Otto of Freising

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Otto of Freising

Otto of Freising (frīˈzĭng), b. after 1111, d. 1158, German chronicler, bishop of Freising. He was a son of Leopold III of Austria, a half-brother of Emperor Conrad III, and an uncle of Emperor Frederick I. His history of the world to 1146, usually called The Two Cities (tr. by C. C. Mierow, 1928), is modeled on St. Augustine's City of God and pessimistically foretells the end of the world. Because of the extensive information included, the chronicle is one of the most notable of medieval histories. He also began a more optimistic biography of Frederick I (financed by Frederick) but wrote only two books; two more were added by his assistant, Rahewin.
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Otto of Freising


Born after 1111; died Sept. 22, 1158, in Morimond, Burgundy. Medieval German historian. Bishop of Freising in Bavaria from 1138.

Otto belonged to the high aristocracy (he was the uncle of Frederick I Barbarossa) and took part in the Second Crusade (1147–49). Between 1143 and 1146 he wrote the Chronicle, a world history covering events down to 1146. The work not only provides valuable factual material, especially on the history of Germany, but also represents the first attempt after St. Augustine to offer a philosophical interpretation of world history, based on Augustine’s theological outlook. In his Deeds of the Emperor Frederick I, written in 1157–58 at the behest of the emperor himself, Otto describes the period from Henry IV’s reign to 1156, defending Frederick I and the Staufen dynasty. The work was continued by Rahewin, Otto’s secretary, who brought the narrative to 1160.


Chronik oder die Geschichte der zwei Staaten. Berlin, 1960. (Text in Latin and German.)
Gesta Friderici I imperatoris, 2nd ed. Edited by G. Waitz and B. Simson. Berlin, 1912.


Vainshtein, O. L. Zapadnoevropeiskaia srednevekovaia istoriografiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964. (With bibliography.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.