Although written and finalised twelve years after the battle had taken place his descriptions and details of accounts paints a glorious picture of Otto I. Despite having informants at the scene of the battle it is possible that the lapse in time between the writing and taking place of the battle makes these sources almost worthless from an accuracy and reliability point of view.1 As he was placed hundreds of kilometres away at the time of the battle and reliant upon others for details means that there has to be some question over the reliability from each source.
Widukind seems to excel in the drama and rhetoric of the Battle experience. Although important in encouraging the soldiers the psychology of his description is important. The picture of Otto rushing forward, with Shield and Holy lance raised, at the head of his army is an important one in that it depicts Otto as a brave leader unafraid to commit to acts of bravery.2 But this is possibly more hero worship. The rhetoric involved possibly highlights the importance of the victory as the Christian west did not have to face the Magyar threat after this victory.
Although there are doubts over the reliability of this source there are also some well informed pieces of information. Indeed he tells that the army of Otto is better armed and also that they are outnumbered by the Magyar forces and also of the way the army is set up with Bavarians, Franks, the Royal , the Swabians and the Bohemian legions all forming the army in that order3. So there is some knowledge of the strategy of warfare in Widukind’s account.
Widukind also does not tell any account of the early stages of the battle in the days before it happened. This suggests that his informants were from the relief column that had come to join with Otto and his army after the battle had commenced. Widukind also does not tell how the Otto came to be victorious only that after taking the battle to the Magyars and after making a rousing speech ‘turned his horse to the enemy’.4 He therefore places the fact that Otto was victorious against the pagan Magyars above how victory was gained.
As he goes on to state that Otto had been hailed as imperator amidst such joy because a royal victory had not been celebrated in the…