Gerard Labuda


The oldest names of the Piast dynasty

in: Poor and Rich: a study on the history of the societies and culture, offered to Mr. Bronislaw Geremek on his 60th birthday (publisher Maurice Aymard... et al.). 1st edition, Warsaw, PWN, 1992



ike from a horn of plenty there are coming lately studies, dissertations and works trying to unravel secret hidden in the names of the oldest Polish princely dynasties, the Popiels and the Piasts. Henryk Lowmianski in his fundamental work Beginnings of Poland recurred to his earlier studies on the Piast dynasty (1848, 1962, 1970, 1973) and gave the matter a lot of attention. Following him as a guidepost I wrote a chapter: "The names of the princes of the first Polish dynasties" (Studies on the beginnings of the Polish State, vol. II, 1988). A little earlier prematurely deceased Jerzy Hertel presented his excellent study Anthroponymy of the Piast dynasty in early period of Middle Ages (1980). It was also a subject of special attention in Jacek Banaszkiewicz's Legend on Piast and Popiel - comparative study on early Middle Ages dynastic traditions (1986). Not long time ago a Czeslaw Deptula's Gall Anonymous's myth on Poland's origins - philosophy of history and hermeneutics of the symbols of the Middle Ages historiography study (1990) showed up just from the press.
        From uninspired factographic determinations we are rising presently in these works to the heights of the social and spiritual culture.
An occasion to pick up the same subject was brought to me by the Andrzej Bankowski's paper named Names of the ancestors of Boleslaw the Brave in Gall Anonymous [chronicles] - etymological deliberations ( "Onomastica", vol. 34, 1989, p. 103 - 138), which throws light on the same subject from the linguistic angle. It contains a proposition of explaining these names, which deserves attention of the historians. The subject of the analysis in his paper are names recorded by Gall Anonymous on charts III - VII of the manuscript from the former Zamoyskis' library (man. Z) as: 1. Pumpil, 2. Chossistco, 3. Pazt, 4. Repca, 5. Semouith, 6. Lestik, 7. Semimizl, 8. Mescho and 9. Dubrouca.
        The historians, linguists, ethnographers, are explaining  them - each in its own way; the differences in views are profound. Historians, ethnographers and lately theologians, are trying to read from these names social, ideological and political contents, which in turn, must have led to explanations subordinated to the social and institutional or constitutional visions (for example the Norsemen myth). Linguists want to establish semantic substances, therefore not influenced by any other matters. In spite of that, differences between their interpretations are still huge.
        It seems prudent to mark certain methodical gloss, with which the Author preceded his etymological deliberations, for right measure of his interpretations. "Before starting the linguistic analysis - he wrote - of the names given by him [i.e. Anonymous] it is necessary to be aware, how complicated was that time the process of creation of the texts in the shape suitable for readers. High position of the professional writer did not allow the author to work with a pen by himself, therefore there was not the draft autograph of the author's work. After reading his notes on the subject and thinking over certain part of the work, the author dictated the text to the copyist, who then handed over the minute written with cursive, with many abbreviations, to a calligrapher to be written with the decorative letters on a parchment, or even dictated word after word to several penmen. They from time to time must have made an error, which was impossible to correct immediately, even if they saw it. Thence the text of the first copy of the work did not have to be identical with the author's intent" (p.105). Obviously, there are exceptions to that observation, but it may be considered true when the numerous copies were created. Because of that the Author surely errs, when his regard to the lessons given in so-called Heilsberg manuscript in general is negative. On the other hand, the Sedziwoj of Czechl's manuscript does not have great value.

                1. Pumpil. Manuscript Z gives two versions of the name. On 3rd chart in the chapter 1 title and in following paragraphs there are two instances of form Popel, then in chapter 3 there are two instances of form Pumpil. Bankowski takes the second version as primary and on that basis he builds his etymology of the name meaning: "papyl", i.e. callous or blister. Leaving for a while etymology, it is necessary recognize a question, why two forms of the name in the same manuscript? No arbitrary solution like bitterment of the form Pumpil from Popel or that form Pumpil was first Latynized as Popmpilius and then reversed to Popel (p.110). Also, proposed lead from Malopolska Yearbook, which first used form Popel will not bring us to the solution since the oldest manuscripts of this book originated in 15 century (Monumenta Poloniae Historica,vol. III, p.140). Yet Dlugosz uses both forms: "Pompilius...sive Popyel"(vide Old-Polish names dictionary, vol.IV, 1975, p. 322).
        In short, all these notations come from the same source: the Gall Anonymous's Chronicles and only on it's basis can be explained.
        When we remember a filiation scheme established by Zofia Kazlowski-Budek (In the review of the edition of the Chronicles by Karol Maleczynski in "Historic Review", XLIV, 1953, p.425), then we can easily find that the closest to the Chronicles was master Wnicenty, who at the break of 12 and 13 century in his chronicles consequently used form Pompilius, after him, also consequently, the Dzierzwa chronicles ( MPH, vol.II, p. 180 and 265). After 1312 a manuscript A was made, from which manuscript Z and H origiated independently, and it is necessary to take into consideration Marian Plezi's opinion that "the manuscript H represents separate tradition from Z and accordingly, it should be used as an independent witness at constitution of the text". ("Historic Review", XLIV p. 504).
In regard with first mentioning, both  Z and H have Popelone, Popel, but in the chapter 3 the manuscript Z has twice Pumpil, and originated from manuscript Z Sedziwoj's manuscript corrected primary Pumpil twice to Popiel, and changed u to o, erased m, and added e, in manuscript Z form Popel shows up consequently . If we had to decide on the right form based on Gall, it would be quite impossible, however, more facts would vote for form Popel.
We can see this very matter in quite different light, when we make use of the master Wincenty tradition, who systematically uses form Pompilius (MPH, vol. II, p. 265: "cui nomen Pompilius".). The Polish Chronicle (Lubiaz, 1285) follows master Wincenty  (MPH, vol. III, p. 614: "filio secum retento, cui nomen Pompilius"). Also, the Silesia princess chronicle originated hundred years later and which used Gall's manuscript directly gives similar form: "filio suo retento, cui nomen erat Popil vel Pompilius"(MPH, vol. III. p. 434. Jan Dlugosz repeated this very text adding: " in latino idiomate vocatus Cinereus, in Almannico: Osszerich".)
        It is obvious that the author of the Silesia princess chronicle took form Popil from some manuscript of the Gall as versions Z and H, and form Pompilius from master Wincenty's.
        Now coming back to the question, which form is true primary, I would vote, as Bankowski, for nasal version Pumpil as so-called lectio difficilior, and also, because form given by master Wincenty is behind it. However, master Wincenty used the base form  Pompil, Latynizing it, per his custom, adding suffix -us. The Silesia princess chronicle confirms that with its version Popil. All versions with "e" are surely secondary, introduced especially to conform to popular etymology with word "popiol" (as at Dlugosz) (ash - sp). Form Popil, Popel can be explained only by paleography. Probably in the autograph or archetype of the Gall's Chronicles originating ca. 1115, the aforementioned name recorded in the form Popil, with letter "m" written above "o", and the original character in the corsive writing took shape of a tide or straight line. This abbreviated form can be easily lost during copying or dictating.
        Summing up, the basis shall be that the first Gniezno's ruler name was Pompil, what could have roots in old-Polish "Papyl" as truthfully noted Andrzej Bankowski. Written in the manuscript Z Pumpil is probably secondary, where original "o" was read (or was heard) as "u".
        As to etymology of the name, the nickname meaning "papyl" seems much better than commonly accepted "Popiol" (after Dlugosz). But let it be a subject of linguistic quarrels.

        2. C h o s s i s t c o. The Author, in opposition to Aleksander Brueckner who would like to change Chossistco, as found in the manuscript, to Chostisco, takes side with maintaining the version from the manuscript Z; he is right, because the manuscript H has also a form Choszyszco, therefore he consequently disqualifies etymology suggested by Brueckner from a word "tassel" meaning also "tail" as a basic mearing, and from here chwoscisko, mietlisko (mop), miotla (brush) (A. Brueckner, Etymological dictionary of Polish language, Warszawa 1970, s. 187-188). We all used to use form Choscisko with Chwoscisko ( J. Hertel, The names in the Piast dynasty in early Middle Ages, Warszawa 1980.), supported by Brueckner's command. Jacek Banaszkiewicz used different approach reaching to the Wielkopolska chronicle on Mieszko, son of Mazovian Konrad: "cognominabatur Chosziszco ex eo quia paucos pileos et oblongos in capite habebat" (MPH, series nova, vol. XVIII, p. 12.), he took as his entry point a word "kosa" meaning :"plait or long braided hair", and then taking this etymology to the Piast's father, he was looking among kings having long hair, like Scandinavian Haddings (J. Banaszkiewicz, The legend on Piast and Popiel,Warszawa 1985, s. 116).
        Bankowski on the other hand, taking as his staring point the Dlugosz's tale about Konrad's Mieszko: "propter caesariem capitis parum sanam appelatus Chosziszko" , what translates to "Because of dense, unhealthy hair called Ch. (translation: "because of unkempt hair", as in Dlugosz's Annals, vol. V-VI, Warsaw 1973, p. 347, is incorrect since caesaries in relation to hair means: generous, dense hair.), comes to the conclusion: undoubtedly it is about ill famed plica Polonica, comparable to a mop, formerly frequent scalp and hair sickness (p. 115).
        Here we have again etymology indicating that the name could be in fact a nickname. That is quite convincing to me.

        3. P a z t. There is an agreement that found in manuscript Pazt (only in Sedziwoj's manuscript has Pazto) is an original name Piast as it sounded (Hertel put together other versions from several sources, op.cit., p.30). It was not known as a name at any other occasion, as it comes from Old-Polish names dictionary (vol.IV, p.224). First try of etymological explanation we have from Jan Dlugosz, who indicated possibility of deriving the name from word "piasta", meaning: hub.
Later historiographic tradition took not Choszyszczko but just Piast as a protoplast of the Piast clan ("Piastorum stirps" the description from XVI cent., as indicated by K. Jasinski, Pedigree of Silesian Piasts, vol. I, Wroclaw 1973, or "gens Piastea" on Silesian epitaphs from XVII cent., as A. Gieysztor, Genesis of the Polish State, Historic Quarterly", LXI, 1954, p. 1, p. 133). That time name Piast took metaphoric meaning.
        How it was in IX cent. when Piast lived? Bankowski, after scrupulous checking of all existing etymologies takes side of Brueckner that Piast is a name derived from word ancient word "piast" or "stepor" (p.120). Therefore again it is not really a name, but a nickname. However, there are other possibilities to be explored, what we will see shortly.

        4. R e p k a. This name translates ordinarily to more comprehensive "Rzepka" (turnip) (other variations like "Rzepicha" or "Rzepica" are unsubstantiated). Rzepka with hard "r" in initial sound (anlaut) becomes Repka, per Bankowski.
        If we take this form of a name as initial point, then, the Author states, we can refer to such roots as rept-,ryp-,rup-, which have their equivalent in other nouns and verbs with basic meaning like "rozrywac, drazyc jame, dziura itp." (rip off, hollow, etc.) Such an explanation of the name "of the Piast's wife: 'Repka' from old-Polish 'repka, jamka, wneka' (hollow, hole) (inside of the hub) would allow for interpretation in conjunction with the name Piast taken from 'piast, stepor', a symbolic meaning of fertility and progenitivness coded in these names.

It all is far from mythology elevated meanings. In the historiographic tradition, which perhaps conscientiously dodged the aforementioned connotations of both names, there were other version of the name "Rzepka": Rzepicha , which in conjunction with ordinary meaning: turnip turned the name into a nickname. (p.265)



Translation from Polish to English: sp

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