Let’s learn from history: Saxons – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

8 Jun

via Saxons – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Social structure

 

Bede, a Northumbrian, writing around the year 730, remarks that “the old (that is, the continental) Saxons have no king, but they are governed by several ealdormen (or satrapa) who, during war, cast lots for leadership but who, in time of peace, are equal in power.” The regnum Saxonum was divided into three provinces — Westphalia, Eastphalia and Angria — which comprised about one hundred pagi or Gaue. Each Gau had its own satrap with enough military power to level whole villages that opposed him.[30]

 

In the mid-9th century, Nithard first described the social structure of the Saxons beneath their leaders. The caste structure was rigid; in the Saxon language the three castes, excluding slaves, were called the edhilingui (related to the term aetheling), frilingi, and lazzi. These terms were subsequently Latinised as nobiles or nobiliores; ingenui, ingenuiles, or liberi; and liberti, liti, or serviles.[31] According to very early traditions that are presumed to contain a good deal of historical truth, the edhilingui were the descendants of the Saxons who led the tribe out of Holstein and during the migrations of the 6th century.[31] 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 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.[32]

 

According to the Vita Lebuini antiqua, an important source for early Saxon history, the Saxons held an annual council at Marklo 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.”[30] All three castes participated in the general council; twelve representatives from each caste were sent from each Gau. In 782, Charlemagne abolished the system of Gaue and replaced it with the Grafschaftsverfassung, the system of counties typical of Francia.[33] 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 based on service and labour, personal relationships, and oaths.[34]

 

 

Saxon as a demonym for English

The word also survives as the surnames Saß/Sass, Sachse and Sachs. The Dutch female first name “Saskia” originally meant “A Saxon woman” (alteration of “Saxia”).

Celtic languages

In the Celtic languages, the word for the English nationality is derived from the Latin Saxones. The most prominent example, a loan word in English, is the Gàidhlig Sassenach (Saxon), often used disparagingly in Scottish English/Scots. It derives from the Scottish Gaelic Sasunnach meaning, originally, “Saxon”, from the Latin “Saxones”. As employed by Scots or Scottish English-speakers today it is usually used in jest, as a (friendly) term of abuse. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives 1771 as the date of the earliest written use of the word in English.

Sasanach, the Irish language word for an Englishman, has the same derivation, as do the words used in Welsh to describe the English people (Saeson, sing. Sais) and the language and things English in general: Saesneg and Seisnig. These words are normally, however, used only in the Irish and Welsh languages themselves.

Cornish also terms English Sawsnek from the same derivation. In the 16th century, the phrase ‘Meea navidna cowza sawzneck!’ to feign ignorance of the English language was used in Cornish.[4]

England, in Gàidhlig, is Sasainn (Saxony). Other examples are the Welsh Saesneg (the English language), Irish Sasana (England), Breton saoz(on) (English, saozneg “the English language”, Bro-saoz “England”), and Cornish Sowson (English people) and Sowsnek (English language), Pow Sows for ‘Land [Pays] of Saxons’.

Romance languages

The label “Saxons” (in Romanian ‘Saşi’) was also applied to German settlers who migrated during the 13th century to southeastern Transylvania. From Transylvania some Saxons migrated to the neighboring Moldova as the name of one town, Sas-cut, shows. Sascut is located in the part of Moldova that is today part of Romania. During Georg Friederich Händel’s visit to Italy, much was made of his being from Saxony; in particular, the Venetians greeted the 1709 performance of his opera Agrippina with the cry Viva il caro Sassone, “Long live the beloved Saxon!”[5]

Non-Indo-European languages

The Finns and Estonians have changed their usage of the term Saxony over the centuries to denote now the whole country of Germany (Saksa and Saksanmaa respectively) and the Germans (saksalaiset and sakslased, respectively). The Finnish word sakset scissors shows the name of the old Saxon single-edged sword Seax from which ‘Saxon’ is supposedly derived. In Estonian saks means a nobleman or, colloquially, a wealthy or powerful person: as a result of the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages and lasting until the 20th century, Estonia’s upper class had been mostly of German origin.

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