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Saxo's Relation Of The Story Of Troy


Source: Teutonic Mythology

Such is, in the main, the story which was current in Iceland in the
thirteenth century, and which found its way to Scandinavia through the
Prose Edda and Heimskringla, concerning the immigration of Odin and the
Asas. Somewhat older than these works is Historia Danica, by the
Danish chronicler Saxo. Sturlason, the author of Heimskringla, was a lad
of eight years when Saxo began to write his history, and he (Sturlason)
had certainly not begun to write history when Saxo had completed the
first nine books of his work, which are based on the still-existing
songs and traditions found in Denmark, and of heathen origin. Saxo
writes as if he were unacquainted with Icelandic theories concerning an
Asiatic immigration to the North, and he has not a word to say about
Odin's reigning as king or chief anywhere in Scandinavia. This is the
more remarkable, since he holds the same view as the Icelanders and the
chroniclers of the Middle Ages in general in regard to the belief that
the heathen myths were records of historical events, and that the
heathen gods were historical persons, men changed into divinities; and
our astonishment increases when we consider that he, in the heathen
songs and traditions on which he based the first part of his work,
frequently finds Odin's name, and consequently could not avoid
presenting him in Danish history as an important character. In Saxo, as
in the Icelandic works, Odin is a human being, and at the same time a
sorcerer of the greatest power. Saxo and the Icelanders also agree that
Odin came from the East. The only difference is that while the Icelandic
hypothesis makes him rule in Asgard, Saxo locates his residence in
Byzantium, on the Bosphorus; but this is not far from the ancient Troy,
where the Prose Edda locates his ancestors. From Byzantium, according to
Saxo, the fame of his magic arts and of the miracles he performed
reached even to the north of Europe. On account of these miracles he was
worshipped as a god by the peoples, and to pay him honour the kings of
the North once sent to Byzantium a golden image, to which Odin by magic
arts imparted the power of speech. It is the myth about Mimer's head
which Saxo here relates. But the kings of the North knew him not only by
report; they were also personally acquainted with him. He visited
Upsala, a place which "pleased him much." Saxo, like the Heimskringla,
relates that Odin was absent from his capital for a long time; and when
we examine his statements on this point, we find that Saxo is here
telling in his way the myth concerning the war which the Vans carried on
successfully against the Asas, and concerning Odin's expulsion from the
mythic Asgard, situated in heaven (Hist. Dan., pp. 42-44; vid. No.
36). Saxo also tells that Odin's son, Balder, was chosen king by the
Danes "on account of his personal merits and his respect-commanding
qualities." But Odin himself has never, according to Saxo, had land or
authority in the North, though he was there worshipped as a god, and, as
already stated, Saxo is entirely silent in regard to any immigration of
an Asiatic people to Scandinavia under the leadership of Odin.

A comparison between him and the Icelanders will show at once that,
although both parties are Euhemerists, and make Odin a man changed into
a god, Saxo confines himself more faithfully to the popular myths, and
seeks as far as possible to turn them into history; while the
Icelanders, on the other hand, begin with the learned theory in regard
to the original kinship of the northern races with the Trojans and
Romans, and around this theory as a nucleus they weave about the same
myths told as history as Saxo tells.

Next: The Older Periods Of The Troy Saga

Previous: The Troy Saga In Heimskringla And The Prose Edda

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