[Skip to Content]

Saxo

C. 1160-post-1208, Danish historian, the author of Gesta Danorum (The Deeds of the Danes), a history of Denmark from the earliest times to his own age.

Saxo had a classical academic education which probably included a period of study at a university in France. He was then employed as secretary at the court of Archbishop Absalon in Lund and commissioned to write a work about the history of the Danes. This was completed under the next Archbishop, Anders Sunesen, to whom the work was dedicated along with King Valdemar II (the Victorious).

Gesta Danorum is regarded as the first major Danish work of literature and at the same time as one of the most outstanding medieval works of history.

It is divided into 16 books; the first half (books 1-9) concerns the Nordic gods and heroes, such as Amled, who was later immortalised by Shakespeare in the play Hamlet. The second half covers the period from the introduction of Christianity in Denmark to Saxo's own time under King Canute VI.

The work is written in classical Latin and the narrative shows that Saxo was familiar with the classical authors as well as medieval historians and Nordic sources.

The work was to demonstrate that Denmark's history was just as glorious and long, with an unbroken line of kings, as that of other nations.

In fact Gesta Danorum does not appear to have been widely known abroad, but in Denmark it was the model of almost all later history writing until the 20th century and strongly coloured the Danes' view of their past.


Merete Harding, Gyldendal Leksikon

other great danes

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages. Read more about The Great Danes