Way down upon the Putrid River (that’s where my charters are turning ever)

Given I am now, in theory, interested in charters, I have started reading some and come across a collection which has the highest proportion of weird eighth century stuff that I’ve seen so far (though the better informed about charters may want to dispute this). The collection is of Italian charters, mainly preserved in the original in Siena: Wilhelm Kurze and Mario Marrocchi, eds. Codex diplomaticus Amiatinus: Urkundenbuch der Abtei S. Salvatore am Montamiata: von den Anfängen bis zum Regierungsantritt Papst Innozenz III. (736-1198) (Tübingen, M. Niemeyer, 1974-2004) and it contains Latin so proto-Italian that initially I just lay down and whimpered.

However, fortified by a dawning realisation that, of course, “bouis” really means “uobis”, and the helpful suggestion that you just go for the general drift of the language and don’t worry if the endings don’t match up, I have now started working my way slowly through some of them.

I’ve also discovered that many of the private charters from the Lombard kingdom from before 774 (as edited by Luigi Schiaparelli in the first two volumes of Codice diplomatico lombardo) are online both at the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften and at the Perseus Project, the latter thanks to Timo Korkiakangas. So the full text enthusiasts among you can feast your eyes on most of what I’m going to discuss. Though, not unfortunately the boundary clause of one (forged) charter from King Ratchis, in which there is a boundary clause reference to “locum, ubi dicitur rivulo Putrido”, which my inadequate proto-Italian is convinced must be the Putrid River.

Some of the material associated with San Salvatore is reasonably well-known: I’d come across the case of Baroncello and Boniperga before in Andrea Esmyol, Geliebte oder Ehefrau? Konkubinen im frühen Mittelalter. Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, 52. (Cologne, Böhlau, 2002), where two brothers Audipert and Baroncello jointly buy a slave (Boniperga) and her baby son, and then seven years later there’s a charter in which Audipert makes Baroncello’s two sons by Boniperga (Bonipert and Leopert) his heirs. (nos. 11 and 17 in this edition, CDL no. 174 and no. 248).

But there are also types of charter I’m not used to, such as a revocable lease which included labour services, charter no 2 (CDL no. 57, where Pertulo promises to live in the casa of the centenarius Taso. What’s particularly interesting to me is the penalty clause to end the agreement:

si exinde exire uolueris, cum tantum exeat quantum adduxet ipse aut fili eius; et si eum Taso aut filiis eius menare uolueris, exeas cum medietatem de omnem res mouile.

Which I think can be translated as: “If you [Pertulo] wish to go from there, let him [Pertulo] or his son go with as much as they brought; and if you Taso or his sons should want him [Pertulo] to stay, you [Pertulo] may go with half of all the movables”. This seems logical to me – that a contested wish to leave is penalised, but I’m not sure if it’s what the Latin actually says, or indeed quite what the Latin actually says. It also raises all kinds of awkward questions about what exactly it means to be tied to the land.

As does an even more weird charter, which Kurze describes as a “cartula reprmissionis” and I’d describe as sort of a lease, but not really. This is no. 8 in Kurze’s edition, CDL no. 104, in which Arnifrid (who also has a surname “Arnucciolu”, which is unusual), promises to Fusciano to live all his life in the casa of Arnifrid’s dead father-in-law’s house. If he doesn’t work the land or tries to leave it or if he tries to leave Fusciano’s jurisdiction (aut de iudiciaria uestra Suaninse exire uoluero) he has to pay a huge fine. But the charter doesn’t say anything about dues payable or any kind of labour services that Arnifrid has to provide. So is it a lease or is it something else entirely?

Finally for today, there’s a text that completely stumps me (and the real reason I’m doing the post, in the hope that someone can work out what this one means). This is Kurze’s no. 18, CDL no. 253 from Chiusi in 771, which is a “carta promissionis”, and goes like this (with my rough attempts to understand it underneath):

+ In nomine Domini. regnantibus domnis nostris Desiderio et Adelgis filio eius uiri excellentissimi regibus, anno regni eorum Deo ausiliante quinto decimo et duodecimo, mense aprilis, indictione nona.
[Dating clause]

Promitto adque spondeo me ego Ansifrid marisscalco uobis Saxo et Piperello seo Anschaidi diacono, ut de uinditione illa quas mihi Ansifridi seo Friduni hominibus tres id est Grossulus et Bonipertus seo Domninulo fecerunt de terrula in casale Brocciani uel silba qui et Grippo Ipsolo uocatur, qui eorum ex conparatione a Brittulo, qui et Fuscianus, et ipsa uinditione quas eorum Brittulo fecit, omnia nobis Ansifridi et Friduni uenundauerunt et cartulam nobis exinde fecerunt;
[Sale to Ansifrid and Frido by Grossulus, Bonipert and Dominulus of piece of land they’d bought from Brittulo]

unde promitto ego Ansifridi, tam pro me quam et pro Fridune, uobis Saxo et Piperello seo Anschaidi diacono seo Grossulo filio Fusculo adque Bonipert filio Bonuald adque Domninulus filio Tussiolo,
[Ansifrid promises on behalf of himself and Frido to the three sellers and three other men…]

ut si quoquo tempore cum ipse cartula uinditionis causare uoluerimus, ipsis ribus nobis defensandum uel contra uos dicendum, ut ipsis ribus uos mihi Ansifridi et Friduni defendatis, et ego Ansifridi uos non potuero da Fridune defensandum, ut cum ipsa cartula contra uos nunquam agam;
[Absolutely NO IDEA here]

nec ipse Frido nec eius heredes neque ego Ansifridi nec meos heredes nullo contra uos omnes suprascriptis nunquam agamus dicendum, ut uos nobis ipsa uinditione defendatis da qualiuet homine;
[neither myself, Frido nor our heirs will ever act against you by saying you ought to defend this sale from whatever person (there is often a penalty clause in charters saying the seller is liable if they don’t defend the sale if it’s queried, so I presume, Ansfrid’s saying that won’t apply)]

nec cum ipsa cartula quas nobis ipsis Grossulus, Domninulus et Bonipert fecerunt, neque sine ipsa cartula per nullum argumentum ingenii exinde agamus, nisi ipsis ribus qualiter potuerimus nus ipsa defendamus uinditione.
[neither with or without this charter, except to defend these things with the charter as much as we are able]

nam si agere uoluero ego Ansifrid uel meus heredes, et uos non potuerimus da Fridune uel eius heredibus defensare, tunc conponere promitto ego Ansifridi uobis Saxo, Piperello, Anschaidi, Domninulo seo Bonipert adque Grossulo u…….. ipsis ribus unde uobiscum agimus, id est uinditione ipsa unde uobis dixerimus ut …….. .
[If I or my heirs should want to do this, and we are not able to defend you from Frido and his heirs, then I promise to pay you concerning this transaction]

Quem enim promissionis nostre cartulam Firmo notarium scriuere rogauimus. Actum Clusio.
+ Ego Ansefrid in ac cartula promissionis a me facta propria manu mea subscripsi.
+ Ego Rodcari diaconus rogitus a suprascripto manu mea propria subscripsi.
Signum + manus Aduald curaturi testis.
+ Ego Cuntulus presbiter testis.
+ Ego qui supra Firmus notarius pos traditione conpleui et emisi.
[witness clauses]

Any help on this (along with any other comments or discussion) particularly welcome. And in return I’ll try and dig out some more strange and wonderful stuff for you.


3 thoughts on “Way down upon the Putrid River (that’s where my charters are turning ever)

  1. Bit parts first then the problem charter (which I agree is horrible):

    the better informed about charters may want to dispute this

    Sorry, did you say eighth-century? They had charters then? etc. I have no dispute to make here…

    of course, “bouis” really means “uobis”

    Aha, yes, I’m afraid it does. And there’s Isidore saying betacism is an African phenomenon…

    So is it a lease or is it something else entirely?

    It’s an arrangement they made that suited their needs onto which our legal categories ain’t going to map, is my anti-Rechtgeschichte take on it, not that this helps you database it, obviously.

    Then, the charter. Firstly I think your worst section there becomes more plausible if one supposes that that repeated `ribus’ is actually `viribus’ somehow butchered or Romanced/Lombarded. Then it resolves into the companion half to the next bit, the whole thing overall being an agreement that, if there is ever a dispute using this charter between the six named parties and the two concerned in the promise, “si quoquo tempore cum ipse cartula uinditionis causare uoluerimus”, either the sellers against buyers or the other way round, then neither Ansfrid nor Frido will be able to swear in support of the charter for the other one. And then it goes on to say that Ansfrid and Frido won’t speak against the six in any case that anyone else raises so as to defend the land. I don’t know this Urkundenlandschaft at all, so I don’t know how reasonable it seems in context, but it seems OK a priori conceptually, if very odd socially; what it means is that Ansfrid and Frido disqualify themselves from defending this charter at law, implying I presume that they will have to find a third party to support any dispute they want to raise over it, as will any third-party disputant. No idea why that should be necessary, but again, individuals… Howzat?


    • While I completely agree with Jonathan’s interpretation, I still wonder if “ribus” might not just mean “rebus” (as Magistra obviously understood it in: “nisi ipsis ribus qualiter potuerimus nus ipsa defendamus uinditione” — “except to defend these things with the charter as much as we are able”). I believe “ris” for “res” ist not uncommon, and more specifically, we have another carta promissionis by the same notarius Firmus (no. 192), where it is more obvious that he means “res” when writing “ris”. I think it wouldn’t do much harm to Jonathan’s interpretation, if we take “ipsis ribus” to mean something like “regarding this matter”.

      Regarding cartae promissionis there are two papers by Yoshiya Nishimura online that deal with the relationship between cartae promissionis and leases (one, two).


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