Tuesday, 8 March 2011


By Peter Lemesurier 

Given the well-known fact that the Nostradamaniacs constantly try to kid you that Nostradamus predicted Hitler, please bear in mind that his book The Prophecies mentions the word Hiſter (i.e. ‘Hister’) only three times, namely at II.24, IV.68 and V.29. In all three cases, as Nostradamus himself makes quite clear in his Almanac for 1554, the reference is to the river Danubela riviere Hiſter dite Danube, he calls it – in reflection of the fact that Hister was the ancient Latin name for its lower reaches and Danubius  for its upper ones. 
            Here are the verses in question. They are followed by my own published verse-translations of them, taken from my Nostradamus: The Illustrated Prophecies (O Books, 2003). For more literal, word-for-word translations, see my Nostradamus, Bibliomancer (Career Press, 2010 – see below). You can explore the originals for yourself either in high resolution on the CD supplied with this latter book or in low resolution online at http://www.propheties.it/bibliotheque/index.html.

II. 24. Original 1555 text
Bestes farouches de faim fluves tranner:
Plus part du camp encontre Hister sera,
En caige de fer le grand fera treisner,
Quand Rin enfant Germain observera.

                        As wild beasts famished do the rivers ford,
                        Towards lower Danube looms the greater fight:
                        While in an iron cage they’ll drag one lord,
                        The German one the young Rhine has in sight.

Source: The De Varietate Fortunae of around 1430 by the leading Renaissance humanist, researcher of ancient texts and Apostolic secretary Gianfrancesco (or Giovanni Francesco) Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), better known as Poggius, starkly contrasting the fates of two prominent warring rulers. After utterly defeating an anti-Ottoman Christian crusade under King Sigismund of Hungary at the battle of Nicopolis on the banks of the Danube in 1396, and thereby striking terror into western Europe, the Sultan Bayezid I (also known as Bajazet) was defeated in turn by Tamburlaine the Great near Ankara in 1402 when he over-confidently encroached on the latter's domains in Anatolia. In Poggio’s words, Tamburlaine ‘took the ruler alive and lugged him all over Asia Minor enclosed in a cage like a wild beast as a public spectacle and to show what Fortune can do.’ He died shortly afterwards. Sigismund, meanwhile, who had only just escaped his defeat at Nicopolis by the skin of his teeth, went on to become King of Germany in 1411, and in 1414 called for and personally attended a major church Council (of which Poggio himself was official secretary) at Constance, at the very source of the Rhine, designed to heal the Great Western Church Schism to which Nostradamus so often refers elsewhere (see I.32, V.46, V.92, VI.13, VII.22, VII.23 and VII.35), and which notably resulted the following year in the trial and burning of the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus. Note Nostradamus’s usual coupling of Rhine and Danube, which had at one time formed the northeastern frontier of the Roman Empire [Research by courtesy of Gary Somai, of the  Nostradamus Research Group.] For line 1, compare the Mirabilis Liber’s frequent warnings of a future ‘barbarian’ (i.e. Muslim) invasion of Europe: ‘Prediction of a severe persecution visited on the Church by the Barbarians . . . Their rage against the Christians of the north and of the west shall surpass the ferocity of all the cruellest beasts . . .’ (Prophecy of Reynard Lolhardus, quoted from chapter 26 of Part 2 of Lichtenberger’s Prognosticatio of 1488).

The last line is routinely horribly misconstrued by the popular commentators. The word 'Rin' or 'Ryn' (here actually shown with a capital letter!) is Nostradamus's routine spelling for the river Rhine, and not the French for 'nothing' ('rien') -- which is why here, as elsewhere, he couples it with 'Hister'. This was the former name of the Danube, the two rivers having formerly formed the north-eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Consequently the line, contrary to received 'wisdom', says nothing whatever about 'the German child observing no law' or 'understanding nothing', while en caige de fer means precisely what it says ('in an iron cage') and is not some obscure and unhistorical reference to Hitler being 'pulled in a tank'!

IV. 68. Original September 1557 text
En l’an bien proche non esloigné de Venus,
Les deux plus grans le l’Asie & d’Affrique
Du Ryn & hister qu’on dira sont venus,
Crys, pleurs à Malte & coste ligustique.

                        From Venice (some year soon) not far away,
                        Shall Turkish and North Afric heads and hosts
                        Meet those from Rhine and Danube, as they say.
                        In Malta tears; screams on Ligurian coasts.

Source: The Mirabilis liber’s prophecies of a bloody invasion of Europe from the Middle East and North Africa via the Mediterranean islands and Italy, as already outlined at I.9, I.75, II.24, with a backward glance at the former Roman Empire’s traditional definition of its north-eastern frontier against the barbarian invaders in terms of the Rhine and the Danube (the latter being the meaning of the name Hister, as Nostradamus himself explains in his almanac for 1554).

V. 29. Original September 1557 text
La liberté ne sera recouvree,
L’occupera noir fier vilain inique:
Quant la matiere du pont sera ouvree,
D’Hister, Venise fachee la republique.

                        Freedom shall not recovered be, the whiles
                        The proud, black, evil villain’s in possession:
                        When the bridge-question occupies their session
                        O’er Danube, this the state of Venice riles.

Source: The contemporary advance of the Ottomans into the Balkans and Hungary, assimilated to the Mirabilis liber’s expected Muslim invasion of Europe: see I.9, I.75, II.24.

From the above and the remainder of the verses listed, it is clear that Nostradamus never in fact referred specifically to Hitler, any more than he did to Napoleon, other than in the minds of those who insist on twisting the verses to fit the facts, or even the facts to fit the verses. For would-be commentators from Roberts and Cheetham, via John Hogue to Mario Reading to play speculative games with the Prophecies to make them say what they want them to say is all very well, but it adds nothing to the public understanding of Nostradamus and merely spreads unnecessary alarm and despondency. Indeed, it could be regarded as frankly irresponsible.

Please refer to my: