Saxons (Latin: Saxones, Old English: Seaxe, Old Saxon: Sahson, Low
German: Sassen) were a group of Germanic tribes first mentioned as
living near the
North Sea coast of what is now
Germany (Old Saxony),
in the late Roman Empire. They were soon mentioned as raiding and
settling in many
North Sea areas, as well as pushing south inland
towards the Franks. Significant numbers settled in large parts of
Great Britain in the early
Middle Ages and formed part of the merged
Anglo-Saxons who eventually organised the first united
Kingdom of England. Many
Saxons however remained in
Saxony c. 531–804), where they resisted the expanding Frankish
Empire through the leadership of the semi-legendary Saxon hero,
Saxons of Britain and those of Old Saxony
(Northern Germany) were both referred to as 'Saxons' in an
indiscriminate manner. The term Anglo-Saxon, in turn, came into
practice in the 8th century (probably by Paul the Deacon) to
Saxons from continental
Saxons (Ealdseaxe, 'old
The Saxons' earliest area of settlement is believed to have been
Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein. This
general area also included the probable homeland of the Angles.
Saxons, along with the
Angles and other continental Germanic tribes,
participated in the
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain during and after
the 5th century. The British-Celtic inhabitants of the isles tended to
refer to all of these groups collectively as Saxons. It is unknown
Saxons migrated from the continent to Britain: though
estimates for the total number of Anglo-Saxon settlers are around
200,000. During the Middle Ages, because of international Hanseatic
trading routes and contingent migration,
Saxons mixed with and had
strong influences upon the languages and cultures of the Baltic
peoples, Finnic peoples, and
Polabian Slavs and Pomeranians, both West
Slavic peoples, as well as influencing the North Germanic languages.
1.1 Saxon as a demonym
1.1.1 Celtic languages
1.1.2 Romance languages
1.1.3 Non-Indo-European languages
1.2 Related surnames
Saxony as a toponym
2.1 Early history
2.2 Continental Saxons
Italy and Provence
Saxons in Britain
3.1 Social structure
3.2.1 Germanic Religion
126.96.36.199 Christian literature
4 See also
7 External links
The remains of a seax together with a reconstructed replica
Saxons may have derived their name from seax, a kind of knife for
which they were known. The seax has a lasting symbolic impact in the
English counties of
Essex and Middlesex, both of which feature three
seaxes in their ceremonial emblem. Their names, along with those of
Sussex and Wessex, contain a remnant of the word "Saxon".
Elizabethan era play Edmund Ironside suggests the Saxon name
derives from the Latin saxa (stone):
Their names discover what their natures are, More hard than stones,
and yet not stones indeed.
Saxon as a demonym
In the Celtic languages, the words designating English nationality
derive from the Latin word Saxones. The most prominent example, a
loanword in English, is the Scottish word Sassenach, used by Scots- or
Scottish English-speakers in the 21st century as a jocular term for an
English person. The
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives 1771 as the
date of the earliest written use of the word in English.
It derives from the Scottish Gaelic Sasannach (older spelling:
Sasunnach). The Gaelic name for
England is Sasann, and Sasannach
(formed with a common adjective suffix -ach) means "English" in
reference to people and things, though not to the English Language,
which is Beurla.
Sasanach, the Irish word for an Englishman, has the same derivation,
as do the words used in Welsh to describe the English people (Saeson,
sing. Sais) and the language and things English in general: Saesneg
Cornish terms the English Sawsnek, from the same derivation. In the
16th century Cornish-speakers used the phrase Meea navidna cowza
sawzneck to feign ignorance of the English language.
"England" in Scottish Gaelic is Sasann (older spelling: Sasunn,
Genitive: Sasainn). Other examples include the Welsh Saesneg (the
English language), Irish Sasana (England), Breton saoz(on) (English,
saozneg "the English language", Bro-saoz "England"), and Cornish
Sowson (English people), Sowsnek (English language), and Pow Sows for
'Land [Pays] of Saxons'.
The label "Saxons" (in Romanian: Sași) also became attached to German
settlers who migrated during the 13th century to southeastern
Transylvania. From Transylvania, some of these
Saxons migrated to
neighbouring Moldavia, as the name of the town Sas-cut shows. Sascut
lies in the part of
Moldavia that is today part of Romania.
During Georg Friederich Händel's visit to
Italy (1706- ), much was
made[by whom?] of his origins in Saxony; in particular, the Venetians
greeted the 1709 performance of his opera Agrippina with the cry Viva
il caro Sassone, "Cheers for the beloved Saxon!"
Estonians have changed their usage of the term Saxony
over the centuries to denote now the whole country of
and Saksamaa respectively) and the
Germans (saksalaiset and sakslased,
respectively). The Finnish word sakset scissors reflects the name of
the old Saxon single-edged sword
Seax from which 'Saxon' is supposedly
derived. In Estonian, saks means a nobleman or, colloquially, a
wealthy or powerful person. As a result of the
Northern Crusades in
the Middle Ages, Estonia's upper class had been mostly of German
origin until well into the 20th century.
The word also survives as the surnames of Saß/Sass (in Low German or
Low Saxon), Sachse and Sachs. The Dutch female first name, Saskia,
originally meant "A Saxon woman" (metathesis of "Saxia").
Saxony as a toponym
Following the downfall of
Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion (1129–1195, Duke of Saxony
1142–1180), and the subsequent splitting of the Saxon tribal duchy
into several territories, the name of the Saxon duchy was transferred
to the lands of the Ascanian family. This led to the differentiation
between Lower Saxony, lands settled by the Saxon tribe and Upper
Saxony, the lands belonging to the House of Wettin. Gradually, the
latter region became known as "Saxony", ultimately usurping the name's
original meaning. The area formerly known as Upper
Saxony now lies in
Map of the
Roman Empire and contemporary indigenous Europe in
125 AD, showing the location of the
Saxons in Northern Germany
Europe in the late 5th century. Most names shown are the Latin names
of 5th century peoples, with the exceptions of
Syagrius (king of a
Gallo-Roman rump state),
Odoacer (Germanic king of Italy), and
(Julius) Nepos (nominally the last Western Roman emperor, de facto
ruler of Dalmatia).
Ptolemy's Geographia, written in the 2nd century, is sometimes
considered to contain the first mentioning of the Saxons. Some copies
of this text mention a tribe called Saxones in the area to the north
of the lower Elbe. However, other versions refer to the same tribe
as Axones. This may be a misspelling of the tribe that
Tacitus in his
Germania called Aviones. According to this theory, "Saxones" was the
result of later scribes trying to correct a name that meant nothing to
them. On the other hand, Schütte, in his analysis of such problems
in Ptolemy's Maps of Northern Europe, believed that "Saxones" is
correct. He notes that the loss of first letters occurs in numerous
places in various copies of Ptolemy's work, and also that the
manuscripts without "Saxones" are generally inferior overall.
Schütte also remarks that there was a medieval tradition of calling
this area "Old Saxony" (covering Westphalia,
Eastphalia). This view is in line with
Bede who mentions Old
Saxony was near the Rhine, somewhere to the north of the river Lippe
(Westphalia, northeastern part of modern German state
The first undisputed mention of the Saxon name in its modern form is
from AD 356, when Julian, later the Roman Emperor, mentioned them in a
speech as allies of Magnentius, a rival emperor in Gaul.
mentions a specific tribe of Saxons, called the Kouadoi, which have
been interpreted as a misunderstanding for the Chauci, or Chamavi.
They entered the Rhineland and displaced the recently settled Salian
Franks from Batavi, whereupon some of the Salians began to move into
the Belgian territory of Toxandria, supported by Julian.
Both in this case and in others the
Saxons were associated with using
boats for their raids. In order to defend against Saxon raiders, the
Romans created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum ("Saxon
Coast") on both sides of the English Channel.
In 441–442 AD,
Saxons are mentioned for the first time as
inhabitants of Britain, when an unknown Gaulish historian wrote: "The
British provinces...have been reduced to Saxon rule".
Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern
Germany are first
mentioned in 555, when the Frankish king
Theudebald died, and the
Saxons used the opportunity for an uprising. The uprising was
suppressed by Chlothar I, Theudebald's successor. Some of their
Frankish successors fought against the Saxons, others were allied with
Thuringians frequently appeared as allies of the Saxons.
Possible locations of the Angles,
Jutes before their
migration to Britain.
Saxons living in what was known as Old
531-804) appear to have become consolidated by the end of the 8th
century. After subjugation by the Emperor Charlemagne, a political
entity called the Duchy of
Saxony (804-1296) appeared, covering
Angria and Nordalbingia (Holstein, southern
part of modern-day Schleswig-
Saxons long resisted becoming Christians and being
incorporated into the orbit of the Frankish kingdom. In 776 the
Saxons promised to convert to
Christianity and vow loyalty to the
king, but, during Charlemagne's campaign in
Hispania (778), the Saxons
advanced to Deutz on the
Rhine and plundered along the river. This was
an oft-repeated pattern when
Charlemagne was distracted by other
matters. They were conquered by
Charlemagne in a long series of
annual campaigns, the
Saxon Wars (772–804). With defeat came
enforced baptism and conversion as well as the union of the Saxons
with the rest of the Germanic, Frankish empire. Their sacred tree or
pillar, a symbol of Irminsul, was destroyed.
Charlemagne also deported
Neustria and gave their now largely
vacant lands in Wagria (approximately modern Plön and Ostholstein
districts) to the loyal king of the Abotrites. Einhard, Charlemagne's
biographer, says on the closing of this grand conflict:
The war that had lasted so many years was at length ended by their
acceding to the terms offered by the king; which were renunciation of
their national religious customs and the worship of devils, acceptance
of the sacraments of the Christian faith and religion, and union with
Franks to form one people.
Under Carolingian rule, the
Saxons were reduced to tributary status.
There is evidence that the Saxons, as well as Slavic tributaries such
Abodrites and the Wends, often provided troops to their
Carolingian overlords. The dukes of
Saxony became kings (Henry I, the
Fowler, 919) and later the first emperors (Henry's son, Otto I, the
Germany during the 10th century, but they lost this position
in 1024. The duchy was divided in 1180 when Duke Henry the Lion
refused to follow his cousin, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, into war
During the High Middle Ages, under the Salian emperors and, later,
under the Teutonic Knights, German settlers moved east of the Saale
into the area of a western Slavic tribe, the Sorbs. The
gradually Germanised. This region subsequently acquired the name
Saxony through political circumstances, though it was initially called
the March of Meissen. The rulers of
Meissen acquired control of the
Saxony (only a remnant of the previous Duchy) in 1423; they
eventually applied the name
Saxony to the whole of their kingdom.
Since then, this part of eastern
Germany has been referred to as
Saxony (German: Sachsen), a source of some misunderstanding about the
original homeland of the Saxons, with a central part in the
present-day German state of Lower
Saxony (German: Niedersachsen).
In the Netherlands,
Saxons occupied the territory south of the
Frisians and north of the Franks. In the west it reached as far as the
Gooi region, in the south as far as the Lower Rhine. After the
conquest of Charlemagne, this area formed the main part of the
Bishopric of Utrecht. The Saxon duchy of
Hamaland played an important
role in the formation of the duchy of Guelders.
The local language, although strongly influenced by standard Dutch, is
still officially recognised as Dutch Low Saxon.
Italy and Provence
In 569, some
Saxons accompanied the
Italy under the
Alboin and settled there. In 572, they raided
Gaul as far as Stablo, now Estoublon. Divided, they were
easily defeated by the
Gallo-Roman general Mummolus. When the Saxons
regrouped, a peace treaty was negotiated whereby the Italian Saxons
were allowed to settle with their families in Austrasia. Gathering
their families and belongings in Italy, they returned to
two groups in 573. One group proceeded by way of
Nice and another via
Embrun, joining up at Avignon. They plundered the territory and were
as a consequence stopped from crossing the
Rhône by Mummolus. They
were forced to pay compensation for what they had robbed before they
could enter Austrasia. These people are known only by documents, and
their settlement cannot be compared to the archeological artifacts and
remains that attest to Saxon settlements in northern and western Gaul.
See also: Saxon shore
A Saxon king named Eadwacer conquered
Angers in 463 only to be
Childeric I and the Salian Franks, allies of the Roman
Empire. It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain
began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel
Saxons already lived along the
Saxon shore of
Gaul as Roman
foederati. They can be traced in documents, but also
in archeology and in toponymy. The
Notitia Dignitatum mentions the
Tribunus cohortis primae novae Armoricanae, Grannona in litore
Saxonico. The location of Grannona is uncertain and was identified by
the historians and toponymists at different places: mainly with the
town known today as Granville (in Normandy) or nearby. The Notitia
Dignitatum does not explain where these "Roman" soldiers came from.
Some toponymists have proposed Graignes (Grania 1109–1113) as the
location for Grannona/Grannonum. Although some scholars believe it
could be the same element *gran, that is recognised in Guernsey
(Greneroi 11th century), it most likely derives from the Gaulish
god Grannos. This location is closer to Bayeux, where Gregory of
Tours evokes otherwise the Saxones Bajocassini (
Bessin Saxons), which
were ineffective to defeat the Breton
Waroch II in 579.
A Saxon unit of laeti settled at Bayeux – the Saxones
Saxons became subjects of
Clovis I late in
the 5th century. The
Bayeux comprised a standing army and
were often called upon to serve alongside the local levy of their
Merovingian military campaigns. They were ineffective
against the Breton Waroch in this capacity in 579. In 589, the
Saxons wore their hair in the Breton fashion at the orders of
Fredegund and fought with them as allies against Guntram.
Beginning in 626, the
Saxons of the
Bessin were used by
Dagobert I for
his campaigns against the Basques. One of their own, Aeghyna, was
created a dux over the region of Vasconia.
In 843 and 846 under king Charles the Bald, other official documents
mention a pagus called Otlinga Saxonia in the
Bessin region, but the
meaning of Otlinga is unclear. Different
Bessin toponyms were
identified as typically Saxon, ex :
1035–1037 ; Cola 's "town"). It is the only place name in
Normandy that can be interpreted as a -tun one (English -ton; cf.
Colton). In contrast to this one example in
Normandy are numerous
-thun villages in the north of France, in Boulonnais, for example
Alincthun, Verlincthun, and Pelingthun. showing with other
toponyms, an important Saxon or Anglo-Saxon settlement. comparing the
concentration of -ham/-hem (Anglo-Saxon hām > home) toponyms in
Bessin and in the Boulonnais gives more examples of Saxon
settlement. In the area known today as Normandy, the -ham cases of
Bessin are unique – they do not exist elsewhere. Other cases
were considered, but there is no determining example. For example,
Canehan (Kenehan 1030/Canaan 1030–1035) could be the biblical name
Airan (Heidram 9th century), the Germanic masculine
Bessin examples are clear; for example,
Étréham (Oesterham 1350 ?), Huppain
(*Hubbehain ; Hubba 's "home"), and
11th century). Another significant example can be found in the
Norman onomastics: the widespread surname Lecesne, with variant
spellings: Le Cesne, Lesène, Lecène, and Cesne. It comes from
Gallo-Romance *SAXINU "the Saxon", which is saisne in Old French.
These examples are not derived from more recent Anglo-Scandinavian
toponyms, because in that case they would have been numerous in the
Norman regions (pays de Caux, Basse-Seine, North-Cotentin)
settled by Germanic peoples.[clarification needed] That is not the
case, nor does
Bessin belong to the pagii, which were affected by an
important wave of Anglo-Scandinavian immigration.
In addition, archaeological finds add evidence to the documents and
the results of toponymic research. Around the city of
Caen and in the
Bessin (Vierville-sur-Mer, Bénouville, Giverville, Hérouvillette),
excavations have yielded numerous examples of Anglo-Saxon jewellery,
design elements, settings, and weapons. All of these things were
discovered in cemeteries in a context of the 5th, 6th and
7th centuries AD.
The oldest and most spectacular Saxon site found in France to date is
Vron, in Picardy. There, archaeologists excavated a large cemetery
with tombs dating from the
Roman Empire until the 6th century.
Furniture and other grave goods, as well as the human remains,
revealed a group of people buried in the 4th and 5th centuries
AD. Physically different from the usual local inhabitants found before
this period, they instead resembled the Germanic populations of the
north. At the beginning (4th century), 92% were buried, sometimes
with typical Germanic weapons. Then they were ranked to the
east[clarification needed], when they were buried in the 5th and later
to the beginning of the 6th century.[clarification needed] A strong
Anglo-Saxon influence became obvious for the middle of the period, but
this influence later disappeared. Archaeological material,
neighbouring toponymy, and texts[clarification needed] support the
same conclusion: settlement of Saxon foederati with their families.
Further anthropological research by Joël Blondiaux shows these people
were from Low Saxony.
Saxons in Britain
Alfred the Great
Sub-Roman Britain and Anglo-Saxon settlement of
Saxons, along with Angles,
Frisians and Jutes, invaded or migrated to
the island of
Great Britain (Britannia) around the time of the
collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Saxon raiders had been harassing
the eastern and southern shores of
Britannia for centuries before,
prompting the construction of a string of coastal forts called the
Litora Saxonica or Saxon Shore. Before the end of Roman rule in
Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in
these areas as farmers.
According to tradition, the
Saxons (and other tribes) first entered
Britain en masse as part of an agreement to protect the Britons from
the incursions of the Picts,
Gaels and others. The story, as reported
in such sources as the
Historia Brittonum and Gildas, indicates that
the British king
Vortigern allowed the Germanic warlords, later named
Horsa by Bede, to settle their people on the Isle of
Thanet in exchange for their service as mercenaries. According to
Vortigern into granting more land and
allowing for more settlers to come in, paving the way for the Germanic
settlement of Britain.
Historians are divided about what followed: some argue that the
takeover of southern
Great Britain by the
peaceful. The known account from a native Briton who
lived in the mid-5th century AD, Gildas, described events as a forced
takeover by armed attack:
For the fire...spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in
the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns
and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red
and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults...all the
columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the
battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops,
priests and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled
around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the
streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of
high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid
clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed
together in a press; and with no chance of being buried, save in the
ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and
birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if,
indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the
high heaven by the holy angels... Some, therefore, of the miserable
remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers;
others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be
slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly
slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them:
some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of
the voice of exhortation...Others, committing the safeguard of their
lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices,
thickly wooded forests and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with
trembling hearts), remained still in their country.
Gildas described how the
Saxons were later slaughtered at the battle
Mons Badonicus 44 years before he wrote his history, and their
conquest of Britain halted. The 8th century English historian Bede
tells how their advance resumed thereafter. He said this resulted in a
swift overrunning of the entirety of South-Eastern Britain, and the
foundation of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Four separate Saxon realms emerged:
East Saxons: created the Kingdom of Essex.
Middle Saxons: created the province of Middlesex
South Saxons: led by Aelle, created the Kingdom of Sussex
West Saxons: created the Kingdom of Wessex
During the period of the reigns from Egbert to Alfred the Great, the
Wessex emerged as Bretwalda, unifying the country. They
eventually organised it as the kingdom of
England in the face of
Bede, a Northumbrian writing around the year 730, remarks that "the
old (that is, the continental)
Saxons have no king, but they are
governed by several ealdormen (or satrapa) who, during war, cast lots
for leadership but who, in time of peace, are equal in power." The
regnum Saxonum was divided into three provinces – Westphalia,
Eastphalia and Angria – which comprised about one hundred pagi
or Gaue. Each Gau had its own satrap with enough military power to
level whole villages that opposed him.
In the mid-9th century,
Nithard first described the social structure
Saxons beneath their leaders. The caste structure was rigid; in
the Saxon language the three castes, excluding slaves, were called the
edhilingui (related to the term aetheling), frilingi and lazzi. These
terms were subsequently
Latinised as nobiles or nobiliores; ingenui,
ingenuiles or liberi; and liberti, liti or serviles. According to
very early traditions that are presumed to contain a good deal of
historical truth, the edhilingui were the descendants of the Saxons
who led the tribe out of
Holstein and during the migrations of the 6th
century. They were a conquering warrior elite. The frilingi
represented the descendants of the amicii, auxiliarii and manumissi of
that caste. The lazzi represented the descendants of the original
inhabitants of the conquered territories, who were forced to make
oaths of submission and pay tribute to the edhilingui.
Lex Saxonum regulated the Saxons' unusual society. Intermarriage
between the castes was forbidden by the Lex, and wergilds were set
based upon caste membership. The edhilingui were worth 1,440 solidi,
or about 700 head of cattle, the highest wergild on the continent; the
price of a bride was also very high. This was six times as much as
that of the frilingi and eight times as much as the lazzi. The gulf
between noble and ignoble was very large, but the difference between a
freeman and an indentured labourer was small.
According to the Vita Lebuini antiqua, an important source for early
Saxon history, the
Saxons held an annual council at Marklo
(Westphalia) where they "confirmed their laws, gave judgment on
outstanding cases, and determined by common counsel whether they would
go to war or be in peace that year." All three castes participated
in the general council; twelve representatives from each caste were
sent from each Gau. In 782,
Charlemagne abolished the system of Gaue
and replaced it with the Grafschaftsverfassung, the system of counties
typical of Francia. By prohibiting the
Charlemagne pushed the frilingi and lazzi out of political power. The
old Saxon system of Abgabengrundherrschaft, lordship based on dues and
taxes, was replaced by a form of feudalism based on service and
labour, personal relationships and oaths.
Saxon religious practices were closely related to their political
practices. The annual councils of the entire tribe began with
invocations of the gods. The procedure by which dukes were elected in
wartime, by drawing lots, is presumed to have had religious
significance, i.e. in giving trust to divine providence – it
seems – to guide the random decision making. There were
also sacred rituals and objects, such as the pillars called Irminsul;
these were believed to connect heaven and earth, as with other
examples of trees or ladders to heaven in numerous religions.
Charlemagne had one such pillar chopped down in 772 close to the
Early Saxon religious practices in Britain can be gleaned from place
names and the
Germanic calendar in use at that time. The Germanic gods
Woden, Frigg, Tiw and Thunor, who are attested to in every Germanic
tradition, were worshipped in Wessex,
Sussex and Essex. They are the
only ones directly attested to, though the names of the third and
fourth months (March and April) of the
Old English calendar bear the
names Hrethmonath and Eosturmonath, meaning "month of Hretha" and
"month of Ēostre." It is presumed that these are the names of two
goddesses who were worshipped around that season. The Saxons
offered cakes to their gods in February (Solmonath). There was a
religious festival associated with the harvest, Halegmonath ("holy
month" or "month of offerings", September). The Saxon calendar
began on 25 December, and the months of December and January were
Yule (or Giuli). They contained a Modra niht or "night of the
mothers", another religious festival of unknown content.
The Saxon freemen and servile class remained faithful to their
original beliefs long after their nominal conversion to Christianity.
Nursing a hatred of the upper class, which, with Frankish assistance,
had marginalised them from political power, the lower classes (the
plebeium vulgus or cives) were a problem for Christian authorities as
late as 836. The Translatio S. Liborii remarks on their obstinacy
in pagan ritus et superstitio (usage and superstition).
1868 illustration of Augustine addressing the Saxons
The conversion of the
England from their original Germanic
Christianity occurred in the early to late 7th century
under the influence of the already converted
Jutes of Kent. In the
Birinus became the "apostle to the West Saxons" and converted
Wessex, whose first Christian king was Cynegils. The West
to emerge from obscurity only with their conversion to Christianity
and keeping written records. The Gewisse, a West Saxon people, were
especially resistant to Christianity;
Birinus exercised more efforts
against them and ultimately succeeded in conversion. In Wessex, a
bishopric was founded at Dorchester. The South
Saxons were first
evangelised extensively under Anglian influence; Aethelwalh of Sussex
was converted by Wulfhere,
King of Mercia
King of Mercia and allowed Wilfrid,
Archbishop of York, to evangelise his people beginning in 681. The
chief South Saxon bishopric was that of Selsey. The East
more pagan than the southern or western Saxons; their territory had a
superabundance of pagan sites. Their king, Saeberht, was converted
early and a diocese was established at London. Its first bishop,
Mellitus, was expelled by Saeberht's heirs. The conversion of the East
Saxons was completed under
Cedd in the 650s and 660s.
Saxons were evangelised largely by English
missionaries in the late 7th and early 8th centuries. Around 695, two
early English missionaries,
Hewald the White
Hewald the White and Hewald the Black,
were martyred by the vicani, that is, villagers. Throughout the
century that followed, villagers and other peasants proved to be the
greatest opponents of Christianisation, while missionaries often
received the support of the edhilingui and other noblemen. Saint
Lebuin, an Englishman who between 745 and 770 preached to the Saxons,
mainly in the eastern Netherlands, built a church and made many
friends among the nobility. Some of them rallied to save him from an
angry mob at the annual council at
Marklo (near river Weser, Bremen).
Social tensions arose between the Christianity-sympathetic noblemen
and the pagan lower castes, who were staunchly faithful to their
Under Charlemagne, the
Saxon Wars had as their chief object the
conversion and integration of the
Saxons into the Frankish empire.
Though much of the highest caste converted readily, forced baptisms
and forced tithing made enemies of the lower orders. Even some
contemporaries found the methods employed to win over the Saxons
wanting, as this excerpt from a letter of
Alcuin of York
Alcuin of York to his friend
Meginfrid, written in 796, shows:
If the light yoke and sweet burden of Christ were to be preached to
the most obstinate people of the
Saxons with as much determination as
the payment of tithes has been exacted, or as the force of the legal
decree has been applied for fault of the most trifling sort
imaginable, perhaps they would not be averse to their baptismal
Charlemagne's successor, Louis the Pious, reportedly treated the
Saxons more as Alcuin would have wished, and as a consequence they
were faithful subjects. The lower classes, however, revolted
against Frankish overlordship in favour of their old paganism as late
as the 840s, when the
Stellinga rose up against the Saxon leadership,
who were allied with the Frankish emperor Lothair I. After the
suppression of the Stellinga, in 851
Louis the German
Louis the German brought relics
Saxony to foster a devotion to the Roman Catholic
Church. The Poeta Saxo, in his verse Annales of Charlemagne's
reign (written between 888 and 891), laid an emphasis on his conquest
of Saxony. He celebrated the Frankish monarch as on par with the Roman
emperors and as the bringer of Christian salvation to people.
References are made to periodic outbreaks of pagan worship, especially
of Freya, among the Saxon peasantry as late as the 12th century.
In the 9th century, the Saxon nobility became vigorous supporters of
monasticism and formed a bulwark of
Christianity against the existing
Slavic paganism to the east and the
Nordic paganism of the
the north. Much Christian literature was produced in the vernacular
Old Saxon, the notable ones being a result of the literary output and
wide influence of Saxon monasteries such as Fulda, Corvey and Verden;
and the theological controversy between the Augustinian Gottschalk and
From an early date,
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious supported
Christian vernacular works in order to evangelise the
efficiently. The Heliand, a verse epic of the life of Christ in a
Germanic setting, and Genesis, another epic retelling of the events of
the first book of the Bible, were commissioned in the early 9th
century by Louis to disseminate scriptural knowledge to the masses. A
Tours in 813 and then a synod of
Mainz in 848 both declared
that homilies ought to be preached in the vernacular. The earliest
preserved text in the Saxon language is a baptismal vow from the late
8th or early 9th century; the vernacular was used extensively in
an effort to Christianise the lowest castes of Saxon society.
Ancient Germanic culture portal
List of Germanic tribes
^ Haydn Middleton (1 June 2001). Romans,
Britain. Heinemann. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-431-10209-2.
Retrieved 19 October 2012.
^ Simon Young, "AD 500 A journey through the dark isles of Britain and
Ireland" p. 36, Phoenix 2006
^ Mark Thomas; Michael Stumpf; Heinrich Härke (July 18, 2006).
Germans set up an apartheid-like society in Britain".
^ "New times and old stories". Literary Appropriations of the
Anglo-Saxons. p. 111 fn 14.
^ Richard Carew, Survey of Cornwall, 1602. N.B. in revived Cornish,
this would be transcribed, My ny vynnaf cows sowsnek. The Cornish word
Emit meaning "ant" (and perversely derived from OE) is more commonly
used in Cornwall as of 2015[update] as slang to designate non-Cornish
^ Barber, David W. (1996). Bach, Beethoven And the Boys: Music History
as it Ought to be Taught. Sound and Vision, Toronto
^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Saxony". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
^ Green, D. H. & Siegmund, F.: The Continental
Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic
Perspective, Boydell Press, 2003, pp. 14–15
ISBN 1-84383-026-4, ISBN 978-1-84383-026-9
^ Schütte, page 22-23
^ Schütte page 64
^ Lanting; van der Plicht (2010), "De 14C-chronologie van de
Nederlandse Pre- en Protohistorie VI: Romeinse tijd en Merovingische
periode, deel A: historische bronnen en chronologische schema's",
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^ Haywood, John, Dark Age Naval Power: A Re-Assessment of Frankish and
Anglo-Saxon Seafaring ..., p. 42
^ John T. Koch (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia.
ABC-CLIO. pp. 59–. ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0.
^ "They are much given to devil worship,"
Einhard said, "and they are
hostile to our religion," as when they martyred the Saints Ewald
^ a b Benjamin Lieberman (22 March 2013). Remaking Identities: God,
Nation, and Race in World History. Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-1-4422-1395-1.
^ Bachrach, p. 39.
^ Bachrach, p.39
^ Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, Penguin 1974.
^ Stenton, 12.
^ François de Beaurepaire, Les noms des communes et anciennes
paroisses de la Manche, éditions Picard 1986. p. 125 –127.
^ Questions d'histoire de Bretagne (in French). E.N.S.B. 1984.
p. 127. ISBN 9782735500468.
^ History of the Franks, volume II. Trans. O. M. Dalton, Clarendon
^ Bachrach, 10.
^ Bachrach, 52.
^ Bachrach, 63.
^ Fredegar, IV.54, p. 66.
Albert Dauzat and Charles Rostaing, Dictionnaire étymologique des
noms de lieux en France, Librairie Guénégaud 1979. p. 215.
^ Dauzat and Rostaing, DENL
^ Louis Guinet, Les emprunts gallo-romans au germanique (du Ier à la
fin du Vème siècle), éditions Klincksieck 1982.
^ François de Beaurepaire, Les noms des communes et anciennes
paroisses de la Seine-Maritime, éditions Picard 1979. p. 56.
^ René Lepelley, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de communes de
Normandie, Charles Corlet / Presses universitaires de Caen. p. 46.
^ fr:Ernest Nègre, fr:Toponymie générale de la France, Volume II,
Librairie Droz. p. 1008.
^ "Répartition des LECESNE entre 1891 et 1915" (in French).
^ Quelques témoignages de le présence Anglo-Saxonne dans le
Calvados, Basse-Normandie (Christian Pilet), in Frühmittelalterliche
Studien (1979), Berlin, New York (Walter de Gruyter) 2009.
Saxons en Basse-Normandie au VIe siècle ? A propos de
quelques découvertes archéologiques faîtes récemment dans la basse
vallée de l'Orne (C. Lorren) in Studien zur Sachsenforschung 2, 1980.
^ C. Seillier, La Présence germanique en Gaule du Nord au Bas-Empire,
Revue du Nord, 1995, n° 77.
^ a b Goldberg, 473.
^ a b Goldberg, 471.
^ Goldberg, 472.
^ Goldberg, 476.
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^ a b Goldberg, 474.
^ a b Stenton, 97–98.
^ Goldberg, 480.
^ Stenton, 102.
^ Goldberg, 478.
^ Hummer, 141, based on Astronomus.
^ Hummer, 143.
^ Goldberg, 477.
^ Hummer, 138–139.
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