Liudprand of Cremona’s Antapodosis

Liudprand of Cremona’s Antapodosis is a narrative chiefly of high politics in Germany, the Byzantine Empire, and especially northern Italy in the first half of the tenth century (roughly 888–949). The author was a member of a powerful Lombard family, based in northern Italy. He had been driven into exile in the early 950s, and he explains that his history is called the Antapodosis, ‘Retribution’, because he is paying back King Berengar II and his wife Willa for their ill-treatment of his whole family: ‘the purpose of this work is... to depict, make public, and complain about the deads of this Berengar who nowadays does not so much rule as tyrannize in Italy, and of his wife Willa, who is appropriately called a second Jezabel’ (iii.1). He consistently presents himself as the purveyor of the true version of what happened, declaring that he was himself an eyewitness to the events reported from book four onwards. From this point he is explaining events, he claims, ‘just as I witnessed them’ (iv.1). Such claims should not be taken as evidence of a commitment to neutrality or balance.

Liudprand began writing in 958 in Frankfurt, in Eastern Frankia where he had taken refuge, completing the first version in 962. Like other medieval historians, he continued revising the text until his death, and there are grounds for thinking that the work was never properly finished. There are inconsistencies in the narrative; book six is also ‘short weight’. Indeed, the Freising MS, the fullest copy of the work and the copy that has some claim to being associated with Luidprand himself, leaves plenty of room for the insertation of more chapter headings than the nine in the list which currently head book six (fols. 92v–93r). It appears, in other words, as though there was an intention to add further material. But Chiesa explains this incompleteness with the suggestion that the death of Berengar II made finishing the book unnecessary.

Manuscript: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 6388, fols. 1r–85v. A late tenth-century manuscript of the Antapodosis, Clm 6388 is the fullest and seems to record of Liudprand’s latest revisions to his text. It belonged to Abraham, bishop of Freising (d. 994), and remained in the library at Freising (Bavaria) for the remainder of the Middle Ages.

Text: Chiesa, P. (ed.), Liudprandi Cremonensis Opera Omnia, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieualis 156 (Turnhout, 1998).

Translations: (1) P. Squatriti (trs.), The Complete Works of Liudprand of Cremona, Medieval Texts in Translation (Washington, DC, 2007), pp. 41–202 [PN.DM.L7]; (2) F. A. Wright, The Works of Liuprand of Cremona (London, 1930) [7MBL].


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