In 936, Hermann was chosen as leader of the army (princeps militiae) by the new king Otto I "the Great" ["Placuit igitur novo regi novum principem militiae constituere. Elegitque ad hoc officium virum nobilem et industrium satisque prudentem nomine Herimannum." Widukind, ii, 4 (p. 59)]. In events of 953, he is named by Widukind as duke of the Saxons ["Militante adversus Mogontiam rege Herimannus dux Saxoniam procurabat." Widukind, iii, 23 (p. 98)]. He appears as marchio in an act of Otto I dated 13 August 956 ["... per interventum Herimanni marchionis ..." MGH DD OI 266 (#183)] and as dux on 18 January 968 ["Herimanno et Thiadrico ducibus ... Herimanno duce" MGH DD OI 488 (#355)]. He constructed the castle of Lüneburg and founded the monastery of St. Michael there ["Iste Hermannus primus castrum Luneburg construxit et cenobium in honore sancti Michaelis, ..." Chronicon sancti Michaelis Luneburgensis, MGH SS23: 394]. He was succeeded in 973 by his son Bernhard I.
Hermann is now commonly called by the epithet of "Billung", but there is no contemporary authority for this, and the claim that he was the son of a count Billung dates from the thirteenth century. (See the Commentary section.)
Date of Birth: Unknown.
Place of Birth: Unknown.
Date of Death: 27×8 March 973.
["Heriman dux." Annales Necrologici Fuldenses, s.a. 973, MGH SS 13: 202] Hermann's death appears under 27 March in the necrology of Lüneburg ["Hermannus primus dux Saxonie fundator huis cenobii." Althoff (1984), 376 (H 6)] and under 28 March in the necrology of Merseburg [ibid.]. An entry in the Merseburg necrology under 1 April for duke Hermann III of Schwaben (Swabia) (d. 1 April 1012) misled Thietmar of Merseburg to place Hermann of Sachsen's death on 1 April ["Kalend. Aprilis Herimannus autem dux ibi tunc moriens, imperatoris gaudia turbavit. Huius corpus dum ad Liuniberg a filio suimet Bernhardo deferretur, contigit Brunonem, Ferdensis ecclesiae antistitem, in proximo esse." Thietmar ii, 20, MGH SS 3: 753; Dümmler (1876), 506, n. 6]
Place of Death: Unknown.
Place of Burial: Lüneburg.
See the Commentary section.
Spouse: Oda, d. 15 March, year uncertain.
Althoff cites the necrology of St. Xanten for 15 March as giving the obituary of Hermann's wife ("obitus Ode uxoris Hermanni duci"), and the necrology of St. Michael's at Lüneburg gives the same date [Althoff (1984), 392 (G 27)]. Countess Oda ("Ode comes.") heads the list of women in Tabula gentis Billingorum [MGH SS 13: 344], followed by "Hildesuith comes." and "Hildegard com.", the latter of whom can be identified with the wife of Hermann's son duke Bernhard I. The often repeated claim that Hermann's wife was named Hildegarde is discussed in the Commentary section. Based primarily on the fact that the name Oda also appears in the Liudolfinger family (see the page of Oda, wife of duke Liudolf), Jackman would place Oda as a sister of bishop Bruno I of Verden (see below) and of a count Liudolf I of Derlingen (fl. 942), daughter of count Bruno II of Derlingen (fl. ca. 937), and granddaughter of duke Bruno (d. 880, see the page of duke Bruno's father Liudolf) [Jackman (2000), 34, 38, 56]. However, the extremely conjectural nature of this attribution is evident, and there seems to be no good reason to accept it ["There is every likelihood that this Oda was from the Brunoner line of the Liudolfinger, a sister therefore (possibly niece or daughter) of count Liudolf I." ibid., 38; the table on p. 56 places Oda as a sister of Liudolf I and bishop Bruno of Verden without any indication of uncertainty].
Possible second wife: Hildesuith.
As noted above, "Hildesuith comes." appears second in the list of women in Tabula gentis Billingorum [MGH SS 13: 344], following Hermann's wife Oda and preceding Berhnard I's wife Hildegard. She was evidently either the second wife of Hermann or the first wife of Bernhard.
["Peracto autem tricesimo die, domna Suanehildis cum filiis ad Misni profiscitur. Hec erat filia Herimanni ducis de Liuniburh, soror Bennonis ducis, qui et Bernhardus, et Liudigeri comitis et Machtildis comitisse, que nupserat Baldewino Flandrensi comiti et post eius mortem Godefrido duci. Nupserat autem hec Suanehildis primum Thetmaro marchioni, fratri Geronis Coloniensis archiepiscopi, genuitque ex eo Geronem marchionem. Postea ex Ekkihardo predicto marchione genuit Herimannum et Ekkihardum et Gunterum." Annalista Saxo, s.a. 1002, MGH SS 6: 648]
Bernhard I (Benno), d. 9 February
1011, duke of Sachsen (Saxony);
m. Hildegard, d. 3 October 1011, daughter of Heinrich I, count of Stade.
[Thietmar ii, 20 (see above); "Eodem tempore Hermannus, Saxonum dux, obiens, heredem suscepit filium Bennonem, ..." Adam of Bremen, ii, 21 (c. 67), MGH SS 7: 313; "Bernhardus dux, a rege secundus, multigenis sapientiae scientiae pietatisque donis fecundus, invehitur coelos, sanctae ecclesiae multa tempora lugendus. Quem lamentione dignum, 18. die moriens secutus est Liudgerus comes, frater suus." Annales Quedlinburgenses, s.a. 1011, MGH SS 3: 80; "Ibi Bernhardus pius dux 5. Id. Februarii obiit, et in Luniburg cenobio beati Michaelis magno exequiarum planctu sepultus, quod ipse a fundamento construxerat, et in qua monachorum congregacionem adunaverat." Annales Hildesheimeenses, s.a. 1011, MGH SS 3: 93; Althoff (1984), 375-6 (H 4); "Hoc etiam anno saeva mors de obitu Hildegardis ductricis miserabile lamentum intulit, dum reliquit, quod doluit." Annales Quedlinburgenses, s.a. 1011, MGH SS 3: 80; Althoff (1984), 383 (H 33), citing Hucke (1956), 26ff. (not seen by me) for the parentage of Hildegard]
Liudger, d. 26 February 1011, count;
m. Emma, d. 3 December 1038, sister of Meinwerk, bishop of Paderborn.
[Ann. Quedl., s.a. 1011 (see above); "Anno archiepiscopi 22. Benno, dux Saxonum, obiit, et Liudgerus, frater eius, qui cum uxore sua venerabili Emma Bremensi ecclesiae plurima fecerunt bona." Adam of Bremen, ii, 44 (c. 85), MGH SS 7: 322; "In diebus illis nobilissimua senatrix Emma obiit, uxor quondam Liutgeri comitis, [et soror Meginwerki, episcopi Padarburnensis,] sed iam vidua per annos quadraginta, ..." ibid., ii, 76 (c. 115), p. 333; "Frater quoque praefati ducis Bernhardi, comes Liutderus, proxima quarta Kalendas Aprilis obiit, qui cum uxore sua Emma, senatrice christianissima, multa bona ecclesiae Bremensi contulit." Vita Meinwerci episcopi, c. 14, MGH SS 11: 114; Althoff (1984), 390-1 (G 18), 425 (G 172)]
25 May 1009;
m. (1) Baldwin III, d. 1 January 962, (joint) count of Flanders;
m. (2) Godefroid, d. 3 September, 997 or later, count of Verdun, count in Bidgau and Methingau, marquis of Eename.
["Qui [Baldwin III] ad legitimam perveniens etatem, Deo concedente ac patris voluntate accepit coniugem nobilitati suae condignam nomine Mathildim, filiam nobilissimi principis vocabulo Herimanni." Witger, Genealogia Arnulfi comitis, MGH SS 9: 304; "Hic [Baldwin III] duxerat filiam Herimanni ducis Saxonum Mathildem, ex qua genuit Arnulfem. Mathildis vidua relicta nupsit Godefrido duci de Enham, ex quo suscepit tres filios, Gozolonem ducem, Godefridum Hezelonem" Genealogia comitum Flandriae Bertiniana, MGH SS 9: 306; "Qui dux Godefridus duxit Mathildem, filiam Herimanni ducis Saxonum, viduam relictam Baldewini comitis, qui erat filius Arnulfi magni marchionis." Interpolation to chronicle of Sigebert de Gembloux, s.a. 1005, Sigeb. auctarium Affligemense, MGH SS 6: 399; "Mathildis Saxoniae comitissa ... . Haec comitissa comiti Godefrido copulata, quinque filios ex ipso genuit, ..." Gesta episcoporum Virdunensium, Continuatio, c. 9, MGH SS 4: 48; "... Baldwinus, juventutis flore honestissimus, cum coniuge nuperrime desponsata nomine Mahthilda, Saxonici generis, aequali nobilitate conspicua." Folcwine, Gesta abbatum S. Bertini Sithiensum, c. 106, MGH SS 13: 632; "Iste est Gozilo, filius Machtildis, que filia fuit Herimanni ducis Saxonum de Liuniburch, soror Bennonis sive Bernhardi ducis et Liudigeri comitis. Hec primo nupserat Balduino Flandrensi comiti, ..." Ann. Saxo, s.a. 1037, MGH SS 6: 681]
Swanhild, d. 26 November 1014;
m. (1) Thietmar, d. 3 August 979, margrave of the Ostmark;
m. (2) Ekkehard I, d. 30 April 1002, margrave of Meissen.
["Ekkihardus ... Thietmari comitis viduam et Bernhardi ducis sororem, nomine Suonehildam, in matrimonium sibi copulavit, ..." Thietmar, iv, 26 MGH SS 3: 779] The Saxon Annalist places Thietmar's death in 978, but the correct year is 979 ["Thietmarus marchio, frater Geronis Coloniensis archiepiscopi, obiit et Nuwenburh sepelitur. Hic habuit coniugem filiam Herimanni ducis nomine Suanehildam, ..." Ann. Saxo, s.a. 978, MGH SS 6: 627; Uhlirz (1902), 126, 245-6]. He appears under 3 August in the necrologies of Lüneburg and Magdeburg [Althoff (1984), 409 (G 98)]. Ekkehard was killed in battle on 30 April 1002 ["... Eghardus marchio in Palithi a Sigifrido et Udone pessime occisus est, plurimique suorum cum illo 2. Cal. Maii." Annales Quedlinburgenses, s.a. 1002, MGH SS 3: 78; see also Thietmar, v, 4, MGH SS 3:792; Althoff (1984), 396 (G 42)]. Swanhild died in 1014 ["Post 14 dies domna Swonehild, socrus eiusdem, morte subitanea 6. Kalendas Decembris obiit." (1014) Thietmar, vii, 5, MGH SS 3: 839], and appears under 26 November in the necrologies of Lüneburg and Merseburg [Althoff (1984), 424 (G 168)].
Wichmann, d. 23 April (or 12
May?) 944, count;
m. NN, daughter of count Dietrich.
Wichmann appears in an acto of Otto I on 11 October 937 as count in the pagus of Unimodi ["... in pago Unimodi in comitatu Wigmanni ..." MGH DD OI 104 (#16)]. In 937, envious that his brother Hermann had been chosen as leader of the army, Wichmann briefly rebelled against the king, but was soon reconciled with him. ["... Herimannum. Quo honore non solum caeterorum principum, sed et fratris sui Wichmanni, offendit invidiam." Widukind ii, 4 (p. 59); "Everhardus dux Francorum, et Wigmannus Saxonicus, atque improbus Thancmer, inani consensu conspiravere in regem: sed Dei gratia cito revelante regi, illa iniqua conspiratio sapienter oppressus est. ... Wigman vero supplicando pedibus regi, reconciliatus est." Annales Quedlinburgensis, s.a. 937, MGH SS 3: 56]. The necrological annals of Fulda place his death in 944 ["Wigman comes." Ann. nec. Fuldenses, s.a. 944, MGH SS 13: 197]. The Lüneburg necrology shows counts of this name under both 23 April ["Wigman com", Althoff (1984), 395 (G 40)] and 12 May ["Wichmannus com", ibid., 397 (G 46)]. For his marriage to a sister of queen Mathilde, see the page of count Dietrich. Decker-Hauff has suggested that Wichmann was not a brother of Hermann, but that he was only a brother-in-law, and has used this to suggest the origina of Hermann's wife (see below in the Commentary section), but there is no good reason to accept Decker-Hauff's arguments [Decker-Hauff (1955), 269-70; against this, see Tellenbach (1956), 177].
Amelung, d. 5 May 962, bishop
of Verden 933-962.
["Qui [Amelung] aecclesiam in Werduun, cui racionabiliter prefuit, de ligno, quia lapis defuit ei, fecit egregiam, et magnitudine et qualitate caeteras precellentem benedixit. Et in senectute bona proficiens obiit 3. Nonas Mai. frater prefati ducis [Hermann]." Thietmar, ii, 21, MGH SS 3: 753; "Amalungus Fardensis episcopus obiit, frater Herimanni ducis, eique Bruno, Corbeiensis monachus, cognatus eiusdem ducis, successit." Annalista Saxo, s.a. 962, MGH SS 6: 615; Dümmler (1876), 394, n. 2; Althoff (1984), 300 (B 39)]
Bruno I, d. 9 March 976, monk
at Corvey, bishop of Verden, 962-976.
Bruno, a cognatus of duke Hermann, succeeded Amelung as bishop of Verden [Ann. Saxo; see above under Amelung]. Thietmar calls him a consanguineus of duke Hermann ["Fuit hic [Bruno] consanguineus predicti ducis [Hermann], nova monachus Corbeia; et ob venerationem suam imperator eundem Amolongo successorem statuit episcopo." Thietmar, ii, 21, MGH SS 3: 753]. Thietmar places his death on 9 March ["Brun presul supra memoratus 7. Idus Marcii obiit, ..." Thietmar iii, 4, MGH SS 3: 760]. Jackman would place Bruno as a brother of Hermann's wife Oda [Jackman (2000), 38, 56; see above].
The origin of Hermann and the "Billunger"
Although Hermann and his dynasty are now commonly referred to as the "Billunger", there is no contemporary evidence to justify this name. In fact, except for the names of his two brothers Wichmann and Amelung and his relative (of unknown degree) bishop Bruno (see above), there is no good evidence for his origin. That he was of noble Saxon origin is known from his contemporaries Witger and Folcwine ["nobilissimus principis" Witger, MGH SS 9: 304 (see above under daughter Mathilde); "Saxonici generis, aequali nobilitate conspicua" Folcwine, MGH SS 13: 632 (see above)]. We can safely reject the statement of Adam of Bremen, writing a hundred years later, that he was of common origin ["Vir iste pauperibus ortus natalibus, ..." Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburg. eccl. pontif., ii, 8 (c. 54), MGH SS 7: 308].
Supposed father (extremely
Hermann was first called a son of a count Billung in the first half of the thirteenth century ["..., Hermanno viro egregio, filio comitis Billingi, ..." Chronicon Sancti Michaelis Luneburgensis, MGH SS 23: 394; see also the fourteenth century Cronica principum Saxonie, MGH SS 25: 472ff.]. There was a Billing with lands in Thuringia who appears in records from 944 to 968 (count from 963) [see Dümmler (1876), 573-4], but he does not make a chronologically believable father for Hermann. A count Billing appears with a death date of 26 May in the Lüneburg necrology, but it otherwise unknown unless he was the same as the Billing of 944×968 [Althoff (1984), 399 (G 53)].
However, even though Hermann is now commonly called Hermann Billung, there is no good early evidence to suggest that Hermann was the son of a Billung, or that he was called by the epithet "Billung" either during his own lifetime or even soon afterward [see Dümmler (1876), 570-6]. There is a family ancestral to the German king Heinrich I that could be called the "Billunger", but it was a Frankish, and not a Saxon, family [see the page of Heinrich I's ancestor Billung].
The following individuals are possible earlier relatives of Hermann, because of onomastic (and sometimes also geographic) considerations. However, there is no proof that any of these individuals were ancestral to Hermann.
Wichmann, fl. 811, count.
A "Wigman comes" was among the individuals representing Charlemagne at the peace with the Danes in 811 [ARF, s.a. 811, 134; Dümmler (1876), 576; Althoff (1984), 65]
Hermann, fl. some time before
Count Hermann is mentioned in a work composed ca. 860. He is placed in Lesum, an area later held by the "Billunger" ["Sed et de Liastmona quaedam fuerat ancilla venerandi comitis Herimanni, ..." Ansgar, Vita S. Willehadi, c. 29, MGH SS 2: 389; Althoff (1984), 65].
Wichmann, d. 880, count.
A count Wigmannus was listed among twelve Saxon counts killed by the Normans in 880 [Ann. Fuld., s.a. 880, 94 (listed first after Brun dux); Dümmler (1876), 576].
Egbert, fl. 892, d. 7
February, before 932, count.
In 892, king Arnulf granted Egbert lands which were later held by the "Billunger" [Althoff (1984), 65, 71-2, 390 (G 15); cites DD Arn. #102,106].
Bernhard, d. 14 December 935,
count of Borghorst; m. Berta, d. 12 March 989.
[Althoff (1984), 392 (G 24), 426 (G 177)]
father: Burkhard I,
duke of Swabia.
Falsely attributed mother: Regelinda.
[Decker-Hauff (1955), 268ff.] The basis of Decker-Hauff's conjecture is a confraternity book in which three Hermanns appear (including Herimannus dux) along with Regelinda (Regnilda) and (in a different hand) Burkhard I of Swabia (Purchardus dux) [MGH Libri Confrat., 383 (III 109); see Tellenbach (1956), facing 168, for a photograph of the original]. Decker-Hauff conjectures that one of these Hermann's was Hermann "Billung", and that he was on the list because he was a son of Burkhard I and Regelinda. This was added to an equally improbable conjecture about Burkhard's mother, leading to a supposedly unsought ("ungesuchten") result that Hermann was allegedly a descendant of the princeps Billung, father of Oda, wife of duke Liudolf of Saxony. This contrived and implausible result was severely criticized by Tellenbach [Tellenbach (1956), 174-7].
The claim that Hermann's wife was named Hildegarde is based on a late source which is evidently confusing the wives of Hermann and his son Bernhard I ["Iste Hermannus primus castrum Luneburg construxit et cenobium in honore sancti Michaelis, quod ipse multis prediis et ornamentis ditavit, in quo etiam cum uxore sua Hildegarda honorifice sepultus est." Chronicon sancti Michaelis Luneburgensis, MGH SS23: 394]. Based on a suggestion that Hermann's brother Wichmann (see above) was actually a brother-in-law, Decker-Hauff has claimed that Hermann's wife was a sister of queen Mathilde, and a daughter of count Dietrich [Decker-Hauff (1955), 269-70; against this, see Tellenbach (1956), 177]. There is no good reason to accept Decker-Hauff's hypothesis.
d. 21 December, abbess.
[see Althoff (1984), 361 (A 89)]
Althoff (1984) = Gerd Althoff, Adels- und Königsfamilien im Spiegel ihrer Memorialüberlieferung (Munich, 1984).
ARF = Georg Pertz & Friedrich Kurze, Annales Regni Francorum (Annals of the kingdom of the Franks), MGH SRG 6 (Hannover, 1895), a collective name commonly given to two closely related sets of annals, Annales Laurissenses Maiores and the so-called Einhardi Annales (Annals of Einhard), in parallel on alternate pages until the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 (s.a. 801).
Decker-Hauff (1955) = Hansmartin Decker-Hauff, "Die Ottonen und Schwaben", Zeitschrift für Württemburgische Landesgeschichte 14 (1955), 233-371.
Dümmler (1876) = Rudolf Köpke & Ernst Dümmler, Kaiser Otto der Große (Leipzig, 1876).
Hucke (1956) = Richard G. Hucke, Die Grafen von Stade 900-1144. Genealogie, politische Stellung, Comitat und Allodialbesitz der sächsischen Udonen (Stade, 1956). [I have not seen this work.]
Jackman (2000) = Donald C. Jackman, "A Greco-Roman Onomastic Fund", in Keats-Rohan & Settipani, eds., Onomastique et Parenté dans l'Occident médiéval (Oxford, 2000), 14-56.
MGH DD = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Diplomata series.
MGH Libri Confrat. = Paul Piper, ed., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libri Confraternitatum Sancti Galli Augiensis Fabariensis (Berlin, 1884).
MGH SS = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores series.
Tellenbach (1956) = Gerd Tellenbach, "Kritische Studien zur großfränkischen und alemanniscen Adelsgeschichte", Zeitschrift für Württemburgische Landesgeschichte 15 (1956), 169-190.
Uhlirz (1902) = Karl Uhlirz, Jahrbücher des Deutschen Reiches under Otto II. und Otto III., 2 vols., (Leipzig, 1902).
Widukind = Georg Waitz & Karl Andreas Kehr, eds., Widukindi monachi Corbeiensis Rerum Gestarum Saxonicarum libri tres (4th ed., MGH SRG 55, Hannover & Leipzig, 1904).
Compiled by Stewart Baldwin
First uploaded 3 April 2011.
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