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Original scientific paper

Who is porin in the 30th chapter of De administrando imperio?

Ante Milošević ; Muzej hrvatskih arheoloških spomenika

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page 128-132

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The period of settlement and adoption of Chri- stianity of the Croats (for the topic at hand, it is irre- levant whether this occurred in the seventh, eighth or ninth century) are surely the most common and heated topics of discussion in our historiography. It is one which has caused many historians to debate, solely relying on two second grade, incomplete and vague historical sources which often have factually opposing information, save for instances of chrono- logical data. On the whole, an impression is made that the goals of their writers was precisely to leave certain important events of Croatian history dou- btful, allowing each writer to attain their respective goals determined by varying reasons and interests. We are, of course, talking about the well-known Historia Salonitana and De administrando imperio (DAI) documents. The rst document was created around 1266 by the chronicler Thomas the Archde- acon from Split, while the second was created in the mid-10th century and is most commonly connected to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porp- hyrogenitus. Both, therefore, hold records of events which occurred several centuries before they were recorded in the aforementioned documents. It is un- certain, however, whether these writers had access to any other documents, or their writing was based solely on verbal communication and legends, as was still customary at the time.
As per the title of this brief contribution, the topic at hand is the “archon” Porin who is stated as one of the causes of the events. Thomas’ Histo- ria Salonitana does not mention it at all, while the DAI mentions him in the 30th chapter. It is widely accepted that part of the DAI was not a result of Porphyrogenitus’ editing, but inserted later by an unknown author. This is based on the observation that the style and literary character of that chapter is noticeably different because it is written in discussion form. Regardless of who the author is, historians claim that the data contained in this chapter is more accurate and more relevant for historical research than that referring to similar topics which are des- cribed in the 29th and 31st chapters of the DAI.
Porin was introduced to the topic precisely at the time of the settlement and adoption of Chri- stianity which came after the war with the Francs. Similar events to these are also described in the 31st chapter of the document (allegedly written by Porphyrogenitus), however, that chapter talks about Porga, rather than Porin. The sentence preceding the mention of Porga also mentions that the Croats settled during Porga’s father’s rule, whose name, unfortunately, was not recorded.
Regardless of historians’ doubts about the rele- vance of all the claims in the 31st chapter of the DAI, the fact that Porga’s name was recorded twice in the same section of the document increases the cre- dibility of the assumption. Other sources from the Early Middle Ages do not mention either of these two Croatian rulers, so historiography attempts to equalize them with Duke Borna (around 810-821?) who is also mentioned in the records of the Royal Frankish Annals. Broadly determined linguistic ru- les allow the transformation of the name Porga to Borna, while the lack of connection to Porin from the 30th chapter is interpreted as a mistake in writing Porga’s name.
Through discussion of the contents of the 30th chapter of the DAI, historians have come to the conclusion that it merely retells the 29th and 31st chapters with the addition of the text which could ful l certain needs in altered political requirements which Byzantium had for Croatia in the last quarter of the 10th century. It is also assumed that the origin of some of the information found in the document could be from Croatian traditions. Historians have on numerous occasions pointed out that it is proba- ble and highly likely that Croatian national tradition distorted the main point of earlier events. The order and interpretation of certain epochs, as described in these events, emphasize a more important event which had signi cantly occupied the interests of the nation. This is especially true regarding claims re- corded in the DAI.
Considering these circumstances, this document brings about a new and very different assumption which signi es that Porin was not the rst Croatian duke, as Croatian historiography interprets the in- formation from the DAI. He could have been a part of the mythological narration and tradition which in the 10th century referred to its supreme God – the 31st chapter speci cally con rms him as “God of the Croats” – whom the Croats worshipped until the conversion to Christianity in Dalmatia in the be- ginning of the 9th century – and, possibly, a decade or more after the adoption of Christianity. The form of this “ruler’s” name is very similar to the form of the name of the supreme Slavic God – Perun.
Similarly, the Historia Langobardorum codicis Gothani from the beginning of the 9th century men- tions in its First chapter that the Lombards have fo- und salvation in baptism after their arrival in Italy. The Third chapter of the same document states that one of the stations during migration, before the- ir arrival to the Apennine Peninsula, was also the colonization of Rugiland in Podunavlje after the Goths had, in alliance with the Alemanni, defeated the native Rugilandians and taken them as slaves to Italy. The same chapter further notes that the eva- cuated space was later occupied by the Lombards who lived there for a long time and established the- ir religion. Since the aforementioned document was created during the rule of the Carolingian Empire, it is very likely that that religion was not Christianity (which would surely be mentioned), but their old “pagan” religion which they practiced since ancient times. The continuation of that record is also interesting because it states that the rst “rulers” in that new homeland were Godin and Peron, followed by Klafon. Claffo (around 495-505?) was known from other sources, but about Godin and Peron we only know from the mentioned record in the Gothic Code. Since those names are placed immediately adjacent to the information about their ancient reli- gion and since they sound exactly like the Germanic Odin and the Slavic Perun, the question is does this refer to terrestrial or celestial rulers? Any mention of the Nordic Odin and Slavic Perun in the same context seems peculiar because they are infused with old, pre-Christian beliefs of various peoples; however, it is not improbable because during their migrations the Lombards have lived near Slavs for centuries in various regions of Europe, sometimes with very good relations.
Therefore, based on the mention of Peron (Pe- run) in the Gothic Code, it seems that the assump- tion that Porin from the 30th chapter of the DAI also refers to mythological narration, similar to the Lombard, is not too bold. The narration would mean that Perun as the celestial ruler, similar to the Lombard deities, “protected” the Croats in their migration from the North to the South during the end of the 8th century. Subsequently, in the intricate manner of carrying on tradition this supreme deity was transformed into a ruling “dynasty”. From that standpoint, a new meaning is given to the detail in the recorded narration which states that precisely during his time in their new homeland, the Croats abandoned their ancient religion and adopted Christianity. So we assume that Porin is actually the ce- lestial ruler Perun whose name the author of the 30th chapter of the DAI recorded in a subtly different way and in a different function than that described in original tradition.
Therefore, it is assumed that Perun – the god of ancient Slavic and Croat religion became Porin – the first duke of the Croats in their new homeland.


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