Lords and Lordship in Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum
Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum (‘History of the Danes’), completed in the early thirteenth century, is the most celebrated Latin chronicle of the Scandinavian middle ages. This article investigates Saxo’s terminology of lord-man relationships, and how it relates to his conceptualisation of political and social structures more broadly. It begins with a semantic analysis of Saxo’s concepts of social power, continues with extended comparisons with his classical Roman models and his Scandinavian contemporaries, and, in the two final sections, broadens its perspective to situate the text within recent debates about political ritual and ‘feudo-vassalic’ institutions in the central middle ages. It argues that the addition of a Scandinavian element to the broader European debates about medieval lordship can be an occasion to reflect on how those debates were framed in the first place, and to reassess critically notions of knighthood, political ritual, and feudalism.