18 Mar 2014

600 years since last enthronement of the Carinthian dukes

Hello guys,

not a hobby blog as such, but an introduction to yet another project I'm thinking of starting while I should be painting my moderns! :P

On this day, 600 years are passing since last enthronement of the Carinthian dukes and Carantanian "princes" before them. A ceremony that has been practiced for around 6-7 centuries.
A reconstruction of Carantanian coat of arms. Same symbol (with different colours) is a coat of arms of today's Austrian Styria.

Map of the early Carantania and today's Slovenia. The state was larger at some point in the past, too.
Long story short, in 7th century, Carantania was formed. Carantania is said to be the first Slovenian, and Slavic in general, independent state. It was preceded by a larger (also including today's Czech republic and Slovakia) Samo's (a Frankish merchant turned ruler) tribal union. After his death, Carantania was formed as a result of a revolt against Avars (Avarian?) overrule (Avars were nomadic people similar to the Huns). If I really simplify the history, it was an independent state until middle 9th century, when the Avars have turned their attention to Carantania and other Slavic territories again. Carantanian "prince" (called "Knez" and not really a prince) had to ask Bavarians (western border) for assistance. Bavarians accepted the offer, but under one condition - Carantania had to give up it's outer independance and accept Bavarian (Frankish) over rule and Christianity, as the kingdom's religion. Carantanians agreed and defeated the Avars with Franksih help. As a guarantee, knez Borut (also "Boruth") has sent his son Gorazd ("Cacatius") and his nephew Hotimir ("Cheitimar") to Bavarian duke as hostages. As an interesting fact, they resided on the Herreninsel on the lake Chiemsee (Bavaria), where they have been converted to Christianity. I might want to brag a little and let you know I was there last friday, but there are no remains to be seen there. They returned to Carantania where Gorazd ruled as a first Christian knez, followed after three years by Hotimir. They were expanding Christianity in the region, which was badly received and people were revolting. One of the revolts, against later knez, called Valtunk, was described by our greatest poet (so you know it is good :P) in his magnum opus. A part of it (translated in English!) can be found here, if anyone fancies a hard read :D. Also "Kajtimir" is another name for "Hotimir" and Valjhun is Valtunk, but there is no evidence that he was really Hotimir's son. He was his successor as a knez, that is for sure. Anyways, Bavarians were conquered by Franks in approximately same time and Carantania became part of Frankish and later Holy Roman Empire and so on. In Bavaria, the oldest known Slovenian texts were found - dating from the 10th century. They are Christian texts, probably translated to help with Christianity of the people. Even in 14th century, some parts of today's Slovenia were believed to be "completely wild", as people there still believed in pagan gods.

A future prince speaks to a pesant, sitting on the Stone.
The stone today. On top of it is a Carinthian coat of arms.
Slovenia's 2 euro cents coint
Every Carantanian prince and later Carinthian duke (Carinthia is a part of Austria and partly Slovenia today) was enthroned in Slovenian language, following roughly the same ritual from the first known Carantanian knez Valuk to last Carinthian duke Ernest the Iron on 18th march 1414. After that, the Habsburg rule was strong enough they felt no need to follow the ritual anymore.
The Carantanians (Karantanci) were free members of village communities and were electing their "princes" (and later dukes) following a unique ceremony. The ceremony took place at Krn Castle (today's Krnburg), which was probably the centre of the state. The prince had to swear that he would respect and defend the people's will and their right in front of all the assembled free people. Then the peasant or "kosez" (kosez was actually a member of Knez's personal guard, full time soldier and a sort of a nobleman), sitting on a prince's stone (the capital of an Ionic column from ancient Virunum that was located in the vicinity) would give the sit to the elected prince in exchange for a horse and a specked bull. Even after the Carantanians have lost their independence, the ritual was preserved and the dukes of Carinthia would be enthroned in Slovenian language (or proto-Slavic, if you prefer), but naturally, a King had to be asked for permission and so on. Later, ritual was extended with the use of a Duke's throne, a two-sided throne where new duke and a high ranking Christian priest (the exact title escapes me) were giving away land (feuds). On the throne, the duke had to take his oath in German.
The ritual is said to be so interesting, even Jean Bodin wrote about it (claiming the ceremony is unrivaled in the known history). His texts drew the attention of Thomas Jefferson, who is believed to have incorporated parts of it into the American Constitution.
(modified article  based on Slovenia.si)
Duke's throne at Krnski grad (Krnburg) in 19th century. There is no castle there, if you wondered.
The throne is located on the exact same spot where it always was. As you can see by the quality, it's clearly my photo :D
Other side of the throne. I keep forgetting which one is which.

So, how does this apply to the hobby, you wonder? Well, it doesn't really. But my unofficial scapegoat, Colgar6 keeps drawing my attention to SAGA with his great battle reports (that you should read if you haven't done so yet). As this wasn't enough, he has started a Jason and the Argonauts project, as well. While I've just started working on my moderns, I'm already looking towards either Carantanian warband for SAGA (that I'd never play, but I wouldn't mind converting some plastics as a "soul project") or Jason's tale with a twist - a young Carantanian warrior and his band of soldiers, traveling through the state, engaging the creatures of Slavic mythology (that not much is known about). Probably on their way to save a woman. This is always a valid reason to risk your life. I like both ideas as their core has been done, so rules are there, but in the meanwhile, they weren't done with that twist, so if done right, it would be an interesting project for everyone else, as well.

As plastic boxes for SAGA are full of miniatures, I could probably easily pull out two warbands - either pagan and christian Carantanians, fighting each other (which sounds a bit boring as the only difference would be the flags and symbols I suppose) or Carantanian warband fighting Bavarians and/or Avars. I checked the existing warbands a bit and have decided Pagan Rus is not good enough for what I want, although it fits in regard to the names. "Rus prince" is a knez and "Druzhina" are "družiniki" (druzhinki if you prefer), which, as said, were called Kosezi here. Still, the plain Vikings would perhaps be more suitable...or even someone completely different as bow seems to be popular weapon in Slavic armies of that time. Miniatures might be quite problematic, but as there are known connections between Alpine Slavs and Baltic, I could get away with some Vikings. The Avars are bascially a nomadic horse archers kind of guys and Bavarians are kind of Franks. All I really want to do is sculpt some chainmail over people's faces. That's the second coolest helmet design after Greek Corinthian helmet.

The other one, a mythical journey of brave little men fighting against all odds to achieve something appeals to me more. Not counting the names, Slavic mythology has giants, satyrs, spirits, people with dogs heads, unicorns, centaurs, dragons, basilisks, snakes, cannibals, spirits of headless children, werewolves, death (as a skeleton with a scythe!), witches, gnomes and such, an underwater man, vampires and so on and so on. I did a bit of researching last year for my SA games, if you wonder where the sudden surge of my mythology knowledge came from. I prefer this one as I really enjoyed working on my Strange Aeons lurkers last year. Plus they could all be used for a SA set in Slovenia. I have some trouble separating ancient Slav beliefs from Christian myths, but most of Christian tales are just rebranded ancient Slavic stories. As Strange Aeons is set in interwar era, this is no problem at all for them, but for games set in Carantania, I'd try to be a bit more sure of what I'm putting in....but just a little bit, it's all fantasy after all and as long as it's cool it fits.

The hobby posts with more than blabbering will continue with my next post, honestly!

Thanks for looking,


  1. That's great Mathyoo. I really enjoy the insights you give to a histroy, that we here, no nothing about. What a project to get going. I agree SAGA is made for this sort of thing. Just out of curiosity does your history/mythology have a Robin Hood/William Tell character? Just something I'm kicking about.

    1. Thanks! I'm trying to write about the interesting things. I suppose we see things differently than the world as we've never been the big players.
      I think closest you can come to Robin Hood here would be Erazem Predjamski (Erazem Predyamski, Erazem from the infront-of-the-cave, named by the castle that actually lies infront of a cave):

      But he didn't really give to poor as much as he has worked on his own. Then we got various tales of protectors, but he is probably as close as you could get.

    2. My pleasure, I'm really looking forward to see what you are preparing for us!

  2. That's a fascinating piece of history, Mathyoo. I can certainly see the gaming potential here. I look forward to seeing how you develop this further.

    1. Thanks Vampi. I am already sculpting/converting two "profiles" (I'd say creatures, but one is accompanied by another three :P) and I'm taking notes of what should be best.

      I think a dragon and a giant would be a good start!

  3. Your "Stone of Muffin" compliments our own "Stone of Scone".
    I keep thinking you haven't really settled on a wargame period you're really interested in yet and you're suffering from a form of "Shiny Syndrome".
    Interesting history though, from an area of the world I know little about before the 18th c.

    1. Ah, that is surely true. I'm jumping to Sci-fi too, but this one isn't as strong just yet. It is just...so many people with so many great blogs that keep inspiring me and I'm way ahead of my actual work with my plans :D.

      As for the history, in global sense, we were just a part of Austrian empire for 1000 years. Then again things like peasant revolts, Napoleon and Turkish invasions are a big, big deal here.

  4. Fascinating stuff! Lots of good ideas - it's a shame you can't do it all :-) .

    I think that Fireforge Games is about to release some plastic Mongols. Would these work as Avars? Opinions on the origins of the Avars seem to vary...

    1. Hah, I'll surely do it all eventually. I'm still young :P.

      As for the Mongols, there is a 500 years gap, so Huns would be better choice (but then again, that's another 300 years :P). If that is the only plastic kit remotely suitable and you wouldn't be too picky, I'd say it's good enough. I haven't been researching them much, but unarmoured miniatures are quite alike, while armoured would probably need slight converting to fit in, but I've seen pictures of heavily armoured Avars, too. Now, if that's all factual I got no idea, but as far as I'm concerned, any wild raiders with bows are good enough :P.

  5. I am not a SAGA fan. But if you are then why not I think It should work. If you are starting from scratch and building both (or all ) the forces maybe 28mm is the wrong scale. Have you thought about 20mm plastics for example? There should be enough choices with all the Plastic toy soldier companies and it would surely be quicker and cheaper.

    1. As with moderns, it's not as much about the rules as it's about the setting, really. I like the small armies and fast battles that SAGA seem to represent would work great for level of my gaming. I'm not expecting too much, given battles in dark ages were really all about slaughter (and I know that for sure as I've just re-read some military history books in a faculty library! :P).
      I was thinking about smaller scale, but I keep coming back to 28mm. That's odd for someone who has started out with 15mm, but 28 plastics give me so much space for great conversions - or at least ideas. I just can't get myself to like 20mm.
      If I'd want to do anything larger, I'd probably need someone else to play with me. I'm still in for huge armies of antiquity :P.