Frankish travelogue: Saxony

“The appearance of the country differs considerably in different parts; but in general it is covered either by bristling forests or by foul swamps.”1.Tacitus, Germania, bk. 5, p.104

Thus did the late first century Roman historian and ethnographer Tacitus describe the country of what we (and he, for that matter) call Germany. The part of Germany called Saxony occupied the northeast portion of the country, east of the Rhine, south of the North Sea, to the southern hills. One of the tribes that occupied this area became known as Saxons, around the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. We know the Saxons as one of the three tribes who began crossing that sea and invading Britain, along with the Angles and the Jutes, those the Venerable Bede called “the three most formidable races of Germany.”2.Bede, Ecclesiastical History, bk. I, ch. 15, p. 63.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Tacitus, Germania, bk. 5, p.104
2. Bede, Ecclesiastical History, bk. I, ch. 15, p. 63.

To hell and back

Visits to or visions of the afterlife are a common motif in western literature. Odysseus visited the land of the dead and saw his mother. Aeneas traveled to Dis to find his father, and learn of the future of the Romans. These exploits continued after Christ, but of course took on a Christian character. There are dozens of examples. If only someone would collect all these Christian visions into one book

Out of the four dozen examples found by Eileen Gardiner, there are five that were relatively recent to the population of the eighth century. Two are related by Gregory of Tours in the sixth century, two came from Britain in the early eighth century via the Venerable Bede, and one is related by Boniface. There is a second vision in Boniface’s letters that Gardiner did not mention, which gives us a half-dozen fresh voyages to the nether regions for us to investigate.

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