Era
Vol. 1: A seculo VI usque ad 803
Date
791 (after September)
Regestum

King Charlemagne writes to his wife Fastrada, informing her, among other things, of their military successes against the Avars, including the achievements of his “duke of Istria”. This is the first documented mention of a Carolingian official in Istria, officially marking the beginning of a new era of the peninsula’s history.

Source
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, codex lat. 2777, fol. 61r-61v; 9th-century copy (original is lost), digitized and available online here (B).
Edition
Ernest Dümmler (ed.), “Caroli Magni epistolae,” in Epistolae Karolini aevi II, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Eppistolae 4 (Berlin 1895), doc. n. 20, p. 528–29.
Transcription

Carolus gratia Dei rex Francorum et Langobardorum ac patricius Romanorum.

Dilecte nobis et valde amabili coniuge nostrae illae1 regine.

Salutem amabilem tibi in Domino per hos apices mittere studuimus et per te dulcissimis filiabus nostris vel ceteris fidelibus nostris tecum commorantibus.

Scientem tibi fecimus, quia gratias Deo sani et salvi sumus.

Missus quidem dilecti filii nostri illius2 nomine ille nobis nuntiavit de eius sanitate ac domni apostolici vel de salvatione confinium nostrorum illis partibus positis. Unde valde laetificati extitimus.

Et insuper retulit nobis, qualiter illa scara nostra, que prius de Italia iussimus pergere partibus Avariae in illa confinia resedendum, perrexerunt infra fines ipsorum decimo kalendas septembris, et inierunt pugnam cum eis.

Et dedit eis Deus omnipotens pro sua misericordia victoriam, et multitudinem de ipsis Avaris interfecerunt; in tantum, ut dicunt, quod in multis diebus maior stragis de ipsis Avaris factum non fuit. Et expoliaverunt ipsum walum; et sederunt ibidem ipsa nocte vel in crastina usque hora diei tertia. Et acceptis expoliis reversi sunt in pace. Et centum quinquaginta de ipsis Avaris vivos conpraehenderunt, quos reservaverunt, ut nostra fiat iussio, qualiter exinde agere debeant.

Fideles Dei ac nostri, qui hoc egerunt, fuerunt ille episcopus, ille3 dux, ille et ille comites. Illedux de Histria, ut dictum est nobis, quod ibidem benefecit ille cum suis hominibus. Vassi vero nostri fuerunt illi.

Nos autem, Domino adiuvante, tribus diebus letania fecimus, id est nonis septembris quod fuit lunis die incipientes, et martis et mercoris; Dei misericordiam deprecantes, ut nobis pacem et sanitatem atque victoriam et prosperum iter tribuere dignetur, et ut in sua misericordia et pietate nobis adiutor et consiliator atque defensor in omnibus angustiis nostris existat. Et a vino et carne ordinaverunt sacerdotes nostri, qui propter infirm[itatem au]t senectudinem aut iuventudinem abstinere potebant, ut abstinuisset; [et qui re]demere voluisset, quod vinum licentiam habuisset bibendi ipsis tribus diebus, [ma]iores et potentiores homines hunaquaque die solidum hunum dedissent, minus potentes iuxta possibilitatem ipsorum; et qui amplius dare non potebat et vinum bibere volebat, saltim vel unum dinarium donasset. Aelimosina vero unusquisque secundum propriam atque bonam voluntatem vel iuxta possibilitatem fecisset. Et sacerdos unusquisque missam specialem fecisset, nisi infirmitas inpedisset. Et clerici, qui psalmos sciebant, unusquisque quinquaginta cantasset; et interim quod ipsas letanias faciebant, discaltiati ambulassent. Sic consideraverunt sacerdotes nostri; et nos omnes ita aptificavimus et Domino adiuvante complevimus.

Unde volumus, ut tu cum ill. et ill. vel ceteris fidelibus nostris considerare debeas, qualiter ipsas letanias ibidem factas fiant. Tu autem, iuxta quod tua infirmitas permittit, in tuo committimus arbitrio.

Et mirum nobis fuit, quia vestrum missum nec epistolam, postquam de Reginsb[urg] ad nos non venit. Unde volumus, ut sepius nobis de tua sanitate vel de aliud, quod placuerit, significari debeas.

Iterumque salutamus tibi multum in Domino.

Lectiones notęque

1) Fastrada, Charlemagne's wife from 783 until her death in 794.

2) Pippin of Italy.

3) Eric, the duke of Friuli.

4) John, the duke of Istria mentioned in 804.

Selected Bibliography
Janet L. Nelson, King and Emperor: A New Life of Charlemagne (Oakland 2019), pp. 279–82.
James Bruce Ross, “Two Neglected Paladins of Charlemagne: Erich of Friuli and Gerold of Bavaria,” Speculum 20 (1945): pp. 212–35.
Harald Krahwinkler, Friaul im Frühmittelalter: Geschichte einer Region vom Ende des Fünften bis zum Ende des zehnten Jahrhunderts (Vienna 1992), pp. 148–152, 200.
Peter Štih, The Middle Ages between the Eastern Alps and the Northern Adriatic: Select Papers on Slovene Historiography and Medieval History (Leiden 2010), pp. 212–214.
Walter Pohl, The Avars: A Steppe Empire in Central Europe: 567–822 (Ithaca 2018), pp. 376–82.
Editor's Notes

The letter survives only as part of a collection of formularies (manuscript from the second half of the 9th century). Thus, all the personal names have been left out and replaced by the demonstrative pronoun ille, illa. Some names, such as those of Charlemagne’s wife Fastrada and his son Pippin, can easily be inferred; others, such as the unnamed “duke of Istria” present more difficulties.

It is often argued that the “dux de Histria” refers to duke John mentioned in the famous Plea of Rižana (see the document here); however, it is at least equally, if not more probable that the person in question is Eric, the duke of Friuli who died in 799 and who governed, at least according to his contemporary Paulinus (see the document here), a large territory that encompassed both Friuli and Istria as well. However, if Eric is indeed the unnamed dux of this letter, it is surprising why he was not dubbed as duke of Friuli.

In essence, the answer to this perennial question boils down to how one decides to interpret the new position of Istria that had just been included in Charlemagne’s kingdom: was it a distinct duchy with its respective delegated dukes, thus jurisdictionally on the same level as Friuli? Or was it in some way subordinated to the dukes of Friuli? Paulinus’s Carmina de duce Herico (see it here) explicitly supports the latter interpretation. However, duke John mentioned in the Plea of Rižana is nowhere attested as the duke of Friuli.

Therefore, a third interpretation that ties all the primary sources together seems most likely: Duke Eric of Friuli would be the first unnamed duke of Charlemagne’s letter and duke John would be the unnamed dux de Histria; at the same time, John would be subordinated to Eric as the March of Friuli encompassed Istria within its jurisdictional areal. This is the interpretation adopted in this edition, but readers should be aware of the potency of arguments on which it is based upon.

In any case, from 828, the deposition of Duke Baldric of Friuli (see the document here), Istria is most probably governed as a distinct county with its respective delegated counts. This jurisdictional (quasi) independence from Friuli would not last long though, and Istria would return to form part of the Veronese and Aquileian march (impossible to precise when exactly, but definitely before 952; see the document here).

How to Cite
First citation: Josip Banic (ed.), Fontes Istrie medievalis, vol. 1: A seculo VI usque ad 803, doc. 791_CRF, fontesistrie.eu/791_CRF (last access: date).
Subsequent citations: FIM, 1: doc. 791_CRF.
Image
Image Source and Info

The images of the manuscript were downloaded from the official webpages of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

The editor has subsequently inserted two red arrows to mark the precise location on the manuscript of the letter hereby edited.