Jaroslav ze Šternberka... did not exist

Authored on
Jaroslav Postcard

O! Jaroslav, like an eagle flying,

solid steel on his mighty chest,

beneath the steel lies bravery, valor,

beneath the helm his keen fame;

from the glowing sight of his cloak

from his hot glowing gaze his boisterousness cries

Engraged rushing forth, like a hot-tempered lion

when the warm blood sets him aflame,

then shot, he rushes after the hunter;

so they fly, determined against the Tartars,

the Czechs behind him, like a hailstorm.


Sinking cruelly on Kubla Khan

though the clash is mighty fierce.

The two clashing their javelins, breaking both with a great crack.

Jaroslav, with his steed, all covered with blood,

seizes Kubla Khan with his sword,

and slashes from the shoulder across to the hip,

so, soulless he falls among the carcasses,

a quiver with a bow rattling.

O fi! Jaroslav, lich þe eagle flien

metalkinde anuppe his mighti brest,

ther-under umbeleien pruerie, wighthede

ther-under umbeleien þe helme smerte fame; 

fro radiant þe lichte of his robe

ful lyflich he forth-rushinge angriwise 

þe cri ben souned to myne erys

lik to þe hateful and þe fearlac lion

whenne þe warme blood hem upwerd-borneth,

nou-then shot, purseuen upon þe hunter.

So flien they, suþe stronge ayenes þe Tartars,

Bohemyans behynd, so thik as hail.


Cruwelly ther-upon yon Kubla Khan

al-though þe feiht folliche myghty be,

twein theire chafeveleyns anhitten,

breken asonder wythe a mighti noyse.

Jaroslav and destrer, blood overputten,

Kubla Khan with sworde he seseth 

he dasheth from-shulder þe hipe thoum-to,

where-so he lieth atuyx þe cariones,

þe victen whiver soun of his yenden.


Original Czech:

"Ajta! Jaroslav jak orel letě:

      tvrdú ocel na mohúcech prsech

      pod ocelí chrabrosť, udatenstvie,

      pod helmicú velebyster věhlas;

      jarota mu z žhavú zrakú pláše.

      Rozkacen hna, jako lev drážlivý,

      když mu teplú krev sě udá zřieti,

      tehdy nastřelen za lovcem žene:

      tako vluti sě, vz-Tatary trči;

      Češie za niem, jako krupobitie.


      Vrazi kruto na Kublajevica,

      i by pótka ovšem velelutá:

      srazista sě oba oščepoma,

      zlomista je oba velím praskem.

      Jaroslav, ves ve krvi s ořem sbrocen,

      mečem Kublajevica zachváti,

      ot ramene šúrem kyčlu protče;

      takož spade bezduch mezi mrchy,

      zarachoce nad niem túlec s lukem." -


I was reading this article when I discovered that the mythical 13th century legend Jaroslav ze Šternberka did not exist.

Jaroslav... who?

I had not heard of this particular person before, but one can't get very far into Czech history before hearing the name Šternberk. (It's Sternberg in English, because apparently we are allergic to diacritical marks). 

In fact, when we visited the Czech Republic in 2017, we stayed one night at Zámek Jemniště, which is still owned by a branch of the Šternberk family. They gave us a personal tour, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. I highly recommend it! Our fictitious 13th century Jaroslav apparently even appears in the 19th century art in this castle, too!

Jaroslav was allegedly sent to Moravia by King Václav (you know, Good King Wenceslaus?) with 8,000 Czechs. He gathered the Moravian forces into Olomouc, totaling 12,000 men. They defended themselves from Tatar attack there for a long time, and then when the time was right, attacked furiously - and won a decisive and glorious victory against the Tartars (as was described so eloquently in the Rukopis královédvorský poem from above). 

Except that Rukopisy královédvorský was a 19th century forgery of a 13th century document, so none of this actually happened. The whole thing was supposedly discovered in 1817 (then transribed and printed in 1819) to look like it was from the 1220's.

I mean, there are multiple other real people named Jaroslav ze Šternberka, but the one who heroically defeated the Mongols? No. Yet many, many people were fooled, including artists who went to great lengths to paint intricate frescoes about the subject. It was a popular topic for 19th and very early 20th century artists, poets, and writers, fitting nicely into the Romantic ideals of the Neo-Baroque style.

The manuscript even fooled František Palacký, famous historian and politician. 

I personally think that somebody ought to make a movie about this.

Or at least a Wikipedia article in English...

In case you're wondering,  the first translation was mine (with help), and the English to medieval English translation was entirely mine, with the help of this awesome dictionary. The best part? It doesn't even have to be proper "ye middle Englishe" - it just has to be passable! 

And yes. If you're wondering, I had wayyyyy too much fun with this. It doesn't really get much better than forged epic medieval poetry. 

Fictional Jaroslav ze Šternberka