You are here

The Deeds of Wiprecht


The emperor, trusting in the size of his Italian and German army, encircled Rome with a tight siege and held out in the same position for about three years. While this was unfolding, because the farmers were absent from their fields, food ran out for the king’s army and it suffered savage famine, just as if it were encircled by a great siege. Still there were frequent clashes between the two sides; because an uncertain fate enveloped both sides of the war to their equal detriment, neither side ceased from boldness. Therefore, scouts were sent out to discover whether there might be anywhere where they might be able to recover from their lack of food. It was announced secretly to Wiprecht by his scouts that in the mountains nearby there were provisions, concealed by some people, as well as an abundance of cattle and a flock of sheep. Since Wiprecht was energetic, unconquerable, and shrewd, he quickly flew to that place with the men attached to him, both the king’s milites and the Czechs, and found, as had been reported, that this would help even a large army for some time thereafter. Wiprecht was told, while hastily returning, that the Romans had burst forth [from the city] and challenged the king to a fight. But at that time the Feast of the Ascension was imminent. When the news was reported to Wiprecht, who was already nearby, he immediately seized the war banners. This energetic man flew into battle not sluggishly with all those likewise prepared. In a barbarian manner, three times approaching and retreating from the battle-line of Romans, bursting in to meet them as if cutting the webs of spiders, they raged without control against their adversaries in an excessive slaughter. Wiprecht saw where the king was hedged about by enemies in a narrow place. With his men, he brought himself toward the king and terrified the Romans so much with his assault that he drove them all the way to the city’s gate. The king, likewise pressing upon them manfully, dismounted after his sword was wrested away, and his right hand almost became stiff from the repeated blows. Called by the king, Wiprecht stood by; he handed over his own sword to the complaining man. And because nothing is more warlike than courage in the midst of great need, with the point of his own shield raised up, unarmed against armed men, Wiprecht savagely raved with so strong an attack that they were driven below the circuit of the wall. Thus the victors wished the fight to come to an end. And because on both sides many had been wounded, the emperor kept himself inside his camp for seven days. Meanwhile, after Wiprecht had given his limbs a rest for a time—although he had not set his mind free from the present business—he summoned one of his men by the name of Raz, who was quite industrious. Wiprecht suggested that, while traversing the circuit of the walls, Raz investigate carefully whether he could discover anywhere an access point for penetrating the walls, so that, having reconnoitred the idling of the watchmen, they might be able to ascend secretly. Raz obeyed, applying his attentiveness shrewdly, and by listening deduced that the walls were without guards. He carefully ascended. After he perceived that no one was present, he returned and secretly informed his lord. He explained that the Romans could be caught by a simple scheme, if he did not disregard it. Reckoning that nothing was to be disregarded—delay is the bane of preparedness —Wiprecht took up arms with all of his own men and a few of the Czechs. With two ladders and his miles Raz leading the way, Wiprecht ascended the walls second after him. Meanwhile, he sent a messenger to the king, [telling him] to hasten to take the gatehouse as soon as possible. Then, fourteen of his milites ascended the walls, with the rest also hurrying. The king and a multitude of men also rushed to the gates and cut down the doors with axes. Suddenly, the Romans called out to each other and attacked those who had ascended the walls with a barrage of stones and spears. Finally the king, having taken control of the urbs, punished those Romans stoutly charging him with much carnage. Some of his own quite noble and vigorous men also died courageously in this great battle. Nevertheless, they worked a greater slaughter of their enemies.
At length, the emperor received the most fortified House of Theodoric into his control and stationed in it a garrison of his own supporters. Of the twenty of Wiprecht’s milites posted there, eleven died, having consumed poison, a trick executed by the Romans’ working girls. With Wiprecht announcing it, their deceit immediately became known to the emperor.