All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XII

Chapter 4

1. During that period Wendish arrogance cruelly irritated our race with its pirate attacks; for a long time this bravado had been strengthened by the distressed condition of the Danes and promoted by Oluf’s inactivity rather than rebuffed by any exertions of his. There was a man named Aute, of highly distinguished family, who was killed by the Wends while journeying to Falster from Zealand, because he chose to die sooner than be taken prisoner. Indeed the courage inherent in Danish blood holds that a captive’s lot is more miserable than any other fate. Aute’s brother, Skjalm the White, brought the matter forward at Danish assemblies when they were at their most crowded, voicing numerous complaints; he swayed the people by his ascendency and forced them to decree that this one person’s death should be avenged by everyone’s hand. The king had so far elevated the authority of the populace that it had the right to decide on expeditions, and it was not the monarches supremacy but the popular will that controlled national warfare.

2. Meanwhile Alle and Herre, originating in Scania, but forfeiting its society on account of their crimes, sought Julin, an assured haven Danes, under the name of outlaws. Zealously emulating the occupations of this town and carrying out plundering assaults on the coasts of their homeland, they began to destroy Danish property in an appalling fashion. After this the young warriors of Denmark attacked Julin, wore down its citizens with a siege, and, in return for a truce. compelled them to offer up all the pirates they held inside the walls together with a levy of money. Once these freebooters had been handed mto our people’s control, it was considered they should give satisfacuon for the harm done to their nation by a particularly merciless form of death. In order to bring them to a more savage end, the Danes bound their hands behind their backs and had them first tied to posts; they then probed the hollow of their bellies with a knife and, when their bowels were laid bare and the front end drawn out, they wound the remaining intestines on stakes; the torture did not cease till the entire cavity had been emptied of its entrails, and the tormented creatures had been forced to shed the breath of their wicked and greedy lives. Although the sight was distressing to look upon, in effect it proved extraordinarily useful to our countrymen. Not only did it lay punishment on the guilty, but it gave everyone else a severe warning to avoid any similar grounds for execution. It therefore set an example to the onlookers no less than a penalty for the sufferers. Nor did Erik crush the extensive power of the Wends and weaken their vigour just once, but pounded the unruly tempers of that race a second and a third time, and this with such force that he was never afterwards disturbed by the stormy tides of their piracy.

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March 8, 2018

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