The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview

THE CREATION OF THE CAROLINGIAN
FRONTIER-SYSTEM C. 8001

Herwig Wolfram

The modern word Grenze derives from the Slavic granica, and first enters standard German through Luther's translation of the Bible. The common Germanic word for frontier and frontier district already appears in Gothic as marka. From the Germanic language it enters Middle Latin and also Finnish and the Romance languages. Certainly the word is linked to the related Latin margo, margonis, 'edge'.2 According to our sources, a march was a frontier-zone, a more or less uninhabited region which surrounded inhabited or built-up territory, and often defined it. Such a band, however broad, did not merely define one village3 or one people, like the Alamans and Bavarians, from another within a region,4 but it could also mark the external frontier of a or the regnum, which had to be defended in some way or other, between neighbouring kingdoms.5 In Carolingian royal legislation the word appears for the first time in the Capitulary of Herstal in 779, and naturally in the regulation

1 I would like to thank Ian Wood and John Eldevik for the English translation of
this text.

2 H. Tiefenbach, Studien zu Wörtern volkssprachiger Herkunft in karolingischen Königsurkunden
(München, 1973), pp. 74–78; cf. W. Streitberg, Die gotische Bibel 2 5th edn (Heidelberg,
1965), p. 92 s.v.; cf. gamarkon ibid.

3 K. Brunner, “Die fränkischen Fürstentitel im neunten und zehnten Jahrhundert”, Inti-
tulatio II. Lateinische Herrscher- und Fürstentitel im neunten und zehnten Jahrhundert, ed. H. Wolf-
ram, MIÖG, Erg. Bd. 24 (Wien, 1973), pp. 208 f., at notes 16 f.; J. Grimm, Deutsche
Rechtsalterthümer 2, 4th edn. (Leipzig, 1899), pp. 8 ff. See Lex Ribvaria 58 b (60, 5) and
78 (75). DD. Kar. I, p. 553, s.v. (all entries), DD. LD, p. 418 s.v. (nearly all entries),
MGH Formulae, p. 762 s.v. (all entries), Traditionen Freising 2, p. 932 s.v. (all entries)
and Traditionen Mondsee, p. 264 s.v. (all entries). D. LD. 38 from 844/45 describes the
course of the upper Zöbernbach (Bucklige Welt, Lower Austria) as marca ubi (duo) comi-
tatus confiniunt.

4Pactus Alamannorum (39); Lex Alamannorum 46 (47) and Lex Baiovariorum 13, 9, contain
stipulations for the sale of free men outside the tribal territory.

5 The so-called passport law (G. Tangl, “Die Paßvorschrift des Königs Ratchis und
ihre Beziehung zu dem Verhältnis zwischen Franken und Langobarden vom 6. bis zum

8. Jahrhundert”, Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken 38 [1951],
pp. 1 ff.) of the Langobard king Ratchis (Laws of Ratchis 13, a. 746) appears to con-
tain the oldest use of the word marca for the border of a kingdom and its defence, see
the contribution of Walter Pohl in this volume.

-233-

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