Interpretations of 'Genitor' in Medieval texts (c8th Century)

CrassusRadiator

New Member
A research project has led me to the Lorsch Codex, a cartulary of the Lorsch Abbey in Germany. I have come across three charters that relate to property donations by the same donors but seem to refer to different people as "Genitor" (full text at the bottom of this post):
- Charter 255 (dated 788): Hado and Theotman donate property in Bensheim for the soul of their father Irminulf ("genitoris nostri Irminulfi")
- Charter 256 (dated 789): Gerniu donates property in Bensheim for the soul of her husband Irminulf ("Irminulfi viri mei"), witnessed by her son Hado
- Charter 615 (dated 792): Haddo, Titman, Gerold and mother Gerniu donate property in Kloppenheim, including anything they have received in that location from their father Haddo ("Haddo genitor noster")

Taken together Charter 255/256 seem to suggest that Haddo and Thetoman were the children of Irminulf and Gerniu; while Charter 615 suggest they are the children of Haddo and Gerniu. Obviously both can't be correct, and therefore one instance of the term 'Genitor' seemingly refers to something other than a blood father. This could be either:
a) A Step-Father (Irminulf is the step-father and has perhaps adopted the children of the late Haddo)
b) A direct male ancestor other than Father, most likely a Grandfather

Looking at the meaning of Genitor, it would seem more likely that it refers to a blood ancestor than a step-father. But any thoughts as to how this could be interpreted would be gratefully received. Couple of things to note:
1. Around this time, there are instances (accepted by historians) in which 'germanus' refers to a brother-in-low rather than brother, and so this could be another example where a blood relationship terminology has been applied to a non-blood relationship
2. The codex is a transcribed and abbreviated version of the original cartulary, and therefore it cannot be excluded that there has been a mistake during that process

*Note - the below are exact extracts from the plain text version of the Codex supplied by the University of Heidelberg (via OCR). I have corrected any mistakes I have noticed, but please follow the links to see the originals

Charter 255 (dated 788)

Nos in dei nomine Hado et Theotman, pro remedio anime genitoris nostri Irminulfi donamus ad sanctum Nazarium mrem. qui requiescit in corpore in monasterio Laur., hoc est unum proprisum super riuulum Liutra ex omni parte rationi sancti Nazarii attinentem, a die presente tradimus, atque transfundimus, perpetualiter ad possidendum, ut deinceps ad ipsum sancturn locum, proficiat in augmentum, stipulatione subnixa. Actum in monasterio Laur., III kl. ian. Sig. Hadonis, et Theotmanni, qui hanc donationem fecerunt. S. Welafrid, Evkenfrid, Giselhelm, Geruuigi, Ruodolt, Riphuuini, Birnicho, Sararaan, Meginfridi. Ego Rüdolfus rogatus scripsi.


Charter 256 (dated 789)

Ego in dei nomine Gerniu, pro remedio anime mee, et pro anima Irminulfi uiri mei, dono ad sanctum Christi mrem. Nazarium qui requiescit in corpore in monasterio Laur., hoc est rem meam in Basinsheim qui[d]quid ibi habere uisa fui, excepta i haftuuna, aliud totum tam mansis, carapis, pratis, pascuis, peruiis, siluis, uineis, domibus, edificiis, aquis, aquarumue decursibus, uel quidquid dici aut nominari potest, a die presente et deinceps, trado atque transfundo, de iure meo, in ius et dominium prefati mris. ut omni tempore ipsi loco sancto proficiat in augmentum, stipulatione subnixa. Actum in monasterio Laur., XIII kl. febr. Anno quo supra. 789 Jan. 20. Sig. Gerniu que. hanc donationem fecit. S. Guntramni comitis, et Hadonis, filii eius, Theotmanni, Giselhelmi, Riphuuini, Erkanfridi, Liutonis, Willonis, Herirat, Albgooz, Ego Reginbertus rogatus scripsi.


Charter 615 (dated 792)

Eodem anno nos in dei nomine Haddo, Titman, Gerolt et Gerniu genitrix nostra pro remedio animarum nostrarum, donamus ad sanctum Nazarium mrem. qui requiescit in corpore in pago rinensi, in monasterio Laur., ubi uir uenerabilis Rihbodo preesse uidetur, donatumque in perpetuum esse uolo i mansuni in Clopheim, cum edificio superposito, et pomariis, et terra arabili, pratis, et siluis, et omnibus que in ipsa marca habere uisi fuimus, et mancipia bis norainibus, Fridebertus et coniux eius Liuda, Willihelm, Berolf, Dancolf, uel quidquid Haddo genitor noster nobis ibidem hereditauit tradimus de iure nostro in ius et dominium sancti N. atque transfundimus in dei nomine perpetualiter ad possidendum stipulatione subnixa. Actum in monasterio Laur., idvs oct. S. Hadonis, Titmanni, Geroldi, et Gerniu genitricis eorum qui hanc io donationem fecerunt. S. Winirammi, et Erpboldi. Reginbertus scripsit.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Hello,

If you haven't received any reply yet, I think it's because nobody knows. Both of your theories (that of a stepfather and that of a grandfather) are possible, but I can't see any way to tell which one, if any, is correct. The only evidence I could find in the two medieval Latin dictionaries I use of genitor meaning something else than "father" is this, where there's mention of it meaning "great-grandfather". But dictionaries don't tell you everything, far from it, especially when it comes to such a varied and versatile language as medieval Latin.

I had a look on Google Books to see if I could find any more information about Gerniu, like whether she had been married twice, but I didn't find anything very interesting. I'll just mention one source where someone came up with a third theory, namely that Haddo could be a byname of the same man also known as Irminulf (see p. 408).
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Perhaps the fact that Gerniu is part of the subject in the third charter (nos... Haddo, Titman, Gerolt et Gerniu genitrix nostra) points to an interpretation of Haddo as an ancestor common to all of them, which would exclude any husband of Gerniu's but would leave the possibility of him being her father and thus her children's grandfather.

Just maybe.
 

CrassusRadiator

New Member
Perhaps the fact that Gerniu is part of the subject in the third charter (nos... Haddo, Titman, Gerolt et Gerniu genitrix nostra) points to an interpretation of Haddo as an ancestor common to all of them, which would exclude any husband of Gerniu's but would leave the possibility of him being her father and thus her children's grandfather.

Just maybe.
Thank you so much for looking in to this.

I think I was hoping someone might have come across other examples where 'genitor' might have a different meaning than a blood father. The only example I can find is Seneca's Medea where Medea refers to her grandfather as genitor.

The idea that Haddo=Irminulf is possible, and you do find some people referred to by quite dissimilar names (Eticho = Adalric, the Duke of Alsace being one). However usually the names have similarities (usually one a shortening of the other - Audoin/Dado for example). The names Haddo and Irminulf do not share even a single letter in common, which makes me doubt a connection.

It certainly could refer to Gerniu's father. However, if that was the case, it would have made more sense to have worded the charter "Gerniu and her children Haddo, Titman and Gerolt". This type of wording does occur in other charters in the codex.

Thanks again for your help
 

CrassusRadiator

New Member
Perhaps the fact that Gerniu is part of the subject in the third charter (nos... Haddo, Titman, Gerolt et Gerniu genitrix nostra) points to an interpretation of Haddo as an ancestor common to all of them, which would exclude any husband of Gerniu's but would leave the possibility of him being her father and thus her children's grandfather.

Just maybe.
One thing I didn't mention, as I had already written too much, is that the witness list of Charter 2 above explicitly refers to Haddo as "filii eius" but Theotman - who also witnesses - is not described as such. This probably doesn't mean anything but still quite curious
 

rothbard

Civis Illustris
Staff member
The 1931 edition of Heinichen's Lateinisch-Deutsches Schulwörterbuch, the first one to include separate entries for medieval Latin, has none for genitor, however has "Nachkommenschaft" for genitura.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
One thing I didn't mention, as I had already written too much, is that the witness list of Charter 2 above explicitly refers to Haddo as "filii eius" but Theotman - who also witnesses - is not described as such.
Well, in fact, the way it's phrased, that Hado could also be the son of Count Guntram... I don't know how likely this is but it's still a possibility. (The wording by itself would suggest Hado is the son of Guntram, but the larger context suggests he could well be the son of Gerniu.)
 

CrassusRadiator

New Member
Yes, re-reading it the use of “et” between Guntram and Haddo but not for anyone else in the witness list (who are simply comma delimited) suggests the relationship is between them.

It wouldn’t be too surprising to find another Haddo, as witness lists often contained relatives and, in this period, Franks were mostly named after an ancestor (suggesting a common ancestor between this Guntram and the donors).

Thanks again for your help.
 

Laurentius

Civis Illustris
Could it be that Haddo was the father of Irminulf or Gerniu and they named their son after him? After all when they list the children he always comes first so maybe he even is their firstborn.
 

lilianfields

New Member
According to Google, there is a note about exactly this problem, in German, in the first volume of Andreas Heusler's "Institutionen des deutschen Privatrechts":


Here is the note, in German, along with a crib from Google translate (my German is basically nonexistent--somebody else help?)

"...drei Söhne mit ihrer Mutter tradieren zusammen "quiquid Haddo genitor noster nobis hereditavit." Darnach dürfen wir wohl annehmen, dass bei beerbter Ehe das gesammte Gut beisammen blieb, der Vater oder die Witwe mit den Kindern in Gemeindershaft sass, und bei Eintritt der Witwe in eine zweite Ehe weingstens die does in ihrer Nutzung blieb, aber gleichwie im salischen Rechte den Kindern verfangen war."

"...three sons with their mother together pass on "quiquid Haddo genitor noster nobis hereditavit." According to this, we may assume that in the case of an inherited marriage, the entire estate remained together, the father or the widow was in community custody with the children, and when the widow entered into a second marriage, the did remained in its use [??? thanks Google], but also in Salian law [again, thanks Google--Salic law, I assume] was caught by the children."

Ok. Somebody with better German might come along here to help us out. If you yourself can read modern German, or you know somebody who can, this book might be just the ticket. In any case the editor here thinks Salic Law is at play (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Salic-Law-of-Succession) which might help you or only serve to make things complicated, I don't know.

More generally speaking--when you are dealing with this kind of really specific problem of Latin diction, you want to go *deep* and *narrow*, not broad.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
the did remained in its use [??? thanks Google]
I believe it says "dos", not "does" -- but either way, the German doesn't actually make sense there.
I assume it is an error in the digitalisation and that it actually said "wenigstens dieses (= das Gut) in ihrer Nutzung blieb".

but also in Salian law [again, thanks Google--Salic law, I assume] was caught by the children
More like "was in possession of the children" / "legally belonged to the children".
 

CrassusRadiator

New Member
According to Google, there is a note about exactly this problem, in German, in the first volume of Andreas Heusler's "Institutionen des deutschen Privatrechts":


Here is the note, in German, along with a crib from Google translate (my German is basically nonexistent--somebody else help?)

"...drei Söhne mit ihrer Mutter tradieren zusammen "quiquid Haddo genitor noster nobis hereditavit." Darnach dürfen wir wohl annehmen, dass bei beerbter Ehe das gesammte Gut beisammen blieb, der Vater oder die Witwe mit den Kindern in Gemeindershaft sass, und bei Eintritt der Witwe in eine zweite Ehe weingstens die does in ihrer Nutzung blieb, aber gleichwie im salischen Rechte den Kindern verfangen war."

"...three sons with their mother together pass on "quiquid Haddo genitor noster nobis hereditavit." According to this, we may assume that in the case of an inherited marriage, the entire estate remained together, the father or the widow was in community custody with the children, and when the widow entered into a second marriage, the did remained in its use [??? thanks Google], but also in Salian law [again, thanks Google--Salic law, I assume] was caught by the children."

Ok. Somebody with better German might come along here to help us out. If you yourself can read modern German, or you know somebody who can, this book might be just the ticket. In any case the editor here thinks Salic Law is at play (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Salic-Law-of-Succession) which might help you or only serve to make things complicated, I don't know.

More generally speaking--when you are dealing with this kind of really specific problem of Latin diction, you want to go *deep* and *narrow*, not broad.
Thanks for finding this document. The Germanic tribes (Franks, Alemanni, etc) that replaced the Romans had quite precise laws regarding the inheritance of land. In the law of the Salian Franks (Lex Salica) they distinguish between allodial land and "Terra Salica". Allodial land could be inherited by women while the Terra Salica could not.

It is generally considered that allodial land is 'family land' held as freehold while Terra Salica was held in benefice - contingent on military service. Hence why women couldn't inherit. This interpretation is not without controversy and is without any direct evidence, however it is probably the most logical.

The region in which these donations take place (Rhineland) was settled by a different (but obviously related) tribe called the Ripuarian Franks who had their own laws which did not mention this "Terra Salica" at all and only talks about allodial lands.

Unfortunately I can't seem to access the whole document, just a small snippet, but he seems to be discussing how the widow's portion of the inheritance of her late husband may be impacted by her re-marriage according to the applicable laws.

He is clearly assuming that Haddo was a previous husband, and Irminulf was the step-father. It is not clear too me if he offers any further evidence to make that determination. His reference to Salic law when I think the Ripuarian law (Lex Ripuaria) should apply in this area makes me wonder as to his credibility.
 
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