Oaths of Strasbourg

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The Oaths of Strasbourg were several historical documents which included mutual pledges of allegiance between Louis the German (d. 876), ruler of East Francia, and his (half-)brother Charles the Bald (d. 877), ruler of West Francia. The several pledges were spoken at a strategic meeting in 842 at Strasbourg, with the brothers' assembled armies in attendance and participating in the ceremonies. In addition to their promised allegiance to the other, Louis and Charles pledged their solidarity to oppose their eldest brother Lothair, ruler of Middle Francia and, nominally, emperor of all the Carolingian Empire Frankish kingdoms as well as Holy Roman Emperor.

The historical nature of the meeting is made more remarkable by the additional, separate pledges that were scripted for the monarchs' armies – in their respective vernaculars – to the effect that, for each "soldier": should their own lord-king unilaterally break the oath just pledged (to the other king), then, each "soldier of the oath" promises not to help his master against the abused other monarch. The version used by Louis is often considered the oldest known specimen of French.


Sources and contents

A chief source for the meeting is Nithard's De dissensionibus filiorum Ludovici pii (On the Dissensions of the Sons of Louis the Pious), which is preserved in a single manuscript from the 10th or 11th century (Cod. Lat. 9768 in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris). The text of the oaths is on folios 12b2-13b1.

According to Nithard's version, both kings first made the same preamble speech, which was a detailed complaint against Lothair. Each king then swore his individual oath in front of their assembled armies, not in Latin nor in his own language, but in the vernacular of the other's kingdom. Finally, the armies swore separate pledges in their respective languages.

One version of the pledges was written in Old High German. The second version is in Old Occitan[1] (called romans [roˈmans] by native speakers and troubadours alike), which in those times was also spoken in the northern half of France, Italy and parts of Spain[2][3]: present-day Occitan and Catalan speakers will quite easily understand the text. The preamble was also written in Latin, as were sections to report the ceremonies.

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