by Eric Christiansen
Sven Aggesen came from a powerful Danish dynasty, and wrote three pioneering historical works. That much can be deduced from his own words; nothing certain from any other source.
He claimed to have been an associate or colleague (contubernalis) of the more famous historian Saxo (Saxo Grammaticus) (Compendiosa Regum Daniae Historia = HC ch. 10); to have witnessed the destruction of the fort of Wolin by Archbishop Absalon (ca. 1180: HC ch. 8); and to have been present when the Pomeranian Slavs surrendered to King Knud VI in 1185 (HC ch. 20). He knew Absalon, and admired the beauty of Valdemar I's wife, Queen Sophia, (HC ch. 19) whom he saw frequently, presumably before her husband’s death. His father Aggi had been active in the civil wars of 1131–1157, and may have died in battle; his uncle Eskil was Archbishop of Lund 1138–1178. He was therefore on familiar terms with the greater Danes, although by 1180 most of the significant members of his own family were dead, exiled, or disgraced.
Sven survived, apparently by serving the new Archbishop Absalon and the young Knud VI, but how, where, and when is unclear. Two possibilities have been aired; (1) that he was a layman, and a royal retainer, with a record of military service as well as a good education (STEENSTRUP 1896, 707; OLRIK 1900–1901, 26, 32; GERTZ 1916, 197; ARUP 1925, 253; SKYUM-NIELSEN 1971, 205, 14). This conclusion was drawn from his concern with the secular laws of the royal household, from his presence on campaigns against the Slavs, from his upholding of secular values, and from his lack of interest in church matters. (2) that he was a cleric, probably associated with the see of Lund, and the household of the archbishops, but present on military campaigns as a chaplain (LAGERBRING 1769, LANGEBEK 1774, MÜLLER 1830, VELSCHOW 1858, XVIII–XXIV; CHRISTENSEN 1978, 9–10; FRIIS JENSEN 1989). His learned style; his pious ejaculations; the lack of other lay Latinists in the North; his pro-Scanian bias; his connexion with Saxo and with Archbishop Absalon: these support the second hypothesis.
The word contubernalis is ambiguous in this dispute; the other words, and the self-conscious literary stance, must weigh in favour of clerical status of some kind (see Composition and style). His interest in secular law, his experience of warfare, and his admiration for heroic virtue were fully compatible with holy orders, as with Anders Sunesen (Andreas Sunonis), Archbishop Absalon, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, among many others. Where he acquired his learning is not known. There was a school at Lund, and his uncle, Archbishop Eskil, had a nephew who was being educated at the Cistercian abbey of Esrum in 1161/62 (Saxo 436–37); not necessarily Sven himself. GERTZ suggested some schooling in France, at Paris or Chartres, to account for the scholastic references (e.g. dwarves on the shoulders of giants: Lex Castrensis = LC ch. 14, and the topoi of the prefaces: GERTZ 1916, 196 n.; but the international contacts and outlook of archbishop Eskil may have allowed his nephew to acquire the Parisian veneer without leaving Denmark. Only the acquaintance with Roman Law and the methods of the Civilians in LC (see Sources and literary models) seems to have been unlikely in a home-bred student of the 1160s and 70s.
If he were the same man as the Archdeacon Sven of Lund, attested in the decade 1177–1187, this identity would be consistent with his family’s interest in the see, his own connexion with Absalon (and Saxo), and his compliment to the Scanians (HC ch. 14); but the name was so common that such speculation leads nowhere, even if it is not “a mere figment of the imagination” (GERTZ 1916, 197; and see also CHRISTENSEN K. 1978; and MARTINEZ-PIZARRO 1988).
In the sole manuscript of Sven’s works (Copenhagen, AM 33, 4°: henceforward A) these opuscula form a sequence of chapters interrupted by three linking prefaces, and curtailed by the loss of the genealogy at the end. STEPHANIUS’s edition (henceforward S) separates the three component parts with titles. The allusion to HC in LC ch. 2, and the lost genealogy in both LC: Proem and HC, and to LC in HC ch. 9, suggests that these sections were composed as parts of a whole. For the sake of convenience, they are considered separately here.
(1) Lex Castrensis sive Curiae
The Lex Castrensis sive Curiae (the Military Law, or Law of the Court) (= LC) is a treatise on the rules for the king’s military household, their institution, application, and mitigation from the time of “Old-Canute” (1016–1035 to the enrolment of the code under Knud VI (1182–1202).
Cum multa nobis indagatione curiosa reliquerit antiquitas...
... verborum scematibus orationeque perornent falerata tractatus suspendo (supplendo) defectum stylo con ... summant elegantiori.
Ca. 1540 words: 34 pages in AM 33 4°.
- STEPHANIUS, S.J. 1642: Suenonis Aggonis filii Christierni nepotis Danica historica, quae extant Opuscula, Sorø (reproduced with notes in:)
- LANGEBEK 1774: SRD 3, 139, (– and in:)
- KOLDERUP-ROSENVINGE, J.L.A. 1827: Dansk Gaardsretter og Stadsretter, 8–22.
(These editions represent a radical revision of the medieval manuscript of which A is a would-be transcription. This was recognized in:)
- GERTZ, M.CL. 1916: En ny Text af Sven Aggesons Værker genvunden paa Grundlag af Codex Arnamagnaeanus 33, 4to, 9–44, Copenhagen (which displays four parallel texts: see under Historia Compendiosa: Medieval reception and transmission).
- • GERTZ, M.CL. 1917–1922: “Svenonis Aggonis Filii Opuscula Historica: i.Lex Castrensis,” in SM, 2 vols., Copenhagen, repr. 1970, 64–93 (which has two parallel texts: S, and a slightly revised version of the text reconstructed from A in GERTZ 1916, and known as X).
- KROMAN, E. 1971: Den Danske Rigslovgivning indtil 1400, Copenhagen (includes both the S-text (pp. 25–34) and the X text (pp. 5–24), mainly reproducing GERTZ 1917–1922, as well as a composite edition of the Danish Vederlov).
(1) of the S-text:
- Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 872 4°, LANGEBEK's translation of HC, includes four chapters of the Gaardsret eller Slotslove (see Historia Compendiosa, Translations).
- HOLBERG, L. 1889: Appendix, 253–66, in Dansk Rigslovgivning, Copenhagen.
- OLRIK 1900–1901 (includes a translation among “Optegnelser om Vederloven”, 85–116).
(2) of the X-text:
- GERTZ 1916–1917.
- CHRISTIANSEN 1992 (includes an English translation “The Law of the Retainers, or of the Court”, 31–43, with “The Old Danish Vederlov” (translated by A. Faulkes) as an appendix, 44–47).
- ANCHER 1769 includes an analysis of this “Lov for kong Knuds Hof-Folk”(16–29), which contributed to the annotations and comment in:
- LANGEBEK 1774: SRD 3, 139 ff.
- There are further notes and glossaries in KOLDERUP-ROSENVINGE 1827 (see Editions); and in HOLBERG 1889 (see Translations) an extended examination of LC in the S edition, in its political and legal aspects (25–73, 126–38).
- GERTZ 1916 (see Editions) includes a minute examination and comment on all the Opuscula, covering grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, but organized in terms of the relationship between the two versions of Sven’s text, and thus inconvenient as a running commentary. For LC, consult 164–73.
- CHRISTIANSEN 1992 includes notes and an introduction to this text, touching both on philological and historical points (see Translations).
Date and Place
According to the preface, LC was based on a set of rules written down by the metropolitan Archbishop Absalon for King Knud VI: therefore between 1182 (Knud’s accession) and 1201 (Absalon’s death). But Sven indicates in HC that he has already written LC (ch. 9: leges condidit castrenses, quas pro modulo ingenioli mei supra libavi) so that while HC must be written after 1185 (see Historia Compendiosa, Date and Place), LC may have been written earlier. The place of composition is unstated. CHRISTENSEN, K. 1978, 10–11, sums up the evidence.
Summary of contents
LC purports to be about a traditional code of conduct for royal retainers recently written down by Archbishop Absalon but originally composed for King Knud who conquered England. The proem announces Sven’s determination to write in Latin, however imperfectly, with a view to reviving the old discipline. He explains how old King Knud reduced his heterogeneous conquering army to a retinue of 3000 men (by insisting on a sort of wealth qualification), and how, while still in England, he tamed the retinue by imposing rules framed by two wise men of Zealand, Øpy and Eskil. He then discusses regulations and punishments, beginning with lesser derelictions of duty in the co-operative tending of horses, and continuing with the treatment of persistent minor offenders. Then comes the mutual obligation of king and warrior; then the procedure for discharge without dishonour. Next, quarrels, insults, and the constitution and competence of the household court, with the procedure for sworn testimony in cases considered there.
A narrative then reveals that Old Knud himself first broke this law, submitted to the judgement of the court, and was pardoned; and the second breach was a century later, by Sven’s own grandfather Christiern Svensen, who incurred expulsion by wounding a comrade, but was allowed to compound with a triple homicide compensation, out of respect for his family. Another such offender escaped degradation thanks to the protection of a royal “staller”, and the principle of compensation for injury was introduced. Sven then considers the rules governing unsuccessful prosecutions in the household court; then, accidental injuries; and finally, treason against the king, and methods of outlawry by sea (mostly omitted in both versions) and by land. He concludes by appealing for a more elegant recension of his work by his more accomplished posterity, “whom one authority considers to be dwarves on the shoulders of giants”.
Composition and style
In manuscript A, the preface is followed by fourteen clearly marked and untitled chapters, which correspond to the divisions in the S-text, except that the end of the last chapter is there separated as Epilogus. The chapter-headings in S are probably by STEPHANIUS, but were transferred by GERTZ (1916–1917) to the X-text.
On Sven’s style in general see below under Historia Compendiosa. Only the idiosyncracies of LC will be noted here.
This is not a law-code, but a treatise about a law-code, and there is notable variety in the style, between (1) the technical: lawyer's talk; (2) narrative; and (3) the florid or quasi-poetical language of the reflective passages. Such elaboration agrees with the practise of the Bologna civilians, as expressed in the Summa Institutionum of Placentinus (ca. 1175): “Nor is the useful learning of this most excellent law to be dealt with uncouthly, especially when it has been handed down to us infused with Ciceronian colours, like purple flowers.”
To consider briefly each mode in turn:
(1) As the actual Vederlov was in Danish (as Sven reminds his readers by using the vernacular boran, fjarthing, gyrsum, nithingsorth and huskarlestefna) there was no need for the strict application of Civil or Canon Law terminology. Thus actitare, calumnia, emendare, indagatio, inficiatio, pretendere, prevaricatio, and satisfaccio, make their appearance, but not in ways that Roman lawyers would recognize. Auctor (for actor: plaintiff) was a common late antique confusion, and expiatio, investigare, recumpensare, corruptio, and temperare are recruited from more general ecclesiastical or literary usage to translate legal concepts, although as Sven admits vocabulo minus appropriato: “in less appropriate words”. At the same time, the influence of the law-school, even if second-hand, comes out in his words for mental processes: “consulte curationis opus est … opere precium adnectere … pertractare … pretaxare … taxatio … prout superius enucleavimus … transcursis legibus … transeamus ad arduiora negotia.” The legal maxim, or brocard appears in ch. 5: “similem culpam par pena...” and in ch. 6: “frustra exigit qui quod debet non impendit...” and ch. 13: “ignorantia a transgressionis (culpa) non excusare.” The whole Vederlov is treated as the content of a set of constitutiones – old, new, and general – or legislative enactments by the sovereign, as if to equate it with the imperial decrees of the Roman emperors despite its traditional character and fabulous origin. By implication, the king has the right to impose new law on his chief men after consultation with legal experts of good standing. And this strange set of house-rules for the king’s homagers is dignified as the object of written jurisprudence.
(2) The narrative mode covers the institution of the code (chs. 1–4) and the “doubtful questions” of: the law-breaking law-maker (ch. 10), the over-mighty delinquents (ch. 11). The style is similar to that of HC, and will be considered below.
(3) The rationale of the code is set out in florid terms, which shift the reader’s attention from the word to the spirit. Measures are justified (a) by invoking the moral failings of mankind: audacia, presumptuosa quidam, livor, invidia, insolentia, petulantia, obstinata presumptio. (b) by pointing to the malign intervention of the Devil: iusticie calumniator, iniquitatis fomentum, humani sanguinis insidiator, prosperitatis emulus, serpens antiquus, versutus hostis – so that a pastoral and homiletic base supports the jurisprudence.
At the same time, the expectations of an educated audience are satisfied by classical references (e.g. Alexander the Great and the Oak-tree of Dodona in ch. 1, the citation from Ovid’s Remedia Amoris in ch. 8, the “favour of Favonius” for a westerly breeze in ch. 14). The benevolence of the student is courted by transferring the word, and the weight, of antiquitas (the wisdom of the ancients) from the sages of antiquity to the relatively recent, and relatively barbarous law-men of “Old Knud”. Archaic inflexibility becomes the rigor attributed to republican justice by later Roman jurists; the introduction of bot (monetary compensation) to buy off the law is ascribed to temperantia (“she who moderates all emotions,” Cicero: 5 Tusc. 42) among the moderns. The medical metaphor for law-making (accurata remedia; antidotum propinare) appears in chs. 4 and 8, and again in Knud VI’s homicide ordinance for Scania of 1200. The concluding appeal to posterity, “dwarves on the shoulders of giants”, may seem like a maladroit reference to the autoritas of Bernard of Chartres or his imitators, which makes the modest author a giant in his own estimation; but it must rather refer to the ancient sources of the more elegant language with which the next generation of scholars will improve Sven’s work. It can be concluded from his self-styled oratio incontexta that there was already a circle of polished and critical Danish latinists unlikely to take this conventional self-depreciation seriously, and probably well-grounded in the elements both of civil and of canon law.
Sources and literary models
Absalon’s Danish text of the Vederlov presumably lies behind some of this work; and there are many reasons for deducing that the surviving vernacular versions of Witherlags Ret are merely extrapolations from the Latin of Sven and Saxo (RIIS 1977, 31–47, discusses the relationship between these texts more fully).
Some of the first chapter appears to be influenced by the Anglo-Norman legal compilation known as Quadripartitus, which celebrates Knud’s actual legislation as an example to Henry I of England (Dedication and Argumentum 1–8, 14–16: LIEBERMANN 1904, 529–35). The “non-professional” jurists who produced this work (ca. 1105?) and the proem to Consiliatio Cnuti (1110–1130; a Latinization of King Knud’s laws) come close to Sven in method and outlook; they were the first to rationalize and translate northern laws in this way. However, Sven was not influenced by the apocryphal English Pseudo-Cnut de Foresta (LIEBERMANN 1904, 620–26), which was drafted in the first person, and excludes authorial comment or literary refinement. Chapters 5–14 follow some of the procedures set out by Placentinus for law students, but his summa of Justinian’s Institutes seems too late and remote to have been the immediate source. Placentinus lived until 1192, but expressed rules for study commonly observed at Bologna and Montpellier long before; notably
(1) the systematic approach to the code, by way of its name, institution, utility, and philosophical justification;
(2) the combination of eloquence with jurisprudence;
(3) an insistence on social benefits and moral reform as goals for the legislator (PLACENTINUS XI, 10–11 and XII, 21–25).
But there is little trace of contamination from Roman Law itself in LC, unless remotely in ch. 9 on claims to property based on long possession (vendicatio) and in ch. 13 on accidental wounding. A stronger case for canon-law-influence in Sven’s discussion of the vederlov is suggested in CHRISTIANSEN 1992, 15–16.
The stories of Old Knud’s breach of his own law, and of woundings by Christiern Svensen and by Aggi Thver (LC chs. 10 and 11) appear to be the products of “legal memory”: what Sven gleaned from old men and old tales of other legislators.
Purpose and audience
Sven claimed to write “vernantibus iuvenibus et eloquentie doctrina florentibus” (“for up-and-coming youths who blossom under instruction in eloquence”); and, more generally, “posteri nostri” (“for our posterity”) (LC proem and epilogue). He must have had some sort of school in mind, and the reference to Archbishop Absalon suggests, but in no way implies, the Cathedral school at Lund. However, these boys are to be the correctors and improvers, not the sole readers of the work. Its theme of public concord through curial discipline involved all literate members of the royal household subject to the vederlov, and especially those contemplating further royal attempts at legislation (RIIS 1977, 343; CHRISTENSEN 1977, 358–60; HØRBY 1981, 192–94; FENGER 1989, 207).
Medieval reception and transmission
Saxo’s alternative version of the vederlov in Gesta Danorum 10 suggests that there was close and critical study of LC in the circle of clerks round Archbishop Anders Sunesen, in the early thirteenth century. Ordinances by King Abel, King Christopher, and King Erik Klipping (KROMAN 1971, nos. 7–10: 1250s & 1276) prove that there was indeed a liability for courtiers and magnates to answer to a vederlov court in certain cases; and a right to defend themselves with twelve oath-helpers selected from within the corps to which they belonged. Compensations for injury were triple the usual amount, and were distributed among the other retainers. There is sufficient similarity between what Sven prescribed, or described, and what these laws enacted, to suggest that his work may have been consulted, even if only as a supplement to Absalon’s matricula and Saxo’s more historical recension. The vernacular texts that survive are no earlier than ca. 1400, but are probably based on a fourteenth-century archetype; by which date, LC will have become obsolete, but valuable as a preface to HC; which is how Lyschander or his scribe found it and tried to transcribe it (contra ALBØGE 1974, KROMAN 1971, who insist on a direct descent of the surviving vernacular texts from the OD original). If CHRISTENSEN’s argument for a single Sven manuscript, as the basis for A and S and any other references to Sven, be accepted, then the reception of LC must have been strictly limited and its transmission precarious. The strange excision of the passage in ch. 14, dealing with the procedure for outlawry (replaced by GERTZ with about 200 words of his own composition) may be connected with the imposition of a new treason law in the 1250s by King Christopher (KROMAN 1971, 45).
(2) Compendiosa Regum Daniae Historia
The Compendiosa Regum Daniae Historia (Short History of the Kings of Denmark) (= HC) is a brief sketch of the reigns of some of the more memorable kings from Skjold to Knud VI, concluding in 1185.
None in manuscript A. “Compendiosa regum daniae historia” appears on the title-page of the 1642 edition, and could have been invented by STEPHANIUS. However, the preface describes the work as historia, written compendiose and sub compendio. It was referred to as plain “historia” by P. Hegelund in 1597, as “Gesta quorundam Regum Daniae” in 1602, and by Lyschander (before 1610) as “Regum Daniae seu Gesta Danorum, Epitomen a Schioldo ad Canutum VI” (CHRISTENSEN 1978, 37–64). LANGEBEK republished S in SRD 1 as titled in 1642, and WAITZ published extracts in MGH SS 29 (1892) as “Ex Suenoni Aggonis Gestis regum Danorum”. In GERTZ 1916 the first version of the X-text appears under: “Historia regum Dacie compendiosa”, but in GERTZ 1917–1922, both the S and the X texts are headed: “Brevis historia regvm Dacie” for no apparent reason. The question appears to be undecided, as none of these titles has manuscript authority.
A: Caeterum in codicibus contemplatione ... S: Quum veterum in monumentis operosa contemplatione.... X: Cum veterum in codicibus contemplatione.....
A and X: ... cuius finem cunctorum gubernator in sua pace disponat. S: ... cuius negotii finem cunctorum gubernator in pace sua disponat. EXPLICIUNT GESTA DANORUM.
X: 5330 words, approximately 63 pages in A.
(1) of the S-text:
- STEPHANIUS 1642 (see Lex Castrensis, Editions)
- LANGEBEK, J. 1769: SRD 1, 42–62 (reproduction with introduction and foot-notes. It reappears in GERTZ 1916 (see Lex Castrensis, Editions) as the fourth of four parallel columns, and on the right-hand pages of GERTZ 1917–1922, 94–141).
(2) of the A-text:
- GERTZ 1916 (see above) published an accurate copy of AM 33 4° as the first of four parallel columns, and a reconstruction of the manuscript on which A was based as the second column.
(3) of the X-text:
- • GERTZ 1916: third column, and GERTZ 1917–1922: left-hand page of 94–141. This was an imaginative reconstruction of the uncontracted text of the supposedly ca. 1400 MS which Lyschander or his scribe tried to copy.
(1) of the S-text:
- (Danish) LANGEBEK, J. [n.d.]: SVEN AAGESØN Christierns Svenson Den förste Historie-Skriver iblandt det Danske folk Hans Korte Historie om Danmarks Konger fra Skiold til Knud den 6te. Unpublished manuscript (Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 872 4°).
- (Danish) WOLFF, O. 1807: Den förste Danske Historieskriver Svend Aagesens kortfattede Danmarks Historie, Copenhagen.
- (Danish) FENGER, R.T. 1842: Svend Aagesens Danmarks Kröniker, oversat og oplyst, Copenhagen.
- (Danish) OLRIK 1900–1901.
(2) of the X-text:
- (Danish) GERTZ 1916–1917.
- (Danish) MÜLLER, P.L. 1944: Kortfattet Historie om Danmarks Konger, Copenhagen.
- (English) CHRISTIANSEN 1992 (with notes).
- LANGEBEK 1769 adds explanatory notes, but the indispensable guide is the Kritisk Kommentar of GERTZ 1916, 115–84, on the relationship between A and S, on the grammar, syntax, and style, and on the evolution of X.
Date and Place
After the submission of Duke Bugislav (spring/summer 1185) and almost certainly before the accession of Valdemar II (1202), who is alluded to as a youth “elegantissime indolis” (“of the most outstanding talent”) rather than as ruler. CHRISTIANSEN 1992, 25–26, attempts to revive the argument for a closer dating, to ca. 1188, contra LUKMAN in BOSERUP 1975, 138. Place: probably Lund.
Summary of contents
In the proemium, Sven presents himself as a link between the forgotten achievements of past Danish kings and more studious future generations. He promises to relate only the more authentic achievements of these kings, in order to match the records of (classical antiquity) and inspire emulation. Later (ch. 4) he assigns the elaboration of his work to a “diligent successor”, and in ch. 10 reveals that Archbishop Absalon has told him of Saxo’s fuller treatment of King Sven II’s five sons. After summarily tracing the descent of the kingship from Skjold, “the shielder”, to Frode hin Frökni (ch. 1), he tells the story of King Wermund and his son Uffo, an apparently dumb and degenerate youth until the age of thirty, when he saved his country from German conquest by defeating two German champions in combat on the Eider river (chs. 2 and 3). After another sequence of royal successions (imperfectly recorded), he tells the tale of King Gorm and his wife Tyra, who uses her beauty and cunning to save the kingdom from the emperor Otto; having lured him into remitting tribute by the promise of an elopement, she uses the time and money gained to build the Danevirke, and then spurns the emperor with contempt (chs. 5–7). The conversion and expulsion of her son King Harald ensues; then the tale of Sven Forkbeard’s kidnapping by Palnatoki, and his ransoming by Danes of both sexes, so that women win a share in inheritances hence-forward (ch. 8). Harald was an apostate: Sven a true convert.
There is then a eulogy of the reign of Old Knud, already celebrated in LC, both as conqueror of Rome, baptizer of the North, and founder of the sees of Roskilde and Schleswig (ch. 9). A quick résumé of the succession of Sven II (“Father of Kings”) and of his son Harald (who granted laws to the Danes at his inauguration at Isøre) is followed by a brisk defence of the martyr-king Knud IV; no tyrant, but the victim of conspiracy, dereliction of military duty, and the barbarous insubordination especially of the Vendelboer (ch.11). He then moves by way of brief notes on the reigns of Olavus Famelicus, Ericus Bonus, and Nicolaus Grandaevus (ch. 12) to the martyrdom of Knud (of Ringsted), “an Israelite indeed”, betrayed by the jealousy of his tall cousin Magnus, murdered, and hallowed by subsequent miracles (ch. 13).
The ensuing civil wars are recounted in terms of the avenging of Knud at Rønbjerg, Onsild and Fotavik, through the valour of Sven’s grandfather Christiern, father Aggi, and the plebs of Scania. After Magnus’s death in battle, King Niels is killed at Schleswig by the treacherous burghers (ch. 14); and the avenging Erik Emune loses God’s approval after murdering his own brother and nephews, and dies by Plog’s spear at the Urneting (ch. 15). After an interlude of peace under the gentle Erik “the Lamb”, war recurs between rival kings, Knud Magnusen and Sven Eriksen, and the martyr’s son Valdemar Knudsen aids each in turn. A tripartition of the realm is annulled by Sven’s murder of his guest Knud at Roskilde: another martyr. Valdemar escapes, wounded, to Jutland, and avenges Knud by defeating and killing Sven, who falls “by the hand of a peasant” (chs. 16 and 17).
A eulogy of Valdemar notes his reconquest of the seas from the fierce Slavs, and lists his three greatest exploits: the brick tower on Sprogø, the reconstruction of the Danevirke in brick, and the conversion of the Rugians to Christianity. His personal merits are qualified in the S-version by an admission of his harshness towards his own family, or people (chs. 17 and 18); but reinforced by the loveliness of Queen Sophia, and by his repute abroad (ch. 19). His son and “hereditary” successor Knud (VI) is then praised for his subjugation of the Pomeranian Slavs, although the ceremony of Duke Bugislav’s submission is almost spoilt by the Devil’s sending a sudden squall to swamp the boat carrying the Slav duke and bishop, and Knud’s heir, his brother Valdemar, a brilliant youth. Sven concludes with a prayer for peace.
Composition and style
In A, the history continues from LC with a prologue justifying the author’s intentions. This is followed by ten untitled but distinct chapter-divisions, which are reproduced in S with headings not by Sven. The final break is delayed in S, to the accession of Knud VI, which brings the eulogy of his mother back to ch. 9. GERTZ discarded this capitulation, and imposed both on X on S what he considered a more appropriate 20 chapter division (GERTZ 1917–1922, 63). In both versions the explicit is followed by the preface to the Lost Genealogy of the kings.
The material is shaped both by duplication and by triplication:
(1) Before the Conversion: (chs. 1–7) (a) three extended anecdotes of kings threatened by external dangers: Vermund, Gorm, and Sven Forkbeard: (b) rescued in turn by a three-man combat (Uffi), a three-year deception (Tyra), a triple body-weight ransom (Sven). (c) an encomium of the 3 + 3 + 3 conquests of Old Knud, ruler of three kingdoms.
(2) After the Conversion: (chs. 8–19) (a) three narratives of martyrdom by Danes of their kings: Knud of Odense, Knud of Ringsted, Knud of Roskilde; (b) associated with a three-mark fine (Knud IV), a three-battle war (Knud Lavard), a tripartition of Denmark (Knud V). (c) an encomium of the three achievements of Valdemar I
(3) conclusion: (chs. 19–20) extolling queen Sophia and her son Knud VI, conqueror of Pomerania.
(The symmetry is clearer in the ten chapter-divisions of A than in GERTZ’s arrangement). Other individual duplications: Uffi and Knud VI; Tyra and Queen Sophia; Old Knud and Valdemar I.
The proemium, although brief, is so obedient to rhetorical convention that it may be itemized as a sequence of topoi used extensively by post-classical historians: (1) ancient records preserve others’ glory; (2) native fame forgotten; (3) world grows old; (4) critics will be hostile; (5) apology for poor style; (6) author’s hesitation; (7) duty to posterity; (8) elegant citation: Martianus Capella here; (9) oral tradition from the aged: (10) selection of the less fabulous matter; (11) humanity not equally susceptible to stimuli; (12) deeds justify nobility. Eight of these appear in >Historia De Profectione Danorum, GERTZ 1917–1922, 457–60; SIMON 1958–1959 analyses other similar examples, which serve to associate author and reader with a learned tradition.
Sven’s professions of literary incompetence place him within that tradition, rather than outside it. Compared with Saxo or Anders Sunesen he may seem unpolished, and whoever revised his work for publication in 1642 chose to alter almost every sentence (GERTZ 1916, 185–92 for details); but this was only to purge the text of normal twelfth-century medieval usages, e.g. by removing “nominative absolutes” and detached ablative absolutes, by putting ergo for igitur, vero for autem, by correcting in with the nominative, by changing emphatic comparatives into superlatives or positives, by rationalizing the use of past tenses, and by imposing stricter rules for tenses and word-order. GERTZ himself was not immune to the pedantic temptation when he composed the X text; nevertheless, he reconstituted the language of a highly-individual and mannered stylist.
It is heavily substantival. 35–45% of all words used are nouns, many of them abstract; thus in LC 14 astucia, prevaricatio, damnatio, and sollicitudo crowd each other in one sentence, and this percentage is maintained by a fondness for pleonasm: vetustatis antiquitate, constanti firmitate, amminiculo opitulationis, clamoris vociferationem, virtutis probitate. By simple coupling: pax tranquillitatis, minarum ampullositatibus and by listing: caballo, runcino, palefrido, dextrario (LC 72.10), in fiolis, cytharis, choris et tympanis (HC 114.21).
This gives a fundamentally massive structure and emphatic tone, which would be clumsy if it were not continually lightened by word-play, allusion, descriptio, and authorial intervention.
(a) The commoner word-plays are; Alliteration: usually between pairs or adjacent words; rarely extended as in HC ch. 15: stratu suscitatus … sinistri suspicatus … catholiciani corripientes caput ....
Repetition: not only of words, but of phrases and constructions: LC ch 5: 110.19… famosum facinus … expiandum redimendum persuadebat pecunia … pecunia … persuadere … prefatum facinus expiandum...
Verbosity: as in the listing and pleonasm mentioned above, and in such periphrastic phrasing as Diligenti investigatione cumulataque indagatione perscrutantes for investigaverunt (LC 82.25) and licet presumptionis dispendium non declinaverim for praesumpsi (HC 82.26) or just haut incircumspecte for circumspecte (HC 110.2).
Inversion or Anastrophe, and phrases similar to “Golden verses” (the symmetrical disposition of words before and after operative verbs): conspirationis pessundaret primordia, suae mancipasset primordia, illorum moliebatur devitare furorem.
Variation of tenses, the combination of synonyms, and the pleonasms mentioned above (oculata fide perspicabar, clamoris vociferationem, inchoavit primordia etc.) are frequent also.
(b) The allusions and citations are mostly either biblical and liturgical, or classical. In Historia Compendiosa, GERTZ detected sixteen biblical phrases (only three of them signalled as citations, in chs. 9, 11, and 12), and 11 borrowings from classical authors: Lucan and Martianus Capella cited directly, and phrases from Virgil, Horace, Plautus and Statius (GERTZ 1916, 158–60), the usual sources. The mention of Geryon, the Epicureans, Nestor, Ulysses and the Labyrinth enriches the classical veneer (see Lex Castrensis, Composition and style for classicisms found there).
References to twelfth-century literary commonplaces are made in the epilogue to LC (posteri nostri quos super humeros gigantum nanos esse: discussed in GERTZ 1916, 158 n.) and in HC ch. 5 (Natura's dos to Tyra: the fount of wisdom: CHRISTIANSEN 1992, 118 n.). And equally of their period are allusions to God and to Satan, the latter in the guise of humani sanguis insidiator etc. (se Vocabulary).
(c) Description is naturally limited by the briefness of the work, and takes the form of geographical references (e.g. to Lejre: que tunc famosissima regis extitit curia, nunc autem Roschildensi vicina civitati inter abiectissima ferme vix colitur oppida, HC ch. 1: 96.22); of nick-naming, in Latin and Danish (e.g. Tyrae ... que Regni Decus est cognominata (HC ch 4: 108.5) ... Decus Datie Tyrae nominabant (HC ch. 6: 114.8); and more extended commendationes applied to Old Knud in LC, and to the more heroic figures of HC, culminating in King Valdemar (chs 17 and 18) and Queen Sophia (ch. 19).
(d) Comment in the first person singular is frequent enough to be treated as a characteristic mannerism. It occurs in the proem and conclusion of LC (explicui) and HC, as might be expected, but also in HC ch. 1 (didici) ch 4 (ne redarguar ... relinquo) ch. 5 (ut arbitror) ch. 8 (ego Sueno conspexi) ch. 9 (libavi) ch. 10 (superfluum duxi … recolere) ch. 14 (avumque meum ... patre meo) ch. 19 (Non capesso suffragia ... perspicabar ) and ch. 20 (factum fuisse, conspexi…), so that the reader cannot forget the author’s claim to be rescuing the Danish past by an act of personal choice (diurnis suspiravi gemitibus ... diu … mens fluebat in bivio ... presumptionis dispendium non declinaverim:, HC Proem).
In these ways, Sven rescued his prose from the Sallustiana brevitas against which Quintilian had warned his students in De Institutione Oratoriae 10,1,32, and laid claim to the rhetorical reputation prized by school-bred historians. Such graces do not always sit easily on his simple basic sentence structure; but the prose is continually enlivened by his large and distinctive vocabulary. To cite Quintilian again: “and so he avoids the tedium of narration by the use of more recondite words and bolder figures of speech.”
A compilation of the more notable words suggests that Sven was drawing these words from three related but disparate sources: the trivium, the ecclesiastical offices, and the law.
(a) Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic, studied through late-antique text-books and a small selection of (classical) authors, with a view to composition rather than debate, produce three sorts of words:
(1) Technical terms, used for school-work: enucleare, explicare, de minutis … dispicere, scemata verborum, distribuere, ydioma, tractatus; oratio falerata, oratio incontexta, stilo elegantior, illepido, and probably ampullositas and turgiditas come from scholarly criticism and polemic as well, and the modi of the Icelanders (HC: 96,11) from poetic usage at an elementary stage.
(2) More elaborate poetic usages: in LC Favonii favor (for a following wind) circumvolare (for omitting), gliscere (to want to), novo splendere ornatu, lympha (for water), tescua opaca (for waste ground), vernantibus iuvenibus (for students); and in HC, agedum (for come on!) eructare (for uttering), oratio retexere (for relating the past) fuliginis oblivio (the soot of oblivion), melliti gutturis (of honeyed utterance) and pullulantes reguli (budding kinglets).
(3) Classicisms, either normal classical usages found less frequently in medieval texts, (actio, affabilitas, aliquantisper, catinum, cenaculum, conformare, delitesco, exquisite, eximie, pertractare, neutiquam, and universe in LC; and in HC, certatim, gratiosus, pugillatorius, pauxillum, precello etc.: nearly all in Plautus or Cicero) or else recondite (mainly late) classicisms, such as: adverse, se afficere, circumscrutor, illepidus, incunctanter, indeficienter, in LC, and in HC: archipirata, binominis, ascella, incircumspecte (?), numerose (as “often” rather than “harmoniously”) parificari (only in Orientus, fifth-century Christian poet), prefigere, subvector (for “horse”), tumultuatio (twice) & ventositas.
(b) Specifically priestly or biblical usages intermingle with the classicisms, but make a more conventional contribution to the vocabulary. In LC: geniculor (“kneel”), incorrigibilis, infortunium Iude proditoris (“treason, treachery”) are obvious examples, and in HC: ergastulum vitae (for body) improperium, infallibile intronizare, mammona, ortodoxus, iuxta ritum gentilium, sollenziare, tranquillitas pacis; and the terms for Satan: humani sanguinis insidiator, versutus hostis, serpens antiquus, prevaricator antiquus.
(c) Sven’s debt to the vocabulary of Civil and Canon Law is noted above (see Lex Castrensis, Composition and style), but may be amplified by two examples from HC: catholiciani (134.27 and 136.27) and (h)erciscunda (120.23), for “royal agents” and (the woman’s) “share of an inheritance”. Catholiciani or Caesariani were fiscal officials accounting to apparitores especially for sequestrations, and were so mistrusted that they are mentioned contemptuously even in the Theodosian, and Justinian’s Code. As they were no longer appointed in the West after the sixth century, and are ignored in the barbarian codes and the Alarician Breviary and western word-lists, this choice of word implies more than superficial legal study; as does the correct application of the more frequently used herciscundae portio for the half-share supposedly won by Danish women for their redemption of Sven Forkbeard.
Apart from these three main lexical founts, Sven absorbed some of the common medievalisms of his day (campio, generositas for high birth, hominium for homage, palefridus, papilio, roncinus etc.); and he has certain preferences which are difficult to account for, other than by fashion. The adverbs prorsus and utpote, the verbs corrogare (call together) satagere (be busy with, strive to) and sciscitor (ask, inquire), with the negative non detrectare occur oftener than might be expected. The total vocabulary is rich, rare, and individual, even by comparison with Saxo’s; for out of a sample of 450 of Sven’s words, only 110 are to be found in Blatt’s lexicon to Saxonis Gesta Danorum, a divergence remarkable between works on roughly the same subject by contemporaries and colleagues. However, such calculations must always be weakened by the slightly inauthentic character of the X text, in which GERTZ attributed some unlikely usages to his author. (There is no good reason to accept circumscrutati (for A: ciscitati), comminitatio, depigrare, feodum, indeficienter, inferioritas, intersignium, interstinctio, persecurizare, praeannosus, renutare, and praevalentia as other than rather desperate guesses.)
Sven’s style has been compared unfavourably with Saxo’s, and praised faintly by its first and best analyst: “His language has ... the usual medieval Latin character, exactly as we would expect to find in a comparable writer of his time. It is thoroughly simple and clear, sometimes rather monotonous, in that he very often repeats the same expression and phrases...” (GERTZ 1916, 158). Nevertheless, his self-consciousness as a stylist suggested to GERTZ that he learned his Latin in France; which is a little surprising, if his style be compared with that of >Wilhelmus Abbas, who had certainly been educated in France. According to BOSERUP “this author writes in quite ordinary medieval Latin” – whatever that was. It is true that he did not write like Saxo. His sentences are not “periodic”, or elaborate, and they frequently begin with qui or hic, as if tagged to each other for fear of losing the thread. He repeats phrases and constructions. His syntax is erratic.
However, these supposed blemishes are consistent with the author’s stated intention of writing as an epitomator or abbreviator, with brief reign-notes; like those in the Historia Romana of Paulus Diaconus (especially book 1), interrupted by longer narratives of res gestae. These narratives are highly-coloured, but also compressed, so that the cultural references (classical, scriptural, Nordic) appear jumbled. But hardly “conventional”; for the writers of “quite ordinary medieval Latin” would make do with half his vocabulary, and much less variety of technique.
Sources and literary models
“Modis Hislandensibus skiolding sunt reges nuncupati” (HC ch. 1) (“In Icelandic metres are kings called Skjöldungr”) and some narrative like that of the lost Skjoldunga Saga, in which a similar allusion to Old Norse verse occurred, lies behind chs. 1–4. But the Icelandic version of the early Danish kings was modified by >Chronicon Lethrense, and enriched with the Wermund-Uffe material from an unknown source, possibly St. Albans in England (CHRISTIANSEN 1992, 107–12). The tale of Gorm and Tyra is confected from classical examples of feminine guile, and local folklore connected with Jelling site (DAMSHOLT 1985, 158–62; STRAND 1980, 156–63), and the story of Sven Tygheskeg from the Roskilde Chronicle (GERTZ 1917–1922, 19) enlivened with an episode of Palnatoki folklore (also used by Saxo, but not this story). For chs. 9–16, the Roskilde Chronicle chs. 7–19 offered a somewhat fuller narrative against which Sven seems to have reacted: there are no verbal imitations or loans. He was aware of the hagiographical material concerning the two saints Knud: certainly Ailnothus’s Gesta Suenomagnonis and possibly Robert of Ely and the Ordinale S. Kanuti Ducis et Martyris (GERTZ 1908–1912, 175). His account of the killing of Knud V in 1157 may owe something to Valdemar I's charter to Vitskøl (DD 1:2 no. 120), as well as to rumour; but the reference to his grandfather and father's exploits evidently stems from unwritten family tradition (HC ch. 14). The Roskilde histories (Chronicon Roskildense and Lethrense) although by different authors, formed in combination a continuous history of Danish kings which may have seemed to Sven a model – in need of correction; as may the Historia of the Norwegian kings by Theodoricus Monachus, who also cites Lucan’s Pharsalia I, 92–93 and Statius’s Thebaid I, 154–55 like Sven in HC ch. 13. It has proved impossible to identify the veterum codices (books of the ancients) describing numerosa priscorum gesta which Sven claimed often to have read (HC: proemium). Justin is a possibility; episodic and abbreviated, although diffuse and international in scope. For Paulus Diaconus (see Composition and style). Among modern books, the hypothetical “Knud Magnusens Krønike” is also a possible irritant – hypothetically (SKOVGAARD-PETERSEN 1969, 74–77).
Purpose and audience
It has often been asserted that this is a work of propaganda (WEIBULL 1928, BOLIN 1931, 56; SKOVGAARD-PETERSEN 1966, 13; SKYUM-NIELSEN 1971, 205; JOHANNESSON 1978, 312–19; SAWYER 1985a, 51–52; DAMSHOLT 1985, 157–60; FENGER 1989, 207, among many others) but there is little agreement over its precise political message, or its intended audience. Three of the common characteristics of propaganda (that it should convey a coherent message, that it should be in some way commissioned or authorized, that it should be deliberately and widely diffused) seem to be entirely lacking in the Historia Compendiosa. Archbishop Absalon is mentioned as an interested party, but apparently more interested in Saxo, and not Sven’s patron; nor was the admirable Queen Sophia, for all her remembered beauty; and her son, Knud VI earns praise but no dedication or superscription. The praise of Valdemar’s family is balanced by an emphasis on the legitimacy and martyr-status of the descendants of King Niels, whose supporters were still able to challenge Knud VI in 1192 (RIIS 1977, 206–8); the defence to Absalon (LC proemium and HC ch. 10) is not matched by any such Absalonian or “Skjalmslaegt” version of Danish history as Saxo was to devise; and the vigorously anti-Teutonic tone of the book can hardly have served the complex ends of Knud VI’s foreign policy. The preferences for hereditary monarchy and national unity are no more dominant than Sven’s evident admiration for patriotic women, his own father and grandfather, and for royal martyrs. These prejudices colour his work; which is not to say that he wrote to disseminate them. Despite the vigour and dash of his stories, the artificial and learned character of his prose rules out any but a select audience of educated initiates, from whom he expected defamation and criticism (HC proemium). There cannot have been many such, in Denmark of the 1180s, and most were probably to be found in the entourage of Absalon, and the cathedral chapters. However well such educated clergy served the king, they were equally the servants of their own order, hierarchy, and kin-groups, and so perhaps more sensitive to the reservations in Sven’s political stance than most of his more modern interpreters.
Medieval reception and transmission
HC’s reception may be inferred from the pains taken by Saxo to contradict some of its contentions: (Skjold as first ruler, the unbroken descent of kings, the importance of Ennignup, the un-danish origin of Lothbrok, the guile of Tyra etc.) and to embroider and expand others. Whoever virtually expunged Sven’s genealogical appendix to HC at some date not long after this (Genealogia regum Daniae) presumably intended to doctor a living rather than a forgotten text. But the inscription on the reverse of the lead plate in Valdemar I's grave at Ringsted, probably added soon after 1241, which GERTZ thought was influenced by HC ch. 18 (GERTZ 1917–1922, 76–81), is not so close to Sven’s wording as to rule out an intermediate or even common source; and there is no other evidence of Sven’s influence except in so far as he influenced Saxo. All allusions to, or excerpts from the text in the period 1500–1642 (by Svanning, Hegelund, Krag, and Venusin) have been shown by CHRISTENSEN 1978 to be derived from the same manuscript, the one copied inexpertly by Lyschander (not as GERTZ argued, while he was a student at Herrisvad in the 1570s, but after 1616) and now represented by AM 33 4°. CHRISTENSEN also established a strong case for attributing the 1642 edition of Sven’s Opuscula to a reworking of this same manuscript by STEPHANIUS himself (CHRISTENSEN 1978). This unique manuscript disappeared from the University library in Copenhagen not long after 1642; should anyone find it, and return it to the librarian, the problems raised by GERTZ’s reconstruction of this text will be solved. Until then, it will do.
(3) Regum Genealogiae
Only the preface survives, on the last page of AM 33 4°; GERTZ identified phrases from Sven’s HC in the “genealogy of the kings of Denmark by an uncertain author” (Catalogi regum Danorum) which follows the abridgement of that preface in S.
In the proem to LC, Sven promised “regum genealogias regnorumque successiones circa finem huius opusculi explicabo” (“I shall unravel the pedigrees of the kings and the order in which they reigned at the end of this little work”). In the proem to HC he announced that he had modified this plan, as he was undecided whether to record all the pedigrees and regnal successions of the kings in brief (sub compendio), or write nothing about any of them. Instead, he resolved to dwell on the more notable rulers in HC, and pay less attention to the rest. But at the end, in the passage beginning Priscorum gesta principum, he promised to elucidate (enodare) the names and sequence of all the kings. What followed could therefore have been a king list or a genealogy.
The preface ends in A: “quali quisq: claruerit turpitudo q: singulorum gesta subperornent elegam,” which GERTZ rendered: “...quali quisque claruerit triumpho, et singulorum gesta stili perornent elegantia.” There is no corresponding passage in S, but the editor added a later genealogy of the kings, which differs significantly from that outlined in HC, and has been contaminated by Saxo throughout (GERTZ 1916, 112–14; GERTZ 1917–1922, 155–56, 186–95).
Summary of contents
If Sven did compose a genealogy, it would have begun with Skjold and followed the fourteen generations down to Olaus, as in HC chs. 1–4. It would have ended with the fourteen generations from Ragnar Lothbrogh to Knud VI; and would have bridged the intervening gap for which Sven apologized in ch. 4. In view of the influence of Christ’s genealogy in Matth. 1,1–17 (“So all the generations from Abraham to David, are 14 generations: and from David until the carrying away into Babylon, are fourteen generations: and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations”) it is probable that the middle section of Knud’s lineage also consisted of fourteen generations.
Mainly the Historia Compendiosa, evidently, and whatever Icelandic Skjoldunga pedigree was used for that. The missing generations may have been supplied, or contrived, from names in the Roskilde Chronicle chs. 1–4 and the Catalogus Regum Danie (pre-1182) edited by GERTZ (1917–1922, 159–60).
To trace a hereditary succession of kingship from a remote, but respectable pagan Stammvater to the reigning monarch, and so equate the Valdemarine dynasty with the ruling families of Norway and England, which claimed similar lineages. It is unlikely that this served any practical political purpose, since Knud VI based his sovreignty on (a) unction and royal ordination (b) descent from the martyr Knud Lavard (c) God’s grace; and was challenged only by men who could also claim the benefit of the long ancestry attributed to him by Sven. The genealogy commissioned by the king ca. 1194 and compiled by Abbot William made no use of Sven’s work, (pace GERTZ 1917–1922, 178–81; CHRISTENSEN 1978, 31–32), and there is reason to accept Sven’s own announcement in the proem that he added the genealogy to encourage his successors to write more eloquently about the kings named there, but not in HC.
Medieval reception and transmission
So unfavourably was this genealogy received, that it has not been transmitted. The notion of an unbroken hereditary line of kings stretching from the beginning of Denmark to modern times was not rejected by Saxo, but virtually eluded Danish genealogists until the seventeenth century; see the examples in SM 1, 147–94, Series et Genealogiae (GERTZ 1917–1922). It was the Icelanders who had invented this notion, in the early twelfth century; they kept it alive in their pedigree collections, but without reference to Sven.
There is really no Sven bibliography, apart from GERTZ and CHRISTENSEN. Allusions to him and his work occur in much of the abundant Saxo-literature, and in almost every history of medieval Denmark; but the Saxo fan-club is not much concerned with Sven for his own sake, and in recent years he has been slotted recklessly into ideological pigeon-holes in order to support theories of Valdemarine kingship.
- ALBØGE, G. 1974: “Til Vederloven,” in Festskrift til Kristian Hald, Copenhagen, 293–318 (argues for the independence of the Danish texts of the Vederlov from Sven’s LC).
- ANCHER, P.K. 1769: En Dansk Lov-Historie fra Kong Harald Blaatands tid til Kong Christian den Femtes, 2 vols., Copenhagen (for early discussion of LC).
- ARUP, E. 1925: Danmarks Historie (1), Land og Folk til 1282, Copenhagen (253: For Sven as retired guardee with literary pretensions).
- BOLIN, S. 1931. Om Nordens äldsta historieforskning: Studier over dess källvärde (Lunds universitets årsskrift, NF, Avd I, 27/3), Lund (43–62: Still the best assessment of Sven’s sources, aims, standpoint and originality).
- BOSERUP, I. (ed.) 1975: Saxostudier, Copenhagen (for K. Christensen on “Saxo og Sven” 128–37, and Lukman, Skyum-Nielsen, A. Kristensen etc. in Diskusion 137–42).
- CHRISTENSEN, K. 1979: “Aggesen, Sven,” in DBL 1 (3rd ed.), Copenhagen.
- CHRISTENSEN, A.E. 1945: Kongemagt og Aristokrati: Epoker i middelalderlig dansk statsopfattelse, Copenhagen, (for an influential assessment of the political context of Sven’s work, 29–46).
- CHRISTENSEN, A.E. 1978: Ret og Magt i dansk Middelalder, Copenhagen (brief but essential for evaluation of Vederlov as law).
- CHRISTENSEN, K. 1978: Om overleveringen af Sven Aggesens Værker (Skrifter udgivet af det historiske institut ved Københavns universitet 10) (the essential analysis and guide: establishes date of A, spuriousness of S, fate of manuscript).
- CHRISTIANSEN, E. 1992: The works of Sven Aggesen: twelfth-century Danish historian (Viking Society for Northern Research, ser. 9), Birmingham.
- DAHLMANN, C.F. 1822: Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der Geschichte, 2 vols., Altona (1, 180 n.: attempt to fix date at 1185–1187 for HC).
- DAMSHOLT, N. 1985: Kvindebilledet i dansk højmiddelalder, Copenhagen (for a feminist perspective on the Tyra episode 158–62).
- FENGER, O. 1989: Kirker rejses alle vegne: vol. 4 of Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarks Historie (207 for assessment of Sven).
- FRIIS-JENSEN, K. 1989: “Was Saxo a canon of Lund?,” Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-Age Grec et Latin lix, 331–57 (for the related problem of Saxo’s identity).
- GERTZ, M.CL. 1908–1912: VSD, Copenhagen.
- GERTZ, M.CL. 1916: Sven Aggesøns historiske Skrifter, Copenhagen.
- GERTZ, M.CL. 1917–1922: SM, 2 vols., repr. 1970, Copenhagen (for the texts of Sven’s Opuscula, Roskilde Chronicle, Lejre Chronicle, and Genealogies).
- HOLBERG, L. 1889: Dansk Rigslovgivning, Copenhagen (still indispensable for the examination of the Vederlov and law-making).
- HOLDER-EGGER, O. 1889: “Zur Textkritik des Saxo und Sueno Aggeson,” Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 14, Hannover (argued that an interpolated but medieval manuscript lay behind A, but that some of the readings in S were nevertheless preferable).
- HØRBY, K. 1981: in Samfundet i vikingetid og middelalder, Gyldendals Dansk Socialhistorie 2, ed. N. Lund og K. Hørby, Copenhagen (for the social situation and changes implicit in the Vederlov and LC: 192–94).
- JOHANNESSON, K. 1978: Saxo Grammaticus, Stockholm (244–46, 312–30, for illuminating comparison and contrast with Saxo, and emphasis on Sven’s “aristocratic” standpoint).
- JØRGENSEN, E. 1960: Historieforskning og Historieskrivning i Danmark indtil Aar 1800, 2nd ed., Copenhagen (28–31 for Sven).
- LAGERBRING, S. 1769: Svea Rikes Historia, 2 vols., Stockholm (first to connect Sven with Lundensian Sven: vol. 2, 823).
- LANGEBEK, J. 1774: SRD 3.
- LIEBERMANN, F. 1904: Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen 3 vols., 1903–1916 (edition of Quadripartitus and possible LC analogues).
- LIEDGREN, J. 1960: “Gårdsrätt,” in KLNM 5, col. 645–47 (for survey of rules for household warriors).
- LÖFSTEDT, E. 1917: review and appreciation of GERTZ 1916 in Svensk Humanistiska Tidskrift i, 168–73.
- LUKMAN, see BOSERUP 1975 for his later dating of Sven’s work.
- MALMROS, R. 1979: “Blodgildet i Roskilde historiografisk belyst,” Scandia 45, 43–66 (for Sven’s interpretation of 1157).
- MARTINEZ-PIZARRO, J. 1988: “Sven Aggesen” in (Scribner’s) Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. J.H. Strayer, 11, 322–30 (résumé, in English).
- MORTENSEN, L.B. 2011: ‘Historia Norwegie and Sven Aggesen: Two Pioneers in Comparison’, in Historical Narratives and Christian Identity on a European Periphery: Early History Writing in Northern, East-Central, and Eastern Europe (c. 1070-1200), ed. I. Garipzanov, Brepols, 57-70.
- MÜLLER, P.E. 1830: Kritiske Bemaerkninger over Saxos danske Historier, Copenhagen (attempts to identify Sven).
- OLRIK, J. 1900–1901: “Sven Aggesøn: Danernes Historie,” in Krøniker fra Valdemarstiden, Copenhagen.
- RIIS, T. 1977: Les institutions politiques centrales du Danemark 1100–1322, Odense (31–54 on vederlov, 206–35 for Sven’s contribution to Valdemarine “kongeideologi”).
- SAWYER, B. 1985a: “Saxo – Valdemar – Absalon,” Scandia 51, 33–60 (associates Sven with royalist policy): translated in:
- SAWYER, B. 1985b: Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire lxiii/4.
- SIMON, G. 1958–1959: “Untersuchungen zur Topik der Widmungsbriefe mittelalterliche Geschichtsschreiber bis zum Ende des 12 Jahrhunderts,” Archiv für Diplomatik 4, 52–119, 73–153.
- SKOVGAARD-PETERSEN, I. 1969: “Saxo, historian of the Patria,” Mediaeval Scandinavia 2 (74–77 on Sven and Saxo as polemical national unifiers).
- SKYUM-NIELSEN, N. 1971: Kvinde og Slave, Copenhagen (includes an appraisal of Sven’s work as socially-divisive propaganda).
- STEENSTRUP, J.C.H.R. 1896: Danmarks Riges Historie i, Copenhagen (707–8, for Sven as romantic folklorist).
- STRAND, B. 1980: Kvinnor och män i Gesta Danorum, Stockholm (for comparison with Saxo on Tyra and women’s rights).
- VELSCHOW, J.M. 1858: Saxonis Grammatici Historia Danica: pars posterior, Prolegomena et Notae posteriores, Copenhagen (XVIII–XXIV on Sven as archdeacon of Lund).
- WAITZ, G. 1887: “Zur Kritik dänischer Geschichtsquellen: Der Text des Sueno Aggonis,” Neues Archiv 12 (first to argue for the primacy of the A-text: 13–17).
- WEIBULL, L. 1928: “Tyre Danmarkar bot,” Scandia, 187–202.