The Wilzen (also Wilsen, Wilciken, Welataben ) were a West Slavic tribal association that settled in eastern Mecklenburg , Western Pomerania and northern Brandenburg in the 8th and 9th centuries . The tribal association was composed of tribes unknown by name, headed by a velvet ruler or grand duke. By the middle of the 10th century the tribal association disintegrated and a number of new tribes were formed, which were summarized in the Saxon sources under the name Lutizen at the end of the 10th century .
The name of the tribal association first appeared in 789 as Wilze in the contemporary imperial annals . It is of Slavic origin and could be translated as The Giants or The Great . Einhard claimed in his Vita Karoli Magni that the Wilzen had called themselves Welataben . When Helmold von Bosau used the name in the style of Adam von Bremen to describe the location of the island of Rügen in the 12th century , it meant the Wilzen tribe. In contrast, the mention of the Wilzen in the list of the Slavic tribes defeated by Heinrich I in 928/929 at Widukind von Corvey is only intended to glorify Henry I and his deeds by placing him on the same level as Charlemagne, who vanquished Wilzen . Heinrich I never led a campaign against the Wilzen.
The Wilzen settlement area extended in the middle of the 9th century in the north of Demmin in Western Pomerania along the Baltic Sea to Persante near Kolberg . In the west, parts of the Müritz area belonged to it, in the east the Uckermark . In the south, the Wilzian territory in today's Brandenburg bordered on the Havel and Spree . Since the Bavarian geographer differentiates the Wilzen from the Hevellers , further expansion to the south is unlikely. Although the table of people from the time of Alfred the Great contained in the Anglo-Saxon version of Orosius identifies the Heveller with the Wilzen, Widukind von Corvey was still able to distinguish between Wilzen and Heveller in 929. In addition, there are indications that the boundary between the Polabian and the Sorbian language originally ran between Wilzen and Hevellern.
The results of archaeological investigations have shown focal points for the settlement area developed by historical science in the Peene area, on Usedom , south-east of Malchin , near Altentreptow , on Tollensesee and Kummerower See as well as in the Uckermark .
The knowledge about the Wilzen is essentially based on the records of the Franconian annalists and historiographers. Naturally, they were interested in the deeds of the Carolingian rulers, so that reports about the Wilzen have only come down to us in connection with border actions or forms of Carolingian rule. The information on the history of the Wilzen is accordingly manageable, as their settlement area did not touch the territory of the Franks.
At the end of the 8th century, the Wilzian tribal association was composed of a number of small tribes whose names were unknown, each of which was headed by a chief who could be designated as a small prince or small king ( regulus ). The small tribes were linked by a common affiliation to the tribal association. In addition, the small tribes were subordinate to the suzerainty of a velvet ruler or grand duke ( rex ), comparable to the constitutional structures of the Abodrites . In contrast to the Abodrites, the Franconian sources only provide a few indications of the constitutional legitimation of the Wilzen velvet ruler, so it must remain open whether he was appointed by Wilzen or Franconia, moved into the position by virtue of inheritance law, or the appointment on the basis of a combination these possibilities took place. Although the Reichsannalen report for the year 823 that the populus Wilzorum installed and removed the son of Liub, Milegast , as velvet ruler and then appointed his brother Cealadragus as velvet ruler , but in this context it remains unclear who is behind the constitutional organ of the populus Wilzorum and what degree of binding force his decision was, the brothers who were fighting for rule traveled to the Frankish emperor and asked Ludwig the pious for a decision, which then apparently only became binding.
The names of the individual Wilzian small tribes remain in the dark. The Franconian sources do not name them. The equation of the four regions of the Bavarian geographer from the 9th century with the Kessinern , Redariern , Tollensanen and Zirzipanen mentioned by Adam von Bremen in the 11th century has not been able to prevail due to the time difference, especially since the Kessiner in any case, and probably also the Zirzipans, until the 10th century politically belonged to the tribal association of the Abodrites and meanwhile a new formation of the Redarians and the Tollensanen is assumed only after the disintegration of the tribal association of the Wilzen. Lately attempts have been made to identify tribal areas on the basis of the settlement chambers developed by archeology and to assign the names of the tribes known from later centuries, so that the Wilzen as a tribe in the Peeneraum , the Wolliners, the Ukranians in the Uckermark, the Redarians, the Tollensans, the Retschanen and some smaller tribes would have formed the tribal association.
At the end of the 8th century, the Wilzen rulership extended far beyond their settlement area. Under their velvet ruler Dragowit , who towered over the princes of the small tribes in "noble descent, reputation and age", the political sphere of influence of the Wilzen extended into the Prignitz and only ended at the middle Elbe . The Linonen , Smeldinger and Bethenzer tribes mentioned for this area in the Franconian sources were subordinate to the Wilzian velvet ruler or were at least allied with him. According to the Franconian conception of an imperial border on the Elbe and pacified adjoining domains, the area had to be subordinated to these Elbe Slavic small tribes politically belonging to King Dragowit in order to secure the recent conquests in Saxony. For this reason, Charlemagne assembled an army of Franks, Saxons, Friesians, Sorbs and Abodrites in 789 and went fighting to the castle of the Velvet ruler Dragowit, the civitas Dragawiti on the Peene near Demmin . Dragowit opened his fortress to the Frankish king after lengthy negotiations and surrendered without a fight. In recognition of Karl's supremacy, the captured princes of the small tribes close to the Elbe also submitted to Karl, swore allegiance to Karl and took hostages. In accordance with the Carolingian doctrine of an imperial border on the Elbe, Charlemagne did not leave any occupation troops in the Wilzen area. Karl made political changes only in the Prignitz. To pacify them, he placed the small tribes of the Linonen, Smeldinger and Bethenzer under the suzerainty of the Abodrites under their velvet ruler Witzan , with whom Karl had entered into a strategic alliance.
This encroachment of Charles in the political sphere of influence of the Wilzen remained unchallenged for the next 20 years - possibly the remaining rule of Dragowit or his family. It was not until 799 that the Frankish king felt compelled to send his son Karl the Younger to the Elbe border to settle disputes between Wilzen and the Abodrites allied with him about supremacy in the Prignitz.
Border fighting in the Prignitz
The next news about the Wilzen comes from the years 808-812 and reports on border fights between Franconia and Wilzen in the Prignitz. In the course of a military dispute between Danes and Abodrites over the trading center Reric on the Baltic Sea, the Linonen and Smeldinger 808 fell away from the Abodrites and came under the influence of the Wilzen again. These used the Danish attack and at the same time penetrated the Abodritic heartlands from the east, plundered them and then withdrew again. In the following year the situation was reversed and the regained Abodritic velvet ruler Drasco undertook a campaign of revenge against the Wilzen, devastated their territory and then returned home with rich booty. Strengthened in this way domestically, he put together an even larger army and in the same year conquered the largest castle of the Smeldingen, who were then again under the Abodrites. In the end, however, the Abodrites did not succeed in regaining suzerainty over the tribes of the traffic-important Prignitz. In 810 the Wilzen destroyed the Franconian castle Hochbuoki on the Elbe, which was only built in the previous year and thus restored the conditions before the Wilzen campaign: the Wilzen area of influence extended back to the middle Elbe.
This should not change in the following years either. The Franks reoccupied the fortresses on the left Elbe, but the Prignitz never again came under Abodritic rule. Instead, there were repeated military clashes with the Wilzen and their satellite tribes in the immediate border area on the other side of the Elbe. Now that Saxony had been integrated into the empire, the Franks limited themselves to securing the imperial border on the Elbe. Together with the Abodrites, three army divisions marched in the Prignitz in 812 against the Wilzen.
The tribal association seems to have sunk into political insignificance by the middle of the 10th century. With the year 839 the news about the Wilzen in the Franconian sources abruptly breaks off. This year they are mentioned for the last time in the annals of St. Bertin in the course of a joint attack by Sorbs and Wilzen on Saxon territory . Afterwards they can only be found in the Bavarian Geographers and the Anglo-Saxon Table of Nations.
The organization of the former Wilzian tribes that arose in the course of the Slav uprising was no longer called Wilzen, but Lutizen . However, these did not represent the territorial or constitutional successor of the Wilzen, but are to be distinguished from the Wilzen as an independent re-establishment of a tribal association with a strongly deviating constitution.
- Christian Hanewinkel: The political significance of the Elbe Slavs with regard to the changes in rule in the East Franconian Empire and in Saxony from 887–936. Political sketches of the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries. Münster 2004, p. 34 ff., Online (PDF; 5 MB) .
- Hartmut Hoffmann : Investigations on Carolingian annals (= Bonn historical research. Vol. 10, ). Röhrscheid, Bonn 1958, p. 138 ff .: records from the nineties of the 8th century.
- Annales regni Francorum 789: Inde iter permotum partibus Sclavaniae, quorum vocabulum est Wilze, Domino adiuvante
- Friedrich Wigger : Mecklenburgische Annalen up to the year 1066. A chronologically arranged collection of sources with notes and treatises. Hildebrand, Schwerin 1860, p. 114.
- Natio quaedam Sclavenorum est in Germania, sedens super litus oceani, quae propria lingua Welatabi, francica autem Wiltzi vocatur.
- Helmold I, 2: alterae insulae, longe maior, est contra Wilzos posta
- Fred Ruchhöft: From the Slavic tribal area to the German bailiwick. The development of the territories in Ostholstein, Lauenburg, Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania in the Middle Ages (= archeology and history in the Baltic Sea area. Vol. 4). Leidorf, Rahden (Westphalia) 2008, ISBN 978-3-89646-464-4 , p. 112
- Widukind I, 36: Cumque vicinae gentes a rege Heinrico factae essent tributariae, Apodriti, Wilti, Hevelli , Dalamanci, Boemi, Redarii, et pax esset, Redarii defecerunt a fide.
- Christian Hanewinkel: The political importance of the Elbe Slavs with regard to the changes in rule in the East Franconian Empire and in Saxony from 887–936. Political sketches of the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries. Münster 2004, p. 192 f.
- Fred Ruchhöft: From the Slavic tribal area to the German bailiwick. The development of the territories in Ostholstein, Lauenburg, Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania in the Middle Ages. (= Archeology and history in the Baltic Sea region. Vol. 4). Leidorf, Rahden (Westphalia) 2008, ISBN 978-3-89646-464-4 , p. 99.
- Widukind I, 36.
- Wolfgang Hermann Fritze: Observations on the origin and nature of the Lutizenbund. in: Yearbook for the History of Central and Eastern Germany Volume 7 (1958), pp. 1–38, here p. 24 f.
- Christian Hanewinkel: The political importance of the Elbe Slavs with regard to the changes in rule in the East Franconian Empire and in Saxony from 887–936. Political sketches of the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries. Münster 2004, p. 61, who considers a combination at least from 789 to be the most likely.
- Gerard Labuda : On the structure of the Slavic tribes in the Mark Brandenburg (10th-12th centuries). In: Otto Büsch, Klaus Zernack (Hrsg.): Yearbook for the history of Central and Eastern Germany . Volume 42, Saur, Munich 1994, , pp. 103-139, here p. 130.
- So already Wolfgang Hermann Fritze: Observations on the origin and nature of the Lutizenbund. in: Yearbook for the History of Central and Eastern Germany Volume 7 (1958), pp. 1–38, here p. 11.
- Fred Ruchhöft: From the Slavic tribal area to the German bailiwick. The development of the territories in Ostholstein, Lauenburg, Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania in the Middle Ages. (= Archeology and history in the Baltic Sea region. Vol. 4). Leidorf, Rahden (Westphalia) 2008, ISBN 978-3-89646-464-4 , p. 102.
- Christian Hanewinkel: The political importance of the Elbe Slavs with regard to the changes in rule in the East Franconian Empire and in Saxony from 887–936. Political sketches of the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries. Münster 2004, pp. 45, 49-51
- Michael Schmauder: Thoughts on the eastern border of the Carolingian empire. In: Walter Pohl , Helmut Reimitz (Ed.): Limit and Difference in the Early Middle Ages (= Austrian Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-Historical Class. Memoranda. 287). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-7001-2896-7 , pp. 57–97, here pp. 60 ff.
- Christian Hanewinkel: The political importance of the Elbe Slavs with regard to the changes in rule in the East Franconian Empire and in Saxony from 887–936. Political sketches of the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries. Münster 2004, p. 51.
- Annales regni Francorum 789; Fragmentum chesnii 789; Annales Mettenses priores 789; Annales Einhardi 789.
- Bernhard Friedmann: Studies on the history of the Abodritic principality up to the end of the 10th century. (= East European Studies of the State of Hesse. Series 1: Giessen Treatises on Agricultural and Economic Research in Eastern Europe . Vol. 197). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-428-05886-0 , p. 223.
- Annales regni Francorum 808.
- Annales regni Francorum 809.
- Annales regni Francorum 810: castellum vocabulo Hohbuoki Albiae flumini adpositum, in quo Odo legatus imperatoris et orientalium Saxonum erat praesidium, a Wilzis captum.