Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus
Thirteenth-century Danish historian

Catholic Encyclopedia. . 2006.

Saxo Grammaticus
    Saxo Grammaticus
     Catholic_Encyclopedia Saxo Grammaticus
    Danish historian of the thirteenth century, author of the "Gesta Danorum". The scanty information we have concerning his life is based chiefly on statements in his work, especially in the preface. His father and grandfather took part in the campaigns of Waldemar I of Denmark (1157-1182). He himself was a cleric; a layman of that time would hardly have had his knowledge of theology and classic lore. No doubt, he studied at foreign universities, probably in Paris. In the eleventh book of his history he speaks of the funeral of Bishop Asker (Esger) as having taken place in his own time. As that event happened in 1158 we may conclude that Saxo was born about 1150, but we do not know where; from the favour shown to Zealand, it has been inferred that that was his birthplace.
    Saxo's history was written at the suggestion of Archbishop Absalon of Lund, who died in 1201 before the work was finished, whereupon the historian addressed himself to Absalon's successor Anders, who held the see until 1222. There is some doubt as to Saxo's position. In his preface he modestly refers to himself as the least among the followers of Absalon, but it is not likely that the bishop would have entrusted to an obscure and unimportant man the important task of writing a history of his native land. It is much more probable that Saxo held a high office, possibly a secretaryship, and that he enjoyed the bishop's intimate acquaintance. More than this we do not know. Attempts to identify him with a provost at Roskilde, a subdeacon in the monastery of St. Laurentius at Lund, or with a scribe named in Absalon's will, are purely conjectural and cannot be verified. The date of his death is also uncertain. The writing of the history occupied the greater part of Saxo's life. About the year 1185 the chronicler Swen Aggeson referes to the history as already planned, and the preface was not written until Waldemar II (1202-1241) had "encompassed the ebbing and flowing waves of the Elbe". This seems to refer to events of 1215 (or 1208?). Originally the work was to be a history of Absalon's own time, but it grew to be a complete history of Denmark from the earliest mythical period to the year 1187. It is written in an elegant, highly ornate Latin which excited the admiration of Erasmus of Rotterdam. The style is carefully modelled on that of the Latin authors of the "Silver Age", especially Valerius Maximus and Martinus Capella.
    The work is divided into sixteen books, of which the first nine contain mainly mythological and legendary material, which is presented in uncritical fashion. The last seven, however, relating the events nearer Saxo's time, are historical, and are believed to have been written first. For these he relied on oral communication, especially on Absalon's own reports which, so Saxo tells us, he accepted like a Divine revelation. For the first nine books dealing with Northern antiquity the sources are old Danish poems, Runic inscriptions, and Norwegian-Icelandic sagas. These books possess a special interest for us on account of the ancient legendary material preserved therein, much of which has come down to us in no other form. Among the famous legends found here may be mentioned those of Balder and Hother (Book III), of Amleth (ibid.), the basis of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and of the archer Toko or Palnatoki (Book X), the prototype of the Tell of Swiss legend. No complete MS. of Saxo's history is extant. Even in his own time the work received scant attention, partly, no doubt, because it was written in such difficult Latin. An epitome was made by an anonymous writer in 1431 and here the epithet "Grammaticus" (the lettered one) was first used. The first printed edition, made from a MS. since lost, appeared in Paris in 1514 and has been the basis of all subsequent editions. The first critical edition was given by Stephanus Johannes Stephanius (Sor÷, 1644). The best modern editions are those of M&\#8319;ller-Velschow (3 vols., Copenhagen, 1839-58) and of Alfred Holder (Strasburg, 1886). The latter contains alsoa careful bibliography. Translations were made into Danish by Anders S÷ffrins÷n Vedel (Copenhagen, 1575), by Grundtvig (Copenhagen, 1818) and by W. Horn (Christiania and Copenhagen, 1898). The first nine books have been translated into English by O. Elton, with notes by F. York Powell (London, 1894); into German by H. Jantzen (Berlin, 1900) and Paul Herrmann (Leipzig, 1901).
    Consult the introductions to the works of ELTON and POWELL; M&\#1509;LLER-VELSCHOW; JANTZEN; see also HERRMANN, op. cit., 466-470; OLRIK, Kilderne til Sakses Oldhistorie (Copenhagen, 1892 and 1894); PINEAU, Saxo Grammaticus (Tours, 1901); WATTENBACH, Deutschlands Geschichtsguellen, II (6 ed., 1893), 347.
    ARTHUR F.J. REMY
    Transcribed by Jess Paehlke

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. — New York: Robert Appleton Company. . 1910.


Catholic encyclopedia.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Saxo Grammaticus — Saxo redirects here. For the car, see Citroën Saxo and for the bank, see Saxo Bank Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150 1220) also known as Saxo cognomine Longus is thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund. He is the… …   Wikipedia

  • Saxo Grammaticus — (v. 1150 † v. 1220) est un moine et historien de l époque médiévale danoise. Sa vie reste peu connue. Nous savons qu il était un « disciple » de l archevêque Absalon, puissante dignité ecclésiastique de Lund. Il a probablement travaillé …   Wikipédia en Français

  • SAXO GRAMMATICUS — (1140? 1206) Ce moine danois, originaire de Sjaelland, vécut à l’articulation des XIIe et XIIIe siècles, et servit l’archevêque Absalon dont il fut sans doute secrétaire (clericus ). Il est passé à la postérité pour ses Gesta Danorum (Les Hauts… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Saxo Grammaticus — (* um 1140; † um 1220) war ein dänischer Geschichtsschreiber und Geistlicher. Er verfasste ab 1185 auf Veranlassung Bischof Absalons eine 16 bändige Geschichte Dänemarks in lateinischer Sprache, die Gesta Danorum (Die Taten der Dänen). Es ist das …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Saxo Grammaticus — o Sajón Gramático (h. 1150 – 1220) fue un historiador medieval danés de cuya vida se conoce muy poco[cita requerida]. Se le atribuyen los dieciséis libros de la historia danesa de su época, la Gesta Danorum. En el prefacio de la Gesta… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Saxo Grammatĭcus — Saxo Grammatĭcus, stammte aus Seeland von vornehmen Eltern, war Propst in Roeskild u. Secretär des Bischofs Absalon, welcher ihn 1161 zu einer Sendung nach Paris brauchte; er st. 1204 u. schr.: Hist. Danorum regum heroumque, welche er aus… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • SAXO Grammaticus — rerum Danicarum scriptor celeberrimus. Futi Praepositus Ecclesiae Roschildianae, in dania, Saeculô 12. Historia eius libris 16. comprehensa, aliquando sabulas sapit, interim nitidô stylô exarata, genium illius saeculi plane transcendit. Hinc… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Saxo Grammaticus — må på dansk have heddet Sakse. Han skrev omkring år 1200, på latin, en stor Danmarkshistorie, Gesta Danorum. Han var sekretær for Absalon, som både var biskop af Roskilde og ærkebiskop af Lund i det dengang danske Skåne …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Saxo Grammaticus — [sak′sō grə mat′i kəs] 1150? 1220?; Dan. historian …   English World dictionary

  • Saxo Grammaticus — /sak soh greuh mat i keuhs/ c1150 1206?, Danish historian and poet. * * * flourished 12th century–early 13th century Danish historian. Little is known of Saxo s life except that he was from Sjælland, born to a family of warriors, and probably… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”