Renæssanceforum 3 • 2007

Lars Boje Mortensen
Saxo and Geoffrey of Monmouth

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One of the most remarkable features of Saxo's Gesta Danorum (c. 1200) is the space he allots to describe the prechristian Danish past, about a third of the c. 600 modern pages. Already in the 1930s and 40s Danish scholars pointed to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britannie (1136-38) as a possible literary model for Saxo, not least because of his extended treatment of the pre-christian British past. Since then the discussion about Saxo's knowledge of Geoffrey has abated, in spite of a proliferation of studies during the last three decades on the interpretation, textual history, and reception of Geoffrey's remarkable text. In the present article I offer a survey of Geoffrey's narrative with special emphasis on his interest in ancient Rome and British-Roman relations. Furthermore I want to show – on the basis of recent Galfridian scholarship – that it is highly probable that Saxo knew the text well and that he took it to be historia in the same sense as the early parts of his own book. The point cannot be proven, but I argue that neither can Geoffrey be ignored and that Saxo's possible knowledge of him must be taken into account, especially as a highly probable inspiration for Saxo's own variant of the "Roman model".