The building also comprised the construction of new cities, what let konungs put the trade and manufacture under their control: лKonung ordered to make a rampart of the stones, wood and logs, and to dig a ditch in front of it. There he constructed a big earthen fortress... inside the fortress he established a trading quarter. He ordered to build him a chamber there... He ordered to mark the plots for other yards, and gave them to people to build in. In autumn he ordered to bring there all the necessary for the wintering, and stood there during the winter, and lot of people stood there with him... He made a big feast of Yol, and invited many influential bondes from the neighbouring lands╗ [142]. Wide spreading of the settlements of the urban type may be considered the evidence of the development of the three-level hierarchy of settlements. This situation let us conclude that the complex (compound) chiefdoms become close to the early forms of the state [143]. Further working out of the problems of structural evolution of traditional German societies with the help of neo-evolutionism methodology will make possible to produce more detailed characteristics of the revealed social structures and processes.

Copyright © 2003 by Sergey Sannikov. All rights reserved.
No part of the text might be used without a written permission of the author.

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