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Bill Thayer

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Book IV
Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a note in
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

published by the Clarendon Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book IV
Chapter 6

Book 4 (continued)

Vol. III
Note C

Odovacar's Name in an Inscription at Salzburg

A reader of this book, visiting Salzburg, might, unless forewarned, think that he had stumbled upon an important contribution to our scanty knowledge of the acts of Odovacar.

In the side of the Mönchsberg, a steep cliff immediately above the church and cemetery of St. Peter, there are two caves which tradition connects with the memory of Maximus, who is said to have suffered death at the hands of the barbarians in the year 476 or 477. There is still visible in the cave this inscription on a stone: 'Anno Domini 477 Odoacer, rex Ruthenorum, Gepidi, Gothi, Hungari et Heruli contra ecclesiam Dei saevientes beatum Maximum cum sociis 50 in hoc spelaeo latitantibus ob confessionem fidei praecipitatos trucidarunt, Noricorum quoque provinciam ferro et igne demoliti sunt.'

There was also a wooden tablet (now, I think, removed to the Museum) bearing a long inscription, the most important sentences of which, for our purpose, are the following: 'Quo [Attila] mortuo regnante Zenone imperatore anno Domini 477 Odoacer, natione Rhutenus, Romam cum Herulis ingreditur, Latinos annis 14 opprimens. Interea Gepidi, Gothi, Hungari et Heruli Noricorum provinciam atroci perturbant praelio, civitates Histro adjacentes depopulando; etiam contra Juvaviam, quae inter civitates Bavaricas eminebat nobilissima, aciem dirigunt, quod vir Dei Severinus, episcopus Ravennensis . . . in spiritu cognovit etc. . . . Eadem nocte Barbari Hungari, Gothi et Heruli insperato irruentes civitatem diripiunt, plures captivos ducentes, presbyterum vero Maximum patibulo suspenderunt, ceteris circa quinquaginta in spelaeo petrae latitantibus trucidatis et de monte praecipitatis,' etc.

In spite of the minuteness of their details, and of the very interesting place with which they are connected, these two inscriptions are of no historical value. Both of them give the date according to the computation of Dionysius Exiguus, from the birth of our Lord; that fact alone makes it impossible that  p175 they could be in any sense contemporary documents. (The Dionysian computation was not adopted even in Italy till about 530.) Nor, if the date were treated as an alteration of later times, will the substance of the inscription stand the test of criticism any better. Both introduce the Hungarians into the list of the assailants of Juvavia, and the Hungarians did not appear in Europe till the ninth century. Both make Odovacar a Ruthene instead of a Rugian, the Ruthenians having apparently emerged not long before the Hungarians. The inscription on the wooden tablet makes Severinus bishop of Ravenna, — a ridiculous blunder. It would require fuller data than I possess, to decide when these inscriptions were really placed in the caves, but probably not earlier than the fall of the monarchy of the Avars in 796 (soon after which time German civilisation began to rear Salzburg on the ruins of Juvavia), perhaps much later.

The same remarks which have been made as to the inscriptions apply to a work entitled 'Historia de origine, consecratione et reparatione speluncae seu eremitorii ejusque capellae in monte prope coemeterium sancti Petri in civitate Salisburgensi, ex antiquissimis monumentis et manuscriptis in lucem protracta' (printed in 1661).

The historian of Roman Salzburg, Dr. Ignaz Schumann von Mannsegg (in his monograph 'Juvavia' published in 1842), comments on this MS. at considerable length (pp247‑261), while admitting that it is not entirely accurate. But it also mentions Hungarians among the invaders, and is evidently a comparatively late production, not at all deserving the attention which Dr. Schumann has given to it. The only reason for alluding to it at all is that it speaks of Odovacar as an ordinary barbarian king and invader ('Eodem anno 476 ille Rugiorum princeps Odoacer exercitum suum ingentem et fortissimum per has Noricales terras in Italiam duxerat,' etc.). And if this little treatise had any contemporary authority at all, we might be forced by it to reconsider the theory, now admitted by all scholars, that Odovacar was not in form a foreign invader, but rather a ringleader of mutinous soldiers in the pay of the Empire.

The caves in the Mönchsberg, and the cemetery of St. Peter below them, are extremely interesting, and probably do carry us back to the earliest days of Christian Juvavia. It is quite  p176 possible that monks under the presidency of a certain Maximus may have congregated there after a partial destruction of the city by the Huns in 452. Quite possible too that Maximus and fifty of his companions may have been hurled down the steep sides of the Mönchsberg, and so met their death at the hands of some of the barbarians who were at that time the scourge of Noricum. But it may be said positively that Odovacar had nothing to do with this massacre, and it may be almost as strongly asserted that 'the heretic Widemir' (the Ostrogoth), whom the MS. 'de Origine' tries to connect with it, was also guiltless, and very likely entirely ignorant of the cruel deed.

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