King Theodoric orders Anthony, the bishop of Pula, to restitute the rustic possession violently occupied by the bishop's officers to a certain Stephan.
Anthonio viro venerabili Polensi episcopo.
Invidiosa est contra eum querela, cui sunt reverentię iura servanda, quia nescio quid admissum grave creditur, ubi contra tales silentium non tenetur.
Stephanus siquidem flebili adicione conquestus est casam iuris sui ante decessorem prodecessoremque vestrum longa ętate possessam ante hos fere novem menses ab hominibus ęcclesię, cui pręsidetis, despecto civilitatis ordine fuisse pervasam.
Quod si ita factum esse cognoscitis, eam iustitię consideratione momenti iure restituite supplicanti. Decet enim a vobis corrigi, quod a vestris familiaribus non debuisset admitti.
Verumtamen si partibus vestris in causam momentaria vel principali iusticiam adesse cognoscitis, tractato prius diligenter inspectoque negocio, quia sacerdotem protendere non decet improbam litem, instructam legibus ad comitatum nostrum destinate personam, ubi qualitas negocii agnosci debeat et finiri.
Quapropter sanctitatis vestrę animus non gravetur, nec se fallacibus verbis doleat accusatum: multo maior est opinio purgata, quam si desinentibus querelis non fuerit impetita.
To Anthony, the venerable bishop of Pula.
A complaint against one for whom the right of reverence must be observed is scandalous, since I know not what should be credited as a serious trespass, where silence is not held against men of such station.
Therefore, Stephan has complained in a tearful petition that the house owned by him legally for a long time, under your predecessor and the predecessor before, has been overrun for nearly nine months by men of the church over which you preside, with the manner of civil harmony disregarded.
If you know this to have been done, restore the house to the supplicant with due consideration for the importance of justice. For it is fitting that what should not be done by members of your household should be corrected by you.
Nevertheless, if you know justice favored your party in this case either formerly or presently, with the case first diligently investigated and traced, because it does not befit a bishop to protract an unrighteous case, then send a person instructed in the laws to our comitatus, where the nature of the case may be ascertained and concluded.
Therefore, do not let the mind of your sanctity be burdened, nor be grieved at being accused by false words. An exonerated reputation is much better than if, with the ceasing of the complaints, the case had not been tried.
[the translation, slightly modified by the editor, is taken from M. Shane Bjornlie (trans.), The Variae: The Complete Translation (Oakland 2019), p. 195]
The first and chronologically the oldest letter concerning Istria included in the famous collection Variae of Cassiodorus, a renowned statesman of Ostrogothic Italy, officially opens the millennium-long era hereby dubbed the Middle Ages. This period, from Ostrogothic Italy to Justinian's renovatio Imperii and the Lombard invasion, all the way to the Frankish takeover of Istria under Charlemagne, chronologically spanning from the 6th century to the late 8th century, is covered in the first volume of Fontes Istrie medievalis, dedicated to the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
The letter that opens the entire series is rarely analyzed in detail. Andrej Novak (in the work cited above) interpreted the Stephanus in question as an Ostrogoth with a Roman name, thus born out of a mixed marriage between an Istrian Roman and an Ostrogoth. Novak bases this argument in the fact that King Theodoric explicitly mentions an Ostrogothic tribunal (ad comitatum nostrum) reserved, states the author, for disputes between the Goths and the Romans. Moreover, this Ostrogothic tribunal whose jurisdictions extended over Istria as well would be the one situated in Ravenna as there are no documented Gothic comites in Istria (p. 69).
Although this interpretation is highly conjectural, it remains the dominant one to this day. The period of Ostrogothic rule in Istria, beginning in the late 5th century and lasting until Justinian's reconquest of 539 (see the source here), is scarcely documented, the letters of Cassiodorus' Variae being the prime written primary sources for the age (see them here).
The images were downloaded from the official webpage of Leiden University Libraries: Digital Collections.
The editor has subsequently inserted two red arrows on the folios to mark the parts of the manuscript that refer to this particular letter that is hereby edited.
The images remain under the copyright of their respective institution.