Catalogi regum Norwagiensium

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by Lars Boje Mortensen

(1) Catalogus regum Norwagiensium

With the possible exception of the list of Ynglinge kings in Historia Norwegie (chs. 9-10), the earliest attested Latin register of Norwegian kings has not survived, but is referred to in an unambiguous manner by Theodoricus Monachus in his Historia composed in Trondheim around 1180, ch. 20: “Eidem vero Kanuto et filio ejus Sueinoni et Haconi nepoti ejus asscribuntur anni quinque in catalogo regum Norwagiensium.” (“But in the register of Norwegian kings, five years of rule are ascribed to this same Knútr and his son Sveinn and his nephew Hákon.”) (tr. MCDOUGALL & MCDOUGALL 1998). It has been argued by STORM that this Catalogus began with St. Olaf (d. 1030) because Theodoricus explicitly refers to the Icelanders and the lack of written evidence when he tries to determine the anno Domini years of Harald Finehair’s reign (late ninth-early tenth century) in ch. 1 of his history. But as observed by ELLEHØJ 1965, Theodoricus does mention the number of years of Harald’s reign, and he does say in the preface that before Harald there is no certain lineage of kings. By thorough analysis of Theodoricus’s narrative, ELLEHØJ has succeeded in characterizing the Catalogus: A list of kings from Harald Fairhair to (at least) the sons of Magnus Bare-leg, Olaf (d. 1115), Eystein (d. 1123), Sigurd Jorsalfar (“Crusader”) (d. 1130) which invariably included durations of reigns (but not anno Domini-datings) and occasional asides on church building activities. ELLEHØJ does not discuss the age of the Catalogus, but presupposes that it is a product of the archbishopric itself, i.e. he envisages a date between 1153 and 1180. (There is, however, hardly any compelling evidence that it could not have been produced at the episcopal see of Trondheim in the 1130s or 1140s). It provided the backbone of Theodoricus’s history and was also used in the vernacular chronicle Ágrip in Trondheim around 1190. For references to opinions on the nature of the Catalogus differing sometimes widely from ELLEHØJ’s see MCDOUGALL & MCDOUGALL 1998, 92-93. (where, however, ELLEHØJ’s analysis is misrepresented – he does not state that the Catalogus was a narrative text). The idea that Theodoricus relied on the chronological skeleton provided by the information of the length of reigns as given in Catalogus is corroborated indirectly by SKÅNLAND 1966.

(2) Genealogia et series regum

This fragmentary list runs in from Ragnar (“Ragnaldus”) Lothbrok to Magnus Haraldsson (1066-1069) but originally had a continuation. Apart from names the author had an interest in the eternal afterlife of kings: Olaf is “coronatus propter martirium”, Harald Hårderåde is “non coronatus” etc. The list is transmitted on a folio-sized cover leaf, probably belonging to a liturgical book of the fourteenth century from Bergen. According to STORM the list must derive from the lineage of kings given in Heimskringla (ca. 1240). Consequently it is to be dated somewhere between ca. 1250 and 1400.

Editions

  • SRD 6 (1786), 375-76.
  • • STORM 1880, 181.

(3) Reges Norwegie

The kings listed here are those from Harald Finehair (late ninth-early tenth century) to Håkon III (1202-1204) (and a non-existent Magnus entered by mistake). Lengths of reigns and other pieces of information are only occasionally added. The list was entered, according to STORM, around the middle of the fifteenth century by two different hands on the penultimate leaf of a thirteenth-century manuscript containing the Saga of St. Olaf.

Editions

  • MUNCH, P.A. & UNGER, C.R. 1853: Saga Olafs konungs ens helga: udförligere Saga om Kong Olaf den Hellige efter det ældste fuldstændige Pergaments Haandskrift i det store kongelige Bibliothek i Stockholm, Kristiania, p. XLVII.
  • • STORM 1880, 182.

(4) Catalogus regum Norvegiæ

As the previous item this catalogue begins with Harald Finehair, but ends much later, with the Union king Erik of Pomerania. The concluding phrase states that he has ruled fifty-four years up to the present day, which points to the year 1443 as that of redaction. This is compatible with other material in this collection of Norwegian and Orkney related historical writings of which we now only possess a Scottish copy from around 1500 (Historia Norwegie and CHESNUTT 1986). As recognized by STORM the Latin text is a translation of a list in Old Norse found in a fourteenth century Norwegian law manuscript (with later additions). The translation is fairly close and also uses the simple narrative junctures of the original such as “Tunc accepit ... regnum”, “post ipsum” etc.. However, it leaves out two kings (probably by mistake) and reads differently in the closing statement on Erik of Pomerania. Lengths of reigns are always included and sometimes family relations and causes of death as well.

Editions

  • MUNCH, P.A. 1850: Symbolæ ad historiam antiquiorem rerum Norvegicarum, Kristiania, 26-27.
  • • STORM 1880, 183-86.

Bibliography

  • AÐALBJARNASON, B. 1937: Om de norske kongers sagaer (Skrifter utgitt av det norske Videnskabs-akademi i Oslo, II. Hist-filos. klasse), Oslo.
  • CHESNUTT, M. 1986: “The Dalhousie Manuscript of the Historia Norvegiae,” (Bibliotheca Arnamagnæana 38, Opuscula 8), 54-95.
  • ELLEHØJ, S. 1965: Studier over den ældste norrøne historieskrivning (Bibliotheca arnamagnæana 26), Copenhagen.
  • MCDOUGALL, D. & MCDOUGALL, I. 1998: Theodoricus Monachus, Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensium. An Account of the Ancient History of the Norwegian Kings. Translated and annotated by D. and I. McDougall, with an introduction by P. Foote, London.
  • SKÅNLAND, V. 1966: “The year of Harald Fairhair’s access to the throne,” Symbolae Osloenses 41, 125-28.
  • STORM, G. 1880: MHN, Kristiania.