This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.


 


CHRONICLE OF THE PRIEST OF DUKLJA (Ljetopis' Popa Dukljanina), Chapter 36

 

XXXVI. Once he had acceded to the kingdom, the young Vladislas matured into a wise and pious fellow. While Vladimir was still a youth ruling in his father's stead, the aforementioned Samuel, emperor of the Bulgars, mustered a mighty army which he led into the Dalmatian lands which lay beyond the territory of King Vladimir. The king, who was truly a holy man, did not want any of his people to die. Therefore, he withdrew humbly and, with all his people, climbed the Black Mountain. Subsequently, when the emperor arrived he saw that he could not engage the king in battle. Therefore, he left part of his army at the foot of the mountain, and led the rest to attack the city of Ulcinj. Meanwhile, the venomous serpents which inhabited the Black Mountain did great damage, for they began to strike immediately, and whatever they bit died without delay, whether man or beast. So a weeping King Vladimir [332] offered up a prayer to the Lord, entreating the almighty to spare his people from such a pestilential demise. The Lord heard his servant's prayer, and from that day forward none were struck down. Indeed, until the present day if man or beast is bitten by a snake on that mountain he survives healthy and without any other injury. From the day that St. Vladimir prayed until today, it has been as if the snakes on that mountain have no venom. The emperor sent messengers to King Vladimir to encourage him and his followers to descend from the mountain, but the king declined. However, a zupan of that same place, like the traitor Judas sent a message to the emperor, stating: "Master, if it pleases your eminence, I will deliver the king to you"; to which the emperor replied: "if you manage to do this, know that I will make you rich and powerful". The king then gathered all the men with him, and spoke to them thus: "Dearest brethren, it seems fitting to me that I fulfil the adage of the evangelist, which states: 'the good shepherd devotes his being to his flock'. Therefore, brothers, it is better that I devote my being to all of you and deliver my body voluntarily for butchery [333] or slaughter, and thereby deliver you from famine or the sword". After he had said this, and much more he bade farewell to all and approached the emperor. Forthwith, the emperor sent him into exile to the territory of Ohrid, which is called Prespa, where that emperor had his court. Having regrouped his army, he [Samuel] persecuted a prolonged assault on Ulcinj, but failed to achieve anything of note. Consequently he flew into a rage, and proceeded to despoil, burn and plunder the whole of Dalmatia. He set fire to the cities of Lausium and Kotor, as well as villages throughout the whole of the province. It was as if the land was uninhabited. The emperor traversed the land destroying both maritime and mountainous regions as far as Zadar, before returning to his own land through Bosna and Rassa.

[334] Meanwhile, Vladimir was held in chains and offered supplication day and night, fasting and praying. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a vision and comforted him with revelations of what would come to pass, how he would be liberated from his prison, and how, through his martyrdom, he would ascend to the heavenly kingdom and receive the everlasting crown and reward of eternal life. Galvanized by the angelic vision, St. Vladimir held forth with greater and greater prayers and fasts. It came to pass that Samuel's daughter, Cossara, was animated and inspired by a beatific soul. She approached her father and begged that she might go down with her maids and wash the head and feet of the chained captives. Her father granted her wish, so she descended and carried out her good work. Noticing Vladimir among the prisoners, she was struck by his handsome appearance, his humility, gentleness and modesty, and the fact that he was full of wisdom and knowledge of the lord. She stopped to talk to him, and to her his speech seemed sweeter than honey and [335] the honeycomb. Therefore, in no wise on account of lust, but rather profoundly affected by his youth and beauty, and since she heard that he was a king, the scion of royal blood, she desired him. Having bade him farewell, she was intent upon securing his release from bondage. She approached the emperor, threw herself at his feet and addressed him thus: "My Father, my lord, I know that you mean to present me with a husband, as is customary. Now, if it pleases your eminence, I would have you give me the king Vladimir whom you are holding in chains. You should know that I would rather die than accept another man". The emperor was overjoyed when he heard this, and granted her request because he loved his daughter deeply, and knew that Vladimir was of royal lineage. Immediately he sent for Vladimir, and ordered that he be brought before him bathed and clothed in the manner of a king. Then, gazing fondly upon him, and kissing him in front of the nobles of his kingdom, he gave his daughter to him for his wife. Having celebrated his daughter's marriage in a regal manner, the emperor made Vladislas a king, and gave him both the land of his patrimonial kingdom, and the whole territory of Dyrrachium. Then the emperor sent to Vladimir's uncle Dragimir, so that he might come down [from the Black Mountain] and receive the land [336] of Tribunia, where he might gather his people and settle there. This was done.

Therefore King Vladimir lived with his wife Cossara in all sanctity and chastity, worshipping God and serving him night and day, and he ruled the people entrusted to him in a Godfearing and just manner. Not long after the emperor Samuel died and his son Radomir acceded to the empire. This brave and courageous man waged numerous wars against the Greeks during the reign of the Greek emperor Basil, and conquered all the lands as far as Constantinople. [Samuel died 6 October 1014. After this Basil II rapidly recovered all the lands lost to Samuel and more. Clearly the account given here attributes too much to [Gabriel] Radomir as his father's successor. However, there is no reason to dismiss the whole episode as unreliable. Radomir may well have, indeed almost certainly would have fought alongside his father as he established his control over various Balkan lands. Cf. J. V. A. Fine, Early Medieval Balkans, pp. 193-8.] Therefore, fearing the loss of his empire, the emperor Basil secretly sent ambassadors to Vladislas, Radomir's cousin, who asked: "Why do you not avenge the blood of your father ? Take our gold and silver, as much as you desire to be at peace with us, and take Samuel's kingdom because he killed your father, his own brother. If you get the upper hand, kill his son Radomir, who now rules the kingdom". Vladislas consented to these words, and on an appointed day while Radomir was out hunting, he rode out with him and struck him dead. In this way Radomir died, and Vladislav, his murderer, ruled in his stead. [337] Once he had taken over the empire, he sent messengers to King Vladimir to demand his attendance. When Queen Cossara heard this she grabbed him saying: "My lord, do not go, lest - God forbid - he does to you as he did to my brother. Send me instead, so that I may see and hear what the king has in mind. If he wants to murder me, let him murder me, so long as you do not perish". Therefore, the queen willingly took her husband's place, and approached her cousin, who received her with honour, but under false pretences. Then, he once again sent messengers to the king, giving him a gold cross and [a pledge of] faith, and saying: "Why do you hesitate to come ? You can see that your wife is with me and has come to no harm. Rather, she is treated with honour by myself and my men. Accept my pledge on the cross and come, so that I might see you and you can return to your land with due honour, gifts and your wife". The king replied to him: "We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, was suspended not on a golden cross, but on a wooden one. Therefore, if both your faith and your words are true, send me a wooden cross in the hands of religious men, then in accordance with the belief and conviction of the Lord Jesus Christ, I will have faith in the life-giving cross and holy wood. I will come". So [the emperor] summoned [338] two bishops and a hermit and, concealing his bad faith from them, gave them the wooden cross and sent them to the king. When they reached the king they greeted him and gave him the oath and cross. Accepting the cross, the king prostrated himself on the ground in reverence, kissed it and clutched it to his chest. He then collected a few followers, and set off to the emperor.

Meanwhile the emperor had given instructions that ambushes be set along the route so that as the king passed by they would leap out from the roadside and kill him. However, almighty God, who had cared for His servant from his infancy, did not wish to remain dormant above these men, but sent His angels to guard them. Thus, as the king passed through the area of the ambushes, his enemies that he was accompanied by soldiers who appeared to have wings who were carrying trophies in their hands. When they realised that these were the Lord's angels all of them fled home. The king carried on to the emperor's court, at a place called Prespa. As soon as he arrived he offered prayers to the God on high, as was his custom. In this way the emperor realised that the king had arrived, and flew into a towering rage. He had been sure in his heart that he [the king] would be murdered en route, that is before he reached him, so that he should not [339] appear to be implicated in or consent to the death. [This was important] because he had given him [the king] his word, and entrusted the cross to the hands of the bishops and the hermit, so that he could set the ambushes for him along the route. Therefore, when he saw that his despicable deed had been exposed [Vladislav] sent swordsmen to decapitate him. While the king prayed the soldiers surrounded him. When the king noticed this he called to the bishops and hermit who were there and said: "My lords, what is this ? What have you done ? Why did you deceive me thus ?  Why should I die blameless for having believed your words and oaths ?"  They were so ashamed that they did not dare look him in the face. Next the king prayed and made his confession, received the body and blood of Christ, and taking in his hands the cross which he had obtained from the emperor, he said: "Pray for me my lords, and let this cross as well as you be my witness on the Day of Judgement that I died blameless". Then he kissed the cross, made peace with the bishops, and left the church as all around him wept. Immediately before the doors of the church he was struck down by the soldiers; he was beheaded on the 22nd May. The bishops carried his body into the church [340] and buried him amid hymns and paeans. Henceforth the Lord revealed the merits of the blessed martyr Vladimir, since on entering the church and praying at his tomb people with many afflictions were cured, and by night all could see a divine light as if many candles were burning there. His wife wept copious tears for St. Vladimir, more than can be told for many days. When the emperor saw what miracles the Lord performed there, he repented and so filled with terror that he allowed his cousin [Cossara] to take his body and bury it wherever she wished. So she took his body and transported it to a place known as Krajina, where his [Vladimir's] court was, and interred him in the church of St. Mary. His body lies intact and smells as if it were perfumed with many scents, holding the cross which he received from the emperor in his hand. Each year on his feast day many folk congregate in that church, and by his meritous intercession many benefices are granted to those who pray with a virtuous heart, right until the present day. Cossara, the wife of St. Vladimir, impelled by her moral purity (sanctimonialis effecta)[Could also mean became a nun. Cf. Butler, Monumenta Serbocroatica, p. 139.], lived a pious and holy life, and at her death was entombed in the same church at the feet of her husband.

[341] At the same time that the body of St. Vladimir was transported from Prespa to Krajina, the emperor Vladislav mustered an army and marched out to conquer the land of the blessed Vladimir and the city of Dyrrachium, which the emperor Basil had promised him in return for the murder he had perpetrated. One day, while he was encamped before Dyrrachium, he was tucking into a feast when a vision of St. Vladimir as an armed soldier appeared before him. He was shaken with fear, and began to cry at the top of his voice: "Guards, come at once, run and defend me from Vladimir, he wants to kill me". Saying this he leapt to his feet to flee. Immediately he was struck by the angel. He fell to the ground and both his body and soul expired. His nobles, soldiers and all of his people were struck with terror and foreboding. Setting fire to their camp they all fled that very night and made for their homes. So it came to pass that this most worthless killer, who had ordered that Vladimir be beheaded and thus made a martyr while he was sitting down to dine, was himself struck dead and joined Satan's angels at suppertime.

 Whoever wishes to know how many and of what nature were the feats and miracles God worked in honour of St. Vladimir, his servant [342], should read the book of his deeds, where his accomplishments are related in turn. Let him realise that this holy man was of one spirit with the Lord, and that God dwelt with him, to whom honour etc.


This section of the text, dealing with the life of St. Vladimir, is clearly a Vita incorporated into the Chronicle. (The text is referred to at the end of c. XXXVI.) For that reason it has attracted much attention (and prompted several translations). It is also, somewhat strangely given prevailing attitudes and approaches to hagiography, regarded as 'more reliable' than the rest of the text, which is condemned for its 'oral transmission').


Paul Stephenson, 1998, 2000; July 2010; January 2012