The Saxon expeditions against the Wends and the foundation of Magdeburg during Otto I’s reign

The Saxon expeditions against the Wends and the foundation of Magdeburg during Otto I’s reign

By Mihai Dragnea

The Romanian Journal for Baltic and Nordic Studies, Vol.11:2 (2019)

Abstract: During the Middle Ages, rulers from different regions in Europe aspired to an idea of imperial hegemony over a territory. On the other hand, there were rulers who deliberately refused to be elected as emperors, although their reign showed some characteristics of imperial rule. This essay ask for the reasons why some rulers such as Otto I strove for an imperial agenda and how the expeditions of his margraves across Elbe were legitimized by contemporary writers. According to the idea of universal expansion including both Christians and pagans from all over the world, the Ottonian kingdom became an empire, an intrinsically Christian one, however, which followed the Carolingian model.

Introduction: From the seventh century onwards the exonyms Wendi in Latin and Wenden in German had been used by the Germanic peoples to refer to speakers of Western Slavic languages, who lived in a vast territory from Holstein in the north to Carinthia in the south. The Wends were located mainly on the eastern cultural and political border of the Carolingian Empire.

We know that some Latin authors who wrote about the Wendish Crusade of 1147 (Helmold of Bosau, Arnold of Lübeck, Vincent of Prague, Vincent of Cracow, Saxo Grammaticus, Otto of Freising or the author of the Annales Palidenses) used the terms Slavi or Sclavi. However, the Wends maintained different cultural characteristics from the eastern and southern Slavs and therefore in this paper we will use the term Wends.

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Top Image: Otto I and his wife Edith arrive near Magdeburg (Hugo Vogel, 1898)

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