Academic journal article Kritika

Byzantine Imperial Purple in Ancient Rus'

Academic journal article Kritika

Byzantine Imperial Purple in Ancient Rus'

Article excerpt

Under the year 6760 (1252), the Hypatian (Galician-Volhynian) Chronicle describes the appearance of the Galician-Volhynian prince when he met the German Emperor Frederick Us envoys, who had arrived in Bratislava to hold talks with the Hungarian King Bela IV, whose ally Daniel was at that time.

   [Danylo] himself rode at the king's side in accordance with the
   traditions of Rus'. The horse he rode was [wondrous to behold] and
   his saddle was of pure gold. His arrows and sword were adorned with
   gold and other ornaments, so that one did not cease marveling at
   them, [while he was dressed in] a fur coat [kozhukh] trimmed with
   Greek olovir and gold lace and boots made of green leather stitched
   together with gold. The Germans, seeing [it] were greatly
   surprised. And the king told [Danylo] that his coming [to him
   dressed] in accordance with the traditions of Rus' and of his
   forefathers was more important to him than a thousand pieces of
   silver. Danylo asked for permission to enter the king's camp,
   because it was extremely hot that day. [The king] took his arm and
   led him into his tent, undressed him, and put his own clothes on
   him. Such was the [great] honor that the king bestowed upon
   [Danylo]. (1)

The significance of this account remains largely underestimated by researchers despite frequent references to it. The commentary to the latest edition of the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle only emphasizes the fact that the chronicler provides a highly detailed description of the prince's attire: "[It] seems to be the most detailed description of a prince's official apparel in Old Rus' literature." (2)

Indeed, following Nikolai M. Karamzin and Sergei M. Solov'ev, historians have interpreted the cited chronicle passage to be solely an illustration of the traditional ceremonial dress of Old Rus' princes. Solov'ev, for example, interpreted the chronicler's information as follows: "Daniel was attired according to the Rusian tradition: the saddle on his horse was made of burnt gold, his arrows and sword were decorated with gold and different sophisticated details, the kozhukh was made of Greek olovir and trimmed with flat gold lace, his boots were made of green morocco [hza] and decorated with gold." (3) Nikolai I. Kostomarov understood the meaning of the chronicler's words in a similar manner: "Danylo himself rode beside the king, dressed in the Rusian manner: his saddle was trimmed with pure gold," (4) and so on. The authors of numerous works on the history of Old Russian literature reached the same conclusion: that the description of Daniel's splendid attire was intended to glorify the image of the prince of Rus' created by the chronicler. (5)

Nevertheless, the reference in the above account to the "tradition of Rus'" that Daniel followed does not seem to refer to the prince's dress. These words, in our opinion, most likely refer to how the prince of Rus ' behaved toward the king of Hungary: more precisely, what place he occupied in relation to the king when the latter met the German envoys. The chronicler makes it clear that, following the tradition of Rus', Daniel rode near the king of Hungary ("he rode at the king's side in accordance with the traditions of Rus"'), while the soldiers who accompanied the Galician-Volhynian prince, among whom were horsemen dressed in bright Tatar armor, rode separately.

As for Daniel's attire and the harness of his horse, according to the chronicle they appeared to be very unusual (which would make it worth the chronicler's while to describe them in detail). Judging from the chronicler's description, the only traditional item of Daniel's attire was perhaps his outer garment--kozhukh--which was, apparently, a fur-lined coat. Such garments were found in the wardrobes of Moscow grand dukes and tsars in the 14th--17th centuries. For example, kozhukhs decorated with stripes, lace, and necklaces (alams) with pearls are mentioned in the will of Ivan Kalita and in the Book of Royal Ceremonies (Kniga tsarskikh vykhodov) of Alexei Mikhailovich in reference to the year 7156 (from 1 September 1647 to 30 August 1648). …

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