Gambar halaman


The Catti remained the head of the Germanic union until A. D. 240. But all the struggles which fill out this time, including the rising of the Batavi under Civilis, show no other Cattian merit than to have kept alive the warlike traditions of their race from generation to generation.* They withstood Roman sovereignty, it is true; but Germanic order in one State they never attained. The insurrection of the Batavi was impure even in motives and means, as they made overtures to the Gauls for a united national action.

"Now followed peace for whole centuries. The hoary Roma was unable to restore her lost resources; youthful Germania was soon strengthened again and soon replaced her losses. In this period, as far as Germanic populations extended, several great groups of peoples entered upon the arena of history, of whom we follow the course of the one only which specially concerns us. The nearest remarkable fact is, that within these tranquil centuries the old names of nations disappear in such a manner that our eye no longer can espy them, and that suddenly, entirely new relations emerge into the light of history. What has become of the Cherusci, the Bructeri, the Catti? In their places all at once we hear, alongside of Alemanni, Goths and Saxons, the name of Franks!

"Why and under what circumstances this name was created, is naturally beyond all investigation; but once uttered-and it probably came from the Catti and Hattuarii —it had the effect as of a watchword fallen from Heaven, to which instantaneously all nations bowed from the Yssel to the lower Main. That name, which like a war-cry was borne for the first time into the Roman Empire A. D. 240, signified a confederacy of nations, which had still and slowly ripened during the years of rest. The Hattuarii opposite Cologne were also counted in it: who can tell how much merit in the creation of the name of Franks ought not be given to the undying spirit of their victorious ancestors? But far more significantly the name of Franks resounds suddenly from quite another quarter! Against the piratica! expeditions of Franks and Saxons the Belgian Carausius was sent in 287. But instead of punishing the pirates he seized Britannia, made himself ruler of it, and formed a league with the Franks, who were by him induced to seize the island of Batavia. The Emperors Maximinus, Constantine Chlorus, and finally Constantine the Great, sent armies against them; they were conquered but rose again; they were decimated, and filled up their ranks. This points to a people which, having gathered its strength in at least two centuries of peace, had now sufficient to spend. And what was the success of the Roman armies? A single great Iskaevonian union of Franks! To terrify them Constantine had erected a bridge near Cologne; the answer to it was the Frankish union! Strange! Cæsar, too, to terrify them, had built a bridge; and the answer was the Sicambrian confederacy! This mysterious people, which during all these struggles had seized the countries between the Lower Rhine and the Meuse; which in Toxanderloh had its regal seat, and now like a native king took from the Catti the leadership, as if but resuming a right only temporarily relinquished; at whose beck the Iskaevonian nations, with innate

A very great merit, we think.

obedience, instantaneously rallied,- that nation which was called the Salic Franks - who were they? whence did they come? And how remarkable it is that with the Salic Franks, another Frankland, that of the Ripuarii, was at the same time discerned, and that these Ripuarii dwelt precisely where once the Sicambri on the banks of the Rhine had stood at guard. Once more, who were these mysterious Salic Franks?

"Let us look at the map. Between the Yssel and Vechte rivers lies a sterile heath, called Veluwe. That country had at the time of . Cæsar no inhabitants. The proof is to be found in the history of the Menapii. We know that 430,000 Usipetes and Tenctheri were permitted by the Sicambri to pass through their country; that they went around the island of Batavia, and that they surprised the Menapii, who were unprepared. That this flank movement and surprise were possible, proves that the Veluwe was an uninhabited country.

Before the Batavian war, however, there dwelt in it a tribe of Germani. Therefore the Veluwe was settled between the reigns of Cæsar and of Nero. The people dwelling there were not Frisians, hence they did not come from the North; moreover, Tiberius had particularly prohibited any settlements in the countries between the Rhine and Yssel, the so-called Land's-defence; therefore the inhabitants must have settled there before the establishment of this Land's-defence. But Tiberius exiled a nation by his own authority into a country of the Lower Rhine, and this nation were the Sicambri."

But maps and historians tell us that the new name of the Sicambri was Gugerni. This assumption Dr. Watterich shows to be founded but upon the single authority of Suetonius, and besides upon an authority couched in very indefinite terms. A glance at the map must show that the geographical position of the Gugerni, on the left bank of the Rhine, assuming them to have been the Sicambri, was an historical impossibility. The irreconcilable Sicambri could never have lived with the Gauls; you might as well put a handful of men among a tribe of cannibals and expect them to survive. The Sicambri are thus shown to be identical with the Franks of the third century. Our ancient maps and histories will have to be rectified.*

We cannot stop to point out the analogies suggested, and the considerations which naturally arise, but will retrace our steps to the Porta and the events properly belonging to it. The military and historic importance of the Porta Westphalica first prominently appears during the march of Germanicus A. D. 16, for undoubtedly the battlefield of Idistavisus was there. As did the diluvial waters, so the Roman and heathen armies dashed and broke around it. Such a mountain-gate with a navigable stream passing through it, must have strongly invited a defeated army to rally behind it, or to serve as cover to the rear of an advancing army. There is a conflict of opinions among the learned as to where this celebrated battlefield was situated. Some believe the valley of Rinteln above was the spot,

So says Eschenburg: The Sicambri were driven across the Rhine by the Catti (?) during the reign of Augustus. And D'Anville: Pressed by the Cattians (?) whom Cæsar calls Suevi ?) they were together with the Ubii (?) received into Gaul on the left bank of the Rhine (?) under Augustus, and there is reason to believe that the people who occupied this position under the name of Gugerni, were Sicambrians. (?)

while others place it below the Porta, near Minden. One of the Weser antiquarians, Mr. Piderit, has a theory which is of great plausibility; he places the battlefield within the Porta itself. Military men would agree with Mr. Piderit, since it is strong and tenable above all other positions in this part of the lower Weser. He believes the word Idistavisus to be composed of Id or Ith (stone or rock), and of sta or stau (stauen, to stow, stave, dam), and of Wiese (meadow); and to signify a Felsen-Stau-Wiese, or a meadow near which the water is stowed between two rocks However this may be, there could not be a more ingenious definition; this however is certain, that both before and after the battle the struggles continued all around the Porta upon the sullen retreat of Germanicus, since which time the Romans never again pushed forward into the lower Elbe and Weser countries. In the uncertain period following, above alluded to, the town of Minden was probably founded, as its first mention leaves its foundation shrouded in mystery. But with Charlemagne, Pepin, and Charles Martel, the importance of the Porta revives. With his Franks, he took on his warlike expeditions into northwestern Germany the same roads from the Rhine and Cologne through the gulf of Münster and the lands of the old Bructeri, as did the Romans. Here he met an old Saxon tribe, the Engern. They lived around the middle Weser on both banks, above and below the Porta Westphalica. Their princes had their residences at Minden and upon the rocks overhanging the Porta; also in the ancient village of Engern, south of it. This celebrated name of Engern, which the present Saxon princes still bear in their sovereign titles: "Lords of Engern and Westphalen," meaning "narrow," undoubtedly, as we think with Dr. Kohl, refers to the narrow passage of the Porta, and "Herr zu Engern" we would hold to mean Lord-Wardens of the Porta.

Now, one of these Lord-Wardens in the times of Charlemagne was Duke Wittekind or Wedekind, the Saxon Arminius. As the Cherusci under Arminius had fought in a circle round the Porta, so the Saxons under Wittekind in their struggles against the Franks made it their point stratégique. Tradition makes of Wittekind,* the great heathen hero and general, a king; his name and power cling around this mountain-gate as the roots of the mighty oak to the soil. It is surmised that the town of Engern was his and his ancestors' residence ; the Minden chroniclers, however, maintain that he resided in a castle within their city also. Within the Porta even tradition gives him royal castles perched on both sides of the gap. One of these is said to have been on the Jacobsberg, around which lies the present little town of Hausberge, and the descendants of the heathen Duke are said to have there held court for centuries. It was named "Huus tom Berge," das Haus zum Berge; and the grandsons of Wittekind" were styled "Herren vom Berge," and the town which gradually grew up beneath it, "Hausberge." At the foot of this hill is still a manorhouse whose possessor has made of the ancient Jacobsberg a lovely garden. In the midst of this garden, on the crest of the hill, a monument of stone has been erected, whereupon the words are engraven : "Hier herrschte einst König Wittekind."

Or Wedeking the white king, like Belisar = Beloi Zar?

[ocr errors]

Another residence tradition gives him on the other side of the Weser at the foot of the western Porta pillar. This was the principal burgh, and hence its ancient name Wittekindsstein," or as the lower Saxons would say, "Wedigenstein." This, too, is the name of the present manor-house at that place. One of the granaries of this manor has ancient deep wells, which the people consider the remains of the dwelling of Wittekind. Every hill, stone, spring, and in any way remarkable spot, tradition here has consecrated in some manner to the memory of this first of Saxon dukes; the whole western Porta range in fact is called the Wittekinds-Berg, or "Mons Wedegonis."

Tradition shows us its favorite as a light-haired youth issuing from the castle-gates to hunt in the mountains. Again it shows him to us when conquered by Charlemagne, how, like King Alfred abandoned by his own, he errs with his "faithful companion-in-arms Ulk" in the forests; or, again like King Alfred, disguised as a beggar he appears in the camp of his enemy, and recognised by his great antagonist, he embraces Christianity. A limpid spring which wondrously gushes on the pinnacle of the mount from a rock, and whose waters there gather in a natural basin, it ascribes to the pawing of his war-steed, which opened the spring as Moses with his rod opened the well in the desert. On the crest of the mountain, perhaps where in days of eld stood the Wodan pillar of the Saxons, there now rises a high round stone-tower, whence the wanderer may survey the whole country over which the Porta Westphalica domineers, and look down upon the deep chasm itself and the steep mountain-wall clad to the foot in forest. There lie before him the wide heaths, turf moors and laughing meadows of the town of Minden, its towers and surrounding villages; turning, he beholds the ever charmingly changing valley of the Weser, with its southern border, the Teutoburgian forest. During particularly clear days the searching eye may nearly reach to the sea and dimly discern the towers of Bremen. Three poor, almost octogenarian peasant-women from the neighboring villages constitute at this day the garrison, keeping in turn "watch on the Weser." They will sit at the portal of the tower and knit their stockings unwearyingly; they will show you the rooms entrusted to their care, and tell you their sagas of the old "König Wedeking" in their Plattdeutsch dialect. They will point out to you the town of Engern below, where he now lies buried, and in their simple and believing manner tell you the celebrated story of his feigned death and premature burial. "Well, we will take a seat near you, old mother, and ask you to tell us of it; will you not?" And thus while the ever-blowing breezes on the heights of the Porta-tower play around you, and the shadows of the summer-clouds make a kaleidoscopic picture of the brilliant valleys below, with the rush of the river as it surges beneath you through the gap audible to your ears, with now and then the shrill whistle of the locomotive recalling fading reality, you may listen to the tale of the Norna of the Porta Westphalica.

"Young lady, some persons laugh when I tell them; they are silly people. If you will not laugh, I will gladly tell you."

"We will not laugh, we assure you.

"The King was a good prince, but he was suspicious too. He did

not believe all he heard; there were many flatterers about him. So one day he hit upon a deep plan to find out who cared for him and who did not. He had the news spread through our Saxon land that he had died and was to be buried on a certain day. When this false news spread in the 'gauen,' many a one came to see the burial with tears in his eyes: these loved him. But there were others who cared not a straw-halm. They minded not when the heralds brought the sad tidings, and stayed at home; they were those who never cared for the brave Wedeking. But there was one of the vasallen who, because he lived in the thick forest yonder, never heard of the King's death until the dead body was on its way to the grave. The train had already neared it when the vassal came wildly riding up, his horse foaming and steaming, to the wonderment of the people.

"Hold!' he cried, 'let me see my King once more ere you put him in the grave!' whereupon, as of a miracle, the lid of the coffin rose, and good King Wedeking spake: 'So you shall, my true and brave knight; and a barony you'll have, and Nalop* shall be thy


"Tell us, good mother, what became of the Nalops?"

[ocr errors]

"Ah, they've died out long ago. before I was born-but the barony is still a barony. And there is 'Wedeking's Sattelmeier,' whose people tended his horses; and the 'Windmeiers,' who kept the dogs; and the 'Evermeiers,' who were masters of the boars - they had all fiefs from the good King, and the fee-farms are all about here and had their rights until not long ago."

[ocr errors]

"Could we see one of the fiefs from here?"

[ocr errors]

"Oh yes; but my eyes are too old. Down yonder by Engern there is the Windmeier's farm. They're not so valuable now, they tell me, since the King of Prussia has refused to continue the rights they enjoyed and the duties the peasantry owed them. Many a basket of eggs I have carried to the Windmeier in my young days; but now they won't get them any longer. They call that-well, I don't remember, and I don't understand it."

"Can't you tell us something of beautiful Queen Gewa?"

"They say she was much liked by Kaiser Karl, and did much to make him friendly to our good King Wedeking. We oft speak of her at Engern, for when the King died she had him buried there. They wanted him to be buried in Minden, and in Huusbergen, and in ever so many places; but, you know, she had promised him on his deathbed that she would have him buried in the first church that was finished, because when King Wedeking had become a Christian he ordered the building of churches everywhere. Not one was ready when he died; then they all made haste to have their churches ready. The Minden people were then building their steeple; so were the Huusbergers. The Engern folks were far behind them all-they had not even finished the roof. But their master-mason was a Moor, who told them that King Wedeking never said anything about a steeple; so while the others were putting on the high steeple on the belfry, he had finished the church and hung the bells. Queen Gewa

*"Nalop," nachläufer, runner after, or what would come nearer in sound, though not in meaning, loafer after.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »