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Liudprand of Cremona (c.920-972):

The Battle of Lechfeld, 910 from Antapodosis, Book II, Chaps. 1-5

The first Battle of Lechfeld (the first Battle of Augsburg in Hungarian historiography, fought on 12 June 910, was an important victory by a Hungarian army over the combined forces of East Francia and Swabia (Alamannia) under the nominal command of Louis the Child.Located approximately 25 km (15.53 mi) south of Augsburg, the Lechfeld is the floodplain that lies along the river Lech. At this time the Grand Prince of the Hungarians was Zoltán, but there is no record of him taking part in the battle. After the battle, the victorius Hungarians broke into Franconia for the first time. On 22 June in Franconia, the same Hungarian army defeated a united army of the duchies of Franconia, Lotharingia and Bavaria in the Battle of Rednitz. The Bavarian, Frankish, Swabian and Saxonian duchies became taxpayers of the Hungarians.] As consequence of this victory, in the next year, Hungarian attacks launched from the Carpathian Basin crossed the Rhine for the first time in 911.[From Wikipedia


Chapter I. After the vital warmth had deserted Arnulf’s limbs and left his body lifeless, his son Louis was unanimously elected to the throne. But the death of the great king was as clearly known to the Hungarians close by as it was to the inhabitants of the whole world, and the day of that joyful event was to them more pleasant than any festivity, more precious than any treasure. Why need I say more ?

Ch. II. In the first year after Arnulf’s death and his son’s succession, the Hungarians collected a large army and laid claim to the territory of the Maravani, a people in whom Arnulf had thought to find a support againft their attacks. They also seized the land of the Bavarians, destroyed their castles, burned their churches, massacred their people, and, to make themselves more and more feared, drank the blood of those whom they had slain.

Ch. III. Accordingly King Louis, seeing the cruelty of these enemies and the havoc they were making among his own people, so fired the hearts of all with apprehension that if any one by chance failed to serve in the war which he proceeded to wage against them, there was nothing left for him to do but to hang himself. Against Louis’ great army an innumerable multitude of the villainous Hungarians hastened to advance. No man ever more ardently desired a drink of cold water than these cruel savages longed for the day of battle. Indeed their only joy is in fighting. In the book which deals with their origin I read that “ as soon as a child is born his mother makes a cut on his face with a sharp knife, so that he may learn to bear the pain of wounds before he has received nourishment from the breast. [Jordanes, History of the Goths, 24] This assertion is rendered credible by the wounds they inflift on their own live flesh as a sign of grief when their kinsmen are dying. Ce gens sacrilige et impie, that is, this ungodly and impious race shed blood, it appears, instead of tears. King Louis with his army had juft reached Augsburg, a city on the borders of Swabia, Bavaria and eaftern France, when he heard of their unexpected, or rather undesired, proximity. Accordingly next day the two armies met on the plains of the river Lech, by their extent well suited to the work of Mars.

Ch. IV. And so it came about that before1“ Aurora left Tithonus’ saffron bed ” [Virgil, Aeneid, IV, 585-] the Hungarians, thirsting for murder and eager for the fray, fell upon the others, namely the Chriftians, while they were ftill yawning with sleep. Some indeed were awakened by arrow points before they heard the cries of battle ; others were transfixed in tiieir beds, and were not roused either by the din or by their wounds : their life had gone before their slumber ended. On both sides a furious battle ftarted, and the Turks retiring in feigned retreat caused great havoc by the fierce fire of their filches, that is, of their arrows.

When great Jehovah veils the golden light
Of Phoebus with his clouds and draws dark night
Athwart the heavens, swiftly all around
The lightnings play and fast the thunders sound.
Then tremble they whose trade it is to turn
Black into white and fear themselves to burn
In levin fire, conscious of their sins.
So swift, so fast, when once the fight begins,
The foemen’s arrows hurtling in the air
Pierce breastplates through and leave each quiver bare.
And as the cruel bail on cornfields falls,
Or rattles on the roofs of lordly halls,
So fall the sword Strokes on the helms beneath,
So arrows send the brave to mutual death.

By this time Phoebus sinking in the sky marked one hour after noon and the war god was Still smiling upon Louis’ side, when the Turks with their wonted cunning set an ambush and feigned to retreat. As the king’s men, deceived by the trick, rushed boldly forward, the troops in ambush fell on them from every side and the viCtors found themselves in a moment vanquished and slain. The king himself, conquered now inStead of conqueror, was filled with dismay, the reverse being all the more serious because it was so unexpected. You could have seen the woods and fields strewn with corpses, the rivers and water channels running red with blood, while the neighing of horses and the blare of bugles increased the terror of the fugitives and cheered on the assailants to fresh efforts.

Ch. V. Though the Hungarians thus achieved their desire, their native villainy was not satisfied even by this dreadful massacre of Christians. To glut their perfidious rage they scoured the kingdoms of Bavaria, Swabia, France and Saxony, burning everything as they went. No one could withstand their onset, unless protedted by the natural or artificial Strength of fortifications, and for some years every one here had to pay them tribute.


Source: : The Works of Liudprand of Cremona, trans F.A. Wright (1930), full text PDF [At Internet Archive].
F. A. Wright, translator, The Works of Liudprand of Cremona London and New York 1930.

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