Two interesting things from the blogosphere

Dr Nokes posted this clip, from a most hilarious French TV show, about medieval music:

Giggle. Giggle.

And on an entirely unrelated note, Dr Rundkvist posted, as a side note in his notice about an Antro/Archaeo blog carnival, this fascinating tidbit:

The Rota System, from the Old Church Slavic word for “ladder” or “staircase”, was a system of collateral succession practiced (though imperfectly) in Kievan Rus’ and later Appanage and early Muscovite Russia, in which the throne passed not linearly from father to son, but laterally from brother to brother (usually to the fourth brother) and then to the eldest son of the eldest brother who had held the throne. The system was begun by Yaroslav the Wise.

Looks a little like the supposed Pictish succession, from uncle to nephew down the matrilinear line, which, as Michelle has discussed before, may not have been a proper system but an emergency measure.

The Wiki article on the Rota System goes on to say:

The system was begun by Yaroslav the Wise, who assigned each of his sons a principality based on seniority. When the Grand Prince died, the next most senior prince moved to Kiev and all others moved to the principality next up the ladder.[1] Only those princes whose fathers had held the throne were eligible for placement in the rota; those whose fathers predeceased their grandfathers were known as izgoi, “excluded” or “orphaned” princes.

Apparently some scholars doubt this was such an organised system at all, as always. If it were, it would create an interesting mix of sibling and cousin rivalries, and loyalties as well. It would behove a king to treat his nephew or brother well, lest said heir’s succession be artificially accelerated. The king’s *son*, meanwhile, who might see his uncle or cousin as a threat, would be well advised to demonstrate his loyalty thereto in order to survive the years between his father’s succession and his own intact. But what of second sons, who would probably not live long enough to inherit? What of these orphan princes?
Your fourth sons wouldn’t be the expendable end of the royal family, as they would be under direct patrilinear succession systems. Instead, they’d be the ones likely to live long enough to take the throne. How very, very interesting.

I wonder, in this system, how the precedence is worked out? Simply by age? Does your father’s age also count?
Let’s say King A dies, and his throne passes first to his son A1, and then to his son A4, A2 and A3 having died in the meantime. When A4 dies, A1’s eldest son, A1.1, inherits. Presumably he is succeeded by one of his brothers, ≥A1.2, in turn. When ≥A1.2 dies, does the throne necessarily pass back to A1.1.1? Or does it pass to A2.1? if A2.1 were older than ≥A1.2, would he have had seniority on the death of A1.1?
What if A1’s first wife had been barren, and A2.1 were older than A1.1? If the position of princes on the ‘ladder’ were based simply on their age, A2.1 would succeed A2. If on the other hand the system were designed to ensure that each branch of the family had their place on the ladder in turn, he wouldn’t.

I wants to know, precious…


6 Responses to “Two interesting things from the blogosphere”

  1. goblinpaladin Says:

    Be careful. Russian history is fascinating. You will wind up like me, looking at the lack of Russian scholarship in Australia, desiring to learn you some Old Russian, spotting new and interesting early medievalisms to study…

  2. highlyeccentric Says:

    Ah, but I has the excuse of my dodgy faux-medieval novel plans…

  3. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    The Rota system seems more like the Gaelic system than what is supposed to be thought of the Pictish, as it’s explicitly patrilineal. But even the Gaels didn’t shunt people round kingdoms till they’d levelled up like this. That makes it more like the Carolingians’ habit of placing sons in `training kingdoms’ till they died and said sons could fight it out for the succession. Of course, they were supposed to stay in post and not fight… but `that never works’. Which leads me to say of your final questions, what happens in all these cases is “the side with the bigger army or the quicker response wins, and then the Church modifies the so-called system to accommodate what just happened”. If history teaches us anything, etc….

  4. highlyeccentric Says:

    You, then, would be on the ‘not so much a system as a general trend amid the bickering’ side of the argument? 😉

    Of course, your assessment of the situation is very apt…

  5. D.Scott Phillips Says:

    Sadly I bypass the issue of succession entirely and comment solely on the fact that my Monday bowl-o-coffee was supplemented most satisfyingly by a French-Medieval take on diminutive notes from Hades.

    (Possibly an Exorcist reference, in French?, would have been fitting here? The rabid French monk staring down Arthur and Bors’ use of diminutives with a gradually rising, “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!”)


    Thanks for sharing!

  6. highlyeccentric Says:

    Glad to amuse, D.Scott 🙂

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