Talk:Offa of Mercia

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Second opinion[edit]

Looking for a second opinion regarding this paragraph: "In his authoritative history, Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank M. Stenton argued that Offa was perhaps the greatest king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the proof of his ability obscured by the lack of a historian to describe his achievements. "No other Anglo-Saxon king ever regarded the world at large with so secular a mind or so acute a political sense," wrote Stenton."

A) Should it even be in the article,
B) And if so, should it be at the very end, or second to last as it is now? Everyking 14:00, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Mixed feelings, it's somebody's opinion and is a bit meaningless to tell the truth, but it does state that it's an opinion in the text. I don't think Offa was the greatest of the AS kingdoms but then this isn't about my opinion is it? -- Graham :) | Talk 14:03, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Actually Frank Stenton is usually right about these things (in my opinion anyway) and reads Dark Ages history with a very shrewd eye. I will have a read of what else he has to say on the subject and see if I can add a little more of substance to this notion and maybe clarify it a bit. user:sjc


Ah yes. He has a fair bit to say about the significance of Offa quite early on, and makes the salient point that it is only at the point at which Offa comes to power that there is a transition to centralised governance: [..] the endorsement represents a real distinction between the primitive government of the local kingdoms and the beginnings of administrative routine in a court which had become the political centre of England south of the Humber. He establishes his ideological primacy by changing the style by which he designates himself mid reign from rex Merciorum to rex Anglorum and rex totus Angliorum patriae (he wasn't since he only controlled some of them but he is making a sophisticated political point). Stenton goes on to make some play of the scale and significance of Offa's Dyke, a major boundary defining earthwork which must have consumed fabulous amounts of manhours and resources to construct. etc. Stenton also makes the point that his international relationships were firmly established with a concordat with Charlemagne, and he makes great play of the fact that he does not allow Charlemagne to push him around. Frankly i think Frank makes his point very well having read into it, and it is a valid and sensible opinion to have in the article. user:sjc
Stenton is definitely an authoritative source, and I can see justification for keeping the paragraph, but in the intro it already says: "Prior to the rise of Wessex in the 9th century, he was arguably the most powerful and successful of the Anglo-Saxon kings." I just don't want the article to sound as though it's nothing but the assessments made in a 1940s book. I would want to keep the paragraph if there was a different opinion from some other historian, and then we could group them together as "Historical assessments of Offa's reign". Everyking 17:01, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Yes, if anything its the weakness of the first paragraph which concerns me also; it introduces surmise unnecessarily. It doesn't really set the scene for what is to follow. Let me sleep on it and see whether we can't do better than this. user:sjc
As the person who wrote the original passage (& provided the quote from Sir Frank), I added the qualification in order to pre-empt the objection, "But what about Alfred the Great?" Offa's contributions aren't better known because he had no Bede or Asser to document his deeds; his reign is recorded in the acts of a few charters, some letters with Charlemagne & the Pope, & about a dozen entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Adding that opinion helps to indicate this imbalance exists. -- llywrch 18:05, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I agree, but I wish we come up with some way of saying this without leaning so heavily on Stenton. We could say something like: "The record of Offa's deeds suggests that he was one of the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and possibly the greatest (as was argued by the mid-20th century historian Frank Stenton), but his importance has sometimes been neglected by history due to the lack of a contemporary historian to properly chronicle his reign." Everyking 18:36, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I was under the impression that by reporting what Stenton says, we follow the guidelines for NPOV. That way, we don't fall into endless arguments over who was the most important king of the period in England or Britain. And as Stenton is considered an authority on Anglo-Saxon history, his opinion carries far more weight than, say mine. -- llywrch 21:19, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Certainly we do, I just don't like the way it sounds. My alternative still reports what Stenton says, just in summarized form, instead of as the focus of an entire paragraph. Everyking 21:28, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Try Keynes on England, 700-900 in New Cambridge Mediaeval History, or Brown and Farr, Mercia: an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Europe if you're looking for a more recent perspective. But they do pretty much agree with Stenton; and, quite honestly, if you're looking to assess an AS king, Stenton's the place to go.


Stenton's work is very important, but it is not the be all and end all. I would certainly recommend Keynes in NCMH. This article seems to have inherited some of the teleolgy of Stenton. He was always looking towards the creation of "England", and cast Offa as a "statesman". I'm going to have a think about this article and see if I can work these things out. Harthacanute 12:17, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I now think the info on Stenton's perspective definitely needs to be in the article, but it should also be balanced out by other perspectives, of course. Everyking 12:35, 7 February 2006 (UTC)
I've rearranged a lot of this in the hope that it's now more usable. I think something on Keynes' view needs including as that is the most recent understanding. I've left Stenton's view in several places, but I agree that it's important that this is a balanced page about Offa rather than "Stenton's view of Offa". Harthacanute 13:16, 7 February 2006 (UTC)
C. Warren Hollister included a few interesting summations about Offa in The Making of England: 55 B.C. to 1399. In particular, Hollister makes reference to a quote that could refute the Stenton qoute: "Offa was driven by a lust for power, not a vision of English unity; and what he left was a reputation, not a legacy." Hollister noted that Alfred the Great referred to the laws of Offa when presenting his own dooms, which suggests that Offa's legacy is, as a genesis of English law, quite great afterall. Hollister also refers to Offa as, to paraphrase, "The Greatest English King of which we know the least about."

--Signing so this will archive, when we eventually set up archiving. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 08:46, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

Offa and Islam[edit]

I hesitate to ask this, because I'm worried that, as so often happens on Wikipedia, it might result in the issue coming to occupy a far more prominent place in the article than it deserves, but—do we really want the theory that Offa was Moslem and its opposing viewpoint being given such equal weight when they're mentioned? My understanding (and I'm far from an expert on the Anglo-Saxon period) is that this theory is given pretty short shrift by specialists of the period; if this is so, the article should say so. If I'm mistaken and it's not so, then it needs to be backed up better than the article, as the external link on the subject leads only to a vaguely crackpot-sounding essay that provides no references for its assertions other than having "asked several Englishmen (male and female alike)" for their opinions (I'm very curious as to a female Englishman's opinion!), and whose spelling and punctuation do not do anything to shore up its credibility. Binabik80 16:10, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree completely. I'm working on a PhD on eighth- and ninth-century Anglo-Saxon coinage, and no serious scholar of the period would take this theory seriously for a second. The one piece of pertinent evidence belongs to a completely different but no less fascinating tradition of monetary and economic interaction, and should be taken on those terms. For all that this case illustrates how people can (mis)interpret the evidence to suit their own ends, it would definitely be safer to remove any reference to Offa's 'conversion'. Arichis 10:08, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
  • A recent addition (which has been reverted) raised this issue again. The presence of a Muslim confession of faith in Arabic (however corrupt) has led some Muslims to assert that Offa (and hence his kingdom) was Muslim. They use this as a pretext for the claim that England should be reconquered for Islam. My understanding is that there is no basis for this claim, or to think anythign of his religion other than that he was a conventional Catholic Christian. However, it would be useful if this Muslim myth could be knocked on the head by a firm rebuttal (with academic citations) could be added to the article. Peterkingiron (talk) 23:13, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

Coin images[edit]

These rather obstruct the article's contents at the moment. I'd suggest that, if they are to be kept, that only one side is displayed, with a link to the reverse in the image caption. I'll be bold and change them in a day or so if there's no objections. --Whamilton42 18:27, 14 September 2006 (UTC)


The Arabic text on the coin

i just want to make a correction regarding a piece of information that was mentioned in the article , the author said "Offa Rex is centred, though the moneyer clearly had no understanding of Arabic as the Arabic text is upside down" . My mother language is Arabic and surely anyone who knows Arabic can easily notice that this is not true, the Arabic text on the back of the coin is not upside down. Arabic language didn't undergo dramatic changes over the centuries and anyone who knows Arabic can understand the meaning of the words written. I am here not implying that offa was Muslim or anything else, I am just correcting a piece of information for the sake of accuracy fellowhuman november 2006

Fair point: I hadn't noticed that. But the Latin text is upside down in relation to the surrounding Arabic. User:Arichis 19:34, 23 November 2006

Etymology[edit]

What does the name OFFA actually MEAN?? Thankx —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.143.68.244 (talk) 23:02, August 20, 2007 (UTC)

Editing for FA[edit]

Just a note to say I'm hoping to take this article to FA, and plan to make some edits over the next few days or weeks to bring it up to the FA criteria. I'll try to keep the edit summaries informative but if anyone thinks I'm making a hash of the article, let's talk before I go too far off track. Mike Christie (talk) 13:02, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Uncited material[edit]

I can't find a cite for this quote I just removed from the section on Wessex: "The border or Wessex and Mercia in this period seems to have been peaceful; recent archaeological excavations at Oxford have revealed an important Middle Saxon bridge, but no fortifications comparable to those at Hereford." It was added by an anon, some time ago. If anyone has a cite for it, please re-add it. Mike Christie (talk) 16:37, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

No idea myself, but I wonder if it might be from Haslam's "Market and Fortress in England in the Reign of Offa" World Archaeology, Vol. 19, No. 1. I didn't check Vince's article in Brown & Farr's Mercia. This page on Bristol might be worth a look. Angus McLellan (Talk) 17:18, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't see anything in Vince; I don't have access to JSTOR so I can't check Haslam, though I agree it looks possible. I quickly scanned the Bristol page, which looks interesting: I don't see a direct source there but there is other possibly usable material. Thanks for the pointers. Mike Christie (talk) 17:45, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Another source question, this time for the material about the Welsh conflicts. Here's the bit from the article: "There was a battle between the Mercians and the Welsh at Hereford in 760, and Offa is recorded as campaigning against the Welsh in 778, 784 and 796 in the Annales Cambriae." All four of these dates come from the Annales Cambriae, I believe, but the only copy of those annals I have access to is here, and the 796 entry refers to some chap named Rheinwg, son of Offa. He doesn't appear to be mentioned in PASE as far as I can tell. Is there some gloss on this entry that clarifies this? I can't find it explicitly discussed in Kirby, Stenton, Yorke, or any of the usual suspects. Mike Christie (talk) 03:13, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

The version of the Annales Cambriae in Morris's Nennius shows that the "Devastation by Rheinwg son of Offa" is not in the oldest manuscript, Harleian 3859. Rheinwg is seemingly the kingdom of Dyfed (or perhaps Brycheiniog) (try Google books for Rheinwg+Offa and Rheinwg). I must find a decent book on early medieval Wales. Angus McLellan (Talk) 10:17, 17 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, if you do, let me know what you find. I think I'll just remove the 796 date until I can understand that entry better; it really doesn't have much impact on the force of the comment and I hate to put it in without knowing what's going on there. Mike Christie (talk) 01:38, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
…and as soon as I cut it I find it in Stenton. He says it's a raid into Dyfed; I've re-added it just as a date without mentioning the location. Mike Christie (talk) 02:26, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced comment from Wormald[edit]

I removed this: "Wormald argues that they may reflect Offa's lost law codes, referred to by Alfred the Great" in reference to the records of the legatine mission. I can't find this in his "The Age of Offa and Alcuin", in Campbell et al., eds., The Anglo-Saxons. If anyone has a source, please let me know, as I'd like to use this. Mike Christie (talk) 17:18, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

I found this in the Penguin Asser and have reffed it from that. Mike Christie (talk) 02:53, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

Offa and Aethelheard[edit]

Yorke, Kings and Kingdoms, p. 117, says "When Jaenbert died in 792 Offa was careful to have a more compliant individual installed as his successor." I'd like to include some reference to this, but I'm not sure what the evidence is Yorke is basing this on. All I know of is subsequent evidence in charters that Aethelheard was indeed more compliant. Does anyone know if there is more than that? Mike Christie (talk) 17:47, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

The F Chronicle says that Æethelheard was "of the monastery of Louth". The location does make it likely he would be more compliant and that Offa had some influence on the appointment. It reminds me of Æthelbald and Tatwin, who had been abbot of Breedon-on-the-Hill. This is all I can think of to explain Yorke's wording. qp10qp (talk) 02:49, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

Cut passage[edit]

I cut the following:

Other substantial construction projects of a similar date do exist, however, such as Wat's Dyke and the Danevirke, in what is now Denmark, as well as such sites as Stonehenge from millennia earlier. The dyke can be regarded in the light of these counterparts as the largest and most recent great construction of the preliterate inhabitants of Britain.

It's awkwardly written (trying to kill two different birds—size and age—with one stone) in my opinion, but copyediting it does not seem to me worth it. The article already said that we do not know if Wat's Dyke was built before or after Offa's Dyke, which contradicts the "most recent" part here. Referenced or not, the claim that OD was a larger construction than Stonehenge seems to me arguable (and rather irrelevant), especially as it is known that Stonehenge was part of a larger site and related to a network of other monuments. Also, since there were literate monks in Mercia at this time, and since charters were written, maybe we shouldn't talk of Offa's as a preliterate age, even if the literate were few in number. All in all, I feel such claims are inessential to the article. qp10qp (talk) 02:30, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

Works for me. The quote is taken from a piece by Wormald in which he talks about how historians are astounded at such feats of engineering from a pre-literate society, but "the prehistorian is quite used to such things". I might be inclined to defend introducing a comment like that in an article on Offa's Dyke; for an article on Offa I agree it's quite peripheral and can just go. Mike Christie (talk) 02:45, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

Coinage[edit]

I was looking for stuff on Cano mac Gartnáin earlier on and I came across a comment about Offa in the New History of Ireland [Francis John Byrne, "The Viking Age" in Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ed) Prehistoric and Early Ireland], p. 614, fn 11: "[Coenwulf]'s predecessor, the great Offa, received a more curious tribute from the Irish: not merely do the annals style him 'Offa rex bonus Anglorum' (A.U. 796), but his coinage was remembered in the Old Irish word affaing 'a penny', attested in the saga of Cano mac Gartnait, as well as in Cormac's Glossary (where the Bodl[eian]. copy has the older form ofing); Cormac actually regarded it as a native Irish unit, 'the scripulus of the Gaels'!; see D. A. Binchy (ed.), Scéla Cano meic Gartnáin (Dublin, 1963), pp 22 ff." Angus McLellan (Talk) 22:25, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for that tidbit, Angus; I'll try to work it in once I'm caught up on FAC comments. Mike Christie (talk) 13:09, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Hello! As far as I know this is pretty fishy: there's an alternative derivation from Latin officina put forward in L. Bieler and J. Carney, 'The Lambeth Commentary', Eriu 23 (1972), 1-55, at 52. The latest discussion of the subject I know of is very sceptical about the Offa link (F. Kelly, Early Irish Farming, Early Irish Law Series 4 (Dublin, 1997), p. 595). Only some half a dozen or so coins of Offa have ever been found in Ireland. Arichis (talk) 21:37, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Another thing: Grierson and Blackburn, MEC I, p. 281 say there may be up to four mints for Offa. 'Up to' is the operative phrase, as there is no evidence yet for any coins being struck at Rochester under Offa - only from the middle of Coenwulf's reign onwards. The chronology and organisation of the three known mints at London, Canterbury and East Anglia is covered much more fully in D. Chick, 'Towards a Chronology for Offa’s Coinage: an Interim Study', The Yorkshire Numismatist 3 (1997), 47–64. Arichis (talk) 22:00, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Around the time of Jaenberht's death and replacement with Æthelheard in 792-3, the silver currency was reformed a second time: in this "heavy coinage" the weight of the pennies was increased again, and a standardised non-portrait design was introduced at all mints. None of Jaenberht's or Cynethryth's coins occur in this coinage, whereas all of Æthelheard's coins are of the new, heavier weight. Hi, the first part of the sentence is ok, but where it states that none of Jaenberht's coins were not of the larger weight would be self expanitory as he was dead before its introduction. I believe a rewording is in order to delete the obvious. Enlil Ninlil (talk) 04:29, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure that it's self-evident, but perhaps it could be rephrased. I believe the situation is that it's partly because there are none of Jaenberht's coins in this new coinage that the heavy coinage is thought to have been introduced no earlier than his death. Deleting the comment that none of his coins are heavy would remove mention of evidence for the dating of the change. Can you think of a clearer phrasing? Mike Christie (talk) 11:48, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

Copyright of newly added coin image[edit]

I like the coin image that's just been added, but per this response I got from the "Can I use . . . " page I think it's not actually PD. I thought I'd seen a coin-specific PD tag on something but I can't find that either. Without knowing more I'm tempted to remove the image because of the above response. I'll put it in the infobox for now, as it would look great there if we can use it. Mike Christie (talk) 13:11, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately, I agree that this is probably not strictly allowed. We don't know when the photograph was taken, since there is no source given. There is no chance of being called on this (the coin has probably often been photographed, back into the nineteenth century), but that's the way I interpret the rules. qp10qp (talk) 15:58, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, if we can't find a photograph of this coin which we can be confident is in the public domain, but an image would be desirable, then we can either claim an image of a coin as fair use - as the only contemporary images of Offa are on coins of which free images do not exist (or at least, that we cannot be confident that the images are free). Or, we could use a later description which is definitely freely available. For example, what about using a mediaeval depiction? Either this, from Matthew Paris' tract on St Alban, or this, from the Cottonian Nero D VIII. Either should be fine to place under {{PD-art}}, as they are purely mechanical copies of two-dimensional originals, showing no originality in lighting etc. Warofdreams talk 01:58, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
There is at least one image, not very large it's true, of an Offa penny in Grueber's Handbook (plate I), it's available here. The images can go on commons as {{PD-EU-no author disclosure}}. There's no photographer credited in the book, just The Clarendon Press. Angus McLellan (Talk) 02:15, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
The coin images in Grueber are quite a find, but if Warofdreams is right about the ability to claim fair use then I suppose there's no reason not to use the coin image he added in the first place. Not sure quite what the right way to handle it is -- would it be sensible to put a fair use rationale for this article on the image, along with a note that I'm not sure the PD license is correct so the rationale is just in case?
Warofdreams, thanks for those images. I will work them into the article later; I'm going to try to get a FAC review done tonight for an article teetering on the brink so I will put them on the to-do list. They're great finds! Mike Christie (talk) 03:02, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
I've re-added the coin. I'll put the other images in later this week when I get a chance. Mike Christie (talk) 04:49, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I believe that the original message you received was correct on the coin - they are a grey area as they are not strictly 2D. The artwork being 2D is an important condition; English copyright law apparently grants copyright even to photographs taken of a painting (as there is a choice of angles, lighting, etc), but not to direct scans showing no originality. I seem to remember hearing that the law was untested on the question of coins, but, particularly as we now have a PD image, it probably is best left out. Warofdreams talk 12:49, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
I guess I misunderstood you -- weren't you saying that even if the coin is not PD I can claim fair use? I am no fair use expert so I wasn't sure. If fair use does not apply then I guess we have to drop it though I feel sure I saw a different licence on a coin recently that did make a PD claim based on a different law. Anyway, does fair use not apply here? Mike Christie (talk) 13:00, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, that's it. If an image is in the PD, there is no need to claim fair use. I was under the impression that there were no free contemporary images of Offa, but as we now have one, I think that we are unlikely to be able to claim fair use on an alternative. Warofdreams talk 14:08, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

I've changed the image in the infobox to use a clipped head of Offa from the Matthew Paris image. I looked again at the coins Angus found and decided that it's not as good as this head for the infobox; pity. I'd like to use the whole Matthew Paris image for the "Stature" section, but to do that I'd like to be able to quote the MS shelfmark and the date, and I couldn't figure those out from the link. I assume it's contemporary with Matthew, so I put thirteenth century in the infobox caption, but a bit more would be nice to put it in the article. Anyone know? Mike Christie (talk) 02:41, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

Trade dispute with Charlemagne[edit]

The description in the article of the sanctions imposed by Charlemagne isn't right: the Gesta Abbatum Fontanellensium (as in Whitelock) says clearly that the sanctions were never imposed. The whole point is that Gerbert (the abbot in question) managed to dissuade Charlemagne from imposing the sanctions in retaliation for Offa's supposed temerity in suggesting that his (Offa's) son be married to Charlemagne's daughter. This puts Gerbert in a better light since he is therefore seen to have influence with Charlemagne. fluoronaut (talk) 21:37, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

The translation in Whitelock says he was "restrained from doing this", which certainly seems to support what you say; Stenton is unequivocal though. He says "Charlemagne at once broke off correspondence with Offa, and closed the ports of his territory to English traders. They were only opened again after long negotiations, in which Alcuin and Gervold of St. Wandrille were the chief agents." In a note to this Stenton cites both the Gesta Abbatum Fontanellensium and letters of Alcuin's of which he says, "they are so discreet that there is little to be gathered from them beyond the facts that at the end of 790 the ports were still closed and that Alcuin was expecting to be sent into England to make peace (Monumenta Alcuiniana, p. 167)". I don't have access to Alcuin's letters, but with Stenton so definite I would prefer to trust the secondary source here and not correct the text per a primary source. Mike Christie (talk) 21:49, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. I had also read Stenton and assumed he was mistaken. I will find the letters and get back to you. It is a curious point. fluoronaut (talk) 09:54, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

I've found the letters in question from Alcuin to different people (in Alcuin of York Allott, 1974) , and he definitely says that the application of sanctions took place. The dispute is mentioned in a letter to Colcu, an Irish monk and associate of Alcuin, dated to 790. "A dispute has recently arisen between King Charles and King Offa, and fuel has been devilishly heaped upon the fire, so that on both sides traders are forbidden to sail." [letter 31] Alcuin says there is some suggestion that he should go to England to settle the matter. The idea that some party has prolonged the quarrel is interesting.

There is another letter from Alcuin to a friend, Beornwin [letter 39], also dated to 790, in which A. reassures Beornwin that he is loyal to both his homeland and Francia. This is discussed in 'Francia and the Mercian Supremacy' in J. Story's Carolingian Connections. Also in 790, Alcuin writes to Adalhard, Abbot at Corbie, asking in passing whether Adalhard knew why "old friends" (interpreted as Offa and Charlemagne) had fallen out. [letter 10]

Although I am not sure how the dating of these letters is arrived at, taking it as correct this makes the legislative tone of the measures to do with traders in the letter written in 796 seem more like an attempt to finally resolve the dispute six years earlier. Also, the extract from the Gesta in Whitelock has no date so I suppose it might be a description of an earlier part of the dispute in which Gervold took part and managed to prevent sanctions from being imposed initially. Or the source is wrong.

I should have known Stenton was right! fluoronaut (talk) 19:07, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I've never had much success trying to second-guess Stenton! There's another item in this article where some sources disagree with Stenton; the issue of whether Egbert's exile was three or thirteen years. It seems like an error in the ASC to me, but Stenton and Whitelock say no, and as another editor said to me, where those two agree you can be pretty confident they're on to something. Mike Christie (talk) 23:42, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

Meaning of Arabic text on dinar copy[edit]

I've cut the recent addition giving the meaning of the Arabic text as it was unsourced. I tried sourcing this from Google Books and wasn't sure it was completely accurate; Sinclair's "The Pound: A Biography" is only visible in snippet view but seems to say there is more to the text than just "Muhammad is the messenger of God". The translation isn't particularly relevant to the article anyway, since the moneyer clearly did not understand the text, but it would be an interesting fact to add if we can source it. Mike Christie (talk) 15:08, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

My understanding is that it is the first verse of the Koran: "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger" (something I do not believe). However I too have no source for this. It is thought to have been copied from a dinar. This presumably arrived in England by way of trade, but I doubt that we will ever really know. Peterkingiron (talk) 18:06, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Image[edit]

I've just added a new, higher-resolution version of File:Offa of Mercia.jpg and I must say I prefer this image to File:Offa king of Mercia 757 796.jpg. This may just be my opinion, but shouldn't we change the current head image with Offa of Mercia.jpg? I think the current image is of low resolution and should thus be changed. Any opinions? --Alexcoldcasefan (talk) 14:22, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Great-looking picture, only it doesn't look like it was created in Offa's own lifetime. In fact, it look rather 14th-century to me. Sure enough, there's a date: 1380. If we're going to go that route, we may as well use File:Taylor_and_Burton_-_Cleopatra.jpg in the article on Cleopatra. Zyxwv99 (talk) 14:40, 12 April 2012 (UTC)
First of all, that is not the same thing. The file you provided is nearly 2000 years older than Cleopatra herself. No life image of Offa survives, so... Alexcoldcasefan (talk) 17:54, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Kingships of minor kingdoms[edit]

User:JoshTaylor1998wiki has added succession info to the infobox for Offa as king of Sussex, East Anglia and Kent. The sources don't describe him as king of these kingdoms. I've removed this twice, and Ealdgyth has removed the information for Kent once, but I don't want to edit war about this. I'd rather reach agreement here. If there's support for describing Offa as king of these kingdoms, I think it needs to be cited; I am not aware that there is any reference in modern reliable sources to Offa as other than the overlord of these kingdoms. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 17:44, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

A note for anyone who comments here: this change has also been made at Ecgfrith of Mercia and Coenwulf of Mercia and I have started a discussion on those talk pages as well. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 23:35, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
Well, the Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.) doesn't list Offa as a king of Kent nor as a king of Sussex or East Anglia. Nor does it list those titles under Offa's entry for Mercia. Mike Ashley's Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens doesn't list Offa as a king of Kent, Sussex, or East Anglia. Ashley states that Offa "asserted control" of Kent, not that he was "king". Morby's Wordsworth Handbook of Kings & Queens doesn't list Offa as king of Kent, Sussex, or East ANglia. Barbara Yorke in Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England doesn't list Offa as a king of Kent or East Anglia (she doesn't list kings of Sussex). The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Offa calls him just "king of the Mercians" ... and does say he was king of anything else. I think it's pretty clear that we cannot call Offa "King of Kent" or of anything other than Mercia. Ealdgyth - Talk 00:31, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Kings at that period did not assert multiple titles. Some of the kingships involved were not "rex" (king), but "regulus" - a diminutive of rex, usually translated as under-king, but "kinglet" might be more ideomatic. The process seems to have been that local dynasties were suppressed and an earldorman substituted who performed similar functions to the regulus. The question is how to reflect this within the structure of WP succession boxes. I would suggest that nothing should be added to the succession box of the Mercian king, but that the last king of Kent, Sussex and East Anglia should have a succession box with Successor: "None" reason: kingdom incorporated into Mercia. The exception to this would be if the name of the first earldorman is known, in which case the successor would be that earldorman - as: Earldorman. Peterkingiron (talk) 14:58, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
    • Having looked again, I see this is not about succession boxes, but an info-box and the addition of a category and template for East Anglia. The possibility of Offa being king over East Anglia and there also being a local regulus should not be ruled out. The list article treats them as if there could only be one king at a time. Peterkingiron (talk) 15:06, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
      • One of the things I hate about Info boxes is that they encourage certainty where things aren't black and white. Anything that isn't certain should be clearly stated in the info box as uncertain or whatever is appropriate. Dougweller (talk) 15:19, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
        I agree about infoboxes. The text of the article describes the situation, accurately I hope, with respect to all three kingdoms, and I think readers are better served by not having summary information in the infobox that has no room to give nuances. I think the information does not belong in the infobox, and this applies to Ecgfrith and Coenwulf too, where these changes were also made. Another editor has reverted the changes here and at Ecgfrith, but not yet at Coenwulf. Since the conversation seems to be mostly here I suggest we reach agreement on Coenwulf here too; the issue is the same in all three cases. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 10:28, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

Ealdgyth appears to agree with me that these titles should be removed from the infobox; I don't see a strong opinion directly on that point from the other commenters here. I propose to remove the titles from the infobox for both Offa and Coenwulf unless there are objections. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 23:58, 9 September 2012 (UTC)

I would also favor their removal. Agricolae (talk) 02:16, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
I also agree, but we might possibly find a form of words, amking him "ruler of Kent" in succession to the king he replaced there (though without a named successor). I also do not like succession details in infoboxes. Succession boxes (if well-used) can be a litle more nuanced, by the use of "as" or "reason" fields. Peterkingiron (talk) 15:39, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Agricolae did this for Offa and I've reverted the changes at Coenwulf. Peterkingiron, I think the articles give enough information for the reader to draw their own conclusions, but if you can improve them, go ahead. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 09:21, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

Characterization of Offa in Vitae duorum Offarum[edit]

We need to be careful of how we refer to the account of Offa found in Lives of the Two Offas. We should specify the source (not just the vague and weaselly "some reports") and use scholarly references rather than a 19th century parlor book for women. As part of this scholarly citation, we need to provide appropriate perspective for this information, particularly that Lives was written more than 400 years after the fact and as such is of dubious historical value, but reveals the degree to which legend began to accrue around Offa. Agricolae (talk) 14:57, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

I agree, it makes sense to ensure that the article uses the best available sources. I've altered the text to avoid the vague "some reports" and added 3 more references. Take a look and see what you think. --HighKing (talk) 17:10, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
It seems like it should be included—legends are important too—but perhaps it should be at a different place in the article. It would be good if there was scholarly analysis to put this legend into appropriate perspective, so that it won't be presented uncritically, considering that it's obviously a mere legend. Everyking (talk) 23:14, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
I just reverted the most recent addition of this material; let's get some better sources before putting it in. Three of the four sources given were from the 19th century, and one was a book about King Alfred by Clive Alfred Spinage, who appears to be a specialist on African ecology rather than a historian, though I can't be certain of that. I think we need something in a reliable secondary source, written by a historian of the period. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:50, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I've reverted User:HighKing again; his most recent edit summary was "So Talk about it, don't delete it first." It seems to me that there's not a consensus to include this material, and in addition the article is well sourced right now, and I'd like to keep it that way. I am not opposed to putting in additional material, but the sourcing offered is not, I feel, good enough. HighKing, please provide some more modern sources, and we can work out what should be added here. I don't think it's a good idea to re-add poorly sourced text. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 18:00, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Why did you delete it if it was already being discussed, and two editors are saying it should be mentioned? I reverted your deletion, at least until I understand why you are rejecting the sources .. including Vitae duorum Offarum which is used as a reference for lots of articles. BTW, until you deleted, there was a consensus to keep it in. Also, I understand that sometimes older works can be discredited when new research or material comes to light, but it's important to note that there is absolutely *nothing* wrong with sources just because they are "old". Unless more modern sources dismiss the older research when new facts and details come to light, they are as good a source as any other. Have you any evidence that these older sources are not relevant or noteworthy, or have been dismissed by newer research or publications? Finally, your dismissal of Clive Alfred Spinage's material is completely without foundation. He's a retired African wildlife ecologist and a highly regarded academic, not some crackpot. There's no reason to disregard his historical books, and he is certainly used to researching historical subject matter, for example "Cattle Plague". Also, his history of King Alfred wasn't his only work focused on British history - he also published "Myths and Mysteries of Wayland Smith". --HighKing (talk) 18:17, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Let's give it a day or two and see who else weighs in. I'll see if I can find some discussion of this in some of my books or via Google Books in the meantime. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 18:19, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Mike and Agricolae. I think we should only use a primary source like this only if a solid secondary source uses it. Especially in an featured article like this. The ODNB article on Offa has this to say about the life: "... Vita duorum Offarum, probably written by Matthew Paris c.1250, which enthusiastically invents parallels between the life of the Mercian king and that of his heroic namesake. Matthew and other St Albans historians who wrote on Offa, notably Roger of Wendover, may have had access to a tract on Offa which may have included some genuine details about his life and his relations with St Albans; but it is tedious and ultimately unrewarding to attempt to extract any worthwhile information from the essentially legendary material presented in the thirteenth-century sources". So, this particular primary source doesn't seem like the type of thing we should draw any info from on our own.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 18:22, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
It's not like the text I entered into the article stated it as cold hard facts. It was deliberately written so that a reader would understand it to be less than reliable information. Even the very nature of the tale - that he was dumb, blind and lame and recovered to become king - is notable and deserves mention. There's sources that say the same thing. If it's the phrasing of the text - fine, lets rephrase. But I don't understand why you would chose to not mention anything at all... --HighKing (talk) 18:29, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I think we can indeed mention it, and the ODNB is the sort of source we can use, though based on the quote above I think the mention doesn't need to include any details since those would be misleading. Instead the reader should understand that the Vita duorum Offarum is not a reliable source and contains invented details. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 18:33, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
OK, fair enough. Have you something in mind by way of mentioning? And when you say not to include details - does that mean you would be against mentioning that he was said to be "dumb, blind, lame, and known as Winfrith"? --HighKing (talk) 18:37, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I think we shouldn't mention those details unless we can find a good source for an opinion about them. I.e. if we can say "he was said to be deaf, dumb and blind, and this is one of the less plausible inventions" then the reader has a way to judge the value of the description. If we just say the source is unreliable and then quote part of it without qualification, I don't think we're doing the reader any favours.
How about: "A late medieval source, the Vita duorum Offarum, or Life of the two Offas, gives many details of Offa's life but is considered to be largely invented, and is not treated as a reliable source by modern historians, despite the possibility that the author may have had access to sources on Offa that are now lost." That could go at the end of the second paragraph in the sources section. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:00, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Hmmmm .. I kinda liked the idea of mentioning the details. But I suppose the various sources are really merely repeating what was in Vita duorum Offarum...
What about mentioning the details by way of adding "In this source, Offa is said to have been known as Winfrith and to have been blind, deaf, and dumb before recovering his faculties in time to take the throne". I know you've said we wouldn't be doing the readers any favours by putting in fanciful details, but the "legend" appears consistent, and more details is better than less in my opinion. --HighKing (talk) 19:06, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Let's hear from some other editors on that; I'd rather not go that route, but others may agree with you. In the meantime, if I can find some direct opinions of the source in the books I have we may have something citable. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:15, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Excellent, thanks. --HighKing (talk) 20:51, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I would say that if we can find a source to support the statement, we could say something like 'by the time the 13th century Vitae . . . was written, a legend had developed which describes Offa as . . .' i.e. we only give the details if we call it legendary from the start, and probably in a separate section about Offa as a character of legend, and we only do that if we can find a scholarly source that discusses this development of legend. Maybe some of the Beowulf studies I turned to for Cynethryth will provide this level of detail on the Vitae with respect to Offa (such as Raymond Wilson Chambers, Beowulf: An Introduction to the Study of the Poem with a Discussion of the Stories of Offa and Finn - not exactly modern but scholarly in its approach, unlike the Mrs. Matthew Hall source that shouldn't be cited in a Featured Article under any circumstances). Agricolae (talk) 00:42, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
I agre with mike and agricolae here. I am traveling so can't comment much, but it would ve misleading to include much from the vital unless there is secondary material discussing the details. And if there is a lot of information on the vitae, it might be better to make an article on it since its so far removed in time from Offa himself. Ealdgyth - Talk 12:32, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
There is an article on it. The only question here is how much mention (and the tone of that mention) we give its description of Offa in Offa's article. My opinion is that an article on Offa is not complete unless something is said explicitly about this body of legend (assuming scholars have written about it), just as Alfred the Great's article mentions, "A popular legend, originating from 12th century chronicles, tells how when he first fled to the Somerset Levels . . . ". Agricolae (talk) 14:24, 2 June 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England mentions the Vitae in the article on Offa, but gives no details from it, and dismisses it as legend. I can't find any other references to it in the books I have that discuss Offa, though it's hard to be sure as many books don't index the sources used. To me this implies that historians don't regard it as a source worth mentioning. If that's the case, then neither should we. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 10:02, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

...and dismisses it as legend .... historian don't regard it as a source worth mentioning. I think this is the point where we disagree. Just to reiterate my standpoint, this article is supposed to be all-encompassing, not just a scholarly article that solely deals with factual details. From a neutral point of view, both "sides" of an argument should be mentioned - both the legend, and the scholarly dismissal. The "legend" *is* notable and as such should be mentioned in the article. --HighKing (talk) 13:34, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
I think the source is notable enough to be mentioned; I agree with you there and mis-spoke in my post above. However, I do think the contents of the source are not notable and shouldn't be mentioned, per Agricolae's comments above; that is, I don't think we should include any details, such as the description of Offa as blind, deaf and dumb before becoming king. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 13:53, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
There's no reason not to include some details of the legend as long as it's discussed in appropriate context. It is correct to say that there needs to be some discussion of this in the article for it to be considered complete, even if the discussion is brief and dismissive. Everyking (talk) 20:49, 6 June 2013 (UTC)
There is a reason - that no scholars of Offa deign to mention these details. Yes, that is unfortunate, and a complete accounting of Offa should include a chapter on the legend as recorded in the Vitae (and other sources?), but as far as I have been able to tell, no such study has been done, at least by modern scholars. A Wikipedia article is supposed to be summary of the scholarly literature, and nothing more, even if the scholarly literature is 'incomplete'. I would love to have some of this information in there, but try as I might, I failed to find a scholarly account of Offa that included it (there is more on the Vitae's account of his wife, due to the parallels with the story the Vitae tell of the wife of Offa of Angel and the apparent inclusion of this material in Beowulf, but she has her own page where her material is more appropriate). That leaves us with three options: 1) violate Wikipedia policy and include it anyhow (and face the resultant edit war from those who do not think this is an appropriate application of WP:IAR; 2) dig further into the scholarly literature and find some reliable sources that mention these details - there was a recent edition of the Vitae I have been unable to consult and it may discuss this material in the introduction or commentary; or 3) publish a scholarly study of Offa in the Vitae, which can then be used as the basis for the information's inclusions. Agricolae (talk) 22:31, 6 June 2013 (UTC)
Just one small point but one that I want to make sure isn't relied on as the total basis of your argument. You say A Wikipedia article is supposed to be summary of the scholarly literature, and nothing more. Not true and I totally disagree. Nowhere does policy or guidelines state that an article has anything to do with scholarly literature. It uses the phrase reliable source instead. The article must simply summarize the subject matter from reliable sources with due consideration given to WEIGHT, FRINGE, etc, etc. I've provided you with many sources that mention the legend, and the details of the legend, some which you object to because they were published a long time ago. But there remains at least one that is recent and I believe also meets the policies and guidelines. --HighKing (talk) 00:43, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
You are right and wrong. Yes, the standard is reliable, but when you are talking about historical figures of this type, reliable usually (but not always) means scholarly : such minor details are rarely given the level of significant coverage in non-scholarly sources to meet the bar of WEIGHT - an off-handed comment by a news service is not weighty enough to merit mention. The problem with the 19th century sources (in addition to one being an inherently unreliable ladies' parlor book) is that the nature of scholarship has changed significantly in the interim, most notably in how reliability of sources is evaluated and presented, and the views of due weight. What aspects of a person's life were considered noteworthy (to be given due weight) in the 19th century no longer constitute such in the 21st. What was considered reliable in the 19th century does not reflect reliable coverage in the 21st. We just don't view history as a process or a product in the same way. What 19th century scholars considered to be noteworthy and reliable is not a good guide to whether this information satisfies WP:RS and WP:WEIGHT in a modern Wikipedia article. Agricolae (talk) 01:13, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Good response, thanks. What about the recent book by Clive Spinard I mentioned above? --HighKing (talk) 12:10, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Google won't even show me a snippet so I have no basis for evaluating this book. Agricolae (talk) 12:58, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
I think it would be sensible to consult the recent edition of the Vitae next. Can you provide the details? I think we could try asking at the resource exchange, for example. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 23:34, 6 June 2013 (UTC)
It is by Michael Swanton. See here [1]. Agricolae (talk) 00:44, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

European Connection[edit]

"...and mentions trade in black stones, sent from the continent to England, and cloaks (or possibly cloths), traded from England to the Franks". Question: shouldn't this be the other way around ? black stones ? (coal???) from England to the continent and cloaks form Frankisch lands (Amiens-area) to England ?. Best regards 198.184.231.254 (talk) 18:44, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

That's what the source says -- you can see the quote in Alcuin's letter here (page 849). Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 20:19, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

I just partially reverted some edits; here are some notes.

  • We can't use Roger of Wendover for anything unless a secondary source covers the same ground. I took out the place of death in the infobox for the same reason.
  • The identification of Aethelswith with Aelfthryth needs to be cited to a secondary source before being added. PASE doesn't give this, for example.
  • I took out the "religion" line; "Roman Catholicism" is a meaningless term for the 700s.
  • The birth date is not discussed in the article, so we would need a sourced discussion of his possible birth date in order to add that to the infobox.
  • I left in Bedford as the place of burial for now, but I thought about taking it out -- on rereading the relevant charter in EHD I see Whitelock expresses doubts about whether "Bedeford" it refers to Bedford; in fact she says it is unidentified. Lapidge seems somewhat more certain, so I left it in.

Personally I'd be just as happy if we took the whole infobox out; I don't think it's useful. If we're going to have one, though, it should be concise and contain only well-sourced information. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 08:54, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

I'd be good with removing the infobox also - but if it stays it should only contain relevant info that is sourced and discussed in the article. And no, we can't use primary sources (Roger in this case) without secondary sources backing him ... and I agree with all the other points. In fact, I'd already reverted their addition once. Ealdgyth - Talk 13:25, 6 August 2014 (UTC)