Saxon Identities, AD 150900

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2017-07-13
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

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This study is the first up-to-date comprehensive analysis of the construction of Continental Saxon identity in late antique and early medieval writing. It traces this process over the course of eight centuries, from its earliest roots in Roman ethnography to its reinvention in the monasteries of ninth-century Saxony. Building on recent scholarship, this study emphasises not just the constructed and open-ended nature of barbarian identity, but also the crucial role played by texts as instruments and resources of identity-formation.

Though mentioned as early as AD 150, the Saxons left no written evidence of their own before c. 840. Thus, for the first seven centuries, we can only look at Saxon identity through the eyes of their Roman enemies, Merovingian neighbours and Carolingian conquerors. What we encounter when we attempt this, is not an objective description of a people, but an ongoing literary discourse on what outside authors imagined, wanted or feared the Saxons to be: dangerous pirates, noble savages, bestial pagans or faithful subjects. Significantly, these outside views deeply influenced how ninth-century Saxons eventually came to write about themselves following their conquest and conversion by the Frankish king Charlemagne, relying on Roman and Frankish texts to reinvent themselves as members of a noble and Christian people.

Author Biography

Robert Flierman is Assistant Professor in Medieval History at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Table of Contents

1. The Most Ferocious of Enemies: Saxons from a Roman Perspective
2. Rebels, Subjects, Neighbours: Saxons from a Frankish Perspective
3. Gens perfida or populus christianus? The Saxons and the Saxon Wars in Carolingian Historiography
4. From Defeat to Salvation: Remembering the Saxon Wars in Carolingian Saxony

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