The Danish History, Books I-IX eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 487 pages of information about The Danish History, Books I-IX.

But a number of Saxos present themselves in the same surroundings with whom he has been from time to time identified.  All he tells us himself is, that Absalon, Archbishop of Lund from 1179 to 1201, pressed him, who was “the least of his companions, since all the rest refused the task”, to write the history of Denmark, so that it might record its glories like other nations.  Absalon was previously, and also after his promotion, Bishop of Roskild, and this is the first circumstance giving colour to the theory—­which lacks real evidence—­that Saxo the historian was the same as a certain Saxo, Provost of the Chapter of Roskild, whose death is chronicled in a contemporary hand without any mark of distinction.  It is unlikely that so eminent a man would be thus barely named; and the appended eulogy and verses identifying the Provost and the historian are of later date.  Moreover, the Provost Saxo went on a mission to Paris in 1165, and was thus much too old for the theory.  Nevertheless, the good Bishop of Roskild, Lave Urne, took this identity for granted in the first edition, and fostered the assumption.  Saxo was a cleric; and could such a man be of less than canonical rank?  He was (it was assumed) a Zealander; he was known to be a friend of Absalon, Bishop of Roskild.  What more natural than that he should have been the Provost Saxo?  Accordingly this latter worthy had an inscription in gold letters, written by Lave Urne himself, affixed to the wall opposite his tomb.

Even less evidence exists for identifying our Saxo with the scribe of that name—­a comparative menial—­who is named in the will of Bishop Absalon; and hardly more warranted is the theory that he was a member, perhaps a subdeacon, of the monastery of St. Laurence, whose secular canons formed part of the Chapter of Lund.  It is true that Sweyn Aageson, Saxo’s senior by about twenty years, speaks (writing about 1185) of Saxo as his “contubernalis”.  Sweyn Aageson is known to have had strong family connections with the monastery of St. Laurence; but there is only a tolerably strong probability that he, and therefore that Saxo, was actually a member of it. ("Contubernalis” may only imply comradeship in military service.) Equally doubtful is the consequence that since Saxo calls himself “one of the least” of Absalon’s “followers” ("comitum"), he was probably, if not the inferior officer, who is called an “acolitus”, at most a sub-deacon, who also did the work of a superior “acolitus”.  This is too poor a place for the chief writer of Denmark, high in Absalon’s favor, nor is there any direct testimony that Saxo held it.

His education is unknown, but must have been careful.  Of his training and culture we only know what his book betrays.  Possibly, like other learned Danes, then and afterwards, he acquired his training and knowledge at some foreign University.  Perhaps, like his contemporary Anders Suneson, he went to Paris; but we cannot tell.  It is not even certain that he had a degree; for there is really little to identify him with the “M(agister) Saxo” who witnessed the deed of Absalon founding the monastery at Sora.

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The Danish History, Books I-IX from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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