The Info List - Oaths Of Strasbourg

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The OATHS OF STRASBOURG (Latin : Sacramenta Argentariae; French : Les Serments de Strasbourg; German : Die Straßburger Eide) were mutual pledges of allegiance between Louis the German (†876), ruler of East Francia , and his half-brother Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
(†877), ruler of West Francia made on 12 February 842. They are written in three different languages: Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
, Old Gallo-Romance
and Old High German , all in Caroline minuscule . The Romance passages are generally considered to be the earliest texts in a language that is distinctly Gallo-Romance.


* 1 Historical context * 2 Sources and contents * 3 Historical and linguistic significance * 4 Text * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 External links * 9 Further reading


The several pledges were spoken at a strategic meeting on 12 February 842 at Strasbourg
, with the brothers' assembled armies in attendance and participating in the ceremonies. In addition to their promised allegiance to each other, Louis and Charles pledged their solidarity to oppose their eldest brother Lothair , ruler of Middle Francia and, nominally, emperor of all the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Frankish kingdoms as well as Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
. Louis spoke his oath in the Romance language of Charles' realm, while Charles spoke his oath in lingua teudisca, Germanic, of Louis' realm.

The historical nature of the meeting is made more remarkable by the additional, separate pledges that were scripted for the monarchs' armies – in their respective vernaculars – to the effect that, for each "soldier": should their own lord-king unilaterally break the oath just pledged (to the other king), then, each "soldier of the oath" promises not to help his master against the abused other monarch.


Parchment containing the beginning of the Oaths in Gallo-Romance.

The sole source for the text of the oaths is Nithard 's Historiae or De dissensionibus filiorum Ludovici pii (On the Dissensions of the Sons of Louis the Pious), where it is found in Chapter V of Book III. Nithard's work is preserved in a manuscript from the 10th or 11th century (Cod. Lat. 9768 in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris) and the text of the oaths is on folios 12v-13r-13v. (A later, 14th-century manuscript is a copy of Cod. Lat. 9768 and therefore of no independent value as a source.)

Both kings first made the same preamble speech, which was a detailed complaint against Lothair. Each king then swore his individual oath in front of their assembled armies, not in Latin nor in his own language, but in the vernacular of the other's kingdom. Finally, the armies swore separate pledges in their respective languages.

One version of the pledges was written in the Rhine Franconian dialect of Old High German
Old High German
. The second version is in a form of Romance that can be viewed, very approximately, as Proto-French . The preamble was also written in Latin, as were sections to report the ceremonies.


The text is significant to both linguists and historians. Linguistically, the text is the first document known to be written in a Romance language
Romance language
, and specifically in a form of Gallo-Romance
. The documents also shed light on a significant period in the history of the Carolingian-Frankish empire. Historians have long used the coexistence of these bilingual documents to illustrate their theory that, by 842, the empire had begun splitting into separate proto-countries and developing with different languages and customs.

However, others of late have come to favour a different hypothesis: that the Frankish Kingdom comprised several regna (loosely translated as kingdoms) that since ancient times had maintained different customs and dialects. Supporting this theory they note that both Charlemagne and Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
sent their sons to be raised in the respective regna which they were designated to inherit, in order to better enlist the support of the local populace by becoming familiar with them and their customs.


The transcriptions are edited, with abbreviations written out and some punctuation and word boundaries inserted.

The image to the right is a scan of the original text. In the transcription below, two asterisks mark the beginning and end of the text visible in this scan.


Ergo xvi kal. marcii Lodhuvicus et Karolus in civitate que olim Argentaria vocabatur, nunc autem Strazburg vulgo dicitur, convenerunt et sacramenta que subter notata sunt, Lodhuvicus romana, Karolus vero teudisca lingua, juraverunt. Ac sic, ante sacramentum circumfusam plebem, alter teudisca, alter romana lingua, alloquuti sunt. Lodhuvicus autem, quia major natu, prior exorsus sic coepit:

“Quotiens Lodharius me et hunc fratrum meum, post obitum patris nostri, insectando usque ad internecionem delere conatus sit nostis. Cum autem nec fraternitas nec christianitas nec quodlibet ingenium, salva justicia, ut pax inter nos esset, adjuvare posset, tandem coacti rem ad juditium omnipotentis Dei detulimus, ut suo nutu quid cuique deberetur contenti essemus.

“In quo nos, sicut nostis, per misericordiam Dei victores extitimus, is autem victus una cum suis quo valuit secessit. Hinc vero, fraterno amore correpti nec non et super populum christianum conpassi, persequi atque delere illos noluimus, sed hactenus, sicut et antea, ut saltem deinde cuique sua justicia cederetur mandavimus.

“At ille post haec non contentus judicio divino, sed hostili manu iterum et me et hunc fratrem meum persequi non cessat, insuper et populum nostrum incendiis, rapinis cedibusque devastat. Quamobrem nunc, necessitate coacti, convenimus et, quoniam vos de nostra stabili fide ac firma fraternitate dubitare credimus, hoc sacramentum inter nos in conspectu vestro jurare decrevimus.

“Non qualibet iniqua cupiditate illecti hoc agimus, sed ut certiores, si Deus nobis vestro adjutorio quietem dederit, de communi profectu simus. Si autem, quod absit, sacramentum quod fratri meo juravero violare praesumpsero, a subditione mea necnon et a juramento quod mihi jurastis *unumquemque vestrum absolvo”

Cumque Karolus haec eadem verba romana lingua perorasset, Lodhuvicus, quoniam major natu erat, prior haec deinde se servaturum testatus est:

So, Louis and Charles met on the 16th day before the calends of March (14 February) in the town that used to be called Argentaria but which is now commonly known as Strasbourg, and they swore the oaths given below, Louis in Romance and Charles in German. But before swearing the oaths, they made speeches in German and Romance. Louis, being the elder, began as follows:

“Let it be known how many times Lothair has — since our father died — attempted to destroy me and this brother of mine, committing massacres in his pursuit of us. But since neither brotherhood nor Christianity nor any natural inclination, save justice, has been able to bring peace between us, we have been forced to take the matter to the judgement of almighty God, so that we may accept whatever His will is.

“The result was, as you all know, that by the Grace of God we came out as victors, and that he, defeated, went back to his people where he was stronger. But then, motivated by brotherly love and compassion for Christendom, we decided not to pursue and destroy them; instead, until now, we have asked him at least to submit to justice as in the past.

“But he, despite this, not content with God's judgement, does not cease to come after me and this brother of mine with his armies. Moreover, he is devastating our people by burning, pillaging and murdering. That is why we now, driven by necessity, are having