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Author Topic: The Saxon Problem  (Read 3063 times)

Offline puster

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #30 on: January 19, 2021, 10:27:42 AM »
One problem of the Saxons was probably that it is a term covering a pretty large and diverse era and area.

When I think of Saxons, I have Widukind or the early German cavalry armies under the Ottones in my mind. Saxons can be anything from tribal confederations of the late Roman phase to forces fighting for and against Napoleon at Leipzig. Lower Saxony includes Hanover, and Westphalia was once part of Saxon before it was divided in 1181 to cull down its prominence in German politics.

Imho, the Saxon problem is one of "lacking a precise definition". Anybody has an incling what a Ango-Dane army should look like, or Vikings. Saxons is just too broad a brush.
That said, I have more "Saxons" from Wargames Factory (WG), Gripping Beast or Victrix then I have Vikings, simply because they are more versatile and useful for staple armies.

Offline Atheling

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #31 on: January 19, 2021, 10:35:58 AM »
One problem of the Saxons was probably that it is a term covering a pretty large and diverse era and area.

Absolutely.

When I think of Saxons, I have Widukind or the early German cavalry armies under the Ottones in my mind. Saxons can be anything from tribal confederations of the late Roman phase to forces fighting for and against Napoleon at Leipzig. Lower Saxony includes Hanover, and Westphalia was once part of Saxon before it was divided in 1181 to cull down its prominence in German politics.

To take nothing away from your point, but, to be fair on Unlucky General, I think he was taking about a wide margin of what we consider to be Saxon within the confined of what we loosely define as the Medieval period.

Offline Brummie

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #32 on: January 19, 2021, 11:59:18 AM »
Is this in reference to the British wargaming scene? I've no experience of other European perceptions of the Vikings, but I'm pretty sure the reason Vikings are so well liked here involves two factors:

1. We perceive them as those rough pioneers, the last free people before everything was ruined by Christians and their rigidity. Better yet they battled against those other stuffy Europeans and even won so must be better. Going wherever the f**k they want, setting fire to everything, getting rat arsed and shagging so hard things started to fall off.

2. Culture. I think a lot of Brits (read English, sure the Welsh and Scots are more into their Dark Age history) just don't believe they have a Culture. "Vikings" are an easy identifiable historical group that has an apparently exciting 'culture' which stands in utter opposition to todays supposedly emotionally repressed "Anglo-Saxon" culture. You can also champion "Viking" culture without attracting too much criticism. After all in the post-imperial age, its difficult to contend with the history of the last 300 years without incurring historical and/or political debate and raising questions of identity etc.

Now obviously this has nothing to do with a proper analysis of history or even of our current realities after all it seeks to avoid both. Though I think a pre-existing passing interest in the Vikings certainly helped bring us to this state. I remember a decade ago being mates with a lass who was well into "Viking History" and when I asked her what she thought about the Saxons she brushed them off as being a bunch of smelly stuffy roobs who never bathed and weren't particularly sophisticated. The Vikings were everything the Saxons weren't.

Flash forward years later and I volunteer every Friday at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I'm almost always dumped with looking after the Staffordshire Hoard exhibit (which imo, is really the best exhibit BMAG has to offer) and after spending hours with all that stuff I can virtually memorize each and every piece (my favourite piece is the Iron sword hilt that originates from Germany and predates the rest of the hoard by a few centuries, one hell of a story there!). However I think outside the significance of the Staffordshire hoard for archaeologists and historians, most visitors just saw it as gold. I remember distinctly having card board cut outs of Saxon warriors guarding the entrances and visitors referring to them and the exhibit as 'vikings' or 'viking gold'.

Now could all this have an impact on Dark age wargaming? Definitely, as popular media churns out more games and series on Vikings they'll remain a popular choice even if the only reason is a simple, honest "I think they're kinda cool". 

Offline Cubs

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #33 on: January 19, 2021, 01:10:00 PM »
2. Culture. I think a lot of Brits (read English, sure the Welsh and Scots are more into their Dark Age history) just don't believe they have a Culture.

  Of course, to the Welsh the Saxons were literally the dudes who nicked most of our country and forced us into a little bit to the west. They are the original 'English' enemy, never mind the fact that the Norman and Norman descendants were the ones who actually did most of the oppressing! Welsh culture certainly does primarily tap into pre-Saxon (or even pre-Roman) themes, or the Victorian reinvention of them.
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Offline Longstrider

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2021, 04:40:41 AM »
I do think there's something here, at least in Britain and the various former settler colonies. There's a sort of... blandness that seems to have adhered to the pop image anglo-saxons, which is not at all fair.

Vikings are cool, because they're the last well-known polytheist lots in western Europe so they're immediately distinct if you're picking sports teams. Plus I think there's this maybe interesting juxtaposition with contemporary stereotypes of Scandinavian countries, which all have pretty nice PR now - kind, attractive, well adjusted people, with most of the sordid portions of their histories brushed nicely under a rug, and you stick that alongside the cartoon vikings swilling ale and going on adventures. And the figures! Because we think of them as having got around a lot, from a wargame standpoint you can just have a lot of viking figures and they always work just having a punch-up with each other, and half your collection can almost always just stand in for anglo-saxons if you take the "cool" models out. And outside of Britain you have options for raids on across the western coasts and into the mediterranean, palling around with the byzantines, fighting in eastern Europe... lots of scope for the same set of minis (and we can accept the mild anachronisms).

And then you have the Normans - not that I'm particularly a fan, really - but, like their norse antecedents, they do have the benefit of getting around some. If you're an early medieval wargamer, you can use the same figures for Normans, early crusaders, frankish mercenaries in the south, Iberians - so they have versatility going for them too.

But what does that leave for the poor (anglo)saxons? They go from being hired goons and the ruination of roman britain to local bullies to settled villagers who lost in 1066 real quick - there's a sense staid WASPy repression to them. It's really quite hard to keep your aethelstans from your aethelreds, and if you go to the effort of making them look suitably distinct from your hairy vikings of the 800s, then they just seem less versatile.

An age ago I was reading a book on nation-building, and the author opined that it seems that a particularly English form of national mythmaking emerges in the early modern period, where the cultural norm becomes to paint the archetype of Englishness as the bland but effective bureaucrat, who, when needs must, will pick up arms or make art or build cool machines, but for the most part is content to sit in the shire and read a paper - but that book leapt to mind when I was reading this thread. Like all myths there's a lot of rose-tinting going on, but I think the later anglo-saxons, post Christianisation, suffer and/or benefit from that.

Offline SJWi

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #35 on: January 23, 2021, 05:46:05 AM »
Longstrider, I think you've nailed it.  The Vikings get a great press from kids books, TV documentaries , TV drama series , museum exhibitions all over the world. I was in France a few years ago and found a fascinating exhibition in a museum there on the Vikings in Europe, and we recently had a major exhibition at the British Museum.  In York we have the "Jorvik Viking Centre", I don't think we have anything similar for the Anglo-Saxons. The nearest would be the small museum at Sutton Hoo in out-of-the-way darkest Suffolk.  No wonder they are so popular in wargaming circles when they are so engrained in popular culture. Add to that their gaming flexibility and you have a winning combination.

Offline DivisMal

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #36 on: January 23, 2021, 08:05:25 AM »
To bring back Puster‘s point: We have the Saxon problem also in Germany.
They are far less popular than the Vikings. And it was those guys who fought Romans, conquered Britain, resisted Charlemagne and inspired Tolkien for his Riders of Rohan.

I’m a museum curator for the prehistoric collection in Hanover. My colleagues present one of the biggest collections of saxon artifacts. There is a lot of interest on the local level. People interested in migration period or medieval history. Local clubs financing excavations etc.

But it’s nothing compared to our northern neighbors, who have viking stuff. And with the continental Saxons you also have all the cool stuff: germanic pantheon, raiding around the world etc. Maybe it’s just media referring to itself without going deep itno the burdensome scholarly texts?


Offline Patrice

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #37 on: January 23, 2021, 09:53:23 AM »
I don't believe there are many areas in Europe, outside the Scandinavian countries of course, who refer to Viking symbols for their identity... That's the case in Normandy (France) and is remarkable when you know the usual tendancy of many French administrations and local councils to get rid of medieval-looking or supposedly "ancien régime" symbols.

Till recently the official emblem of Région Basse-Normandie (lower = western, Normandy) looked very much like a Viking longship.



Eastern and western Normandy having been reunited in 2015, the new emblem of Région Normandie shows the Plantagenet lions (deprived of their claws and some other parts, poor beasts) on a field which very much looks like a Viking ship sail (or ar least people would believe it is).


Offline carlos marighela

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #38 on: January 23, 2021, 10:05:56 AM »
Does this signal Normandy is about to accept the suzerainty of England? I wish you had done this four years earlier, you could have saved everyone a lot of bother.  ;)

I quite like the Basse-Normandie logo. Looks like a cos lettuce leaf about to be overcome by a tsunami.
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Offline Blackwolf

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2021, 08:53:07 PM »
Personally my thing will always be Saxons in this period,Unlucky General may remember a couple of Saxon vs Norman games we played...
Anyway could I suggest that for anyone interested should read Guy Halsall’s books for a different perspective :)
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Offline Patrice

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #40 on: January 23, 2021, 09:59:54 PM »
Does this signal Normandy is about to accept the suzerainty of England?

They would say it should be the other way round... lol (...or at least till the early 13th century).

As usual, although there was everything at hand (the heraldry etc.) the regional council decided to hire a creative agency from Paris so it would look more serious. These professionals erased the (historical) blue claws of the leopards, and suggested that the best name to advertise Normandie could be "Normandie". These clever ideas did cost 140,000 euro from taxpayers money.

Well, at least (back to topic) it shows that when in need for local historical references the Viking era is appealing.
(...and perhaps also the fact that when people of Normandy visit neighbouring Brittany they see Breton flags everywhere and see how a feeling of local identity can boost economy and tourism etc. so they wanted their own, and Vikings seem more fashionable to some people than the traditional culture of rural Normandy, but that's another political subject).

Offline SJWi

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #41 on: January 24, 2021, 06:12:23 AM »
Interesting, I think Normandy as a region does play on its Viking Heritage so not surprised that their motifs reflect this. When I talk to those of my Parisian work-colleagues with a good knowledge of history they acknowledge that the people of Normandy are  "different".....much as it can pain them! 

Offline Teshub

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #42 on: January 25, 2021, 03:24:25 AM »
I think it's just an overall image problem. Some relatively new scholarship is shedding more light on the true Saxon heroes of Dark Age Britain though. I highly recommend King of the North by Max Adams. Centers on the military and political life of Oswald Iding but also goes much deeper than just "Whiteblade" who was btw was Tolkien's inspiration for Aragorn son of Arathorn and a right interesting warlord. Although I must say my favorite of the Anglicine warlords is Penda of Mercia followed by Aethelflead, Lady of Mercia.

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Offline galvinm

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2021, 05:48:44 AM »
I love all dark age/early medieval history.
I have the following armies in my collection:

Arthurian
Saxon
Norman
Viking
Byzantine
Generic Feudal
Feudal Fantasy

I have most of these armies in 10/15/25mm scales.
The Saxons are one of my favorites. I love the gritty, earthy colors, especially the greens and browns that look so effective when shaded. My latest addition is a Footsore band of Saxons led by Alfred. The figures were just TOO good not to have. Like most of us, I am thrifty when it comes to collecting, priding myself on finding good deals on most of my figures. The Alfred model (Gripping Beast) was so good, I debated paying $8 for a single bare metal foot figure, which I have never done. Debated it for a whole year, while I painted the rest of the band. The wife finally ordered it for me (probably thought I would never get it myself).

Saxon history is every bit as interesting as the Normans or the Vikings. Just does not get the press. Probably because they are more boring. They were basically homebodies who took care of families, business and got on with life, but got the job done on the field when needed. Just ran into some bad luck in 66. (1066, that is).

Offline Atheling

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #44 on: January 25, 2021, 07:55:46 AM »
For those looking for a potted history; full of events that you might not have heard about, many you might have and packed with excellent humour bordering hilarity, David Crowther does an excellent job on the Anglo Saxons on his History of England Podcast:

https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/podcasts/history-of-england/

 

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