Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres

The three-volume Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres ("The Deeds of the Saxons, or Three Books of Annals") is a chronicle of 10th century Germany written by Widukind of Corvey. Widukind, proud of his people and history, begins his chronicon, not with Rome, but with a brief synopsis derived from the orally-transmitted history of the Saxons, with a terseness that makes his work difficult to interpret. Widukind omits Italian events in tracing the career of Henry the Fowler and he never mentioned a pope.


Widukind's Gesta is known from five manuscripts, one of which came to light at the beginning of the twentieth century. The contexts and dates of the various versions which these represent have occasioned much discussion. The work was first completed in 967 or 968, when it was dedicated to Mathilda, the young daughter of Otto I and newly appointed abbess of Quedlinburg. However, in four of five manuscripts, the history was continued down to 973 (adding chapters 70-6 of Book III), whether by Widukind himself or another author. Since its composition must have been a long process, it is likely that the dedication was not originally part of Widukind's design and that he consequently had to make a number of adjustments to suit other needs. Three main recensions called A, B and C have been distinguished:


Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres consists of three volumes:


Widukind of Corvey starts book one with the fall of the Germanic Thuringian dynasty. In his version, Amalaberga is the daughter of the Frankish king Huga. After Huga's death Thiadrich, his son by a concubine is crowned as king, but Amalaberga convinces her husband, Irminfrid, with the help of the warrior Iring, that it is really she who should inherit the kingdom. A war starts, and after the Franks under Thiadrich have won a battle at Runibergun, the Thuringii retreat into the fortress of Scithingi (modern Burgscheidungen).

The Franks get the help of the newly immigrated Saxons who are looking for land, and a bloody battle is fought at Scithingi. After many warriors have been slain, Irminfrid sends Iring as a messenger to Thiadrich to ask for peace. The kings reach an agreement and plan to slay the Saxons on the morrow, but the Saxons get word of this, storm Scithingi during the night and kill all adults. Only Irminfrid and his family escape. The Saxons celebrate their victory for three days, afterwards they return to Thiadrich, who gives the country over to them.

By the order of Thiadrich, Iring convinces Irminfrid to return to the Frankish court. When Irminfrid kneels in submission before Thiadrich, Iring slays him. Thiadrich banishes him, as he has become despicable to all men by this deed, and he wants to have no part of this crime. Iring announces that he will atone for his crime and get revenge for his former master and slays Thiadrich as well. He places the body of Irminfrid over that of Thiadrich, so he will be victor in death at least, and leaves.

Widukind ends by doubting the truth of this story, but recounts that the Milky Way is called "Iring's Street" to his day. An allusion to the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity under Charlemagne brings him to the early Saxon dukes and details of the reign of Henry the Fowler.


The second book opens with the election of Otto the Great as German king, treats of the risings against his authority, omitting events in Italy, and concludes with the death of his wife Edith in 946. He dedicates his writings to Matilda, daughter of Otto and abbess of Quedlinburg, a descendant of the Saxon leader Widukind, his own namesake.


Book three tells the story of Liudolf, Duke of Swabia and Otto's Franconian campaign.


  1. Formerly in the monastery of Steinfeld and then in the possession of Chevalier de Bearzi in Paris

Editions and translations

Secondary literature

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