This page is about the Saxons, a Germanic people. If you are looking for the Heavy Metal band Saxon, see Saxon (band). If you are looking for Saxon (teaching method), mostly created by John Saxon and published by Saxon Publishing, click on their respective links.
The Saxons were a large and powerful Germanic people located in what is now northwestern Germany and the eastern Netherlands. They are first mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy as a people of southern Jutland and present-day Schleswig-Holstein, whence they appear subsequently to have expanded to the south and west.
Some Saxons, along with Angles, Jutes and Frisians, invaded Britain in the early Middle Ages, giving their names to the kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Wessex (the lands respectively of the East, South and West Saxons), which with the shorter-lived Middlesex eventually became part of the kingdom of England.
A majority of the Saxons remained in continental Europe, forming from the 8th century the Duchy of Saxony. They long avoided becoming Christians and being incorporated into the orbit of the Frankish kingdom, but were decisively conquered by Charlemagne in a long series of annual campaigns (772-804). With defeat came the enforced baptism and conversion of the Saxon leaders and their people.
Under Carolingian rule, the Saxons were reduced to a tributary status. There is evidence that the Saxons, as well as Slavic tributaries like the Abodrites and the Wends, often provided troops to their Carolingian overlords. The dukes of Saxony became kings of Germany during the 10th century, but the duchy was divided up in 1180.
The later Upper Saxony in the southern part of eastern Germany, from 1806 to 1918 the kingdom of Saxony, became so known through the acquisition of the dukedom of Saxony by the Margrave of Meissen in 1423. His successors' territory in fact lay beyond the traditional lands of the Saxon people.
The label "Saxons" was generally applied to German settlers who migrated during the 13th century to south-eastern Transylvania in present-day Romania, where their descendants numbered a quarter of a million in the early decades of the 20th century. Most have left since World War II, many during the 1970s and 1980s during the Romanianisation policies of the Ceaucescu regime.
Three federal states of Germany took their name from the Saxons in 2003: Niedersachsen or Lower Saxony, whose area corresponds roughly to the traditional Saxon lands between the Netherlands and the Elbe River; Sachsen-Anhalt, located around the city of Magdeburg; and Sachsen or Saxony, which included the city of Dresden, in eastern Germany bordering the Czech Republic, the old dukedom (see above).