Saxons
Overview
 
The Saxons were a confederation
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 of Germanic tribes
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 originating on the North German plain
North German plain
The North German Plain or Northern Lowland is one of the major geographical regions of Germany. It is the German part of the North European Plain...

. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein
Holstein
Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

. This area overlapped the area of the Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

, a tribe with which they were frequently closely linked.

Saxons participated in the Germanic settlement
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain was the invasion and migration of Germanic peoples from continental Europe to Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages, specifically the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain after the demise of Roman rule in the 5th century.The stimulus, progression and...

 of Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during and after the fifth century. It is unknown how many migrated from the continent to Britain, though estimates for the total number of Anglo-Saxon settlers are around two hundred thousand.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Saxons were a confederation
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 of Germanic tribes
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 originating on the North German plain
North German plain
The North German Plain or Northern Lowland is one of the major geographical regions of Germany. It is the German part of the North European Plain...

. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein
Holstein
Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

. This area overlapped the area of the Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

, a tribe with which they were frequently closely linked.

Saxons participated in the Germanic settlement
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain was the invasion and migration of Germanic peoples from continental Europe to Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages, specifically the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain after the demise of Roman rule in the 5th century.The stimulus, progression and...

 of Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during and after the fifth century. It is unknown how many migrated from the continent to Britain, though estimates for the total number of Anglo-Saxon settlers are around two hundred thousand. Since the eighteenth century, many modern Saxon Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 have settled in regions around the world, especially in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, Southern Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and in areas of the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, where some communities still maintain parts of their cultural and linguistic heritage along with other Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

.

Because of international Hanseatic
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

 trading routes and contingent migration during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, Saxons mixed with and had strong influences upon the languages and cultures of the Scandinavian and Baltic peoples, and also upon the Polabian Slavs
Polabian Slavs
Polabian Slavs - is a collective term applied to a number of Lechites tribes who lived along the Elbe river, between the Baltic Sea to the north, the Saale and the Limes Saxoniae to the west, the Ore Mountains and the Western Sudetes to the south, and Poland to the east. They have also been known...

 and Pomeranian West Slavic
West Slavs
The West Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking West Slavic languages. They include Poles , Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatian Sorbs and the historical Polabians. The northern or Lechitic group includes, along with Polish, the extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages...

 peoples.

The pre-Christian
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 settlement of the Saxon people originally covered an area a little more to the north-west, with parts of the southern Jutland Peninsula
Jutland Peninsula
The Jutland Peninsula or more historically the Cimbrian Peninsula is a peninsula in Europe, divided between Denmark and Germany. The names are derived from the Jutes and the Cimbri....

, Old Saxony
Old Saxony
Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today with the contemporary Lower Saxony, Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt....

 and the area south of the Frisians, north of the Rhine, and east of the Utrecht Hill Ridge
Utrecht Hill Ridge
Utrecht Hill Ridge is a ridge of low sandhills that stretches in a direction from southeast to northwest over the Dutch province of Utrecht and over a part of North Holland. The total length of the region is about 50 km. It covers an area of approximately 23.000 ha...

 of the modern Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. During the fifth century A.D., the Saxons were part of the people migrating to the Romano-British
Romano-British
Romano-British culture describes the culture that arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest of AD 43 and the creation of the province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture with that of the indigenous Britons, a people of Celtic language and...

 province of Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

. One of the other tribes was the Germanic Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

, whose name, taken together with that of the Saxons led to the formation of the modern term, Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

.

Etymology

Following the downfall of Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion was a member of the Welf dynasty and Duke of Saxony, as Henry III, from 1142, and Duke of Bavaria, as Henry XII, from 1156, which duchies he held until 1180....

 and the subsequent split 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
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

, lands settled by the Saxon tribe, and Upper Saxony
Upper Saxony
Upper Saxony was a name given to the majority of the German lands held by the House of Wettin, in what is now called Mitteldeutschland....

, as the duchy (finally a kingdom). When the Upper was dropped from Upper Saxony, a different region had acquired the Saxon name, ultimately replacing the name's original meaning.

The Finns and Estonians
Estonians
Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. They speak a Finnic language known as Estonian...

 have changed their usage of the term Saxony over the centuries to denote the whole country of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (Saksa and Saksamaa respectively) and the Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 (saksalaiset and sakslased, respectively) now. In old Finnish the word saksa meant merchant
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

, as in the words voisaksa (butter
Butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

 seller) and kauppasaksa (traveling salesman). In Estonian saks means a nobleman or, colloquially, a wealthy or powerful person.

The label "Saxons" (in Romanian 'Saşi') was also applied to German settlers
Transylvanian Saxons
The Transylvanian Saxons are a people of German ethnicity who settled in Transylvania from the 12th century onwards.The colonization of Transylvania by Germans was begun by King Géza II of Hungary . For decades, the main task of the German settlers was to defend the southeastern border of the...

 who migrated during the 13th century to southeastern Transylvania
Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

.

In the Celtic languages
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

, the word for the English nationality is derived from the word Saxon. The most prominent example, often used in English, is the Gàidhlig
Scottish Gaelic language
Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish....

 loanword Sassenach
Sassenach
Sassenach is a word used chiefly by the Scots to designate an Englishman. It derives from the Scottish Gaelic Sasunnach meaning, originally, "Saxon", from the Latin "Saxones"; it was also formerly applied by Highlanders to Lowlanders. As employed by Scots or Scottish English-speakers today it is...

 (Saxon), often used disparagingly in Scottish English
Scottish English
Scottish English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Scotland. It may or may not be considered distinct from the Scots language. It is always considered distinct from Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language....

/Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

. England, in Gàidhlig, is Sasainn (Saxony). Other examples are the Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 Saesneg (the English language), Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 Sasana (England), Breton
Breton language
Breton is a Celtic language spoken in Brittany , France. Breton is a Brythonic language, descended from the Celtic British language brought from Great Britain to Armorica by migrating Britons during the Early Middle Ages. Like the other Brythonic languages, Welsh and Cornish, it is classified as...

 saoz(on) (English, saozneg "the English language", Bro-saoz "England"), and Cornish
Cornish language
Cornish is a Brythonic Celtic language and a recognised minority language of the United Kingdom. Along with Welsh and Breton, it is directly descended from the ancient British language spoken throughout much of Britain before the English language came to dominate...

 Sowson (English people) and Sowsnek (English language), as in the famous My ny vynnav kows Sowsnek! (I will not speak English!).

During Georg Friederich Händel's
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

 visit to Italy, much was made of his being from Saxony; in particular, the Venetians
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 greeted the 1709 performance of his opera Agrippina
Agrippina (opera)
Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel, from a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. Composed for the Venice Carnevale season, the opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of...

 with the cry Viva il caro Sassone, "Long live the beloved Saxon!"

The word also survives as the surnames Saß/Sass, Sachse and Sachs
Sachs
Sachs is a German surname meaning "man from Saxony" and may refer to:Real people*Albie Sachs , a South African Constitutional Court Justice*Andrew Sachs , a German-British actor*Bernard Sachs , an American neurologist...

. The Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 female first name "Saskia
Saskia
Saskia is a feminine name. There is some discrepancy as to the origins of the name. The name is often said to be of Dutch origin, which originally meant "a Saxon woman" . However, the name Saskia is thought by some to be of Slavic origin meaning "protector of mankind"...

" originally meant "A Saxon woman" (alteration of "Saxia").

Early history

Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

'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 River Elbe, thought to derive from the word sax or stone knife. However, other copies call the same tribe Axones, and it is considered likely that it is a misspelling of the tribe that Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 in his Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

 called Aviones. It is considered likely that "Saxones" was an attempt by later scribes to correct a name that meant nothing to them.

The first undisputed mention of the Saxon name in its modern form is from 356, when Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, later the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

, mentioned them in a speech as allies of Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

, a rival emperor in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

. All mentions of the Saxons during the 4th and early 5th centuries referred to pirates and warlords in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and Britain, rather than to a specific tribe or inhabitants of a specific area. In order to defend against Saxon raiders, the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

s created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum
Saxon Shore
Saxon Shore could refer to one of the following:* Saxon Shore, a military command of the Late Roman Empire, encompassing southern Britain and the coasts of northern France...

("Saxon Coast") on both sides of the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. In 441/442, Saxons are mentioned for the first time as inhabitants of Britain, when an unknown Gaulish historian wrote: "Britain falls under the rule of the Saxons".

Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern Germany
Northern Germany
- Geography :The key terrain features of North Germany are the marshes along the coastline of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and the geest and heaths inland. Also prominent are the low hills of the Baltic Uplands, the ground moraines, end moraines, sandur, glacial valleys, bogs, and Luch...

 are first mentioned in 555, when Theudebald
Theudebald
Theudebald or Theodebald , son of Theudebert I and Deuteria, was the king of Metz, Rheims, or Austrasia—as it's variously called—from 547 or 548 to 555.He was only thirteen years of age when he succeeded and of ill health...

, the Frankish king, died and the Saxons used this 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 them; Chlothar II won a decisive victory against the Saxons. The Thuringians frequently appeared as allies of the Saxons.

The Saxons may have derived their name from seax
Seax
Seax in Old English means knife or cutting tool. The name of the roofer's tool, the zax, is a development from this word...

, a kind of knife for which they were known. The seax has a lasting symbolic impact in the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 counties of Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 and Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

, both of which featuring three seaxes in their ceremonial emblem.

Saxony

The Continental Saxons living in what was known as Old Saxony
Old Saxony
Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today with the contemporary Lower Saxony, Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt....

appear to have consolidated themselves by the end of the 8th century. After subjugation by the Emperor Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 a political entity called the Duchy of Saxony
Duchy of Saxony
The medieval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy" covering the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt and most of Schleswig-Holstein...

 appeared.

The Saxons long resisted both becoming Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and being incorporated into the orbit of the Frankish kingdom, but they were decisively conquered by Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 in a long series of annual campaigns, the Saxon Wars
Saxon Wars
The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the more than thirty years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of disaffected tribesmen was crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany...

 (772 – 804). During Charlemagne's campaign in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 (778), the Saxons advanced to Deutz
Cologne-Deutz
Cologne-Deutz, often just Deutz, is an inner city part of Cologne, Germany and a formerly independent town.Lufthansa's headquarters are in Deutz.-History:...

 on the Rhine and plundered along the river. With defeat came enforced baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 and conversion
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

 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
Irminsul
An Irminsul was a kind of pillar which is attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxon people. The oldest chronicle describing an Irminsul refers to it as a tree trunk erected in the open air...

, was destroyed. Charlemagne also deported 10,000 of them to Neustria and gave their now vacant lands to the loyal king of the Abotrites. It is constructive now to quote Einhard, Charlemagne's biographer, on the closing of such a 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 the 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 as the Abodrites and the Wends
Wends
Wends is a historic name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used...

, 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 Great) of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 during the 10th century, but they lost this position in 1024. The duchy was divided up in 1180 when Duke Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion was a member of the Welf dynasty and Duke of Saxony, as Henry III, from 1142, and Duke of Bavaria, as Henry XII, from 1156, which duchies he held until 1180....

, Emperor Otto's grandson, refused to follow his cousin, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

, into war in Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

.

During the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

, under the Salian
Salian dynasty
The Salian dynasty was a dynasty in the High Middle Ages of four German Kings , also known as the Frankish dynasty after the family's origin and role as dukes of Franconia...

 emperors and, later, under the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

, German settlers moved east along the River Elbe into the area of a western Slavic tribe, the Sorbs
Sorbs
Sorbs are a Western Slavic people of Central Europe living predominantly in Lusatia, a region on the territory of Germany and Poland. In Germany they live in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony. They speak the Sorbian languages - closely related to Polish and Czech - officially recognized and...

. The Sorbs were 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
Meissen
Meissen is a town of approximately 30,000 about northwest of Dresden on both banks of the Elbe river in the Free State of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Meissen is the home of Meissen porcelain, the Albrechtsburg castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche...

 acquired control of the Duchy of Saxony
Duchy of Saxony
The medieval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy" covering the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt and most of Schleswig-Holstein...

 in 1423 and eventually applied the name Saxony to the whole of their kingdom. Since then, this part of eastern Germany has been referred to as Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 (German: Sachsen), a source of some misunderstanding about the original homeland of the Saxons, mostly in the present-day German state of Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

 (German: Niedersachsen).

Netherlands

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
Gooi
Het Gooi is the area around Hilversum in the centre of the Netherlands. It is a slightly hilly area characterised by its green landscape, its historical charm, the wealth of its inhabitants, and its villas. Het Gooi is known in the Netherlands as the home of the rich and famous.- Name :The name...

 region, in the south as far as the Lower Rhine. After the conquest of Charlemagne this formed the main part of the Bishopric of Utrecht. The Saxon duchy of Hamaland
Hamaland
Hamaland is a non-administrative region in the east of the Netherlands that is named after the Frankish Chamavi-tribe. It is located east of the river IJssel and south of Salland and Twente . Hamaland and the Chamavi were in Late antiquity ruled by independent kings...

 played an important role in the formation of the duchy of Guelders
Guelders
Guelders or Gueldres is the name of a historical county, later duchy of the Holy Roman Empire, located in the Low Countries.-Geography:...

.

The local language, although strongly influenced by standard Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, is still officially recognized as Dutch Low Saxon
Dutch Low Saxon
Dutch Low Saxon is a group of Low Saxon, i.e. West Low German dialects spoken in the northeastern Netherlands. In comparison, the remainder of the Netherlands speak a collection of Low Franconian dialects.The class "Dutch Low Saxon" is not unanimous...

.

Italy and Provence

In 569, some Saxons accompanied the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 into Italy under the leadership of Alboin
Alboin
Alboin was king of the Lombards from about 560 until 572. During his reign the Lombards ended their migrations by settling in Italy, the northern part of which Alboin conquered between 569 and 572...

 and settled there. In 572, they raided southeastern Gaul as far as Stablo, now Estoublon
Estoublon
Estoublon is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in southeastern France.-Population:-References:*...

. Divided, they were easily defeated by Gallo-Frankish General Mummolus
Mummolus
Mummolus, Mommolus, or Mummulus, born Eunius to one Peonius, Count of Auxerre. He was a Gallo-Roman patrician and prefect who served Guntram, King of Burgundy, as a general....

. When the Saxons regrouped, a peace treaty was negotiated whereby the Italian Saxons were allowed to settle with their families in Austrasia
Austrasia
Austrasia formed the northeastern portion of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks, comprising parts of the territory of present-day eastern France, western Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Metz served as its capital, although some Austrasian kings ruled from Rheims, Trier, and...

. Gathering their families and belongings in Italy, they returned to Provence
Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

 in two groups in 573. One group proceeded by way of Nice
Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

 and another via Embrun
Embrun, Hautes-Alpes
Embrun is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.-Description:...

, joining up at Avignon
Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

, where they plundered the territory and were as a consequence stopped from crossing the Rhone
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

 by Mummolus. They were forced to pay compensation for what they had robbed before they could enter Austrasia. Nevertherless, they are known only by documents and it cannot be compared to the traces of Saxon settlements in northern and western Gaul.

Gaul

A Saxon king named Eadwacer conquered Angers
Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

 in 463 only to be dislodged by Childeric I
Childeric I
Childeric I was a Merovingian king of the Salian Franks and the father of Clovis.He succeeded his father Merovech as king, traditionally in 457 or 458...

 and the Salian Franks
Salian Franks
The Salian Franks or Salii were a subgroup of the early Franks who originally had been living north of the limes in the area above the Rhine. The Merovingian kings responsible for the conquest of Gaul were Salians. From the 3rd century on, the Salian Franks appear in the historical records as...

, allies of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 coast.

Some Saxons already lived along the Saxon shore of Gaul. We can trace them in the documents, but in the archeology and in the toponymy too. The Notitia Dignitatum
Notitia Dignitatum
The Notitia Dignitatum is a unique document of the Roman imperial chanceries. One of the very few surviving documents of Roman government, it details the administrative organisation of the eastern and western empires, listing several thousand offices from the imperial court down to the provincial...

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
Granville, Manche
-Sights:The old town preserves all the history of its military and religious past. The lower town was partly built on land reclaimed from the sea. The upper part of the old town is surrounded by ramparts from the fifteenth century...

 (nowadays in Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

) or nearby. The Notitia Dignitatum does not explain where these "Roman" soldiers came from. Some toponymists proposed another location for Grannona / Grannonum, that is to say Graignes
Graignes
Graignes may refer to:*Graignes, Manche, a former commune in the Manche department in northwestern France that was merged in 2007 with the commune of Le Mesnil-Angot to form Graignes-Mesnil-Angot...

 (Grania 1109 - 1113). It could be the same element *gran, that is recognized in Guernsey
Guernsey
Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou, Burhou, and Lihou and their islet...

 (Greneroi 11th c.). This location is closer to Bayeux
Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

, where Gregory of Tours evokes otherwise the Saxones Bajocassini (Bessin
Bessin
The Bessin is an area in Normandy, France, corresponding to the territory of the Bajocasse tribe of Gaul who also gave their name to the city of Bayeux, central town of the Bessin.-History:The territory was annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 924....

 Saxons), that were ineffective to defeat the Breton Waroch
Waroch
Waroch was an early Breton ruler of the Vannetais. Waroch gave his name to the traditional Breton province of Broërec . However, it is possible that there were several successive local leaders with this name....

 in 579.

So thus, a Saxon unit of laeti
Laeti
Laeti, the plural form of laetus, was a term used in the late Roman Empire to denote communities of barbari permitted to, and granted land to, settle on imperial territory on condition that they provide recruits for the Roman military...

would have been settled at Bayeux
Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

 — the Saxones Baiocassenses — . These Saxons became subjects of Clovis I
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

 late in the fifth century. The Saxons of Bayeux comprised a standing army and were often called upon to serve alongside the local levy
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

 of their region in Merovingian military campaigns. They were ineffective against Waroch in this capacity in 579. In 589, the Saxons wore their hair in the Breton fashion at the orders of Fredegund
Fredegund
Fredegund was the Queen consort of Chilperic I, the Merovingian Frankish king of Soissons.All her wealth and power came to her through her association with Chilperic...

 and fought with them as allies against Guntram
Guntram
Saint Guntram was the king of Burgundy from 561 to 592. He was a son of Chlothar I and Ingunda...

. Beginning in 626, the Saxons of the Bessin
Bessin
The Bessin is an area in Normandy, France, corresponding to the territory of the Bajocasse tribe of Gaul who also gave their name to the city of Bayeux, central town of the Bessin.-History:The territory was annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 924....

 were used by Dagobert I
Dagobert I
Dagobert I was the king of Austrasia , king of all the Franks , and king of Neustria and Burgundy . He was the last Merovingian dynast to wield any real royal power...

 for his campaigns against the Basques. One of their own, Aeghyna
Aeghyna
Aighyna, Aeghyna, Aegyna, Aigino, or Aichina, probably a Saxon, was the duke of Gascony from 626 or 627 to his death in 638. He succeeded Genial. The chief source for his reign is Fredegar....

, was even created a dux
Duke of Gascony
The Duchy of Vasconia , later known as Gascony, was a Merovingian creation: a frontier duchy on the Garonne, in the border with the rebel Basque tribes...

over the region of Vasconia
Duchy of Vasconia
The Duchy of Vasconia , or Wasconia, was originally a Frankish march formed by 602 to keep the Basques in check. It comprised the former Roman province of Novempopulania and, at least in some periods, also the lands south of the Pyrenees centred on Pamplona.In the ninth century, civil war within...

.

In 843 and 846 under king Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

, other official documents mention a pagus
Pagus
In the later Western Roman Empire, following the reorganization of Diocletian, a pagus became the smallest administrative district of a province....

called Otlinga Saxonia in the Bessin region, but the meaning of Otlinga is unclear. Different Bessin toponyms were identified as typically Saxon, ex : Cottun
Cottun
Cottun is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Population:...

 (Coltun 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
Colton
- England :* Colton, Cumbria* Colton, Leeds * Colton, Staffordshire- United States :*Colton, California* Colton, New York* Colton, Ohio* Colton, Oregon* Colton, South Dakota* Colton, Utah, a ghost town...

). However, we cannot compare this single fact in Normandy with the extension of the -thun villages in the north of France, in Boulonnais
Boulonnais (land area)
The Boulonnais is a coastal area of northern France, around Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer. It has a curved belt of chalk downs which run into the sea at both ends, and geologically is the east end of the Weald-Artois Anticline.- Administration :...

, ex : Alincthun, Verlincthun, Pelingthun, etc. showing with other toponyms, an important Saxon or Anglo-Saxon settlement. If we compare the concentration of -ham / -hem (Anglo-Saxon hām > home) in the Bessin and in the Boulonnais, we obtain a better result. In the area known today as Normandy, the -ham cases of Bessin are unique, they don't exist out of it. Other cases were considered, but there is no determining example, f.e. : Canehan
Canehan
Canehan is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France.-Geography:A farming village situated in the Pays de Caux, some northeast of Dieppe, at the junction of the D226 and the D113 roads.-Population:...

 (Kenehan 1030 / Canaan 1030 - 1035) could be the biblical name Canaan or Airan
Airan
Airan is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Monuments:A tower ruins is located in a hamlet close to Airan. An old legend says that a secret way connects this tower to the church of Airan, and that the gold bell of this church is hidden in this...

 (Heidram 9th c.), the Germanic masculine name Hairammus.

On the contrary, the Bessin examples are quite sure. f. e. Ouistreham
Ouistreham
Ouistreham is a commune in the Calvados department' in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.Ouistreham is a small port with fishing boats, leisure craft and a ferry-harbour. It serves as the port of the city of Caen. The town is about the mouth of the Canal de Caen à la...

 (Oistreham 1086), Étréham
Étréham
Étréham is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwesternFrance.- Toponymy :Probably Saxon or Old English wester, west and hām, home, hamlet...

 (Oesterham 1350 ?), Huppain (*Hubbehain ; Hubba 's "home"), Surrain
Surrain
Surrain is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Population:...

 (Surrehain 11th c.), etc. Another significant example can be found in the Norman onomastics
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

: the widespread surname Lecesne, with variant spellings : Le Cesne, Lesène, Lecène and Cesne. It comes from Gallo-Romance *SAXINU "the Saxon" > saisne in Old French. These examples cannot be 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) concerned by these Nordic settlements. That is not the case, and Bessin does not belong to the pagii that were touched by an important Anglo-Scandinavian immigration.

Otherwise, archeological finds add evidence to the documents and the results of toponymic research. All around the city of Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

 and in the Bessin (Vierville-sur-Mer
Vierville-sur-Mer
-External links:* *...

, Bénouville
Bénouville, Calvados
Bénouville is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.It is located on the Canal de Caen à la Mer close to Caen and Ouistreham.-Sights:* Château de Bénouville completed in 1777 by Claude Nicolas Ledoux...

, Giverville
Giverville
Giverville is a commune in the Eure department in northern France.-Sights:* The château de Giverville is a castle built in the 18th century. It was the ancestral seat of the noble Norman family "de Giverville".-External links:*...

, Hérouvillette
Hérouvillette
-References:*...

), excavations have shown numerous Anglo-Saxon jewelry, design elements, settings and weapons. All these things were discovered in cemeteries in a context of the 5th, 6th and 7th century AD.

However, the oldest and most spectacular Saxon site found in France to date is Vron
Vron
Vron is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:Vron is situated in rolling countryside on the N1 and D175 road junction north-northwest of Abbeville.-Population:-Monument aux morts:...

, in Picardy
Picardy
This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

. There, archeologists excavated a large cemetery with tombs dating from the Roman Empire until the 6th century. Furniture and other gravegoods, as well as the human remains revealed a group of people buried in the 4th and 5th century 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 c.) 92% were buried, sometimes with typical Germanic weapons. Then, they were ranked to the east, when they were buried in the 5th and later to the beginning of the 6th c. We can notice a strong Anglo-Saxon influence in the middle of the period, that disappears later. Archeological material, neighbouring toponymy and texts tend toward to the same conclusions: settlement of Saxon foederati
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

 with their families. Further anthropological research by Joël Blondiaux shows they were from Low Saxony.

Saxons in Britain

Saxons, along with Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

, Frisians
Frisians
The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group native to the coastal parts of the Netherlands and Germany. They are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East Frisia and North Frisia, that was a part of Denmark until 1864. They inhabit an area known as Frisia...

 and Jutes
Jutes
The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutæ were a Germanic people who, according to Bede, were one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles...

, invaded or migrated to the island of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 (Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

) around the time of the collapse of Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 authority in the west. 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, and many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers long before the end of Roman rule in Britannia. According to tradition, however, the Saxons (and other tribes) first entered Britain en masse as part of a deal to protect the Britons
Britons (historical)
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

 from the incursions of the Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

, Irish
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, and others. The story as reported in such sources as the Historia Brittonum and Gildas
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

 indicates that the British king Vortigern
Vortigern
Vortigern , also spelled Vortiger and Vortigen, was a 5th-century warlord in Britain, a leading ruler among the Britons. His existence is considered likely, though information about him is shrouded in legend. He is said to have invited the Saxons to settle in Kent as mercenaries to aid him in...

 allowed the Germanic warlords Hengist and Horsa to settle their people on the Isle of Thanet
Isle of Thanet
The Isle of Thanet lies at the most easterly point of Kent, England. While in the past it was separated from the mainland by the nearly -wide River Wantsum, it is no longer an island ....

 in exchange for their service as mercenaries. Hengist manipulated Vortigern into granting more land and allowing for more settlers to come in, paving the way for the Germanic settlement of Britain.

Four separate Saxon realms emerged:
  1. East Saxons: created the Kingdom of Essex
    Kingdom of Essex
    The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

    .
  2. Middle Saxons: created the province of Middlesex
    Middlesex
    Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

  3. South Saxons: led by Aelle
    Aelle of Sussex
    Ælle is recorded in early sources as the first king of the South Saxons, reigning in what is now called Sussex, England, from 477 to perhaps as late as 514....

    , created the Kingdom of Sussex
    Kingdom of Sussex
    The Kingdom of Sussex or Kingdom of the South Saxons was a Saxon colony and later independent kingdom of the Saxons, on the south coast of England. Its boundaries coincided in general with those of the earlier kingdom of the Regnenses and the later county of Sussex. A large part of its territory...

  4. West Saxons: created the Kingdom of Wessex


During the period of the reigns from Egbert
Egbert
Several Anglo-Saxon persons were named Ecgberht . The name itself means "Bright Edge," such as that of a blade.*Ecgberht of Kent *Saint Egbert , hermit and missionary...

 to Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

, the kings of Wessex emerged as Bretwalda
Bretwalda
Bretwalda is an Old English word, the first record of which comes from the late 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is given to some of the rulers of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the 5th century onwards who had achieved overlordship of some or all of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms...

, unifying the country and eventually forging it into the kingdom of England in the face of Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 invasions.

Historians are divided about what followed: some argue that the takeover of southern Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 was peaceful. There is, however, only one known account from a native Briton who lived at this time (Gildas
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

), and his description is of a forced takeover:
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.

Social structure

Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

, a Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

n, 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 satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

a
) 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
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, Eastphalia
Eastphalia
Eastphalia is a historical region in northern Germany, encompassing the eastern part of the historic Duchy of Saxony, between the Elbe, Leine, Saale and Unstrut rivers. Today, it covers the southeastern part of the state of Lower Saxony and the western part of Saxony-Anhalt.-Etymology:The name...

 and Angria
Angria
Angria or Angaria is a historical region in the present-day German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. The chronicler Widukind of Corvey in his Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres denoted it as the central region of the mediæval Duchy of Saxony lying along the middle...

 — 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
Nithard
Nithard ca. , a Frankish historian, was the grandson of Charlemagne, by Bertha, a daughter of the emperor. His father was Angilbert.-Life and career:Nithard was born sometime before Charlemagne was crowned Imperator Augustus in December 800...

 first described the social structure of the Saxons beneath their leaders. The caste structure was rigid; in the Saxon language
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

 the three castes, excluding slaves, were called the edhilingui (related to the term aetheling
Aetheling
Ætheling, also spelt Aetheling, Atheling or Etheling, was an Old English term used in Anglo-Saxon England to designate princes of the royal dynasty who were eligible for the kingship....

), frilingi, and lazzi. These terms were subsequently Latinised as nobiles or nobiliores; ingenui
Ingenui
Ingenui or ingenuitas , was a legal term of ancient Rome indicating those freemen who were born free, as distinct from, for example, freedmen, who were freemen who had once been slaves....

, ingenuiles, or liberi; and liberti, liti, or serviles. According to very early traditions that it is presumed contain a good deal of historical truth, the edhilingui were the descendants of the Saxons who led the tribe out of Holstein
Holstein
Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

 and during the migrations of the sixth century. They were a conquering, warrior elite. The frilingi represented the descendants of the amicii, auxiliarii, and manumissi of that caste, while 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.

The Lex Saxonum
Lex Saxonum
The Lex Saxonum are a series of laws issued by Charlemagne in 785 as part of his plan to subdue the Saxon nation. The law is thus a compromise between the traditional customs and statutes of the pagan Saxons and the established laws of the Frankish Empire....

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
Marklo
Marklo was according to the Vita Lebuini antiqua, an important source for early Saxon history, the tribal capital of the Saxons where they held an annual council to "confirm their laws, give judgment on outstanding cases, and determine by common counsel whether they would go to war or be in peace...

 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
County
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 typical of Francia. Charlemagne outlawed the Marklo councils and thus 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
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 based on service and labour, personal relationships, and oaths.

Paganism

Saxon religious practices were closely related to Saxon political practices. The annual councils of the entire tribe began with invocations of the gods, and the procedure by which dukes were elected in wartime, by drawing lots, it is presumed had religious significance, that is, 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
Irminsul
An Irminsul was a kind of pillar which is attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxon people. The oldest chronicle describing an Irminsul refers to it as a tree trunk erected in the open air...

, which were believed to connect heaven and earth. Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 had one such pillar chopped down in 772.

Something of Saxon pristine religious practice in Britain can be gleaned from place names. The Germanic gods Woden
Woden
Woden or Wodan is a major deity of Anglo-Saxon and Continental Germanic polytheism. Together with his Norse counterpart Odin, Woden represents a development of the Proto-Germanic god *Wōdanaz....

, Frigg
Frigg
Frigg is a major goddess in Norse paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism. She is said to be the wife of Odin, and is the "foremost among the goddesses" and the queen of Asgard. Frigg appears primarily in Norse mythological stories as a wife and a mother. She is also described as having the power...

, Tiw, and Thunor, who are attested to in every Germanic tradition, were worshipped in Wessex, Sussex, and Essex, and 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
Hretha
Hrêðe is a goddess in Anglo-Saxon paganism connected with the month Hrēdmōnath. Hrêðe is attested solely by Bede in his 8th century work De temporum ratione...

" and "month of Ēostre
Eostre
Old English Ēostre and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath , has given its name to the festival of Easter...

", it is presumed from the names of two goddesses who were worshipped around that season. The Saxons offered cakes to their gods in February (Solmonath) and 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 called Yule
Yule
Yule or Yuletide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January...

 (or Giuli) and 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 still a problem for Christian authorities as late as 836, when the Translatio S. Liborii remarks on their obstinacy in pagan ritus et superstitio (usage and superstition).

Conversion and resistance

The conversion of the Saxons in England from their original Germanic religion to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 occurred in the early to late seventh century under the influence of the already converted Jutes
Jutes
The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutæ were a Germanic people who, according to Bede, were one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles...

 of Kent
Kingdom of Kent
The Kingdom of Kent was a Jutish colony and later independent kingdom in what is now south east England. It was founded at an unknown date in the 5th century by Jutes, members of a Germanic people from continental Europe, some of whom settled in Britain after the withdrawal of the Romans...

. In the 630s, Birinus
Birinus
Birinus , venerated as a saint, was the first Bishop of Dorchester, and the "Apostle to the West Saxons".-Life and ministry:After Augustine of Canterbury performed initial conversions in England, Birinus, a Frank, came to the kingdoms of Wessex in 634, landing at the port of "Hamwic", now in the...

 became the "apostle to the West Saxons" and converted Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, whose first Christian king was Cynegils. The West Saxons begin to emerge from obscurity only with their conversion to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and the keeping of written records. The Gewisse, a West Saxon people, were especially resistant to Christianity; but Birinus merely exercised more efforts against them. In Wessex, a bishopric was founded at Dorchester
Dorchester, Oxfordshire
Dorchester-on-Thames is a village and civil parish on the River Thame in Oxfordshire, about northwest of Wallingford and southeast of Oxford. Despite its name, Dorchester is not on the River Thames, but just above the Thame's confluence with it...

. The South Saxons were first evangelised extensively under Anglian
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 influence; Aethelwalh of Sussex
Aethelwalh of Sussex
Æthelwealh was the first historical king of Sussex. Æthelwealh became the first Christian king of Sussex and was king when Sussex was converted to Christianity in 681...

 was converted by Wulfhere
Wulfhere of Mercia
Wulfhere was King of Mercia from the end of the 650s until 675. He was the first Christian king of all of Mercia, though it is not known when or how he converted from Anglo-Saxon paganism. His accession marked the end of Oswiu of Northumbria's overlordship of southern England, and Wulfhere...

, King of Mercia, and allowed Wilfrid
Wilfrid
Wilfrid was an English bishop and saint. Born a Northumbrian noble, he entered religious life as a teenager and studied at Lindisfarne, at Canterbury, in Gaul, and at Rome; he returned to Northumbria in about 660, and became the abbot of a newly founded monastery at Ripon...

, Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York is a high-ranking cleric in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and metropolitan of the Province of York, which covers the northern portion of England as well as the Isle of Man...

, to evangelise his people beginning in 681. The chief South Saxon bishopric was that of Selsey. The East Saxons
Kingdom of Essex
The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

 were more pagan than the southern or western Saxons; their territory had a superabundance of pagan sites. Their king, Saeberht
Saebert of Essex
Sæberht, Saberht or Sæbert was a King of Essex , in succession of his father King Sledd. He is known as the first East Saxon king to have been converted to Christianity....

, was converted early and a diocese was established at London
Diocese of London
The Anglican Diocese of London forms part of the Province of Canterbury in England.Historically the diocese covered a large area north of the Thames and bordered the dioceses of Norwich and Lincoln to the north and west. The present diocese covers and 17 London boroughs, covering most of Greater...

, but its first bishop, Mellitus
Mellitus
Mellitus was the first Bishop of London in the Saxon period, the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity. He arrived in 601 AD with a group of clergymen sent to augment the mission,...

, was expelled by Saeberth's heirs. The conversion of the East Saxons was completed under Cedd
Cedd
Cedd was an Anglo-Saxon monk and bishop from Northumbria. He was an evangelist of the Middle Angles and East Saxons in England and a significant participant in the Synod of Whitby, a meeting which resolved important differences within the Church in England...

 only in the 650s and 660s.

The continental Saxons were evangelised largely by English missionaries in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. Around 695, two early English missionaries, Hewald the White and Hewald the Black, were martyred by the vicani, that is, villagers. Throughout the century that followed, it was the villagers and other peasants who were to prove 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 whom compelled to save him from an angry mob at the annual council at Marklo. Social tensions arose between the Christianity-sympathetic noblemen and the pagan lower castes, staunchly faithful to their traditional religion.

Under Charlemagne, the Saxon Wars
Saxon Wars
The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the more than thirty years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of disaffected tribesmen was crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany...

 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 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 vows.

Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

, Charlemagne's successor, it is reported 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
Stellinga
The Stellinga was a movement of frilingi and lazzi, the lower two of the three Saxon non-slave castes, between 841 and 845. As its aim, it desired to recuperate those rights the two castes had had when practising Germanic paganism in the 770s...

rose up against the Saxon leadership, who were allied with the Frankish emperor Lothair I
Lothair I
Lothair I or Lothar I was the Emperor of the Romans , co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria , Italy and Middle Francia...

. After the suppression of the Stellinga, in 851 Louis the German
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

 brought relics from Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 to Saxony to foster a devotion to the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. The Poeta Saxo
Poeta Saxo
The anonymous Saxon poet known as Poeta Saxo, who composed the medieval Latin Annales de gestis Caroli magni imperatoris libri quinque was probably a monk of Sankt Gallen or possibly Corvey...

, in his verse Annales of Charlemagne's reign (written between 888 and 891), laid an emphasis on his conquest of Saxony and celebrated the Frankish monarch on par with the Roman emperors and as the bringer of Christian salvation to people.

Vernacular Christianity

In the ninth century, the Saxon nobility became vigorous supporters of monasticism
Monasticism
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

 and formed a bulwark of Christianity against the existing Slavic paganism to the east and the Nordic paganism of the Vikings to the north. Much Christian literature was produced in the vernacular Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

, 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
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 Gottschalk
Gottschalk (theologian)
Gottschalk of Orbais was a Saxon theologian, monk and poet who is best known for being an early advocate of the doctrine of two-fold predestination...

 and the semipelagian
Semipelagianism
Semipelagianism is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation , which had been dismissed as...

 Rabanus Maurus
Rabanus Maurus
Rabanus Maurus Magnentius , also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, was a Frankish Benedictine monk, the archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was the author of the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis . He also wrote treatises on education and grammar and commentaries on the Bible...

.

From an early date, Charlemagne and Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 supported Christian vernacular works in order to evangelise the Saxons more efficiently. The Heliand
Heliand
The Heliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written in the first half of the 9th century. The title means saviour in Old Saxon , and the poem is a Biblical paraphrase that recounts the life of Jesus in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic saga...

, 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 ninth century by Louis to disseminate scriptural knowledge to the masses. A council of Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

 in 813 and then a synod of Mainz
Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 in 848 both declared that homilies
Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...

ought to be preached in the vernacular. The earliest preserved text in the Saxon language is a baptismal vow from the late eighth or early ninth century; the vernacular was used extensively in an effort to Christianise the lowest castes of Saxon society.

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