Thietmar of Merseburg
Thietmar of Merseburg (25 July 975 – 1 December 1018) was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 chronicler who was also bishop of Merseburg.


Thietmar was a son of Siegfried the Elder, count of Walbeck (d. 15 March 991), and was related to the family of the emperor Otto the Great
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

, and Kunigunde (ca. 956–13 July 997), daughter Henry I the Bald, Count of Stade
Stade is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany and part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region . It is the seat of the district named after it...

 (House of Udonids). Thietmar was educated at Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is a town located north of the Harz mountains, in the district of Harz in the west of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. In 1994 the medieval court and the old town was set on the UNESCO world heritage list....

 and at Magdeburg
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

, became provost
Provost (religion)
A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian churches.-Historical Development:The word praepositus was originally applied to any ecclesiastical ruler or dignitary...

 of Walbeck Abbey in 1002 and bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of Merseburg seven years later. He took some part in the political events of the time; in 994 he was a hostage in the hands of the Northmen, and he was not unfamiliar with the actualities of war.

He died on 1 December 1018 and was buried in Merseburg cathedral
Merseburg Cathedral
Merseburg Cathedral is a cathedral in Merseburg, Germany. Construction on the Gothic cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015. It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Henry II. The cathedral was renovated in the Renaissance style from 1510-17. It is considered an artistic...


Thietmar's Chronicle

Between 1012 and 1018 Thietmar, while Bishop of Merseburg, composed his chronicle "Chronicon Thietmari, which comprises in eight books, that cove the period 908 to 1018, the Saxon Emporers Henry I (called the Fowler), the three Ottos, and Henry II (the Saint). The first three books covering the reigns of Henry I and the first two Ottos, are largely based on previous chronicles, most of which are still in extant; the fourth book, comprising the reign of Otto III, contains much original matter; while the remaining four books, which describe the reign of Henry II to the year 1018, are the independent narrative of Dithmar. As councillor of the emperor and participant in many important political transactions, he was well equipped for writing a history of his times. The spirit of sincerity which pervades his chonical is abundant compensation for the barbarous expressions which occasionally mar the literary style. The last four books, besides being the principal source for Saxon history during the reign of the holy emperor Henry II, contain valuable information, not to be found elsewhere, regarding the contemporary history and civilization of the Slavic tribes east of the river Elbe, especially the Poles and Hungarians. For the earlier part he used Widukind of Corvey
Widukind of Corvey
Widukind of Corvey was a Saxon historical chronicler, named after the Saxon duke and national hero Widukind who had battled Charlemagne. Widukind the chronicler was born in 925 and died after 973 at the Benedictine abbey of Corvey in East Westphalia...

's Res gestae Saxonicae, the Annales Quedlinburgenses
Annals of Quedlinburg
The Annals of Quedlinburg were written between 1008 and 1030 in the convent of Quedlinburg Abbey. In recent years a consensus has emerged that the annalist was a woman.The annals are mostly dedicated to the history of the Holy Roman Empire; they also contain the first written mention of the name...

and other sources; the latter part is the result of personal knowledge.

The Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 style and the composition are not of a high standard, largely because, as the original manuscript reveals, Thietmar continued to make amendments and insertions to the text after it was completed. Nor does he always discriminate between important and unimportant events.

The chronicle is nevertheless an excellent authority for the history of Saxony
Duchy of Saxony
The medieval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy" covering the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt and most of Schleswig-Holstein...

 during the reigns of the emperors Otto III
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto III , a King of Germany, was the fourth ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected King in 983 on the death of his father Otto II and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 996.-Early reign:...

 and Henry II
Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry II , also referred to as Saint Henry, Obl.S.B., was the fifth and last Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty, from his coronation in Rome in 1014 until his death a decade later. He was crowned King of the Germans in 1002 and King of Italy in 1004...

. No kind of information is excluded, but the fullest details refer to the Bishopric of Merseburg
Bishopric of Merseburg
The Bishopric of Merseburg was a episcopal see on the eastern border of the mediæval Duchy of Saxony with its centre in Merseburg, where Merseburg Cathedral was constructed...

, and to the wars against the Wends
Wends is a historic name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used...

 and the Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...


The original manuscript of the work was moved in 1570 to Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

. When the city was destroyed by bombing during World War II
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

 the manuscript was severely damaged, and only a few folios remain intact. Fortunately a complete facsimile edition had been published by L. Schmidt (Dresden, 1905).

Thietmar's statement that the Gero Cross in Cologne cathedral
Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a World Heritage Site...

 was commissioned by Archbishop Gero, who died in 976, was dismissed by art historians, who thought he meant another cross, until the 1920s, and finally confirmed as correct in 1976 by dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...


Editions and translations of Thietmar's Chronicle

Thietmari Merseburgensis episcopi Chronicon:
  • Mentzel-Reuters, Arno und Gerhard Schmitz. Chronicon Thietmari Merseburgensis. MGH. Munich, 2002. Images of the Dresden MS (prepared by Birgit Arensmann und Alexa Hoffmann), a search facility and Holtzmann's 1935 edition, available online
  • Holtzman, Robert (ed.) and J.C.M. Laurent, J. Strebitzki und W. Wattenbach (trs.). Die Chronik des Thietmar von Merseburg. Halle, 2007 (1912). ISBN 978-3-89812-513-0. New publication based on earlier editions and German translations and including 48 illustrations by Klaus F. Messerschmidt.
  • Holtzmann, Robert (ed.). Die Chronik des Bischofs Thietmar von Merseburg und ihre Korveier Überarbeitung. MGH Scriptores rerum Germanicarum NS 9. Berlin, 1935. Available from digital MGH
  • Wattenbach, Wilhem
    Wilhelm Wattenbach
    Wilhelm Wattenbach , was a German historian.He was born at Ranzau in Holstein. He studied philology at the universities of Bonn, Göttingen and Berlin, and in 1843 he began to work upon the Monumenta Germaniae Historica...

     and Friedrich Kurze (eds.). Thietmari Merseburgensis episcopi Chronicon. MGH Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum separatim editi 54. Hanover, 1889. PDF available online from the Internet Archive.
  • Lappenberg, J.M.
    Johann Martin Lappenberg
    Johann Martin Lappenberg , was a German historian.-Biography:He was born at Hamburg, where his father, Valentin Anton Lappenberg , held an official position. He attended the Johanneum and the Akademisches Gymnasium of Hamburg. Like his father he studied medicine, but afterwards history, at the...

     (ed.). "Thietmari Chronicon a 919-1018." In Annales, chronica et historiae aevi Saxonici, ed. Heinrich Pertz. MGH Scriptores (in Folio) 3. Hanover, 1839. 723–871. Available online
  • Warner, David A. (tr.). Ottonian Germany. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg. Manchester, 2001. ISBN 0-7190-4925-3. English translation.
  • Trillmich, Werner (tr.). In Thietmar von Merseburg. Chronik. Ausgewählte Quellen zur Deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters vol 9. 8th ed. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2002 (1957). ISBN 3-534-00173-7. Translation into modern German.
  • Holtzmann (tr.). 1938. GdV, 4.Aufl. German translation.
  • von Laurent (tr.). 2. Aufl. Berlin, 1879. German translation.

Further reading

(full text of the facsimile of the Dresden MS and Holtzmann's edition)
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