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Philadelphie et autres études

IIe Partie : Etudes

The baptism of Princess Olga of Kiev the problem of the sources

Dimitri Obolensky

Texte intégral

  • 1 G. Ostrogorsky, ‘Vizantiya i Kievskaya knyaginya Ol’ga’, in To Honor Roman Jakobson (The Hague-Par (...)
  • 2 A.N. Sakharov, ‘Diplomatiya knyagini Ol’gi’, Voprosy Istorii, 1979, no. 10, p. 38; Id., Diplomatiy (...)
  • 3 Β. Φειδᾶς, Ή ἡγεμονὶς τοῦ Κίεβου "Ολγα - ‘Ελένη (945-964) μεταξὺ ‘Ανατολῆς καὶ Δύσεως, ‘Eπετηρὶς ‘ (...)
  • 4 J.-P. Arrignon, ‘Les relations internationales de la Russie kiévienne au milieu du xe siècle et le (...)
  • 5 G.G. Litavrin, ‘Puteshestvie russkoy knyagini Ol’gi ν Konstantinopol’ : problema istochnikov’, Viz (...)

1The time and place of the baptism of Princess Olga, regent of Russia after the death (c. 945) of her husband Igor and until their son Svyatoslav came of age (c. 964), have long been the subject of scholarly debate. The problem, as we shall see, is of more than passing interest: its solution could contribute substantially to our understanding of Russia’s relations with Byzantium and its western neighbours in the mid-tenth century. During the past fifteen years five major studies have appeared, directly or indirectly concerned with this topic. Their authors, G. Ostrogorsky, J.-P. Arrignon, B. Feidas, A.N. Sakharov, and G.G. Litavrin, differ, often widely, in their conclusions. Thus Ostrogorsky argued that Olga was baptized in Kiev in 954 or 9551; Sakharov supposes that her baptism took place in Constantinople between 9 September and 18 October 9572; Feidas, who also opts for Constantinople, dates it later in that year3; Arrignon places it tentatively in Kiev in 9594; while Litavrin, who seems unwilling finally to commit himself, inclines to the view that her baptism took place in Kiev some time between the winter of 957-8 and the summer of 9595.

2Such divergences in the views of contemporary scholars would seem to warrant a new study of the problem. The first step in such a study must be a re-examination of the primary sources: for it is in the discrepancies (real or imagined) in the contemporary, or near-contemporary, documents that the disagreements of modern scholars over the time and place of Olga’s baptism have their origin.

3The sources fall into three groups: the Russian, the Byzantine, and the Latin.

1

  • 6 Povest vremennykh let, ed. V.P. Adrianova-Peretts and D.S. Likhachev, i (Moscow-Leningrad, 1950), (...)
  • 7 A. Stender-Petersen, Die Varägersage als Quelle der altrussischen Chronik (Aarhus and Leipzig, 193 (...)

4The principal Russian source is the Primary Chronicle (Povest’ vremen-nykh let), a composite work by different hands, written in several stages, which achieved its definite form in the second decade of the twelfth century. Under the year 6463 A.M. (September 954-August 955) it tells, with many undoubtedly fictional details, the story of Olga’s journey to Constantinople and of her baptism in that city6. The story, as it stands, has two markedly contrasting features, each of which probably goes back to a different — and non-extant — source. On one level, which may well have originated in a Kievan or Byzantine ecclesiastical source, the Russian princess is shown, like another queen of Sheba, journeying to the fount of wisdom and the true faith, demanding baptism at the hands of the Byzantine Patriarch and humbly and joyfully imbibing his teaching as a sponge absorbs water. On another level, which possibly goes back to a Varangian saga tradition7, she is depicted engaged in a battle of wits with the emperor; who, we are asked to believe, was so struck with her beauty and intelligence that he conceived there and then the plan to marry her. The cunning Russian princess, aware of his designs, insisted that he first consent to be her godfather; and the unsuspecting emperor fell into the trap. When, in due course, she was offered the emperor’s hand, she tartly reminded him that such a marriage was contrary to the Christian law; to which reminder the chastened emperor replied: ‘You have outwitted me, Ο Olga’.

  • 8 The text of The Memory and Eulogy of the Russian prince Vladimir was published by E. Golubinsky, I (...)

5A few scraps of information on Olga’s baptism are provided by a Russian hagiographical work of uncertain origin, thought to have been compiled (though not necessarily in its extant form) in the late eleventh century, and entitled The Memory and Eulogy of the Russian prince Vladimir. Its presumed author, a certain James the Monk, is believed to have incorporated into this work a ‘Eulogy’ of Princess Olga, which may have been written as early as the last years of the tenth century. In agreement with the Primary Chronicle (more precisely with its source) James tells us that Olga was baptized in Constantinople; and he adds that fifteen years elapsed between her baptism and her death on 11 July 9698. This dating of her baptism — to 954 — accords almost exactly with the date given in the Chronicle.

2

  • 9 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De caerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ii, 15, ed. J.J. Reiske (Bonn, 1829) (...)

6We now turn to the Byzantine sources. By far the most important is The Book of Ceremonies, compiled by the Emperor Constantine VII Por-phyrogenitus. It contains a detailed account of Olga’s reception in Constantinople in 957, written (or at least edited) by her imperial host, within two years (possibly less) after the event9. It is thus a first-hand document of the highest value. Since it has of necessity figured promi­nently in the dossier relating to Olga’s conversion to Christianity, its content must be briefly summarized.

7The day of the first reception (Wednesday, 9 September) began with two formal audiences at which Olga was received, standing, together with the leading members of her retinue, first by the emperor and then by the empress. There followed a more informal meeting at which she sat in the company of the emperor, the empress and their children, speaking to the emperor ‘of whatever she wished’ (ὃσα ἐβούλετο). Later that day, a banquet (ϰλητώριον) was held in her honour, at which she was invited to sit at the empress’ table together with the ζωσταί, the highest ranking ladies-in-waiting. On entering the banqueting hall Olga’s female companions of princely rank (ἀρχόντισσαι) paid their respects to the empress and her daughter-in-law by prostrating themselves to the ground (προσϰυνησάντων), while Olga confined herself to a slight inclination of the head (τὴν ϰεφαλὴν μιϰρòν ὑποκλίνασα). After the banquet a dessert (δούλκιον) was served in an adjacent room on a golden table, at which Olga sat in the company of the emperor, his son and co-emperor Romanos, and other members of the imperial family. On 18 October the Russian party was again received in the palace. This time, however, only the men of Olga’s retinue were admitted to the emperor’s table, while she dined in the company of the empress and her family.

  • 10 During her informal meeting with the imperial family Olga was allowed to sit η the emperor’s prese (...)
  • 11 See below, p. 167.

8Two features in this account in the Book of Ceremonies are worth noting here: the high honours accorded to Olga by the emperor and his family during her reception at court on 9 September 95710; and the fact that no mention is made of her baptism: rather do we gain the impression that Constantine VII regarded her as a pagan11.

  • 12 Thus he is unduly concerned to disparage Constantine VII. See A.P. Kazhdan, ‘Iz istorii vizantiisk (...)
  • 13 Gy. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, i (Berlin, 1958), pp. 335-9.
  • 14 G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (Oxford, 1968), p. 211.

9Another Byzantine source, the chronicle of John Skylitzes, appears to tell a different story. Skylitzes, a high imperial official, wrote in the second half of the eleventh century. The section of his chronicle which covers the third quarter of the tenth century is not free from tendentious judgements of value12. Yet he is generally regarded as a reliable recorder of events13. For his account of Olga’s visit to Constantinople he draws on a non-extant source, possibly of ecclesiastical origin14. The account is brief and in places (perhaps deliberately) vague:

  • 15 Καὶ ἡ τοῦ ποτε ϰατὰ ‘Ρωμαίων ἐϰπλεύσαντος ἄρχοντος τῶν ‘Ρῶς γαμετή, ‘‘Eλγα τοὔνομα, τοῦ ἀνδρòς αὐτ (...)

‘And the wife of the prince of Russia who once sailed forth against the Rhomaioi [i.e. Igor, Prince of Kiev], Elga by name, journed to Constantinople after her husband’s death. Having been baptized, having exhibited a determination [to abide in] the true faith, and having been honoured in a manner worthy of this determination, she returned home’15.

  • 16 See Litavrin, op. cit., p. 40.

10This passage is undated, and follows after Skylitzes’ report of the baptism in Constantinople of two Magyar chieftains, Βουλοσουδής (Bulcsu) and Γυλᾶς (Gyula), events which took place c. 948 and c. 952 respectively. And it immediately precedes the mention of the marriage, in 956, of Constantine VII’s son Romanos (the future Emperor Romanos II) with Theophano, the daughter of a Constantinopolitan inn-keeper. It is clear, however, that in this passage Skylitzes is not listing the events in strict chronological order, but is grouping them thematically16. It was natural for him to connect the baptism in Constantinople of the Russian archontissa with the earlier baptisms in the imperial capital of the two Hungarian archontes. Thus all we can assert with confidence about Skylitzes’ dating of Olga’s baptism is that it took place on his reckoning some time after 952, the approximate date of Gyula’s baptism, the account of which precedes his reference to Olga’s journey to Constantinople.

  • 17 There is a striking verbal similarity between the passages in Skylitzes’ chronicle referring to th (...)

11Skylitzes also tells us that, on the occasion of her baptism, Olga was "honoured" by the Byzantines in some unspecified manner. It is tempting, though probably hazardous, to assume a connection between the ‘honours’ paid to Olga and those which, on Skylitzes’ showing, were accorded to the Hungarian chieftains, both of whom on their baptism were given the Byzantine court title of patrikios17. There is no evidence that Olga was ever granted a Byzantine title; yet there is nothing inherently implausible in this possibility.

12Our two Byzantine sources, then, appear to contradict each other, at least over the place of Olga’s baptism. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in his account of her reception at the Byzantine court in 957, seems to regard her as a pagan. Skylitzes plainly states that she was baptized in Constantinople.

3

  • 18 Reginonis abbatis Prumiensis chronicon cum continuatione Treverensi, ed. F. Kurze (Hanover, 1890) (...)
  • 19 On Adalbert see M. Lintzel ‘Erzbischof Adalbert von Magdeburg als Geschichts-schreiber’, in the sa (...)
  • 20 Lintzel, op. cit., p. 400.

13Our principal Latin source may help us to resolve this contradiction. This is the chronicle known as the Continuation of the Chronicle of the Abbot Regino of Prüm, and it is now established beyond doubt that it was written between 966 and the early part of 968 by Adalbert of St. Maximin, the future archbishop of Magdeburg18. What we know of Adalbert suggests on the whole an accurate and reliable reporter. In the 950s he acquired legal skills by working in the Ottonian chancellery. After a period as a monk in the monastery of St. Maximin in Trier (958-61), he was consecrated bishop and appointed (in 961) to head the mission sent by Otto I to Russia. On his return to Germany in 962, he was befriended by William, archbishop of Mainz, who, in the absence in Italy of his father Otto I, headed the government of the Reich. Adalbert was invited by Otto to the German court and, during the next four years, worked again in the royal chancellery. Between 966 and 968 he was abbot of the Monastery of Weissenburg in Alsatia, where he wrote his chronicle. In the autumn of 968 he was appointed by Otto 1 to the newly created archbishopric of Magdeburg. He died in 98119. He belonged to the highest circles of the German church; and, owing to his legal training, experience gained in the royal chancellery, and exalted connections, he had access to state documents and was competent to assess their political and religious significance. His chronicle, which covers the years from 907 to 967, is regarded as the outstanding work of tenth-century German historiography20. He had, moreover, a first-hand knowledge of Russia and her ecclesiastical affairs; and for this reason alone his evidence merits careful consideration.

  • 21 ‘Legati Helenae reginae Rugorum, quae sub Romano imperatore Constantino-politano Constantinopoli b (...)

14In 959, Adalbert tells us, ‘envoys from Helen [i.e. Olga], queen of the Russians, who was baptized in Constantinople in the reign of the Emperor Romanos [Romanos II, 959-63] of Constantinople, came to the king [Otto I] and falsely, as it later became apparent, asked for a bishop and priests to be ordained for that people’21. We are not told when exactly the Russian envoys arrived in Germany, nor where their meeting with Otto I took place.

  • 22 ‘Rex natale Domini Franconofurd celebravit, ubi Libutius ex coenobitis sancti Albani a venerabili (...)

15Otto’s first response to Olga’s request seems to have been rapid. In Frankfurt, where the king spent Christmas of that same year (959), Libutius, a monk of St. Alban’s monastery in Mainz, was consecrated, presumably during the Christmas season, ‘bishop for the Russian people’ by Archbishop Adaldag of Hamburg-Bremen22.

  • 23 ibid.
  • 24 Owing to lively trade relations between the two countries Russia was by no means unknown in German (...)

16Libutius’ consecration was followed by a delay of more than a year. Adalbert gives no explanation for this, beyond observing in his usual laconic manner that during the whole of 960 and the early months of 961 the newly appointed Bishop of Russia was prevented from going there ‘quibusdam dilationibus’23. It may be that this delay was connected with Otto I’s plans for the ecclesiastical organization of the Slav lands beyond the eastern borders of his realm, in which the archbishopric of Magdeburg, created with papal authorisation in 967, was to play the leading role. Otto I may well have decided during the winter of 959-60 that the opportunity of extending eastward the influence of the Reich and of reviving the missionary traditions of the Carolingian empire required not only delicate negotiations with Rome, but also further knowledge of conditions in this distant Slav realm that now seemed willing, of its own accord, to enter his orbit24.

  • 25 ‘Cui [Libutio] Adalbertus ex coenobitis sancti Maximini machinatione et consilio Willihelmi archie (...)

17Before he had a chance to set out on his mission, Libutius died on 15 March 961. Adalbert describes (in the third person singular) his own appointment to head the mission to Russia, a task he accepted very reluctantly and for which, with some rancour, he blames his patron, Archbishop William of Mainz. He was consecrated in his turn ‘bishop for the Russian people’ and, liberally provided for the needs of his journey by King Otto, left for Russia, probably later in the same year (961)25.

  • 26 ‘Eodem anno (962) Adalbertus Rugis ordinatus episcopus nihil in his, propter quae missus fuerat, p (...)
  • 27 Ibid.

18Adalbert describes the outcome of his journey to Russia with tantalizing brevity and vagueness. ‘Unable’, he writes, ‘to accomplish successfully any of the purposes for which he had been sent, and seeing that he was exerting himself in vain, he returned home. While some of his companions were killed during the homeward journey, he himself escaped with great difficulty’26. He returned to Germany in 962, intending to report on the result of his mission to Otto I; but the king was in Italy, where on 2 February, 962, he was crowned emperor in Rome by the Pope. In his absence Adalbert was befriended ‘quasi frater a fratre’ by Archbishop William of Mainz, who had chosen him to head the mission to Russia. The unhappy missionary was rewarded for his labours by employment at the German court27.

  • 28 ‘Professi sunt se velle recedere a paganico ritu’ : Annales Hildesheimenses s.a. 960, Monumenta Ge (...)

19Adalbert’s account of his Russian mission is repeated in an abbreviated form in several German chronicles of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. Two of them, however, the Hildesheim and the Quedlinburg Annals, supply a detail that Adalbert does not mention: Olga’s envoys to Otto I, they state, declared that their people wished to renounce paganism28.

20For our present purpose, the importance of Adalbert’s evidence lies mainly in three of his statements: (1) that Olga was baptized in Constan­tinople; (2) that this occurred in the reign of Romanos II; and (3) that her Christian name was Helen. This evidence must now be examined more closely in an attempt to determine whether it is coherent as a whole, whether it is reconcilable with the evidence of the other sources, and whether it is consistent with what we know of Russo-Byzantine relations between 957 and 962.

  • 29 Ostrogorsky, ‘Vizantiya i Kievskaya knyaginya Ol’ga’, pp. 1459-63 ; ‘Byzanz und die Kiewer Fürstin (...)

21(1) On Olga’s baptism in Constantinople there is in our sources an impressive degree of agreement. Every one of the documents that mention her baptism — the Primary Chronicle, The Memory and Eulogy of the Russian prince Vladimir, the chronicle of Skylitzes, and Adalbert’s report on his mission — state that she was baptized in the Byzantine capital. No medieval source states otherwise. The contrary view rests essentially on one key argument : the silence of The Book of Ceremonies. It is hard to believe that, had Olga been baptized during her stay in Constantinople in 957, Constantine VII would not have mentioned this event. Ostrogorsky regards this argument ‘from silence’ as crucial, and it is difficult not to agree with him29.

  • 30 . See my article ‘Russia and Byzantium in the mid-tenth century : The problem of the Baptism of Pr (...)
  • 31 De caerim., ii, 15, p. 579.

22Though Ostrogorsky’s arguments against the view that Olga was baptized in Constantinople in 957 seem to me convincing, he is, in my opinion, on far less solid ground when he argues that she was baptized in Kiev in 954 or 955, and was thus already a Christian when she visited Constan­tine VII’s court. I have given elsewhere my reasons for believing that she was in fact still a pagan at that time30. They include the absence of any specifically Christian features in her reception in 957, which, on Constantine’s own showing, was ‘in all respects similar’ to the audiences he accorded to ambassadors from various regions of the Arab world; the absence from the ceremonies of Olga’s reception at court of the ‘baptized Russians’ who then formed part of the palace guard31 ; the composition of Olga’s party, which included some 22 diplomatic officials and some 44 merchants from Russia, which suggests that the purpose of her journey to Constantinople was political and commercial; the fact that Constantine refers to her by her pagan name Elga and not by her Christian name Helen; and the impression, conveyed both by the Book of Ceremonies and the Russian Primary Chronicle, that Olga failed in 957 to obtain from the Byzantine government satisfactory political and commercial terms, and returned home displeased.

23The Book of Ceremonies provides strong negative evidence that Olga was not baptized in Constantinople in 957. Pace Ostrogorsky, however, it cannot be used to support the theory that she became a Christian before her visit to Byzantium in that year. And its evidence certainly does not preclude the possibility that she was baptized in Constantinople at some later date.

  • 32 Attempts have been made to make Adalbert’s words ‘sub Romano imperatore’ cover those years of Cons (...)

24(2) We now come to the second of Adalbert’s statements: that Olga’s baptism took place in the reign of the Emperor Romanos II. Romanos came to the throne on 9 November 959, and died on 15 March 963. In fact, to be internally consistent, Adalbert’s evidence must mean that Olga was baptized some time between 9 November 959 and the beginning of 962: for, on Adalbert’s showing, by the latter date at the latest he had reached Kiev and learned of Olga’s baptism in Constantinople32. And this dating must, in turn, be tested for its consistency with what is known of the relations between Byzantium and Russia during those years.

  • 33 Theophanes Continuatus, vi (Bonn, 1838), pp. 470-1. The author of this passage appears to be Theod (...)

25We learn from a contemporary Byzantine source, the sixth book of ‘Theophanes Continuatus’, that as soon as he came to the throne Romanos II dispatched ‘letters of friendship’ to neighbouring countries: among these our chronicler specifically mentions Bulgaria and ‘peoples of west and east’. On receipt of these systatic letters all of them replied, declaring their readiness to conclude treaties of friendship with the empire33. Though the Russians are not mentioned by name, it is likely enough that one of the recipients of Romanos’ friendly advances was Olga of Kiev, the regent of a powerful realm whose support would have been of considerable benefit to the Byzantine Empire, which only a few months previously, in the course of a lengthy war on its eastern frontier, had fought a major battle with the Arabs in Mesopotamia.

  • 34 See G. Schlumberger, Un empereur byzantin au Xe siècle. Nicéphore Phocas (Paris, 1890), pp. 38-114 (...)
  • 35 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, pp. 476, 481.
  • 36 Povest’ vremennykh let, pp. 28, 38 ; English transl., pp. 68, 76.
  • 37 De caerim., ii, 45, p. 664.

26The first major military effort of Romanos’ reign was directed against Crete. The reconquest of the island from the Arabs had been for the past hundred years a central concern of Byzantine governments. Romanos’ chief minister, Joseph Bringas, equipped to this end the largest fleet the Empire had ever possessed. In the summer of 960 this armada, transporting cavalry and infantry, sailed from Constantinople on what was to be one of the greatest military achievements of the middle Byzantine period. After a winter of bitter fighting, the Cretan capital Chandax (Herakleion) fell in March 961 to the forces of the Byzantine commander-in-chief, Nicephorus Phokas34. An infantry detachment of Russians (Rhos) took part in the siege of the city35. There can be little doubt that their presence in Nicephorus’ army was the result of diplomatic negotiations between Russia and the Empire. Russian mercenaries, highly prized in Byzantium, were already mentioned, serving in the armed forces of the Empire, in the text of the Russo-Byzantine treaties of 911 and 94436; and they took part in the abortive Cretan expedition of 94937. It is thus very likely that diplomatic contacts between Byzantium and Kiev were intensified during the first eight months of Romanos II’s reign, owing to the imperial government’s urgent need to obtain military help from Russia in the impending campaign against Crete. These negotiations were presumably initiated soon after Romanos’ peace overtures were received in Kiev, i.e. late in 959 or early in 960, and were completed by late June or early July 960, when the Byzantine fleet set sail for the island.

  • 38 The view that Olga’s baptism took place during the Russo-Byzantine negotiations which preceded the (...)

27On the Russian side these negotiations were undoubtedly conducted by Olga herself. Their urgency — since the preparations for the Cretan campaign were then well under way — probably required her presence in Constantinople. Their successful outcome suggests that, in exchange for Russian military aid, she was able to extract in 960 greater concessions from the government of Romanos II than his father had been willing to grant her in 957. Her baptism may well have formed part of this package deal38. The most appropriate date for her christening would appear to be the spring or early summer of 960, either in the final stages of the campaign’s preparation, or soon after the imperial navy sailed from Constantinople. On this reckoning, Olga’s second journey to Byzantium must have taken place some two and a half years after her return home from her visit to Constantine VII’s court.

28This reconstruction of the facts would show, I submit, that Adalbert’s statement that Olga was baptized in the reign of Romanos II is entirely consistent with what we know of the relations between Byzantium and Russia during the early months of this emperor’s reign. And it would also remove any appearance of discrepancy between this statement of Adalbert and the evidence of our two Byzantine authorities, Constantine Porphyrogenitus and Skylitzes.

  • 39 In particular ARRIGNON, op. cit., p. 170, and LITAVRIN, op. cit., p. 36.

29One discrepancy, however, still remains. The Russian sources — the Primary Chronicle and James the Monk — while agreeing with Adalbert that Olga was baptized in Constantinople, date this event to 954-5. This dating, we have seen, probably goes back to a common source, a panegyric of Princess Olga, composed in the late tenth or early eleventh century. This common source stated that Olga lived after her baptism for fifteen years and died on 11 July 969. The fact that there is no way of checking the accuracy of the figure fifteen has caused some scholars to view this dating with scepticism39.

  • 40 See W. Lange, Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen (Göttingen, 1958), pp. 179-81 ; L (...)
  • 41 Several Russian historians, without mentioning the prima signatio, believe that Olga underwent a d (...)

30It is possible, however, that the dating of the Russian sources goes back to a sound, though misunderstood, kernel of truth. Olga in 954 or 955 might have undergone a preliminary ceremony of reception into the Christian community of Kiev, postponing her final, and sacramental, christening until a later visit to Constantinople. Such conversions in two stages were not unknown in the tenth century among Scandinavians: converts, some time before their formal baptism, underwent an introductory rite which allowed them, as catechumens, to consort with Christians; in the documents this rite is called prima signatio40. By the late eleventh century this pre-sacramental ceremony seems to have been extinct; and it is by no means impossible that James the Monk and the author of the story of Olga’s conversion in the Primary Chronicle, writing about that time, confused the prima signatio imposed on this Varangian princess with true sacramental baptism41.

  • 42 Povest’ vremennykh let, ii, p. 188. John Tzimisces is also named as the reigning emperor at the ti (...)
  • 43 Povest’ vremennykh let, i, p. 44; ii, p. 188.

31There is yet another reason for believing that the chronology of the Russian sources does not invalidate Adalbert’s dating of Olga’s baptism. In the earliest manuscript of the Primary Chronicle, copied in 1377, it is stated that Olga travelled to Constantinople and was baptized there in the reign of the Emperor John Tzimisces42. Constantine VII’s name appears in the story for the first time in a late fifteenth-century manuscript of the Chronicle43; and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the late medieval scribe substituted the name of Constantine VII for that of John I in an attempt to make his chronology conform to the evidence of the Book of Ceremonies. To be sure, Olga could not have travelled to Constantinople in the reign of John Tzimisces (969-76); but the reference, however erro­neous, to this emperor in what is reliably considered to have been the earliest version of the Primary Chronicle shows at least that its author believed that Olga was baptized in the reign of one of Constantine VII’s successors.

  • 44 Povest’ vremennykh let, i, p. 44 ; English transl., p. 82 ; Pamyat’ i pokhvala, ed. Golubinsky, pp (...)
  • 45 King Boris of Bulgaria at his baptism in 864 or 865 assumed the name Michael in honour of the reig (...)
  • 46 A.N. Sakharov has argued that Olga was called Helen after the mother of the Emperor Constantine th (...)

32(3) Adalbert’s third statement, that Olga’s Christian name was Helen, can be considered more briefly. It accords with the evidence of the Russian sources, the Primary Chronicle and James the Monk, both of which assert that she took the name Helen on baptism44. It is generally believed, rightly in my view, that she assumed this name in honour of the Empress Helen, the wife of Constantine VII. It seems to have been customary for at least the male rulers of foreign lands who accepted Byzantine Christianity to receive on baptism the name of the reigning emperor; in this way they acknowledged his spiritual paternity45. It is natural to assume that, in accepting the Christian name of Constantine VII’s imperial consort, Olga became in like manner her god-daughter, thus acknowledging — at least in the Byzantine reading of the facts — that she now belonged to the family of Christian rulers over which the emperor presided46.

  • 47 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, p. 473 (19 September) ; Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum, ed. I. (...)
  • 48 De caerim., pp. 596-8.
  • 49 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, p. 473.

33It is true that Helen Lecapena ceased to be the reigning empress on 9 November 959, the day of her husband’s death. However, she retained the rank of Augusta and continued to live in the imperial palace until her death on 19 or 20 September 96047. Olga had met Helen personally in 957, and had dined with her twice in that year48. If she revisited Constantinople in the spring or summer of 960, it would have been natural for her to renew her acquaintance with the dowager empress. Personal and diplomatic reasons would have caused Helen to be chosen to act as sponsor at Olga’s baptism. She was then, it is true, in poor health and deprived of political power. Yet she seems to have retained the affection of the emperor her son: and her funeral was an occasion for a public display of some magnificence49.

  • 50 Those scholars who are unwilling to accept Adalbert’s evidence have tried to impugn his reliabilit (...)

34This examination of Adalbert’s evidence has shown, I hope, that his statements that Olga was baptized in Constantinople in the reign of Romanos II and that she was christened Helen have stood up well to the three crucial tests mentioned above: internal coherence, substantial agreement with the other sources, and consistency with the state of Russo-Byzantine relations between 957 and 96250.

35It remains to consider two further questions raised by Adalbert’s testimony: what was the purpose of Olga’s embassy to Germany in 959? And why did Adalbert’s mission to Russia fail?

  • 51 Arrignon argues that the purpose of Olga’s embassy was to conclude a commercial agreement with Ger (...)
  • 52 In 866 King Boris of Bulgaria, disappointed in the treatment he was receiving from his Byzantine p (...)

36On the first question Adalbert is clear and explicit: Olga’s envoys were instructed to ask Otto I to send a bishop and priests to administer the new Russian church. The fact that this request, in Adalbert’s words, later proved to be ‘false’ does not invalidate the fact that it was made. Modern historians have shown a strange reluctance to accept his statement at its face value, attributing every motive — political, military, commercial — except the religious one to Olga’s embassy51. To be sure, secular motives of this kind may have played some part in Olga’s decision to turn to the west; indeed, in the circumstances of the time, the acceptance of a German ecclesiastical hierarchy would almost certainly have involved her country in a degree of political alignment with the Ottonian Reich52. Nevertheless there are no valid reasons for setting aside Adalbert’s plain statement that Olga was seeking a German clergy. He was, we have seen, in a good position to know the facts: he was familiar with what archival material there was in the Ottonian state and, in all probability, had met Olga in Kiev. It is not apparent that he had any motive for concealing the truth. Moreover, his evidence regarding Olga’s ecclesiastical plans is inherently plausible. She had recently returned from Constantinople, still a pagan and resentful of her treatment by the government of Constantine VII. What we know of her foreign policy shows that she was keenly interested in her country’s international status and prestige. Byzantium seems to have grudged her both. She could well have hoped to fare better with the Saxon king, soon to become emperor, whose political star was rising in Christendom and whose spiritual partner, the Roman church, seemed to be fast advancing on Russia, in the wake of the German Drang nach Osten. It surely makes good sense to accept Adalbert’s statement that the purpose of Olga’s embassy was to secure a German clergy for the Christians of Russia.

  • 53 Povest’ vremennykh let, p. 46; English transl, pp. 83-4; D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth (...)
  • 54 Obolensky, op. cit., pp. 182-9.
  • 55 Adalbert does not explicitly state that he reached Kiev. However, the outcome of his mission would (...)

37How, then, are we to interpret his assertion that the Russian request later proved to be ‘false’ ? We are now faced with the second of our final questions — the reasons for the failure of Adalbert’s mission. They must surely lie in the conditions he found on his arrival in Russia. During the years 959-62 Olga was still the effective ruler of the country. Her son Svyatoslav, still a minor, was acquiring the warlike qualities for which he was soon to become famous, under the growing influence of his military retinue, which consisted largely of Varangians. To his mother’s attempts to convert him to Christianity he replied: ‘How could I alone accept another religion? My retainers will laugh at me’53. Svyatoslav’s addiction to paganism was to remain with him all his life. Christianity, on the other hand, was not unknown in Kiev at the time, and a Christian community, no doubt partly staffed by a Greek clergy, had survived intermittently in the city for at least several decades54. It must have been powerfully reinforced by Olga’s conversion. And so, when Adalbert arrived in Kiev55 late in 961 or early in 962, he faced two potentially hostile groups: the Christians who, under Olga’s leadership, belonged to the Byzantine Church; and the pagans, whose protagonists were Svyatoslav and his military retinue.

  • 56 See above, p. 166.

38Which of these two groups is more likely to have wrecked Adalbert’s mission, caused the death of several of his companions, and made him return post-haste to Germany? At first sight the pagans would seem the more probable candidates. The massacre of some of the German mis­sionaries during their homeward journey is certainly more likely to have been perpetrated by Svyatoslav’s storm-troopers than by Kiev’s Christian community. The Russian pagans must have felt threatened in their ancestral customs and beliefs by the arrival of the German bishop and his attendant clergy and, even after their departure from Kiev, may well have vented their fear and anger by this act of violence. It will be recalled that according to the Hildesheim and Quedlinburg Annals Olga’s envoys told Otto I that her people wished to renounce paganism56.

39Yet this very fact, when coupled with Adalbert’s accusation of duplicity which he levels against the Russian envoys, must give us pause. His use of the adverb ficte would be hard to understand if, having been sent as a missionary to a people who had professed their desire to abandon paganism, he found on arrival in their country that they had simply changed their mind and wished to remain pagans. The adverb, however, will seem more appropriate if we suppose that Adalbert, having set out on his mission in the belief that he was going to preach Christianity to a pagan nation, found on arrival that its ruler had in the meantime, between the dispatch of her embassy to Otto I and his own arrival in Kiev, been baptized in Constantinople into the Byzantine Church. Seeing that the Christian party in Kiev was now firmly wedded under its ruler to the Byzantine Church, he naturally concluded that he and his sovereign had been tricked by Olga.

40Another argument can be advanced in support of the view that the prime responsibility for the failure of Adalbert’s mission lay with the Christians of the Byzantine obedience, and not with the Russian pagans. If the pagans had appeared to him as the main obstacle on his arrival in Kiev, would he not have chosen to remain in Russia a little longer, in an effort to convert them? It is true that Adalbert was a reluctant, and possibly unheroic, missionary. Yet the warm reception he was given on his return by Archbishop William, and his subsequent appointment by Otto I to the important archbishopric of Madgeburg, show that no shadow of blame rested on him after his Russian mission in the eyes of the highest authorities of the German Reich.

  • 57 ‘The laconic Adalbert of St Maximin’ : K.J. Leyser, Rule and Conflict in an early medieval Society (...)
  • 58 K.J. Leyser believes that the detention in 960 of Otto’s envoy, Liudprand of Cremona, by the Byzan (...)
  • 59 W. Ohnsorge believes that these relations were friendly : ‘Die Anerkennung des Kaisertums Ottos I. (...)

41If the pro-Byzantine party in Kiev was mainly responsible for wrecking Adalbert’s mission, it may seem strange that he did not mention this in his chronicle. His journey to Russia had been a frightening and humil­iating experience. Why did he not give vent to his feelings by expatiating on the familiar theme of Greek perfidy? He chose instead to describe the outcome of his mission in terms of quite remarkable vagueness. The tone of his chronicle, it is true, is on the whole restrained and laconic57. Yet here one cannot but suspect, behind the impersonality and equivocation of his language, a degree of tactful self-censorship. His master Otto I had recently been engaged in delicate negotiations with the government of Romanos II over Byzantine recognition of his imperial title. The dispatch of a German mission to Russia could hardly fail to be interpreted in Constantinople as a hostile act58. The precise nature of Otto I’s relations with Byzantium between 960 and 963 is still unclear59. But, whether they were friendly or cool, it would have been natural for Adalbert, writing between 966 and 968, to have played down the anti-Greek character of his mission to Russia in the interests of his sovereign, who was vitally concerned in the recognition by the Byzantine authorities of his recently acquired imperial title.

42It is time to sum up the results of this inquiry. It has rested primarily on the examination of the two most reliable sources on Olga’s relations with Byzantium, whose authors, in one case certainly, in the other very probably, actually met the Russian princess: Constantine VII’s Book of Ceremonies and Adalbert’s Continuation of Regino’s Chronicle. I argued that a careful reading of the former suggests that Olga was still a pagan when she visited Constantinople in 957, and that her negotiations with the government of Constantine VII were a failure from the political and commercial points of view. Frustrated in her hopes of obtaining the desired concessions from the Empire, which may have included the request for a high-ranking ecclesiastical hierarchy, Olga turned two years later to Germany, and asked for a Latin bishop and priests from Otto I. A few months after her embassy left for Germany, she received an official and friendly letter from Romanos II, announcing the death of Constantine VII (on 9 November 959) and his own accession to the Byzantine throne. In the expectation, and perhaps knowledge, that the warmth of the new emperor’s message heralded a change in the Empire’s policy towards Russia, she travelled — I believe — a second time to Constantinople. There, in the spring or early summer of 960, she conducted the negotiations with Byzantium which resulted in a peace treaty between Russia and the Empire. Its terms included the participation of Russian troops in the Cretan campaign of 960-1, and Olga’s baptism into the Byzantine Church.

  • 60 Some of the elements of this scenario were put forward briefly and without much supporting argumen (...)

43A year or so after Olga’s return home, the long-delayed German mission, led by Bishop Adalbert, arrived in Kiev. During the past two years Olga’s desire for an alliance with Otto I, which no doubt would have followed her acceptance of a German hierarchy, had considerably cooled, very probably under Byzantine diplomatic pressure. Her baptism in Constantinople finally destroyed the prospects of Latin Christianity in Russia. Adalbert and his companions, seeing that the pro-Byzantine party was solidly entrenched in Kiev, had no option but to return home. Olga, the ambiguity in her foreign policy now resolved, remained faithful to the Byzantine Church until her death in 96960.

Notes

1 G. Ostrogorsky, ‘Vizantiya i Kievskaya knyaginya Ol’ga’, in To Honor Roman Jakobson (The Hague-Paris, 1967), p. 1466 ; German translation ‘Byzanz und die Kiewer Fürstin Olga’ in the same author’s Byzanz und die Welt der Slawen (Darmstadt, 1974), p. 44.

2 A.N. Sakharov, ‘Diplomatiya knyagini Ol’gi’, Voprosy Istorii, 1979, no. 10, p. 38; Id., Diplomatiya Drevney Rusi (Moscow, 1980), p. 281.

3 Β. Φειδᾶς, Ή ἡγεμονὶς τοῦ Κίεβου "Ολγα - ‘Ελένη (945-964) μεταξὺ ‘Ανατολῆς καὶ Δύσεως, ‘Eπετηρὶς ‘Εταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν, τόμ. 39/40 (1972-3), pp. 630-50.

4 J.-P. Arrignon, ‘Les relations internationales de la Russie kiévienne au milieu du xe siècle et le baptême de la princesse Olga’, Occident et Orient au Xe siècle. Actes du IXe Congrès de la Société des Historiens Médiévistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur Public (Dijon, 2-4 juin 1978) : Publications de l’Université de Dijon, 57 (Paris, 1979), pp. 177-8.

5 G.G. Litavrin, ‘Puteshestvie russkoy knyagini Ol’gi ν Konstantinopol’ : problema istochnikov’, Vizantiisky Vremennik, 42 (1981), p. 39-41.

6 Povest vremennykh let, ed. V.P. Adrianova-Peretts and D.S. Likhachev, i (Moscow-Leningrad, 1950), pp. 44-5; English translation S.H. Cross and O.P. Sher-bowitz-Wetzor (Cambridge, Mass., 1953), pp. 82-3.

7 A. Stender-Petersen, Die Varägersage als Quelle der altrussischen Chronik (Aarhus and Leipzig, 1934), p. 38.

8 The text of The Memory and Eulogy of the Russian prince Vladimir was published by E. Golubinsky, Istoriya russkoy tserkvi, I, part i (2nd ed., Moscow, 1901), pp. 238-45 and by A.A. Zimin in Kratkie soobshcheniya Instituta Slavyanovedeniya, 37 (Moscow, 1963), pp. 66-75. On this work, whose textual history is obscure, see A.A. Shakhmatov, Razyskaniya ο drevneishikh russkikh letopisnykh svodakh (St Petersburg, 1908), pp. 13-28; A. Poppe, ‘Pamięć i pochwała księcia Włodzimierza’, in Słownik Starożytności Słowiańskich, IV (Wrocław, Warsaw, Cracow, 1967), pp. 16-18. It would appear that the ‘Eulogy’ of Princess Olga is the common source of the chronology of Olga’s baptism in the Memory and Eulogy and the Russian Primary Chronicle.

9 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De caerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ii, 15, ed. J.J. Reiske (Bonn, 1829), I, pp. 594-8. Hereafter De caerim. For the dating of this passage, see Le Livre des cérémonies, Commentaire, by A. Vogt, I (Paris, 1967), pp. xxvi-xxviii.

10 During her informal meeting with the imperial family Olga was allowed to sit η the emperor’s presence, a rare privilege. Equally unusual was the permission, evidently granted her by the court protocol, of ‘slightly inclining her head’ before the empress, while her companions had to prostrate themselves to the ground. Prostration (προσκύνησις) was normally imposed on all who had audience with the emperor or the empress, including foreign envoys. See Ostrogorsky, ‘Vizantiya i Kievskaya knya-ginya Ol’ga’, pp. 1469-70; ‘Byzanz und die Kiewer Fürstin Olga’, pp. 47-8. Olga’s second reception at court, on 18 October, was very different and, by contrast with the first, appears to have been somewhat demeaning. It seems that on this occasion she did not even meet the emperor.

11 See below, p. 167.

12 Thus he is unduly concerned to disparage Constantine VII. See A.P. Kazhdan, ‘Iz istorii vizantiiskoy khronografii X v. : 2. Istochniki L’va Diakona i Skilitsy dlya istorii tret’ey chetverti X stoletiya’, Vizantiisky Vremennik, 20 (1961), pp. 112, 124.

13 Gy. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, i (Berlin, 1958), pp. 335-9.

14 G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (Oxford, 1968), p. 211.

15 Καὶ ἡ τοῦ ποτε ϰατὰ ‘Ρωμαίων ἐϰπλεύσαντος ἄρχοντος τῶν ‘Ρῶς γαμετή, ‘‘Eλγα τοὔνομα, τοῦ ἀνδρòς αὐτῆς ἀποθανόντος παρεγένετο ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει. ϰαὶ βαπτισθεῖσα ϰαὶ προαίρεσιν εἰλιϰρινοῦς ἐπιδεικνυμένη πίστεως, ἀξίως τιμηθεῖσα τῆς προαιρέσεως ἐπ’ οἲϰου ἀνέδραμε : Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum, ed. I. Thurn (Berlin, 1973), p. 240. The account of Olga’s journey to Constantinople and baptism in that city by the twelfth-century chronicler John Zonaras (Epitomae historiarum, xvi, 21, ed. Bonn, 1897, vol. 3, pp. 484-5) is wholly dependent on Skylitzes and adds nothing new.

16 See Litavrin, op. cit., p. 40.

17 There is a striking verbal similarity between the passages in Skylitzes’ chronicle referring to the honours received by Olga (ἀξίως τιμηθεῖσα τῆς προαιρέσεως), Bulcsu (τῇ τῶν πατριϰίων ἀξία τιμηθείς), and Gyula (τῶν ἲσων ἀξιωθεὶς... τιμῶν) : Ibid., ρ. 239.

18 Reginonis abbatis Prumiensis chronicon cum continuatione Treverensi, ed. F. Kurze (Hanover, 1890) (Monumenta Germaniae Historica in usum scholarum), pp. 170-2.

19 On Adalbert see M. Lintzel ‘Erzbischof Adalbert von Magdeburg als Geschichts-schreiber’, in the same author’s Ausgewählte Schriften, II (Berlin, 1961), pp. 399-406; K. Hauck, ‘Erzbischof Adalbert von Magdeburg als Geschichtsschreiber’ in Festschrift fûr Walter Schlesinger, ed. H. Beumann, ii (Cologne and Vienna, 1974), pp. 276-353. For these and other references to Adalbert and his work I am much indebted to Prof. K.J. Leyser.

20 Lintzel, op. cit., p. 400.

21 ‘Legati Helenae reginae Rugorum, quae sub Romano imperatore Constantino-politano Constantinopoli baptizata est, ficte, ut post claruit, ad regem venientes episcopum et presbiteros eidem genti ordinari petebant’ : Reginonis abbatis... chronicon cum conti­nuatione... p. 170.

22 ‘Rex natale Domini Franconofurd celebravit, ubi Libutius ex coenobitis sancti Albani a venerabili archiepiscopo Adaldago genti Rugorum episcopus ordinatur’ : ibid.

23 ibid.

24 Owing to lively trade relations between the two countries Russia was by no means unknown in Germany during the tenth century. See G. Vernadsky, Kievan Russia (New Haven, 1948), p. 338 ; F. Dvornik, ‘The Kiev State and its Relations with Western Europe’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 29 (1947), pp. 27-46 ; Arrignon, op. cit., p. 176.

25 ‘Cui [Libutio] Adalbertus ex coenobitis sancti Maximini machinatione et consilio Willihelmi archiepiscopi... peregre mittendus in ordinatione successit. Quem piissimus rex solita sibi misericordia omnibus, quibus indigebat, copiis instructum genti Rugorum honorifice destinavit’ : ibid., p. 170.

26 ‘Eodem anno (962) Adalbertus Rugis ordinatus episcopus nihil in his, propter quae missus fuerat, proficere valens et inaniter se fatigatum videns revertitur et quibusdam ex suis in redeundo occisis ipse cum magno labore vix evasit’ : ibid., p. 172.

27 Ibid.

28 ‘Professi sunt se velle recedere a paganico ritu’ : Annales Hildesheimenses s.a. 960, Monumenta Germaniae Historica in usum scholarum (Hanover, 1878), pp. 21-2. ‘Professi sunt, se velle recedere a paganismo’ : Annales Quedlinburgenses s.a. 960, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, iii (Hanover, 1839), p. 60.

29 Ostrogorsky, ‘Vizantiya i Kievskaya knyaginya Ol’ga’, pp. 1459-63 ; ‘Byzanz und die Kiewer Fürstin Olga’, pp. 36-41. Ostrogorsky disposes effectively of the argu­ment that The Book of Ceremonies, being a practical guide to court ceremonial, had no reason to mention so exceptional an event as the baptism of the regent of Russia.

30 . See my article ‘Russia and Byzantium in the mid-tenth century : The problem of the Baptism of Princess Olga’, to appear in the forthcoming issue of The Greek Orthodox Theological Review (Brookline, Massachusetts), vol. 28 (1983), no. 2.

31 De caerim., ii, 15, p. 579.

32 Attempts have been made to make Adalbert’s words ‘sub Romano imperatore’ cover those years of Constantine VII’s reign during which Romanos was his co-emperor ; Romanos was made co-emperor on 6 April 945. See M.V. Levchenko, Ocherki po istorii russko-vizantiiskikh otnosheniy (Moscow, 1956), p. 229 ; Litavrin, op. cit., p. 39. They seem to me misguided. Adalbert was well enough informed on European affairs to know who was the principal Byzantine emperor before 9 November 959. Constan­tine VII was one of the most prominent monarchs in Christendom. ‘Sub Romano imperatore’ surely means during the sole reign of Romanos II.

33 Theophanes Continuatus, vi (Bonn, 1838), pp. 470-1. The author of this passage appears to be Theodore Daphnopates, a high official of Romanos II and a well informed source. See Moravcsik, op. cit., pp. 541-2; Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, p. 210.

34 See G. Schlumberger, Un empereur byzantin au Xe siècle. Nicéphore Phocas (Paris, 1890), pp. 38-114; H. Ahrweiler, Byzance et la Mer (Paris, 1966), pp. 112-15.

35 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, pp. 476, 481.

36 Povest’ vremennykh let, pp. 28, 38 ; English transl., pp. 68, 76.

37 De caerim., ii, 45, p. 664.

38 The view that Olga’s baptism took place during the Russo-Byzantine negotiations which preceded the Cretan campaign was expressed by Arrignon (op. cit., pp. 177-8). In my opinion, however, he is wrong in dating it to 959 and placing it in Kiev.

39 In particular ARRIGNON, op. cit., p. 170, and LITAVRIN, op. cit., p. 36.

40 See W. Lange, Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen (Göttingen, 1958), pp. 179-81 ; L. Musset, ‘La pénétration chrétienne dans l’Europe du nord et son influence sur la civilisation Scandinave’, in La conversione al cristianesimo nell’ Europa dell’ alto medioevo : Settimane di studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’ Alto Medioevo, 14 (Spoleto, 1967), pp. 287-8.

41 Several Russian historians, without mentioning the prima signatio, believe that Olga underwent a double ceremony of reception into the Christian church, the first time in Kiev, the second time in Constantinople. Thus V. Parkhomenko suggested that she may have been first received as a catechumen into the Christian community in Kiev (c. 954), and later baptized in Constantinople : Nachalo khristianstva Rusi. Ocherk iz istorii Rusi IX-X vv. (Poltava, 1913), p. 133. A.N. Sakharov goes further in this direction, and seems to favour the idea that Olga may have been baptized twice, privately in Kiev and later publicly in Constantinople : ‘Diplomatiya knyagini Ol’gi’, pp. 27, 35 ; Diplomatiya Drevney Rusi, pp. 262-3, 276-7. A double baptism seems improbable on theological grounds.

42 Povest’ vremennykh let, ii, p. 188. John Tzimisces is also named as the reigning emperor at the time of Olga’s visit in a Novgorod chronicle which reproduces a text earlier than that of the Primary Chronicle : see Novgorodskaya pervaya letopis’ starshego i mladshego izvodov (Moscow-Leningrad, 1950), p. 113; Povest’ vremennykh let, ii, p. 164; Shakhmatov, op. cit., p. 545.

43 Povest’ vremennykh let, i, p. 44; ii, p. 188.

44 Povest’ vremennykh let, i, p. 44 ; English transl., p. 82 ; Pamyat’ i pokhvala, ed. Golubinsky, pp. 239, 242 ; ed. Zimin, pp. 67, 70. See note 8 above.

45 King Boris of Bulgaria at his baptism in 864 or 865 assumed the name Michael in honour of the reigning emperor, Michael III : Theophanes Continuatus, iv, p. 163. Similarly Vladimir of Russia (c. 988) was christened Basil in honour of his imperial godfather Basil II : Metropolitan Hilarion, Slovo ο zakone i blagodati, in A Historical Russian Reader, ed. J. Fennell and D. Obolensky (Oxford, 1969), p. 12.

46 A.N. Sakharov has argued that Olga was called Helen after the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great (‘Diplomatiya knyagini Ol’gi’, p. 37 ; Diplomatiya Drevney Rusi, p. 279). He relies on a passage in the Primary Chronicle : ‘She [i.e. Olga] was given in baptism the name Helen, like the empress of old, the mother of the great Constantine’ (Povest’ vremennykh let, p. 44; English transl., p. 82). In fact the passage implies no more than a comparison between the roles played by Helen and Olga in the conversion of their respective countries. This comparison, heightened by the parallel between Helen’s son Constantine and Olga’s grandson Vladimir (who made Christianity the official religion of the Russian state), was, as Arrignon rightly points out, a literary cliché in eleventh-century Russia. It was pointedly made by the Russian Metropolitan Hilarion about 1050 : A Historical Russian Reader, p. 15. It may be added that the wording of James the Monk does not support Sakharov’s view.

47 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, p. 473 (19 September) ; Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum, ed. I. Thurn (Berlin, 1973), p. 252 (20 September). Arrignon (op. cit., p. 178) mistakenly states that Helen was dispatched to a monastery early in 960, an error repeated by Litavrin (op. cit., p. 38). In fact only her daughters were forcibly removed from the palace, apparently under pressure from Romanos’ wife Theophano : Scylitzes, loc. cit. The empress mother, after making a frightful scene, was allowed to remain.

48 De caerim., pp. 596-8.

49 Theophanes Continuatus, vi, p. 473.

50 Those scholars who are unwilling to accept Adalbert’s evidence have tried to impugn his reliability on general grounds. Thus it has been claimed that he may have been deliberately misinformed about the place of Olga’s baptism by the Russian or Greek Christians in Kiev (Arrignon, op. cit., p. 178) ; that he was led into error by his ignorance of the Russian language (Feidas, op. cit., p. 648) ; and that he was prevented from learning the truth by his isolation from the Christian community in Kiev, and from Otto I’s court at the time of the arrival of Olga’s embassy in Germany (Litavrin, op. cit., p. 39). This scepticism seems to me wholly misguided.

51 Arrignon argues that the purpose of Olga’s embassy was to conclude a commercial agreement with Germany (op. cit., pp. 174-6). He is supported by Litavrin (op. cit., p. 38). According to Sakharov, Olga’s aim was to ‘establish political links with the Empire’ (‘Diplomatiya knyagini Ol’gi’, p. 49 ; Diplomatiya Drevney Rusi, p. 295) — an unfortunate turn of phrase, as in 959 Otto I was still king, not emperor. Feidas, assuming that Olga’s embassy pursued ‘purely political’ aims, believes that she wished to conclude with Otto a military alliance against the Magyars who, he claims, were then threatening Kievan Russia, Germany, and Byzantium (op. cit., pp. 645-6) — as though four years after their defeat at the battle of the Lech the Magyars were capable of threatening anyone.

52 In 866 King Boris of Bulgaria, disappointed in the treatment he was receiving from his Byzantine patrons, sent an embassy to King Louis the German at Regensburg, asking for a bishop and priests to be sent to his country. The Bulgarians had earlier concluded a political alliance with the Franks : ‘[Boris] ...mittens ad Hludowicum regem Germaniae, qui ei foedere pacis coniunctus erat, episcopum et presbiteros postulavit’ : Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 866, Monumenta Germaniae Historica in usum scholarum, pp. 85-6.

53 Povest’ vremennykh let, p. 46; English transl, pp. 83-4; D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth (London, 1971), p. 284.

54 Obolensky, op. cit., pp. 182-9.

55 Adalbert does not explicitly state that he reached Kiev. However, the outcome of his mission would remain incomprehensible unless we assume that he did.

56 See above, p. 166.

57 ‘The laconic Adalbert of St Maximin’ : K.J. Leyser, Rule and Conflict in an early medieval Society : Ottoman Saxony (London, 1979), p. 17. Virtually the only exception is his outburst against Archbishop William, whose intrigues, Adalbert claims, were responsible for his appointment to head the mission to Russia.

58 K.J. Leyser believes that the detention in 960 of Otto’s envoy, Liudprand of Cremona, by the Byzantine authorities on the island of Paxos in the Ionian Sea may have been due to the Byzantine government’s knowledge of the Saxon king’s plans to send a missionary bishop to Kiev : ‘The Tenth Century in Byzantine-Western Relation­ships’, in Relations between East and West in the Middle Ages, ed. D. Baker (Edinburgh, 1973), pp. 30, 50 ; reprinted in the same author’s Medieval Germany and its Neighbours 900-1250 (London, 1982), pp. 104, 124.

59 W. Ohnsorge believes that these relations were friendly : ‘Die Anerkennung des Kaisertums Ottos I. durch Byzanz’ and ‘Otto I. und Byzanz’, both in the same author’s Konstantinopel und der Okzident (Darmstadt, 1966) pp. 176-207, 208-26 ; see also the same author’s ‘Konstantinopel im politischen Denken der Ottonenzeit’, in Polychronion. Festschrift Franz Dölger zum 75. Geburtstag (Heidelberg, 1966), pp. 388-412. The same view is advanced by R. Folz : ‘L’interprétation de l’empire Otto-nien’, Occident et Orient au Xe siècle, pp. 9-10 : see note 4 above. The opposite view is argued by Leyser (‘The Tenth Century in Byzantine-Western Relationships’, pp. 29-30, 50; Medieval Germany and its Neighbours, pp. 103-4, 124).

60 Some of the elements of this scenario were put forward briefly and without much supporting argument in the unfortunately now largely forgotten book by the Ukrainian historian V. Parkhomenko (Nachalo khristianstva Rusi. î Ocherk iz istorii Rusi IX-X vv., Poltava, 1913, pp. 126-45). Parkhomenko’s thesis does not differ very much from the one I have argued in this paper. On two points only would I take issue with him : he dates Olga’s baptism to the period between the summer of 960 and the autumn of 961 (too late, in my opinion) and believes that her sponsor was the Emperor Romanos II, thus ignoring the evidence for her spiritual relationship with Helen Lecapena.

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