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17. Denmark's History - Early Viking Period

Introduction - The Viking Ship - The Viking Raids - Danish kings in the early Viking Period - The Danelaw - Normandy - Vikings in Russia - Vikings on the islands in the Atlantic and Iceland - Religion - Links and Litterature

Introduction

The Viking Age began with the attack on the Monastery of St. Cuthbert on the island of Lindisfarne 8. of June in the year 793. This section will examine the early Viking Age until Archbishop Unni of Hamburg some years before 936 visited Denmark and found Worm, whom we believe was Gorm the Old, on the throne. He was the first well-documented king of Denmark, and his time can be considered as the beginning of recorded history.
Timeline from the Neolithic Age to historical times
Timeline from the Neolithic Age to historical times.

The Viking invasion of England under Hinguar and Hubba Detail showing the Viking invasion of England under Hinguar and Hubba, from an illustration in "Life, Passion and Miracles of St. Edmund, King and Martyr" around 1130, probably created in the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds - An Irish chronicler wrote about the Vikings: "Some were dark and some were light."

The monk Alcuin of York wrote to "the most beloved lord King Ethelred and all his chief men": "Lo, it is nearly 350 years that we and our fathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never before has such terror appeared in Britain, as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made."

The attack had probably come directly from the North Sea as a bolt from a clear sky. This voyage right across the open North Sea and not along the coast, which route otherwise was used, "could be made", because the Viking ship was now fully developed as a ship type.

During the Viking Age thousands of Scandinavians populated Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands. Vikings conquered and populated large parts of England, Ireland, and Normandy. There must have been two main causes for this, namely pressure from a large surplus population and the technical development of the Viking ship, which made it possible to travel directly over the sea, thereby avoiding troublesome mountains, moors and hostile neighbors, as an overland journey would otherwise offer.

The Oseberg Viking ship museum in Oslo
The Oseberg Viking ship in the museum in Oslo. Foto Daderot wikipedia.

Dudo of st. Quentin describes how the Scandinavian peoples since the migration time had driven their excess population to emigration and conquest, by casting lots: "But these people, who recklessly indulged in excessive self-indulgence, living in scandalous relationship with many women and begot in shameless and illegal intercourse numerous offsprings. Once they had grown up, the young ones argued wildly with fathers and grandparents, or with each other, over estades, and if they grew too much in numbers, and they could not obtain arable land to live on, then by drawing lot after ancient custom groups of young people were selected to be expelled to foreign peoples and kingdoms, for that they by fighting could win land, where they could live in continuous peace. In this way Getes and Goths ravaged almost the whole of Europe, until they came to where they now live."

"For the success of their expulsion they incidentally sacrificed to their god Thor and not with a large or small piece of cattle or the gifts of the wine-god or grain-god, but they sacrificed human blood, because they thought it to be the most valuable of all sacrifies."- "With the blood of the victims they marked their foreheads, hoisted quickly the ship-sails to the wind, because in this way they thought to appease the gods, and pulled the oars with all their power. If, however, after another draw, they went out as riders, then raised the war banner high in fighting spirit."

Viking Attack by Alphonse de Neuville from about 1875
Viking attack drawn by Alphonse de Neuville about 1875.

Dudo continues: "As exiles they are forced out to win prey by fighting. They are expelled from home to live among foreigners"-"All nations are suffering and break down miserably by the numerous enemy" - " They sail close to the coast to get prey on land. What they steal from one nation, they bring to another. They seek temporary peace in ports to profit by trading looted goods."

Not only Western Europe was plundered. At least three times huge Viking fleets attacked their own Scandinavian homelands and killed kings and great noblemen.

It is not entirely clear, what the word Viking comes from. Some believe that it is a designation for pirats, who lay in wait in a "vig" - that is a bay. Others believe that the first Vikings came from Viken in Norway. The latest explanation is that it comes from the word "vige", that means to give way, in the sense that men on long voyages replaced one another on the rowing benches, for example, about every four hours - they gave way for each other and were therefore called Vig-ings, that is vikings. The author believes that the most likely is that Vikings denotes the unlucky ones, who by casting lots were chosen to depart (Danish: vige - Norwegian: vike) from the country and fend for themselves with their weapons.

An episode in the long Olav Tryggvason's saga illustrates very well, what "vikings" means.

Two peasants, Thorvald and Ingjald, lived on a small island off the northern coast of Norway, and they were good neighbors. A man named Sokke "was a great viking and robber and traveled widely around with robbing and plundering". One summer Sokke came to the island and went ashore at night with his crew, and came to Thorwald's farm, while everyone were sleeping. They robbed all the goods and set fire to the houses. "Thorvald went to the door and asked, who was responsible for the fire. Sokke gave his name." What reasons do you have to do this?" said Thorwald," for I do not know that we have done you any harm?" - "We vikings," said Sokke, "do not ask for reasons, if we want to take men's goods and life." All sixteen people in Torvald's farm perished.

At Ingjald in the other farm two boys lived. "The men, who Sokke had sent to Ingjald, set fire to the houses; Ingjald went to the door and asked for permission for himself and his household to go out, but the vikings did not want to give this. Ingjald went back to the boys, Ottar and Avald, and said to them: "Now probably my lifetime will finish, but I would like to get you out and away from the fire that you might live longer; Now I will secretly bring you to a hidden door, which is here on the farm; do your best to escape to the forest covered by the smoke." The boys escaped, and after they grew up, they found Sokke and his men and took revenge.

The Anglo-Saxon chroniclers did not know the word "Vikings", they consistently used the term "Danes" for almost all, who came from Scandinavia. The Frankish writers, including Rimbert and Adam of Bremen, often called the inhabitants of Scandinavia "Danes or Normans," or "Danes and Normans". A few places Adam writes: "By the way, the Danes and the other peoples living beyond Denmark, are by the Frankish historians all called Normans" and "The Danes and Svears, whom we call the Normans." A very few places Adam calls the northern pirates for "Ascomans". However, one place only Adam refers to Norwegians, as he writes on: "the outer sea that separates the Norwegians from the Danes, and still today is called Ottisand after the victory of the king (Otto)." However, he writes in the description of Sealand: "Sealand is exceedingly rich in gold, which are collected on pirate raids. These pirates call themselves Wichings, while we call them ascomans."

A note in Olav Tryggvason's Saga gives an idea of the Viking's age: "When they were manning the ships, the crews were chosen carefully, so that on Ormen Lange was no man, who was over sixty years of age or under twenty, and they were chosen people also in terms of courage and strength." The Jomsvikings was an elite corps, and they had tougher requirements: "Nobody should be admitted in Palnatoke's entourage, older than fifty or younger than eighteen years old," Jomsvikinge Saga says.

The Viking Ship

Reconstruction of the Ladby ship Reconstruction of the Ladby ship in full scale next to the museum at Ladby south of Kerteminde.

The viking ship as a ship type is the result of more than a thousand years of development. During the more than 1,300 years ago since the Hjortspring Boat thousands of ships have been built, most of which have had small or large details that made them just a little better than its predecessors. Viking ships have elements in common with the Hjortspring boat. Both are built of planks laid on a skeleton of frames, which define the shape of the hull. In the Hjortspring boat all elements are tied together, while in the viking ships only the shell-planks below the water line are attached to the frames by strings.

Introduction of sails was a revolutionary innovation, a leap in development. Sails made long sea voyages manageable, while oars still made it possible to navigate in narrow waters independently of the wind.

Beowulf's unknown author did not take a sail as a matter of course, he was clearly fascinated by the new invention: "Departed him on the ship, to troubled deep water; he left the Dena land; then was by the mast a mighty sea-garment, sail fastened by rope; the sea beam thundered."

However, evidently, a sail requires a mast, and a mast in turn requires a keel, which is strong and rigid enough to receive the power and torque from the sail. The keel and bow and stern are the basis for building a Viking ship. The keel is the ship's largest single part and usually made of oak, preferably in one piece.

Reconstruction of the Ladby ship
A voluntary shipbuilder is finalizing the mast-fish on the reconstruction of the Ladby ship. The keel-hog is a powerful piece of wood under deck, which supports the mast and distributes the torque from the sail to several frames. On the deck over the keel-hog is seen the mast-fish, which also supports the mast and is formed so that it is possible to lay the mast down and raise it again.

The board-planks were split from an oak trunks, sometimes ash. When they in this way were split out with wedges, the fibers remained intact throughout the board's length, which made them flexible and elastic, yet strong.

The lower pair of board-planks, which are called the keel-boards were fitted first, nearest to the keel. Next the following pair of board-planks were fitted such that they overlapped part of the underlying boards and so on. This is called clinker building, which is different from kravel building, where the planks are fitted edge to edge. Dinghies and small boats were clinker-built far up in our time. Today they are produced in plastic, but the cast is still designed that they look, as if they are clinker-built. The clinker method allows thinner board planks and thus lighter ships.

When the board planks were fitted and secured with each other with rivets, the frames and thwarts were fitted, and the hull got its final shape. The whole thing was made waterproof by caulking with wool soaked in tar. On the Bayeux tapestry can be seen that every other board-plank was painted in ocher-yellow and others in a reddish color.

A ship's ability to right itself after a heel - typically caused by wind or waves - is called its stability. The wider it is, the more stable. The Gokstad and Oseberg ships were both relatively full in their hull shape - about five meters wide amidships. While the Ladby ship, one of the Skuldelev warships and the ship found in Hedeby Harbour were only about three meters wide. The Gokstad and Oseberg ships must have been really stable sea-going ships that could have sailed to Iceland or Greenland, while the Ladby ship and Skuldelev ships have been flexible and fast ships suited to operate in the inner Danish waters and the Baltic Sea. Some Viking ships have had ballast in the form of large stones in the bottom to improve stability and to damp the ship's movements in the sea.

Length and width of some viking ships
Length and width of some viking ships. The Oseberg and Gokstad ships were well suited to open sea. The Hedeby, Ladby, Skuldelev 2, Skuldelev 5 and the ship from Roskilde medieval port were typical slender and fast warships. The Skuldelev 1 and Skuldelev 3 were typical merchant ships, called Knarrs. Some believe that the Skuldelev 6 was a fishing boat.

The length of viking ships was limited by the length of the keel, which preferably should be in one piece. Moreover, a long ship must have been heavier to row than a short ship. A long ship must necessarily have a greater strength amidships than a short vessel in order to resist the longitudinal bending torque, which occurs, when the the ship is working in the waves. This is achieved by greater breadth or draft or a stronger mid-ship construction, all these options will give a greater weight per meter length of the ship. This means that a given cross section of the ship, shall we say, 1.1 meters long, which gives room for two rowers at the railing respectively starboard and port, must have been heavier than a corresponding cross section of a shorter vessel. This means that the longer the ship, the more kilos each crew member typically has to row forward. I remember a remark by Saxo that a special long ship, Ormen Lange, was laid up, because it was so heavy to row.

This is indirectly confirmed by Olav Tryggvasson's Saga, which tells of his fleet's departure from Wendland prior to the Battle of Svold: "All small ships went faster than the others and sailed already out at sea." Further, when Sven Forkbeard, Olav Skotkoning, Eirik Earl and Sigurd Earl stood on the island Svold and saw Olav Tryggvassons ships passing one by one: "- then they saw three huge ships and the fourth came last after the others, and it was Ormen Lange." Which indicates that this big ship sailed slowest.

Viking ship on Gotland picture stone
Viking ship on Gotland picture stone - It is clearly seen how the sail is reinforced with ropes. Some have argued that this sail is wider and lower than we usually imagine sails on viking ships, and thus it is how they really looked like. Photo Sjolander.com.

The sail was woven from wool or possibly hemp in logitudinal lanes that were sewn together and reinforced with hemp rope. So far no preserved sail had been found. They probably colored the lanes in different colors so that finished sail appeared with vertical stripes. It was mounted on a cross bar at the top of the mast. It has probably been impregnated with a substance that made it windproof and water-repellent, such as animal fat. Some believe that it also could have been treated with an extract of birch or oak bark to counteract rotting.

It is obvious that such a square sail was suitable for sailing with the wind from aft, but modern experiments have shown that it is indeed possible to cruise against the wind, although it is not the very best sail for the job. With easterly wind a viking ship could sail from Jutland to England in three days.
The Norman ships on the Bayeux Tapestry
William the Conqueror's ships on the Bayeux Tapestry. It is clearly seen that the sails are woven into vertical lanes, which are differently colored. Also board-planks are painted in different colors. Photo Angelfire.com.

The ship did not have a real rudder, but a steering oar mounted aft on the starboard side. Therefore the right side in the direction of sailing is still called starboard (styr-bord), and the opposite side is called the portside (bag-bord).

The Viking Raids

In Denmark itself are no reasonably reliable documentary sources on the early Viking time history apart from brief runic inscriptions; but in the Western European countries, there are many reports of Danes' and Vikings' whereabouts; For example, in the Frankish Annals, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Vita Anskarii and especially in the chronicle of the Archdiocese of Hamburg's History, Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum by Adam of Bremen.
The Viking raids
and settlements
Thanks to the Viking ship's unique sailing abilities Scandinavian people settled in many places to the south, east and west. To the northwest, they founded Norse colonies on all the North Atlantic islands, Iceland and Greenland. Map from Wikipedia.

The attack on the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northern England is the first known Viking raid. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles write about the year 793: "This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter."

Dragon Head for a viking ship found in the Schelde River
Dragon Head to a Viking ship found in the Schelde river near Appels. It also imagines a bird's head. Photo Pintertest.

But the Saxons in Dorset in southern England became acquainted with the Vikings already six years before the attack on Lindisfarne. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 787 says: "This year King Bertric took Edburga the daughter of Offa to wife. And in his days came first three ships of the Northmen from the land of robbers. The reve then rode thereto, and would drive them to the king's town; for he knew not what they were; and there was he slain. These were the first ships of the Danish men that sought the land of the English race."

The monk Simeon of Durham wrote in Historia Regum: "In the same year the pagans from the northern regions came with a naval force to Britain like stinging hornets and spread to all sides like fearful wolves, robbed, tore and slaughtered not only beasts of burden, sheep and oxen, but even priests and deacons, and companies of monks and nuns. And they came to the church of Lindisfarne, laid everything waste with grievous plundering, trampled the holy places with polluted steps, dug up the altars and seized all the treasures of the holy church. They killed some of the brothers, took some away with them in fetters, many they drove out, naked and loaded with insults, some they drowned in the sea - "

One gets the impression that the Vikings mainly attacked Christian institutions. In the first thirty years after the attack on Lindisfarne we only hear about attacks on churches and monasteries. Some historians have suggested that the early raids were motivated by hostility between the Aesir faith and Christianity.

The Vikings did not limit themselves to England. As early as the year 800 Charlemagne organized the defense of the coast between the Rhine and the Seine against pirates, who "wreaked havoc in the North Sea".

Viking attacks and the viking fortifications in the 800's, which certainly occurred
Viking attacks and the Viking fortifications in the 800's, which certainly have occurred. Following Peter Sawyer and others - We note that there seems to be fewer attacks in the German imperial area than in France and England. The Danes may have been wary of attacking Germany for fear of a crusade against the North, a continuation of the war against the Saxons.

Around the year 830 the attacks became stronger, more daring and more frequent. The first attack on a bigger target, which was not a Christian instution, was the looting of the merchant town Dorestad near Utrect in the year 834. It was situated 80 km. from the sea at a tributary of the Rhine.

Adam tells that the emperor in the year 832 made Hammaburg to the bishopric of "all the wild Dane- Sveon- and Slav-tribes and other neighboring peoples." Maybe precisely that made the city a target for Viking raids. He tells about the years 836-837: "However the Normans ravaged everywhere with pirate raids and made the Frisians to pay taxes to them. At that time, they sailed up the Rhine and besieged Cologne, and up the Elbe and set fire to Hamburg. All over the illustrious city was destroyed either by looting or fire. On that occasion the church, the monastery and the library, which had been gathered so diligently, were destroyed. The Holy Ansgar escaped narrowly, as it is said, naked away with the saint's relics."

It is known that Vikings attacked Sevilla in the year 844.

Quentovic at Boulogne, London and Southampton were attacked and robbed between the years 840 and 842. In 841 a Viking fleet sailed up the Seine and pillaged Rouen and several monasteries. In 845 Paris bought the vikings off for the unprecedented sum of 7,000 pounds of silver. Monasteries and towns along the Somme, Seine, Loire, Garonne and even the Rhone were looted. From the year 853 Viking fleets stayed permanently in the rivers of Seine and Loire.

Regnar Lodbrog
The popular perception of Regnar Lodbrog - Picture from Ladbroke alancaster149.hubpages - unknown artist.

The Normanic historian Dudo tells of the viking chiefs Bjørn Ironside and Hastings, who sailed from the Loire estuary year 859 with 62 ships and came back three years later after several raids in the Mediterranean. They attacked many places in Spain, North Africa, the Rhone Valley and Italy and took a large prey. Dudo said that they wanted to plunder Rome, and with great cunning took the small northern Italian city of Luna in the belief that it was Rome.

Adam of Bremen wrote of sea-kings: "There were other kings of the Danes or Normans at this time, when pirate attacks ravaged Gaul; the most important among them were the tyrants Horich, Orwig, Gotafrid, Rudolf and Ingvar, son of Lodparch, who anywhere killed Christians in torments. It is written in the Frankish Annals" - Ingvar, son of Lodparch, may have been one of Regnar Lodbrog's sons.

He goes on to the year 876: "But after the emperor's death raw barbarism raged, let loose from the reins. And since the Danes and Normans belonged to the Hamburger Church's pastoral care, I can not ignore the major accidents the Lord let happen by them at that time, and how far the pagans extended their power over the Christians. These are all portrayed with moarning and complaints in Frankish history and other books. At that time, Saxony was ravaged by the Danes or Normans. Duke Brun fell along with 12 other counts, and bishops Thiadrich and Markwad were murdered. At that time, Friesland was looted and the city of Utrecth destroyed. The Holy Radbod, the city's bishop, fled the persecution and pitched his seat in Deventer; While he stayed there, he swung the sword of excommunication to punishment of the pagans. Back then the pirates set fire in Cologne and Trier. In Aachen they made the palace into stables for their horses. In Mainz rebuilding the city walls was started in of fear of the barbarians. Shortly told: cities perished with their citizens, bishops together with their entire herd. Glorious churches went up in flames with the believers therein. Our Louis struggled with the pagans and won victory, but died soon after. Ludwig of France died both as victor and the defeated. This is as it is depicted with painful complaints in the Emperor's annales, we have touched on the occasion of the mention of the Danes."

The Mammen ax
The Mammen ax has been found at The Mammen east of Viborg. It is of iron with inlays of silver. The decoration is made as Germanic animal ornamentation in the Mammen style, which has precisely has been named after this ax. This side depicts a tree, probably the world tree Yggdrasil. The other side depicts a bird, perhaps the rooster Gyldenkam. It sits in the top of Yggdrasil. Every morning it awakens Odin's warriors, and it will crow at the coming of Ragnarok.
The ax was vikings' preferred weapon. Wilhelm of Poiters reports that Rollo and his men in Normandy were fighting against a group of Frankish great men led by Charles the Simple. In the following negotiations that led to the Saint-Claire-sur-Epte Treaty in the year 911, it is stated: "This Agreement the Franks had asked for, as they no longer with their swords could withstand the Danes' axes."
After the first day's fighting in the Battle of Hastings the Normans became discouraged and said to their leader, Wilhelm, who later became known as the conqueror, that they were tired of the Danish axes.

But the king of France gradually found methods to defend himself; Among other actions he recruited the viking king Weland to defend the country against other Vikings. Ironically, Weland was later killed in a duel, which occurred because the other party expressed doubts about his loyalty to the king.

Adam of Bremen says: "When the Normans wanted to avenge the defeat, they had suffered in Friesland, on the whole kingdom, they invaded up the Rhine, Maas and Schelde into Gaul under the kings Sigfrid and Gotafrid and caused a a miserable carnage on the Christians; yes, they attacked King Karl himself and mocked our brothers. Also to England, they sent one of the participants, Halfdan, and when he was killed by the Angles, the Danes appointed Gudred in his place. He conquered Northumberland. It is written in "The Deeds of the Angles".

Regnar Lodbrog in the snakepit
In a late age Regnar Lodbrog decided to sail on a viking expedition to England, where he was captured by King Ella of Northumbria. He threw the foreign pirate in a snake pit, which means a hole filled with snakes, most likely vipers. It is said that before he died he sang: "grunt would the pigslets, if they knew the lot of the boar." - Drawing by Louis Moe.

Until the mid-800's the vikings had largely used "hit-and-run" attacks based on their ships on the coast or on the major rivers. But in the year 865 it became serious for the Angles in England.

According to Scandinavian legends Regnar Lodbrog sailed on a vikings raid to northern England, where he unfortunately was captured by King Ella of Northumbria. He threw the foreign pirate in a snake pit, which means a hole filled with snakes, probably vipers. It is said that before he died, he sang: "grunt would the piglets, if they knew the lot of the boar." Which was a reference to that he expected to be avenged by his famous sons.

In the year 865 an unprecedented large viking army landed in East Anglia, according to tradition led by the Lodbrog-sons Halfdan Vidfavne, Ivar the Boneless and Ubbe. The army quickly got horses, and in the spring of 866 it was heading north along the old Roman road and were ferried across the Humber River without problems. Then the army began a siege of York.

The people of Northumbria was split into two parties that supported two rival royal candidates. Only too late they realized that they had to forget their feud, stick together and drive the great viking army back. They attacked the army of the Danes outside York. First the attack was a success; the vikings were driven back against the city walls, and the defenders made a sortie; but in the confusion the vikings got the upper hand and defeated them with brutal slaughter, killing the Northhumbrian kings with complete destruction of their power. This was the end of Northumbria. The North of England never regained its independence as an Anglian kingdom.

Repton tomb
In Repton in Derbyshire professor Martin Biddle and his wife Birthe Kjølbye Biddle found many evidences of viking presence. They are also convinced to have found the viking-chief Ivar the Boneless' grave. They believe that he was nicknamed boneless, because he was such a tall and spindly type.
In 1686 a farm laborer named Thomas Walker sought for rocks in an enclosure west of Repton church. He found an underground chamber with a stone coffin, which contained the skeleton of a man nine feet tall. Around the sarcophagus were: "One Hundred Humane Skeletons, with their Feet pointing to the stone coffin." One hundred years later the landowner George Guilbert wrote on: " - a vault" in which "were found vast quantities of human bones, as if collected -- and thrown in a heap together."
In 1980-86 The Biddle couple examined the place carefully and found bones from at least 249 individuals. The nine feet tall man in the sarcophagus was not preserved. Another funeral north of the church revealed a six foot tall man, who was buried with a sword, a small Thor's hammer and a boar-tooth. A study of the bones revealed that he died a cruel and brutal death. Two wounds in his skull were probably caused by spear, and marks on his back suggest that his internal organs were removed after death. A violent blow to the upper femur could have removed his genitals. Perhaps the reason why a wild boar tooth was placed between the legs of the skeleton was that those, who buried him, wanted to make his body whole, before his journey to Valhalla. Also following Dr. Bob Stoddart, Manchester University, the man was stabbed in the head, jaw, arm and thighs and emptied of guts. All his toes and both his heels were split longitudinally.

Simeon of Durham, who wrote a hundred and fifty years after the disastrous Battle of York, wrote: "The army plundered here and there and filled every place with bloodshed and sorrow. Far and wide it destroyed churches and monasteries with fire and sword. When it left a place it left nothing standing except walls without a roof. So great was the destruction that in the present one can hardly see anything left on these sites, or any sign of their former glory."

Vikinger på vej til England i life of St. Edmund
Viking Fleet on its way to England in the life of St. Edmund from the 1100s.

During the following 14 years the "Great Heathen Army" conquered another four Anglian kingdoms. East Anglia was conquered first. In the year 871 the army was reinforced with the "big summer-army", which arrived from Scandinavia. The so reinforced pagan army conquered in the year 874 Mercia and some smaller kingdoms. Their stay in Derbyshire is evidenced by a mass grave with 250 people in Repton and the Heathwood-burial mounds nearby.

The same year a major part of the army settled in the occupied territories and began to cultivate the land.Another group followed their example. The chief Halfdan went north to attack the Picts, while a King Guthrum remained as leader in the south, and in the year 876, he got reinforcement of new vikings and won the battle of Wareham. But the West Saxon King Alfred the Great rose again and defeated finally the great army at Edington in the year 878.

After the Battle of Edington Alfred the Great and Guthrum concluded a peace, the Danelaw was established and the vikings settled and began to cultivate the land.

Same time as the the "Great Army" swept through England other vikings attacked in France, led by a Viking chief called Alstignus, Hastignus or Hastings. Dudo of Saint-Quentin wrote: "Now the Dacians call themselves Danas or Danes and boost of descenting from Antenor, he, who once after having ravaged the country of the Trojans escaped midst the achiverne and reached Illyria's borders with his people. And these Dacians that after an inherited report even had been chased from their homes, streamed now under their leader Anstignus with ferocity to Francien's most remote landscapes." - "He penetrated into the dominions of Gaul and usurped supremacy of the Frankish nation." - "With words and actions he challenged the Franconinan king, who discouraged stayed in towns with his men" - "He convicted the clergy, punished them with a cruel death. They wore shamelessly the chasubles, which they robbed from the holy altars. They wore the white shirts, which are dedicated to the Christian service. Each and every one that raises arms against them, they kill grimly. The remaining people are led away in captivity and disarmed." The term "He convicted the clergy" is suggesting a special aversion to Christianity.

The viking chieftain Hastings rises from the coffin and grasps his ax
The viking chieftain Hastings rises from the coffin and grasps his ax during his funeral in the town of Luna in Italy - unknown artist.

Hastings is known for having led his fleet of Viking ships through Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, where they attacked the town of Luna in the belief that it was Rome. Dudo reports that: "he sent a messenger, who would say to the city's count and bishop: "Alstignus, the leader of the Dacians and all his men, who by drawing of lots have been chased from the land of the Dacians, are for your service. It is not unknown for you that we are expelled from the Dacians' land, that we, who are straying on the waves of every ocean, carried through the wonders of the storm-whipped sea, now had come to the land of the Frankish people." - Do we trace a certain bitterness of that they by casting lots had been driven out of their original homeland, "The land of the Dacians"?

Then followed a tearful report that they were exhausted after a long journey, they wanted to buy provisions, their leader was ill with a lot of pain and wanted to be baptized, as he had not long to live. Then the Vikings got access to the city. Hastings pretended he was sick and was baptized with oil and holy water. Later the Vikings pretended he was dead. Hastings instructed them: "Report me in the coming night death for the bishop and the count and demand in tears that they allow me as newly baptized to be buried in their city. Tell them that I give them my sword, arm-rings and other items." All the Vikings now carried the seemingly lifeless Hastings through the city streets weeping, wailing and complaining. But when they came to the church, Hastings jumped up from his stretcher, grabbed his ax and struck down the bishop, the count, monks and priests. They looted the city and lead the women "sighing and complaining" to the ships.

Danish kings in the early Viking Period

Incomplete royal line of early Viking Age Incomplete and probably erroneous outline of the royal line for the early Viking Age in Denmark. For most of the kings it is stated that they were kings of Denmark. However, we do not know for sure, what Denmark included at this time. Erik I and Erik II (830) are designated as kings of Jutland, Chnob, Gurd and Sigerich were possibly local kings around Hedeby. Chnuba and Chob were probably identical. Here is not included sea-kings, like for example, mentioned by Adam: Horich, Orwig, Gotafrid, Rudolf and Ingvar and kings of the Great Heathen Army in England, such as Ivar, Ubbe and Guthrum. Sources are Adam of Bremen, the Frankish Annals, Vita Anskari, Roskilde Chronicle and Widukind.

The Frankish National Annals, Annales Regni Francorum, says about the year 804: "The king spent the winter in Aachen. But in the summer he led an army to Saxony and moved all Saxons, who lived beyond the Elbe and in Wihmuodi, women and children to Franken and gave the landscapes north of the Elbe to the Abodrites." They speak of "the insane, self-satisfied and arrogant Dane king Godfred" - "at the same time the Danish king Godfred came with his fleet and the entire kingdom's cavalry to the place called Sliesthorp, in the borderland between his kingdom and Saxony. For he had promised to come to a negotiation with the Emperor, but worried by his people's advice, he did nor come closer, but passed on his wishes by envoyes. The Emperor camped at the Elbe, at Holdunsteti, and after having sent a message to Godfred regarding the extradition of deserters, he came to Cologne in the middle of September and then went to the Ardennes".

In the year 808 Godfred in charge of the Danes' army again invaded the land north of the Elbe, which the Franks had given to the Abodrites. The Annals writes: "And it was announced that the Danish king Godfred with an army had entered he land of the Abodrites, he sent his son Karl to the Elbe with a powerful army of Franks and Saxons with orders to resist the mad king, if he should make attempts to attack Saxon area. But when the king during a few days with small teams of soldiers had been monitoring the coast and additionally stormed and captured some Slav castles, he returned home again with heavy losses to his troops. For although he had chased away the Abodrit duke Drasco, who himself distrusted his countrymen's loyality, and by deception had caught another Duke, Godelaib and hanged him in the gallow and had made two-thirds of the Abodrites tributary of him, he lost, however, the best and bravest of his warriors and with them his nephew Reginold, who during the siege of a city fell together with many Danish great men."

Haithabu
Haithabu, which is also called Hedeby or Sliasthorp, is located at Haddeby Nor two kilometers south of the present city of Slesvig. The 6-10 m. high semicircle rampart around the city still exists. Haithabu was founded in 808 by the Danish King Godfred. Archaeological research has shown that the wood, from which the central parts of Haithabu was built, was cut in 811. The first church in Denmark was built here in 848 with the permission of King Horic I. The first Danish coins were minted here. In 1066 the city was destroyed by Slavic tribes and then abandoned, and the merchants moved to the modern city of Slesvig. Photo Grænseforeningen.

The Annals tell that this year Godfred destroyed the trading place Reric and led the merchants to Hedeby, and he built a rampart along the northern shore of the river Ejder: "On Godfred side stood during this campaign, too, the Slavs, called Wilzer and because of the old enmity, they had for the Abodrites, they voluntarily had joined his forces; when he returned home to his kingdom, also they with the booty, which they had taken from the Abodrites, went to their home. But before Godfred returned, he destroyed the trading place built at the sea, which in the Danes' language is called Reric, and which had brought his kingdom great advantages by collecting taxes. As he also took the merchants in that city with him, he let the fleet lift up anchors and came with the whole army to the port city Sliesthorp. He stayed a few days and decided that he would fortify his kingdom's border with Saxony with a defence dike, so that from the eastern bay of the sea, which the Danes call Ostersalt, to the Western Sea and along the entire northern bank of the Ejder would extend a defence dike interrupted only by one gate, through which carts and riders could get out and again return home. After he had distributed the work between his leaders, he returned home."

The earliest precise dating of the Dannevirke main rampart gives the year 737, when the rampart was equipped with an oak palisade. Perhaps Godfred ordered extensions or improvements of the defence dike in the year 808.

Dannevirke
Dannevirke - Photo Wikipedia by Joachim Müllerchen.

It is said that Godfred: "boasted conceited by a vain hope of victory that he would meet the Emperor in the field of battle." In the year 810 Godfred's fleet devastated the Frankish Frisia.

However, he never came to meet the emperor in open battle for: "King Godfred was killed by his own men and followed by Hemming, his brother's son."

The Danish kings must constantly have feared a crusade against the North, a continuation of Charlemagne's brutal war against the Saxons in the years 772-804. Their policies alternated between strength and appeacement. Already in the year 811 Hemming concluded a peace with the emperor. In the Annals is told that at the conclusion of peace "from both peoples, the Franks and the Danes twelve distinguished men stepped together at the Eider; first in rank on the Danes side were Hemmings brothers Hankwin and Angandeo, furthermore among his esteemed men Osfrid nicknamed Turdimulo, Warstein, Suomi, Urm, another Osfrid, son of Helgi, Osfrid from Scania, Hebbi and Aowin." The list of names suggests that Hemmings kingdom included Scania.

King Hemming died in 812, and his death triggered a bloody conflict for the throne. Adam of Bremen relates that since "Sigfrid and Anulo, Gotfrids nephews, could not come to terms on the right to the kingdom, they let the distribution of power depend on fight. In this battle perished 11,000 men and both kings fell; Anulo's party won a bloody victory and put Reginfred and Harald on the royal throne. Soon Reginfred was displaced by Harald and went on a pirate voyages with his fleet; Harald made an alliance with the emperor."

Three coins minted in Haithabu
Three coins minted in Haithabu around the year 825. The two are depicting ships with vertical bow and stern most likely the kind of merchant ships that visited Haithabu. The third depicts an animal, which looks backward, possibly with a snake at the hind legs.

The Frankish Annals states that 10,940 men fell before Harald and Reginfred were elected kings. This was that Harald, whom posterity has given the nickname Klak. But the victory did not mean peace: "Godfred's sons and not a few of their great men, who already for a time had left the motherland and were now living in exile at the Svears, began war against them with troops gathered from all sides, and as country men flocked to in groups, they forced them after a battle with little efford from the Crown."

Harald and Reginfred had apparently ruled over a great kingdom. The annals tell in connection with a peace settlement in the year 813 that: "Westfolda, the land west of Oslo Fjord, was the uttermost part against northwest in the kingdom of the Danish kings Harald and Reginfred, which is facing toward the northern tip of Britain, and the chieftain and the people refused them obedience."

Handle of sword found in Haithabu
Handle of sword found in Haithabu. It is adorned with many, probably magical, symbols, including a swastika - Photo Pintertest.

In the year 814 Harald and Reginfred gathered an army and went to war against Godfred's sons: "In this battle Reginfred and one of Godfred's eldest sons fell. After this experience Harald believed no more in his case, went to the emperor and submitted to his care. When the emperor received him, he bade him go to Saxony and wait for a favorable time, then he would offer him the help, he asked for."

That time came the following year, 815: "After the end of winter in mid-May the beneficial time came for breaking up. As commanded all Saxon counts and all the Abodrites' soldiers with the Emperor's representative Baldrich went to help Harald over the Eider and into the Norman region, Silendi; from there they marched on and finally made camp on the seventh day at the shore of the sea. Here they lay for three days, but as Godfred's sons, who had mobilized large combat forces and a fleet of 200 ships against them and had encamped on an island, there was three miles from the mainland (three Roman miles is 4.5 km), did not dare to encounter ours, then our army, after having ravaged all the surrounding country, and of the population have been given forty hostages, went back to the Emperor in Saxony." Such an army without women and children might march 15-17 km. per day, which they did in 7 days, that gives a total of 100-120 km. Maybe the island was Fyn, and the armies faced each other at the Lille Bælt near the town of Kolding. It sounds like the emperor's forces without much effort had passed Dannevirke. The military situation reminds of 1864.

In the year 817 the Danes launched their counter attack. They had now allied with the Franks' former ally, the Abodrites and attacked the Frankish fortress Esefeld at Itzehoe north of the Elbe. A Danish fleet penetrated into the Elbe estuary, while Danes and Abodrites enclosed the fortress. Esefeld held out, but the Franks abandoned it a few years later and established themselves instead in a newly built fortress at the Elbe, Hammarburg, which was located 60 km. further south.

Motives from the Gosforth Cross
In northern England near the coast of the Irish Sea is a stone cross with scenes, some of which can be recognized from Norse mythology. It is believed to originate from the years 800-900. This is a sketch of a few of the motives. The top one is a rider with a spear in his hand. We can believe that it is Odin with the spear Gungnir, but he rides on a normal horse with four legs and not eight, as Odin's horse Sleipnir otherwise had. It is also unclear, why he rides with his head down. The bottom image is undoubtedly Loke, who is bound in the cave in Jotunheim, where his wife Sigyn collects the poison, which drips from a snake, into a bowl.

The following year, 818, we hear that: "The Danish king Godfred's sons, because of Harald's constant attacks, sent send men to the emperor asking for peace and declared that they would keep it, but since it more looked like hypocrisy than sincerity, it was ignored as empty words, and providing assistance to Harald against them was continued."

The Annals further tell that Harald supported by the Abodrites following the Emperor's order "sailed to his native land to take over government there. Two of Godfred's sons joined him, as it is said, to share the power." In the year 821 it is told that "everything was quiet from the Danes' side and Godfred's sons confessed Harald part of the government of the kingdom". We note that Harald sailed to the part of the Danish kingdom, where he had his supporters and followers, indicating that Harald's area was on an island, perhaps Sjælland. That year Ebo returned to Denmark accompanied by Bishop Wilderic of Bremen, and succeded in converting a number of Danes.

In the year 822 "Norman envoys from both Harald's and Godfred sons' side" came to the parliament in Frankfurt.

But the idyllic cooperation did not last forever. In 824 Harald was received by Emperor Louis the Pious in Compiegne: "with prayer for help against Godfred's sons, who threated to drive him out of the country. In order to investigate his case further the Counts Theothar and Rodimund were sent to Godfred's sons. They examined carefully Godfred sons' case and the whole Norman kindom's state and presented to the emperor everything in these regions they had been able to find - with them also Archbishop Ebo of Reims returned, who on the Emperor's advice, and folowing the pope's encouragement, had travelled to the land of the Danes to preach the Gospel and last summer had converted and baptized many of them."
Scene from Gosforth Cross
In St Mary's churchyard at Gosforth near the coast of the Irish Sea is a stone cross with scenes that are recognizable from Norse mythology. It is believed to originate from the years 800-900. This is a sketch of one of the motives, which undoubtedly represents Vidar fighting the Midgard Worm in the Ragnarok battle.

Apparently Harald was in 824 reinstated in his office. It is said that Archbishop Ebo of Reims, who at that time did missionary work among the Danes, created a good understanding between the Godfred's son Horic and Harald, thereby paving the way for the conversion of the country.

In the year 826 Harald was baptized along with his wife and a large number of Danes in Mainz.

Motives from the Gosforth cross
Some other motives from the Gosforth Cross. The upper motive is an animal, which is struggling with two snakes that make knots on themselves. It resembles the motive with an animal fighting snakes like the London beast and several other pictures that are found in Asia Minor and China, but not yet have been linked to any tale from the Nordic mythology. The middle braid can be the Midgard Worm, which in other places is depicted like this. The two men in the boat remind of Thor's fishing trip with the Jotun Hymer. It will then be Thor to the right with the hammer Mjolnir, or it's Hymer with the ax that he used to cut the cord, when the Midgard Worm bit the hook.

Harald baptism is described in details by the contemporary Abbot Ermoldus Nigellus in the fourth part of a larger poem to the honor of Emperor Louis; he may have been present himself and written the poem immediately after. Harald with his wife, son and entourage of Danes came sailing up the Rhine to the palace Ingelheim, which Charlemagne had built near Mainz. The palace was richly decorated with wall paintings, including images of Carolingian Victories; Here he was well received by the Emperor and his courtiers.

The baptism took place in St. Alban's Church at Mainz, Nigellus informs us in the poem, probably in a special baptismal chapel; The emperor himself was Godfather to Harald and dressed him in a white christening suit, in the same way empress Judith his wife, Prince Lothar his son and reputed courtiers his entourage. Then the baptized received precious gifts; Harald got a purple robe with gold fringes and jewels, a sword with golden handle, which the emperor himself had carried and a belt; Furthermore, he was adorned with golden crown, chain and spurs. The Nordic barbarians were showered with riches, which they had never dreamed of.

Nigellus long poem describes the event:

"Whereupon he immediately by himself with handshake the emperor gives
himself and his kingdom in his power, everything that belonged to him
"Receive Emperor, myself", he said," and the kingdom I govern,
you I will obey from now, that I have honestly deceided."
Took now the hands in his hands with honor
Danes' and Franks' countries united together to one.


Dragon head from the Oseberg ship
Dragon head from the Oseberg ship - Photo Irish Archeology.

When this was done, all took part in the solemn church service; in festive procession they went to the church. The high arches, the pictures on the wall that imagined events in the Bible, the richness of the service, the ringing of bells and the clerks' song made a huge impression on the Danes, the poem says. After having stayed at the imperial court some time Harald returned to his kingdom; in his entourage were two monks. Nigellus does not mention their names, but it must have been Ansgar and Autbert.

Most people consider Nigellus' report as very reliable, because he was a contemporary, and he was probably present, when it happened.

The Roskilde Chronicle agrees with Abbot Nigellus; the first sentence of the chronicle says: "In the year 826 after the Lord turned to flesh Harald, king of the Danes, was baptized in Mainz by Archbishop Otgar, and Emperor Louis stood godfather in his sixth year of reign. With him his brother Erik and the king's wife along with a large number of Danes were informed and connected to the Christian faith."

"Vita Anskarii" is written by Rimbert, who was one of his students: "Then it happened that a certain King Harald, who ruled over part of Denmark, by the other kings in the same country was persecuted with hatred and enmity and cast out of his kingdom. He sought his Highness the Emperor Louis at hand and asked him to help him, that he could get his kingdom back. The emperor kept him with him and admonished him both himself and by others to assume Christianity, so there could be a greater intimacy between them, and the Christian People would then come to the help him and his subjects more willingly, when both sides worshipped same God."

Odin on his eight-legged horse Sleipner
Odin on his eight-legged horse Sleipner on the Gotland a picture stone Tjängvide-stone in Älskogs socken - Photo Wikipedia

Rimbert also says that Emperor Louis appointed Ansgar to travel with Harald back to Denmark: "He commanded them to go with the above mentioned Harald and ordered them in particular to provide for his faith, and by godly admonition constantly to strengthen him and his men, who were baptized together with him that they not by the devil's incitement should return to their previous errors. Also, they should by preaching the word diligently admonish also others to embrace the Christian faith."

The Annals say that in the year 827 the emperor held meeting with one of Godfred sons, Horic, in Nymwegen: "Meanwhile the kings of the Danes, Godfred's sons, repudiated Harald from his share of the kingdoms government and forced him to leave the land of the Danes." Which probably was because of the unfortunate baptism and oath of allegiance the year before.

"But because King Harald sometimes could not be in peace in his kingdom, the above mentioned Emperor gave him a fief beyond the Elbe, that he might to flee there, if it perhaps became necessary for him." Vita Anskarii informs. "The above mentioned God's servants, who should be, where he was, so had their residence sometimes between Christians and sometimes between pagans." Harald fief must have been in the former Old Saxony, from where the Saxons had now been deported.

Ansgar is preaching in Haithabu
Ansgar is preaching in Haithabu - drawing by Louis Moe 1898.

Anskars first mission among the Danes was no sucess. He returned latest in the year 829, and the same year he was sent on mission to Birka in Sweden.

It was a violent time, troubled by Viking attacks, not only in Western Europe but also in Denmark. "Vita Anskarii" says that while he stayed in Sweden the prospect of resuming the mission in Denmark faded. Erik, King of Jutland, who previously had supported Anskar, had become unpopular among his pagan subjects, and in a battle that lasted for three days, he and nearly all his closest men were killed, and his only descendant, Erik II, was left as ruler over only a small part of Jutland.

Rimbert recounts the year 845: "In the same year the city of Hamburg was attacked and looted by an army of Normans led by Erik, King of Jutland, who laid the the country deserted and destroyed almost all Christian churches." Some believe, however, that the attack was led by Horic I.

In the year 847 the three Frankish rulers Lothar, Louis and Charles had got enough of the viking attacks. They informed the Danish king Horic I that they would start a war against him, if he did not prevent his subjects from attacking the Christian countries. The Danish kings must constantly have feared a crusade against the northern countries, as the Saxons had suffered from, and vikings' plunder raids must have been a constant political headache.

Reconstructed stave church from Hørning
Reconstructed stave church from Hørning south of Aarhus. Based on post holes and traces of wall studs Mosgaard Museum near Aarhus has reconstructed a stave church from around 1060. There has not been found any traces of the church, which Ansgar got permission to build in Haithabu, but it probably looked something like this. Photo Sten Porse - Wikipedia

Rimbert tells in "Vita Anskarii" how Ansgar managed to resume the mission in Denmark around 854 by cunningly to curry favor with the Danish king, "Therefore, he made frequent visits to Horic, who at that time was the only ruler of the Danes, and sought to come to terms with him by gifts and by many kinds of services in the hope that he could be allowed to preach in his kingdom. On several occasions he was sent to him as an ambassador of the King (Louis the German) and sought diligently and faithfully to create a peace that was advantageous for both kingdoms. His faithfulness and goodness became thus recognized, and King Horic began to regard him with great affection and made use of his advice and treated him in every respect as a friend; in this way he was allowed to share secrets, when he and his advisers discussed issues relating to the kingdom. In a negotiation on the conditions that should be arranged to establish an alliance between the people of this country, it's Saxony, and his own kingdom, the king wanted only that they should be guaranteed by his promise, which he said, he had complete confidence in regarding to anything that was approved and promised."

Ansgar apparently succeeded to impart to the king a certain sympathy for Christianity, and because of the good relationship he was allowed to establish a church in Haithabu: "After he had expressed those wishes, our good father suggested to him that he got permission to build a church in his kingdom, where a priest always could be present, ready to serve those, who were willing to receive the seeds to the divine word and the grace of baptism. The king gave him kindly permit, and gave him permission to build a church in a place belonging to his kingdom, called Sliaswic."

Scene on Larbro Stora Hammer's stone
Scene on Larbro Stora Hammer's stone on Gotland - From left vikings are attacking from a ship assisted by a snake with open jaws, although the figure looks like a blacksmith tongs. Defenders on land are led by a high female figure that holds something in her hand. Perhaps she is a goddess. Over the defenders is hovering something indefinable, perhaps a dog or wolf, also with open jaws. Photo Berig Wikipedia.

It was a troubled and violent time not only along the coasts of England and Normandy, but also in Denmark. "Vita Anskarii" continues on the year 854: "Meanwhile it happened by divine judgment that King Horic was killed in war in a struggle caused by pirates, who were his relatives, who tried to invade his kingdom. With him perished by the sword all the leading men in this country, who had previously been acquaintances and friends of the bishop." Adam of Bremen says some hundred years later that the attacker was "Guttovn, King Horic's nephew, who had been driven out of Denmark, and had lived as a pirate, in collaboration with his brother Harald, and after having assembled a large number of ships, attacked their uncle. As a result of the fight Horic and all his leading men were killed."

"For this reason the Bishop became anxious and not a little sad, because of the friends, whom he previously had attached by generous gifts. There was none at all in the younger Horic's court, by whose involvement he could win him to do, what the Lord wanted."

Carving on the Oseberg cart
Carving on the Oseberg cart. Museum of cultural history Oslo - Two persons receiving a rider, one person holding something in his hand. Over the rider hovers a dog or a wolf. All the characters have oversized strong chins, which they push forward," as we know it from bracteates. Below them is a dragon. Foto Ove Holst.

But the younger Horic was not behind his late father in goodwill toward Anskar and his faith: "When then our venerable priest came into the presence of the king, being helped by the most noble Burghard, who previously had helped the older Horic in all matters and had great influence with both kings, because he was their relative, showed the king his joy to receive him by immediately allowing him to do everything associated with the Christian religion, which his predecessor previously had been allowed to do. In addition, he agreed that there should be a bell in the church, which use the pagans considered abusive. In another village called Ripa, which is in his kingdom, he in the same way gave a place for the construction of a church and gave permission for a priest to be there."

The Pope finally approved the merger of the bishoprics of Bremen and Hamburg in the year 864 it is said, and Ansgar was appointed archbishop also of Bremen. The Roskilde Chronicle writes in this context: "Later Ansgar returned and was archbishop of Hamburg: he went around, sometimes among Danes, sometimes among the peoples beyond the Elbe, and won an innumerable amount of both people for the faith. When then the Bremen archbishop Ljudrik died, the Emperor Louis gave the Bremen archdiocese to Ansgar. By this royal gift that God's confessor rejoiced and then went to Denmark. Here he made the Danish king, the aforementioned Erik, King Harald's brother, along with his people to eager Christians; after Harald's death he had come to the throne. Erik first built a church in Schleswig and also gave everyone in his kingdom, who would it, permission to accept Christianity." It's not quite the same as "Vita Anskarii" says, but we are told that a king named Erik ruled in Denmark - or at least part of it, and he was the brother of that Harald called Klak. If it was that Erik, he must have been in his later years at this time.

Viking sword from Kilmainham in Dublin
Viking sword from Kilmainham in Dublin. First time in 1836 and then by several excavations, latest 1933-34 with the construction of a memorial park for the First World War's fallen, were found at least 19 viking burials containing swords, spearheads, shield bosses, ax heads and knives, but also agricultural tools as scissors and sickle, blacksmiths tool like pliers and pincers and merchant tools like scales and weights. They come with overwhelming probability from a Viking settlement, which existed in the Dublin area in the period 841-902. Photo Irish Archeology.

Ansgar died in the year 865 in Hamburg thus ending "Vita Anskarii".

The "Fulda annals" for the year 873 mentions that there were negotiations between the German king and two Danish kings. They seem to have taken place on the border between the two kingdoms.

The Roskilde Chronicle reports that in the lifetime of Ansgar Normans from northern France attack Denmark and killed king Erik: "At that time, the Normans ravaged in France and penetrated up the rivers Loire, Seine and the Rhine. Seized by horror of them France's King Charles gave them land for settling, and that they still possess this very day. Then they attacked Denmark and killed King Erik. When he died, Erik Barn was elevated to the throne. There is not little doubt regarding this Erik Barn, whether he was the son of the aforementioned Erik or not. He soon became furious on the Christ worshipers, chased the priests out of the country and ordered the churches to be closed. Fearless the holy Ansgar visited him, and he transformed the cruel tyrant from a wild lion to the gentlest lamb." We consider that Rollo and his men first arrived in Normandy around the year 900.

The outline of a country called Denmark emerges in history thanks to Ottar and Wulfstan's travel reports from maybe about 850 AC to very latest 899 AC. Ottar traveled from Skiringssal in Norway to Hedeby in Slesvig, and Wulfstan traveled from Hedeby to the merchant town Truso in the Vistula delta.
Detail of Stenkyrka Smiss image stone on Gotland
Detail of Stenkyrka Smiss image stone on Gotland. Attacking Vikings, coming from the right on a ship, facing a numeric superior army on land led by a tall female figure that holds something in her hand that looks like a curled up snake and a lowered banner.

Ottar's travel report says: "Ottar said: South of Skiringssal a vast sea intersects into the country. It is wider than any man can see over. And on the other side first comes Gotland and then Sillende. This sea stretches hundreds of miles into the country. And he told that he in five days sailed from Skiringssal to the merchant city, called Hedeby. It lies between the Wends, Saxons and Angles, and belongs to the Danes. When he sailed to there from Skiringssal, he had to portside Denmark, to starboard the open sea for three days, and then, two days before he came to Hedeby, he had to starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands. In these regions the Angles lived before they came to this country. And in those two days he had to portside those islands which belong to Denmark."

Ottars og Wulfstans rejser
Ottar's and Wulfstan's travels.

It is obvious that Ottar sailed south from Norway for three days first with Halland and later Sjælland to portside and the waters of Skagerak and Kattegat to starboard. Having rounded the peninsula Røsnæs, he sailed out on the sea to the south-west and soon he got sight of land, which was the characteristic cliff of Fyens Hoved, which was part of, what he called Gotland.

Then he sailed south having Fyn to starboard and with "the islands which belong to Denmark" to portside. The strait between the islands Langeland and Ærø is quite shallow, and it must have been even more shallow a thousand years ago, therefore I think, he went on sailing with Ærø to portside. Then "the islands which belong to Denmark" will be Langeland and Ærø, noting that they are in plural. "He had to his starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands", that is the Funen archipelago and behind Fyn, which he called Gotland. They navigated after coastlines and characteristic landmarks, and this would be a characteristic route. After passing the western tip of Ærø, he would have land in sight that is Als, which he called Sillende, since only locals would know that Als is an island. Folowing this route he would know for sure that he should sail to port along the coast to find the entrance to the the narrow fjord Slien. Here he will have Angel to starboard, as he says.

Drawing of Ottar, a reconstruction of Skuldelev 2
Drawing of Ottar, a reconstruction of Skuldelev 2. The ship is 16 meters long and 4.8 meters wide and is believed to have had a crew of 6-8 man and a dead weight, that is cargo capacity of 24 tons. From "Podra morska Wulfstana W IX wieku"

Now most will probably argue that the term Gotland meant Jutland, and he therefore went down through the Lille Bælt. But in the Lille Bælt is a very strong northbound current, which is not favorable to that time ships. Moreover, the narrow part of the Little Belt at the cities Strib and Middelfart most of all looks like a river mouth. Which captain would take his ship with a precious cargo that route if not necessary? Further, it is not a shortcut. Eventually, if he went down through the Lille Bælt, he would not have had "many islands" to his starboard.

Wulfstan's travel report says: "Wulfstan said that he traveled from Hedeby and that he was in Truso in seven days and nights, and the ship went all the way under sail. Wendland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark. So we had Bornholm to port, and they have their own king. So after Bornholm, we had the countries named first Blekinge, Møre, Øland and Gotland to portside, and these countries belong to the Swedish. And we had Wendland to starboard all the way to the Vistula river mouth. Wistula is a very big river that separates Witland from Wendland. Witland belongs to the Estonians."

Thor's hammer in Stockholm Museum
Thor's hammer in Stockholm Museum - Photo Pintertest.com

Thereof, we can conclude that the political unity Denmark at this time consisted of Halland, Skåne, Sjælland, Lolland, Falster and "the islands, which belong to Denmark", which must have been Langeland and Ærø, and Hedeby. By contrast Jutland and possibly Funen were explicitly being called Gotland and not Denmark.

The Roskilde Chronicle also has a useful information that confirms this picture: "I say "kings", because at that time there were many kings in Denmark, as it is told, there were sometimes two in Jutland, a third on Fyn, a fourth on Sjælland, a fifth in Scania; sometimes there were two over Denmark; sometimes one over England along with Denmark, as we shall show." This might explain, why the following pages of this chronicle is so difficult to understand, until it with certainty talks about the Harald Bluetooth and Svein Forkbeard, whom we believe we recognize.

In the context of a description of the Baltic Sea Adam of Bremen writes: "Many peoples live around it, Danes and Swedes, whom we call the Normans, are holding both the Eastern Coast and the islands in it." But obviously not the West Coast - that is Jutland? Elsewhere he speaks of "the Danes called Jutes".

In the "Fulda annals" the year 873 we read "that Sigfrid reigned with his brother Halpdan. They also sent gifts to the Emperor Louis, namely a sword of gold up to the hilt, and other things and asked for peace. After that from both sides had been sent representatives to the river Ejder, they swore by their arms - following after that people's custom - that they would keep an unbreakable peace." Vikings unrestrained attacks along the coasts of Europe must have been a major political problem for the Danish kings, who must have feared an attack from the German emperor, in the same way as the emperor previously so brutaly had attacked the Saxons and forced them to accept Christianity." .

The silver treasure from Rebild
The silver treasure from Rebild - On a building plot in Rebild a silver treasure was found in 1971 from around year 900. The treasure consists of jewelery, coins and silver bullion, a total of 146 items. One can believe that the treasure was buried because of the troubled times, and the reason that it was not dug up again may have been that the owner did not survive the violent time. Photo: rebildspillemaendene.dk

Adam of Bremen says: "The Normans or the Danes at that time (perhaps in the Battle of Løwen 891 AD) were almost completely wiped out in some serious battles with King Arnulf. The war unfolded after Heaven's will. For while 100,000 pagans were cut down, it turned out that there was hardly perished only a single of the Christians." - "By contrast, I have heard of the truthful Danish King Svend's mouth (Svend Estridsen) the following, when he once, at our request listed his ancestors: "After the Normans' defeat," he said, "prevailed, as I have learned, Heiligo, a man who was loved by the people because of his justice and his holiness. After him came Olaph, who came from Sweden, and took possession of the kingdom of Denmark by force of arms, he had many sons, of which Chnob and Gurd took possession of the kingdom after the father's death."

He continues: "But something the glorious Dane King has told us at our request about that: "After the Swede-chieftain Olaph," he said, "who ruled in Denmark with his sons, Sigerich was appointed in his place. When he had reigned for a short time, he was deprived the royal power by Hardegon, Svend's son, who came from Normandy." But if some of these many kings or rather tyrants of the Danes have ruled simultaneously, or whether one only has survived the other in a short time, is uncertain." It is unclear what he means by that Hardegon came from Normandy, for all chroniclers call both Danes and Sveaers for Normans, but following Roskilde Chronicle Normans had before come, specifically from France, and killed a king Erik, probably of Sjælland. We can believe that Hardegon's attack came some 20-30 years after the Battle of Løwen år 891, that is around 910-20, at which time, the Norman duchy in northern France was established, but other Vikings still ravaged along the coast of France.

Adam thought to know that a Swedish Dynasty had settled in Hedeby and ruled there for three generations. Two rune stones from the first quarter of the 900's have been found near Hedeby. An inscription mentions the royal name Sigtrygg, and the stone was raised by Gnupa's wife Asfrid, daughter of Odinkar. Adam mentions a Swedish prince Olaph as Gnupa's and Sigtrygg's ancestor. In "Rex Saxonum Gestae" of Widukind of Korvey from the year 970 is told that Henry I fought against the Danes in 934 AD and forced "Chnuba" to be baptized.

Drinking Horn of the Viking Age
Drinking horn from Viking Age on display in the National Museum. Photo pintertest.com

Danish kings were still hostile to Christianity. Adam says that a few years before Bishop Unni of Bremen and Hamburg died in 936 in Birka, he visited Denmark: "By the Danes ruled during that time Hardecnudth Wurm. He was, I must say, a horrible worm and not a little hostile to Christian people. He was plotting to completely eliminate the Christianity that existed in Denmark, expelling the God's ministers from his country, and he killed even very many of them under torments." It is generally believed that King Wurm is identical to Gorm the Old, who is certified by the Jelling runestones.

The Danelaw

Before the year 870 the Great Heathen Army conquered first York, then the rest of Northumbria and East Anglia. A few years later they took over the eastern part of the kingdom of Mercia. Maybe it was their plan to conquer all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, but they encountered determined resistance from King Alfred of Wessex and his allies. They tried to catch King Alfred, when he celebrated Christmas on his farm in Chippenham, but he escaped and hid among local peasants. In May, 878 King Alfred met the viking army under King Guthrum at Ethendun (Edington), where Alfred won victory.

Scandinavian place names in Danelaw
Scandinavian place names in Danelaw, which are names that end with:
-by like in Grimsby, Derby, Asgardby, Danby and Rugby.
-torp like in Scunthorpe, Copmanthorpe, Crownthorpe and Grimethorpe
-toft like in Tofts of Tain and Thurdistoft.
-tved like in Slaithwaite, Stennestwatt and Brunatwatt.
-dal som i Bernisdale, Ugadale og Coalbrookedale.
-bæk like in Holbeck at Leeds, Troutbeck and Tooting Bec.
Map from: Dictionary of the Scots Language.

A lot of sources mention many more names types of Scandinavian origin, but actually Anglo-Saxon and Old Nordic were closely related languages, and it may be very difficult to separate Scandinavian place name elements from Anglo-Saxon.

The year 884 a new Viking fleet arrived from Scandinavia and King Guthrum attacked again, but in vain. The vikings lost even on this occasion London, which they had held until then.

King Alfred concluded a peace with King Guthrum. It involved that Guthrum was baptized, and established a boundary between the Danes' area, called Danelaw, and Alfred's kingdom: "First concerning our boundaries: up on the Thames, and then up on the Lea, and along the Lea unto its source, then straight to Bedford, then up on the Ouse to Wætlingastræt."

The Danes' desire and possibly whole motivation was undoubtedly getting their own land, which they have ben denied in their homeland. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 876 AD says: "- distributed Halfdan the land of the Northhumbrians, and they went to work plowing and providing for themselves." Another chronicle about the same event says: "Halvdan occupied Northumbria and distributed it between himself and his chieftains and let the soil cultivate by the army". It is said on Guthrum and his men in East Anglia after the peace in the year 884, "- and he settled down and distributed the land."
Viking sword found in Repton
A sword from a Viking burial in Repton in Derbyshire, formerly Mercia. This sword is now in Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Photo Derby Museum.

There is little doubt that the driving force in the Viking raids was a large natural population growth in Scandinavia. Dudo recounts that in Scandinavia "by drawing lots after old custom they sampled a large group of young people, who were to be expelled to foreign peoples and kingdoms, for in battle to win lands, where they can live in continuous peace." It is very likely that the vikings' motivation to battle in foreign countries were getting, what they desired and could not get in their homeland that is their own farmland and family. Several sources report that the Danes were smartly dressed and washed every Saturday - they did it surely to impress the girls.

Excavation of Viking burial mounds in Heath Wood
In Heath Wood near Ingleby in Derbyshire a few kilometer from Repton are 59 burial mounds, which are Scandinavian cremation graves. During an excavation in 2004 a number of things were found that can be seen in Derby Museum. It is believed that the finds are from the same period as cemeteries in nearby Repton; however, the bodies in Repton have not been burned. The picture shows the excavation of mound 21. Other excavated mounds are seen in the background. Photo Julian D. Richards.

Alfred the Great died in the year 899 and was succeeded by his son Edward, who began a slow re-conquest of the lost territories. Before his death in the 924 he was also king of Mercia and Northumbria and "- both English, Danish, Norwegian and others." An important reason must have been that the Danes were no longer an army, but farmers scattered over the country - and thus vulnerable. Besides, the Danes had got, what they wanted, namely land and family, most likely they had not been very critical to which king, they swore allegiance.

The Anglo-Saxon Old-English and Scandinavian Old-Nordic were closely related languages. Danes and Angles must have understood each other immediately with some good will, as Norwegians, Swedes and Danes still do to this very day. Yet it is succeeded scholars to detect a significant number of modern English words and especialy many place names, which have their origin from the vikings, who settled on the British Isles. In "A History of the English Language" it is said: "In parts of Scotland Norse was still spoken as late as in the seventeenth century."

In England, Scotland and Ireland have been detected place names from 1,400 to 2,000, which can be attributed to the Vikings; which shows that the immigration from Scandinavia was very substantial.

Heysham Hogback viewed from both sides
Heysham Hogback seen from both sides. No one has so far been able to explain the motives in full - Hogbacks (swine backs) are found exclusively in areas of northern Britain, which were settled by vikings - That is southern Scotland, Cumbria and Yorkshire - Stephen Driscoll, professor of historical archeology at Glasgow University believes that the curved sides are similar to the classic Viking house, and the braided pattern on them is also of typically Scandinavian origin - From Thor Ewing's blog. Photo Fraser Smalley.
Until around 1990 hogbacks were thought to be anything special, so 14 hogbacks in Govan were accidentally thrown out and destroyed during the decommissioning of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Glasgow around 1980.

As the languages of the Angles and Scandinavians were very closely related, it is difficult to determine which words that come from Scandinavian, and which words that are originally Anglo-Saxon. But it is known, for example, that the typical Scandinavian hard "sk" sound, as in "skum" and "skal" in Anglo-Saxon very early became to the open English "sh" sound as in "ship" and "shall". Hence one can conclude that modern English word that contains the hard Scandinavian "sk" sound represent Scandinavian influence; which words are for example: sky, skin, skill, scrape and skirt. Many other common and widely used everyday words in English can be attributed to Scandinavian. These include such words as "law", "provide", "window", "dream", "house", "egg", "flat". It is estimated by some that there are about 900 Scandinavian loanwords in modern English, whose origin is completely convincing. In addition, at least as many, which Scandinavian origin are likely and furthermore numerous words in local dialects.

Normandy

Dudo of Saint-Quentin recounts that the founder of Normandy, Rollo, was son of "a very old and very rich man in the land of the Dacians that had an incredible number of warriors gathered around him." Richer of Reims mentions his father's name as Catillus, most likely Ketil. After his father's death Rollo and his brother were attacked by Dacia's king, and Rollo's brother perished in the fighting. Rollo took protection on the island of Scanza with six ships, and then he went to England and took part in the fighting there. Around the year 900, he appeared in the Seine estuary with his hardened veterans.

The gradual expansion of Normandy in the Viking Age
The gradual expansion of Normandy in the Viking Age. Other groups of Vikings, who had settled along the French coast joined gradually Rollo's duchy - Drawing by Johny Granjean Gøsig Jacobsen.

Duke Ragnold of Francien sent the viking Hastings and some other Danish-speaking men to them to find out who they were, and questions and answers were exchanged:

The envoys said: "The Royal power's counts command that you inform who you are, where you're going and what you want."

"We are Danes, we have come here from Dacia. We have come to conquer Francien", was the answer."

"Who is your Lord?" was the next question.

They answered: "We have no lord, for we are all equal in power "- Which last sentence can refer to their conflict with the Danish king and subsequent escape from "Dacia" and his rule. It also possibly refers to a certain equality in power, which can be traced many times in the viking age. For instance in many viking settlements they routinely estabished a ting that is a parliament.

The name Normandy denotes its Scandinavian origin. After Rollo and his men had settled there, it became known as "Northmania", that is, the Norman country. That does not mean that they necessarily came from Norway. We remember that all Frankish chroniclers called pirates from the northern countries for Normans or Danes, no matter which of the modern Scandinavian nations, they may have come from.

Vikings attack Paris
Vikings on the Seine attacking Paris - Drawing by Alphonse de Neuville 1875.

In the year 911 King Charles III, nicknamed "the simple", gave the coastal country around the Seine estuary to Rollo as a fief, on the condition that he undertook to defend the country against other vikings. His small band were soon joined by other Scandinavians, and in the following twenty years the Duchy of Normandy grew to the west and doubled in size.

The descendants of Rollo and his men married women from the area's original inhabitants and assumed quickly the local Gallo-Roman language. They became the Normans - a mix of Scandinavians and native Franks and Gauls. The Danish language lasted little more than a generation in Normandy. Only 30 years after that Rollo had been endowed with Normandy, his grandson had to be sent to Bayux to learn Danish. Dudo wrote: "Duke Wilhelm decided to send his son Rikard to Bayeux so that he could learn Danish: "Since the town of Rouen is using Roman language more than Danish, and in Bayeux Danish is spoken more than Roman, I want him now as soon as possible to be brought to the town of Bayeux, furthermore Botho that he now will live there under your supervision, reared and brought up with great care, using Danish in everyday language and learn it thoroughly, so that in the future he can speak it fluently with the Dacians."

Soon it became needed to talk to the Danes. Only a few years later the Normans came in serious trouble. King Louis took the young heir to the throne as a hostage and occupied the entire Normandy with the support of his other major vassals.

Widukind wrote in connection with the war in the year 944, in which the German Otto I also participated that the German emperor went to Rouen, "The town of the Danes" (Ruthun Danorum urbem adiit).

At this critical moment, around the year 945, a big relief army from Scandinavia arrived. Dudo reports that an immense number of pagans had arrived to Normandy's coasts led by a king Haigrold of Dacia, which may mean a Danish king named Harald. The Danish rescue corps changed the situaionen completely to the better for the beleaguered Normans. There is no intelligence that King Haigrold and his men ever went home to Scandinavia again.

Vikings ready for landing
Vikings, who are ready to go ashore. From a manuscript in Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris from the 1400's.

Normandy quickly became too cramped for the Norman knights. Amatus of Monte Cassino says that in the year 999 a group of about 40 Norman pilgrims were on their way back from Jerusalem and had reached Salerno, when the city was attacked by muslims. The pilgrims were amazed at the little resistance the local population gave. They managed to get weapons and horses from Prince Gaimar IV of Salerno, and then they succeeded in driving away the invaders. Prince Gaimar urged them to remain in his service, but they refused the offer and returned to Normandy; however, along with an Italian envoy, who quite successfully recruited volunteers "to come to this land flowing with milk and honey and so many beautiful things".

In Normandy only the eldest son of a nobleman would inherit the estate, and all younger sons had to be satisfied with a military career or a life in the church. The Italian envoy therefore had great success in recruiting younger sons to travel with him back to Southern Italy.

The Benedictine monk Goffredo Malaterra characterized the Normans as follows: "They are a most astute people, eager to avenge injuries, looking rather to enrich themselves from others than from their native fields. They are eager and indeed greedy for profit and power, hypocritical and deceitful about almost everything, but between generosity and avarice they take a middle course. Their leaders are however very generous since they wish to achieve a great reputation. They know how to flatter, and are much addicted to the cultivation of eloquence, to such an extent that one listens even to their young boys as though they were trained speakers. And unless they are held in thrall by the yoke of justice, they are a most unbridled people. When circumstances require they are prepared to put up with hard work, hunger and cold; they are much addicted to hunting and hawking, and they delight in fancy clothes and elaborate trappings for their horses and decorations on their other weapons."

Duke Sergio IV of Naples gave the arriving Normans permission to keep all the land that they could capture from the invading muslims. The Normans took full advantage of the situation. Around the year 1053 they had taken in their possession the entire southern part of Italy.

Norman areas in early Middle Age
Norman areas in early Middle Age. Drawing by Trevor Rowley.

Then they implemented an ambitious nighttime amphibious attack on the Muslim Sicily. Roger d'Hautville led a fleet of 13 ships, which transferred 270 knights. At dawn, they were reinforced by further 170 knights. The muslims provided stubborn resistance, and it took 30 years before all resistance on the island was defeated.

The experiences from the Sicilian amphibious action were without doubt put to use by William of Normandy - with the later surname the Conqueror - in the even more ambitious amphibious assault on the Angel-Saxon and Danish England in the famous battle of Hastings in 1066.

Normans under the Bohemund of Taranto and his nephew Tancred were a very important part of the First Crusade. After a successful siege and subsequent conquest of Antioch, Bohemund established an independent Norman principality around the city. Tancred and other Norman knights continued south and took part in the conquest of Jerusalem.

In England place names that testify Scandinavian influence are characterized by Scandinavian endings such as -by and -torp. In Normandy, it is usually the first element of the place name that reveals a Scandinavian influence. Throughout northern France hundreds of place names ends with -ville, which extension is of Roman origin. But the first elements in these -ville villages names in Normandy are often Scandinavian personal names such as Osmund in Omonville (in 1,100 Osmundivilla) Thorketill in Teurtheville-Hague (Torquetevilla in 1,100) and Gonnesville, which is named after Gunnar or Gunni. Houlbec as the Danish Holbæk is of pretty obvious Danish origin.

When the Crusaders passed Constantinople they got an audience with Emperor Alexios. The Emperor's daughter, Anne Komnena, described Bohemund:

"- to put it briefly, had never before been seen in the land of the Romans, be he either of the barbarians or of the Greeks - for he was a marvel for the eyes to behold, and his reputation was terrifying. Let me describe the barbarian's appearance more particularly - he was so tall in stature that he overtopped the tallest by nearly one cubit, narrow in the waist and loins, with broad shoulders and a deep chest and powerful arms. And in the whole build of the body he was neither too slender nor overweighted with flesh, but perfectly proportioned and, one might say, built in conformity with the canon of Polycleitus. He had powerful hands and stood firmly on his feet, and his neck and back were well compacted. An accurate observer would notice that he stooped slightly, but this was not from any weakness of the vertebrae of his spine but he had probably had this posture slightly from birth. His skin all over his body was very white, and in his face the white was tempered with red. His hair was yellowish, but did not hang down to his waist like that of the other barbarians; for the man was not inordinately vain of his hair, but had it cut short to the ears. Whether his beard was reddish, or any other colour I cannot say, for the razor had passed over it very closely and left a surface smoother than chalk, most likely it too was reddish. His blue eyes indicated both a high spirit and dignity; and his nose and nostrils breathed in the air freely; his chest corresponded to his nostrils and by his nostrils - the breadth of his chest. For by his nostrils nature had given free passage for the high spirit, which bubbled up from his heart. A certain charm hung about this man but was partly marred by a general air of the horrible. For in the whole of his body the entire man shewed implacable and savage both in his size and glance, methinks, and even his laughter sounded to others like snorting. He was so made in mind and body that both courage and passion reared their crests within him and both inclined to war. His wit was manifold and crafty and able to find a way of escape in every emergency. In conversation he was well informed, and the answers he gave were quite irrefutable. This man who was of such a size and such a character was inferior to the Emperor alone in fortune and eloquence and in other gifts of nature."
Place names with the ending -toft as in Ebeltoft and Martofte can be found at least 589 places in Normandy, as they have been changed to -tot. Such as Aptot corresponding to Ebeltoft and Routot that comes from Rolftofte. There are more than 100 examples of names with the ending -hogue coming from Scandinavian Haug, which means hill or high, and more than 70 examples of the ending -dalle originating from "dal" which is the Scandinavian word for valley, as in the Danish village Kongsdal. The common Norman -beuf stands for -bod, which mean stall in Danish, like in the town names Munkebo and Maribo.

Normandy is completely missing such place names suffixes that characterize the Norwegian settlements on the North Atlantic islands, such as -bolstadr.

In Snorre's Heimskringla is said that Rollo is identical to a Ganger-Rolf, son of Ragnvald Earl of Møre in Norway: " - he was called Ganger-Rolf. He plundered much in the lands around the Eastern Sea. One summer, when he came to Viken from Viking raid eastwards, he made there plundering. King Harald was in Viken; he became very angry, when he heard about this, for he had ruled that it was strictly forbidden to loot domestically. The king passed therefore a law on the ting, that he made Rolf outlawed in Norway. When Hilde - Rolfs mother - heard this, she went to the king and asked for peace for Rolf, but the king was so angry that it did not help her to beg." - "Ganger-Rolf then went west across the sea to Suder Islands and thence westward to Valland, where he looted and acquired a large earldom; it was populated by many Norwegians, and was later called Normandy. The Earls of Normandy have come from Rolf's descendants".

We note that Alfred the Great's geography says: "The North Dene have to the north that arm of the sea, which is called the East Sea", which must mean that the divide between the Eastern and the Western sea was somewhere out of Skagen - that is the Northern tip of Jutland. Which implies that when Ganger-Rolf "plundered much in the lands around the Eastern Sea", so he robbed in the countries south of Skagen.

Dudo of st. Quentin on the other hand says time and again explicitly that Rollo came from Dacia, which was the land of the Danes.

He writes about Rollo's father: "He commanded the Dacien's and Alanien's border areas, and he subjugated the peoples with power in many battles. For he was the best of all in the East." And later on Rollo's escape from his native country: "But Rollo, who was not able to stay in Dacia, because the king waged war against him, went to the island of Scanza with six ships. Then Dacia lost an upright officer, a high level and strong advocate and indulged in deep sorrow." This leads us to believe that not only Rollo came from Dacia, the land of the Danes, but also from the eastern part of this country, which can not be Norway. Moreover, Scanza is the Scandinavian Peninsula, which also includes Norway. But Rollo fled there from his native Dacia, which means that his native land was not in Scanza.

The spread of place names with the suffix -ville in France
The spread of place names with the suffix -ville in France. It appears that they are dense in Normandy, but they are also many other places, where there has never lived vikings. In Denmark the type is known only from Tisvilde on Sjælland - French wikipedia.

Dudo refers several places to the Norman dukes and their men as "Dacians", which must mean Danes and mentions in many places that the early Normans spoke Danish.

He tells of some negotiations between the German King Heinrich and the French King Louis: "While the kings talked in private, Duke Herman of Saxen suddenly began addressing Wilhelm in Danish. Then the Normans Duke said: "Who taught you the Danish language that the Saxons otherwise do not understand?" He replied: "The warlike and excellent offspring of your weapon-skilled family line has against my will taught me Danish." William: - "Why against your will?" Herman: - "Because they regularly captured the fortresses in my duchy, delivered many battles against me and carried me off as a prisoner of war to their country, and therefore I learned it against my will." This dialogue must mean that Dudo and the Scandinavian tradition in Rouen still at Duke Wilhelm's time considered themselves Danes of origin.

Duke William decided to send his son Rikard to Bayeux so that he could learn Danish: "Since the town of Rouen is using Roman language more than Danish, and in Bayeux Danish is spoken more than Roman, I want him now as soon as possible to be brought to the town of Bayeux."

When the Normans came into trouble around 945 the rumor spread that "heathens had arrived at Normandy's Shores" led by a King Haigrold of Dacia, which must mean a Danish king named Harald.

Heimskringla was written on Iceland 300 years after the events took place, several thousand kilometers from both Norway and Normandy. Dudo wrote only 50 years after the last of Rollo's men had died in the very country, where the events took place. He could retrieve information rather directly from the original settlers' children and grandchildren. In this case, Dudo of st. Quentin must be regarded as a much more reliable source than Snorri.
Normanisk kavaleri på Bayoux tapetet
Norman cavalry on the Bayeux Tapestry.

Now, one can argue that contemporary chroniclers called all vikings from Scandinavia and the Baltic region with the same brush as either Danes or Normans, and they all spoke the Danish tongue most likely in different dialects, and this that Dudo wrote that they spoke Danish does not necessarily locate Rollo's homeland to the modern nation of Denmark. But it noted that he came from eastern Dacia, and not from Scanza. Perhaps Rollo and his original band came from Sjælland or somewhere on the southern Baltic coast. But regardless of Rollo's ancestry it is likely that numerous vikings from all parts of Scandinavia seeped into his dukedom through the first hundred years of the lifetime of the duchy.

Vikings in Russia

The Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan met a people on the Volga, which he called Rus. Much indicate that they were Scandinavian vikings, who traded on the Volga.

A Rus after Ibn Fadlan
An excellent drawings that are very loyal to Ibn Fadlan description of Rus - from kampgruppe-engel.blogspot.com - unfortunately unknown artist.

Ibn Fadlan reports: "I saw the ar-Rusiya, when they had come to there on their trading voyages and had settled at the river Atul. Never I have seen people with more perfect physique than them. They are tall as date-palms and rosy-cheeked. They do not wear qurtaqer nor caftans. But their men wear a garment that covers one half of the body, while the one hand protrudes freely out of it."

"Each of them has an ax and a sword and a knife, and he never goes anywhere without, what we have mentioned. Their swords are broad and flat, ridged and after Frankish style. From fingertip to neck, each of them has a collection of trees, figures and the like."

He reports that they sacrificed to their god, who is "a tall wooden figure with a face that looks like a human face", which corresponds to Adam of Bremen's report from Upsala.

Ibn Fadlan says that a deceased Rus chieftain was buried in his ship with a magnificent equipment togther with a selected slave girl, a dog and two horses and a rooster and a hen. It recalls the chieftain, who was buried at Ladby in his ship with a rich equipment, along with 11 horses and four dogs. When the Rus chief had been burned in his ship, his men cast up a mound high over the place, as was the case in Ladby. A major difference is that the chief in Ladby was not burnt.

The funeral ceremony involved that the dead chieftain's men one by one, had intercourse with the selected slave girl. She was then three times lifted above a kind of door frame on the men's palms, she said that she saw her ancestors and her late master, after that she killed a hen and threw it over the door frame. She was killed on the ship by an old woman with a broad-bladed knife, while she at the same time was strangled. The fire was ignited by a naked man, who approached the ship backwards with a torch in one hand, while he with the other hand was covering his anus.

"Reports of bygone days", "Povest' vremennykh let", was written by the monk Nestor around 1100. Here it is recounted how the Slavic tribes invited the vikings, whom they called Varangians, to come and rule them: "The four tribes who had been forced to pay tribute to the Varangians - Chuds, Slavs, Merians, and Krivichians - drove the Varangians back beyond the sea, refused to pay them further tribute, and set out to govern themselves."
Viking burial mounds along the Volkov River near Staraya Ladoga Viking ax from Staraya Ladoga
Left: Viking burial mounds along the Volkov River near Staraya Ladoga. The man in the boat at the bottom right gives an impression of size.
Right: Viking ax from Staraya Ladoga.

"But there was no law among them, and tribe rose against tribe. Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against the other. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to custom". Thus they went overseas to the Varangians, to the Rus. These particular Varangians were known as Rus', just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans and Angles, and still others Gotlanders, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichians and the Ves then said to the Rus, "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come reign as princes, rule over us".
Rus arrives to Staraya Ladoga Staraya Ladoga
Left: Rus arrives to Staraya Ladoga. The invited Varangians, Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor, are welcomed by Ilmen Slavs. Painting by Viktor M. Vasnetsov 1913.
Right: Staraya Ladoga is located at the bank of the Ladoga lake, not far from St. Petersburg. Map from rusmania.com.

"Three brothers, with their kinfolk, were selected. They brought with them all the Rus' and migrated. The oldest, Rurik, located himself in Novgorod; the second, Sineus, in Beloozero; and the third, Truvor, in Izborsk. From these Varangians, the Russian land received its name. Thus those who live in Novgorod are descended from the Varangian tribe, but earlier they were Slavs. Within two years, Sineus and his brother Truvor died. Rurik gathered sole authority into his own hands, parceling out cities to his own men, Polotsk to one, Rostov to another, and to another Beloozero. The Varangians in these cities are colonists, but the first settlers in Novgorod were Slavs; in Polotsk, Krivichians; in Beloozero, Ves; in Rostov, Merians; and in Murom, Muromians. Rurik ruled all these peoples." - It is assumed that Ruriks arrival in present-day Russia took place in the years around 860-862.

"Two of Rurik’s men - Askold and Dir - who were not of his tribe, but were warriors, sought permission to go to Tsar’grad - that is Constantinople - with their tribe. They thus sailed down the Dnepr, and in the course of their journey they saw a small city on a hill. They asked, "Whose town is this? " The inhabitants answered, "There were three brothers, Kii, Shchek and Khoriv, who built this burg, but they have since died. We who are their descendants dwell here and pay tribute to the Khazars". Askold and Dir remained in this city, and after gathering together many Varangians, they established their dominion over the country of the Polianians. Rurik ruled in Novgorod."

No one has ever succeeded in identifying the Rus people in Scandinavia in a convincing way. Some have pointed to the Swedish landscape Rosslagen, which includes the coast and the islands north of Stockholm. Moreover, Nestor mentions that Askold and Dir and their tribe, who founded Kiev, did not belong to Ruriks people, which could mean that they were Vikings from elsewhere in Scandinavia, which had joined the Rus - or they belonged to another Slavic tribe.

Askold and Dir on Dnepr
Askold and Dir on the Dnieper. They see a small town on a hill. Painted by Nicholas Roerich 1899.

Kiev grew quickly, already in the late 800's it had become the capital of the kingdom of the Eastern Slavs, which we may believe, included most of present Ukraine. In the year 988 the Grand Duke Vladimir introduced Christianity in his kingdom. This helped to establish political and cultural relations with Constantinople. By this time nearly 50,000 people lived in the city; It had about 400 churches and 8 markets.

In the year 1240 disaster struck. Kiev was attacked by a numerically overwhelming and experienced Mongolian army led by Batu Khan. Within a few months they shattered Kiev's walls with catapults. Kiev's churches and markets were turned into rubble, and the city's population were massacred, because they had refused to surrender. Of the city's 50,000 inhabitants only 2,000 were still alive after the Mongol attack.

This disaster was the reason that Moscow, not Kiev became the center of the Russian Empire, which emerged after the Mongol's disappearance some hundred years later.

Vikings on the islands in the Atlantic and Iceland

The isle of Man and the outer and inner Hebrides belonged to the Norwegian king The isle of Man and the outer and inner Hebrides belonged to the Norwegian king until 1266, and Shetland and Orkney belonged to the Scandinavian Union kings until 1468.

The islands north and west of Scotland were completely colonized by the Vikings. It is said that after Harald Fairhair's decisive victory in the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which according to tradition took place in the year 872, many fled from Norway to Orkney, Shetland and the Faroe Islands. It is said in Orkneyinga saga that they looted Norway from their new settlements in the Atlantic, and therefore Harald Fairhair equipped a fleet around 875 that attacked these islands, subdued them and then also took the Hebrides, the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and a few Scottish coastal areas in his possession. Since then the islands nominally belonged to the Norwegian king.

The North Atlantic islands north and east of Scotland had been inhabited for millennia. On Shetland- and Orkney Islands and on the Hebrides can still be found remains of stone circles like Stonhenge, which dates to around 2,500 BC. The Pict's defense towers, tombs, obelisks and underground houses can be seen on all three island groups. However, it is uncertain where the original inhabitants themselves are disappeared. We must believe that the Vikings have chased the men away, or made them thralls.

In an old cemetery on the Isle of Man it can be seen that the deceased men mostly had names of Scandinavian origin, while the women had names of local origin. Irish and British women are mentioned in ancient texts on the founding of Iceland, which indicates that the Scandinavian settlers often were accompanied by women from the British Isles. Genetic studies of the population on the Western Isles and the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides have shown that the viking settlements mainly were established by Scandinavian men, who married local women.

Edgar of Scotland recognized in 1098 formally that the Hebrides belonged to Magnus III of Norway. The Norwegian king could then rightly bear the title "King of Man and the Isles".

Three of the Lewis chess pieces
Three of the the Lewis chess pieces, which are assumed to be towers. The Lewis chess pieces were found in 1831 on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, which today belongs to Scotland. The 78 pieces are all made of walrus or narwhal tooth most likely from Greenland. Many believe that they are made in Norway, because similar pieces have been unearthed in Nidaros and on the island of Hitra in Tronheim Fjord, and similar carved figures can be seen in Nidaros Cathedral in Tronheim. Foto pintertest.com

After a war between Scotland and Norway King Magnus VI ceded the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland in the Perth Treaty in 1266. But Scotland's rule over Man was not firmly established until 1275, when the Man Army suffered defeat in the decisive Battle of Ronaldsway, near Castletown. Since Man belonged alternately to Scotland and England until the island gained home rule in 1866. Ever since the Viking period the island's Nordic thing, the Tynwald, has been assembled every year to discuss the island's problems. It is said to be the oldest existing parliamentary assembly.

In 1397, Norway became part of the Kalmar Union and Norway - and thus the Orkney and Shetland islands and other North Atlantic islands - came under the Danish union-kings. In 1468, Christian I's daughter Margrete was betrothed to Jacob III of Scotland. To raise money for the dowry Christian pawned Orkney and Shetland to Scotland. The king secured a clause of redemption for future Scandinavian kings. Later kings tried to redeemed the mortgage, but this was rejected by the Scottish monarchs, and therefore it was never redeemed. Since then, the islands belonged to Scotland and then Great Britain.

Plate of whalebones from Viking burial on Orkney
Plate of whalebones from Viking burial at Orkney islands in beautiful Sösdala style. It was found in a viking funeral. It was a boat burial: a small rowboat immersed in a grave. In the middle lay the remains of a woman about 70 years with the whalebone plate and other grave goods including brooches, spindle whorls, an iron for garments, seal and scissors. Similar plates have been found in other rich women's graves, mostly in northern Norway. Occasionally examples are known from Denmark, Sweden and parts of Ireland, where the vikings settled. Beside the woman was the remains of a child of about ten years. In the other end of the boat lay the skeleton of a man in his thirties, with legs bent and arms folded, with swords, arrows, a bone and antler-comb and game pieces of whalebone. Photo: fuckyeahnorsemen.tumblr.com.

Both Flateyjarbók and Olav Tryggvason's Saga mentions a man named Grímur Kamban as the first to discover the Faroe Islands. But the two sources disagree on the year, in which he did it. Flateyjarbók indicates that Grímur Kamban left Norway during Harald Fairhair reign from 872 to 930, while the saga of Olav Tryggvason indicates that Kamban was living on the Faroe Islands long before Harald Fairhair domination, and that other Norwegians were driven to the Faroes because of his chaotic regime. The mass Immigration to the Faroe Islands actually shows that there must have been a fairly widespread knowledge of the islands' location, which supports Olav Tryggvason Saga's report that Grímur Kamban was resident on the Faroe Islands earlier than Harald Fairhair's government.

Besides, the Irish monk Dicuil wrote in "Liber de Mensura Orbis Terrae" already around 825 on a group of islands in the North Sea, which reminds of the Faroe Islands, and told that the monks on the islands already in his time were expelled by Vikings: "Many other islands lie in the northerly British Ocean. One reaches them from the northerly islands of Britain, by sailing directly north for two days and two nights with a full sail in a favourable wind the whole time - Most of these islands are small, they are separated by narrow channels, and for nearly a hundred years hermits lived there, coming from our land, Ireland, by boat. But just as these islands have been uninhabited from the beginning of the world, so now the Norwegian pirates have driven away the monks; but countless sheep and many different species of sea-fowl are to be found there - "

The viking cultplace Hov on Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands
The viking cultplace Hov on Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands.

Some have found that a number of words in the Faroe language resembles similar Irish-Gaelic word, such as the Faroe "drunnur" which means an animal tail and corresponds to the Irish "dronn", and the Faroe "Lamur", which means hand or paw and is similar to the Irish "lamh". Therefore, some think that the original settlers were mostly Scandinavian men, who got their wives in Ireland.

Like other Scandinavian settlements the Faroe people established a thing, where they could discuss common problems and settle controversy issues. According to Færinge Saga this took place on Tinganes in Tórshavn on the island of Streymoy.

According to Landnámabók, Iceland was discovered by Naddoddr, one of the first settlers on the Faroe Islands, who had sailed from Norway to the Faroe Islands, but was blown off course and drifted to the east coast of Iceland. Naddoddr called the island Snæland. The Swedish sailor Gardar Svavarsson also came to the coast of Iceland by accident. He discovered that the country was an island and named it Gardarsholmi after himself. The first Scandinavians, who deliberately sailed to Iceland was Floki Vilgerdarson, also known as Hrafna-Floki (Raven-Floki). He found the northern Arnarfjord packed with ice and called therefore the country Island.

Drinking Horn from the Viking Age
Drinking Horn from the Viking Age on the national museum in Reykjavik. Photo from reddit.com

Ingolfur Arnarson is considered Iceland's first permanent settler. According to history, he threw two carved pillars overboard as he neared land, and promised to settle where they drifted ashore. He then sailed along the coast until the pillars were found in the southwestern peninsula. There he settled with his family around the year 874, in a place he called Reykjavik due to water vapor rising from the volcanic subsoil.

Some have estimated that around 60,000 people were living in Iceland about the year 930. At this time they established the Althing, which is one of the world's oldest parliaments. It was held at the Thingvellir plain for two weeks every summer.

Also, about 930 the Icelanders decided in the Althing to convert to Christianity. It was a majority decision, because they believed that there should be only one religion in the country, as several religions would be the cause of conflict and strife. However, it was allowed to sacrifice to the old gods, as long as one did not do it public.

Iceland is famous for the Icelandic Sagas, which were written on sheepskin in the Middle Ages on the initiative of, among others, Snorri Sturluson.

Religion

The contacts between Scandinavia and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England spanned back to 400's, even back to Angles' conquest of the country. The Danish archaeologist Jørgen Jensen writes: " "Close dynastic relations, family relations and other alliance building measures that's what the tombs in the Sutton Hoo, Vendel and Valsgarde and a number of Frankish kings and nobility tombs from the same time testify. For millennia they had existed within the European elite and contributed to the relations between the various peoples. Behind the uniform equipment in the princely graves must have been an exchange of people, which took place in connection with marriage, conclusion of political alliances, exchange of hostages and so on."

Tombstone from Lindisfarne
Tombstone from Lindisfarne, which in all likelihood shows the Vikings attack on the monastery in the year 793.

"But it is remarkable how silent the written sources from the 700's - primarily Beda and Alquin - are on England's Nordic connections. For example, Alquin mention's only contacts to the Nordic pagans to condemn them. This unwillingness of the Nordic must be an expression of the religious conflict between the parties. On one hand, a pagan society, where religion was so integrated in the social system that a change in religion could not happen without the community itself transformed. And on the other hand, an expansive church that could act in strict accordance with the royal power, i.e. by implementing far-reaching missionary activity."

"Could it be thought," Jørgen Jensen concludes, "that such a political-religious conflict, as the archaeological sources also tell nothing about, may have caused a violent reaction? A reaction against what was seen as a threat to the Nordic population's own culture and idendity? The idea has been advanced that the first Viking raids against sacral centers as Lindisfarne and Ionna on the British east coast was a deliberate blow against the enemy's most prized cultural monuments and to the missionary-enterprise headquarters."

In fact, all the early Viking attack, which we know, until the looting of Dorestad in the year 834 were targeting Christian religious centers such as churches and monasteries.

Still in the year 845 the attack on Hamburg, which only few years before had been made the center of the Christian mission in Scandinavia, the Vikings carefully destroyed all Christian churches. Vita Anskarii recounts: "In the same year the city of Hamburg was attacked and looted by an army of Normans led by Erik King of Jutland, who laid the country waste and deserted and destroyed almost all Christian churches."

The death of Saint Edmund
Edmund was king of East Anglia and was killed by the Vikings. Ælfric of Eynsham tells about Edmunds death: "King Edmund, against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missles, like the bristles of a hedgehog. When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ." - The scene reminds of the Aesirs, who shoot for target at Balder, or St. Sebastian's, who was fired upon by arrows. Foto Wikipedia.

In his mention of the sea-kings Adam of Bremen wrote: "Most cruel of them all was Ingvar, Lodparchs son, who everywhere let the Christians kill under torture. It is described in Frankish history." He must be the Lodbrog son, Ingvar.

The missionaries liked to put forward that their God was more powerful than other gods and helped those, who believed in him, for instance when pagans were defeated, or an attacking army was suffering from mysterious illnesses. The viking's relentless attacks against churches and monasteries may have been a deliberate attack on the claim of the truth of the Christian faith. For if the Christian God could not protect his own and only powerless looked on, while pagans killed his priests and looted and burned his holy places, so anybody had to realize that he was not as strong and powerful as the priests claimed.

The missionaries' arguments also turned against themselves, when the archdiocese of Hamburg, the center for the Scandinavian mission, was attacked and robbed in the year 845.

The gods Odin, Tyr, Thor and Freyja or Freya have all given their names to the weekdays, which applied to whole Germanic Europe long before the Vikings.

Each god was worshipped separately with special rituals. It is believed by many that Odin were kings' and aristocrats' god of war, who required human sacrifices. We know from the English chroniclers from 900's that the Danes were mostly fond of Thor. Frey ruled for peace, joy and fertility.

Gotlandsk billedsten med guderne Odin, Thor og Frey
Gotland picturestone in Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. It is assumed that the three persons in the middle of the picture are the gods Odin, Thor and Frey, each with their distinct weapon. Odin with the spear Gungnir, Thor with the hammer Mjolnir and Frey with his good sword. Frey looks back on a round disk, perhaps the sun. Photo Wikipedia.

Adam of Bremen reports about the pagan temple in "Uppsala" in a way, so we must believe that Thor was the main god: "This people has a very famous shrine called Upsala and it is not far from the town of Sigtuna (and Birca). In this temple, entirely covered with gold, there are three God figures, which people worship so that Tor, as the most powerful, has his throne in the middle of the hall, while Odin and Frey have their places on either side of him. Their fields of activity are the following: On "Tor" it is stated that he "reigns in the air and rules for the thunder and lightning, storm and rain, good weather and crop." The other Odin, that is rage, controls warriors and endows humans with bravery against the enemy. The third is Frey, who endows man with peace and joy. His statue they also equip also with a huge penis. Odin on the other hand, they depict armed, like our country men depict Mars, while Thor with his scepter seems to resemble Jupiter" - "If disease and starvation threaten, they sacrifice to the idol Tor, if war to Odin, and if to celebrate wedding, to Frey. There also have the custom every nine years to celebrate a common festival for all Sveons' landscapes. No one gets relief from meeting to this festival." - "The sacrifice takes place in the following way: For every kind of living beings they sacrifice nine pieces, with whose blood it is custom to appease the gods. The carcasses on the other hand are hanged up in the grove, just near the shrine. This grove is for the pagans so sacred that every tree in it is considered divine because of the victims' death and decay. There also hang dogs and horses as well as humans, and a Christian told me that he has seen 72 such bodies hang there between each other. Besides, the songs, that are used to be sung during this festival, are diverse and indecent, why it is best to keep quiet about them."

The names of and weekdays and the associated gods
The names of and weekdays and the associated gods. The Germanic tribes took over the seven-day week from the Romans, but replaced the Roman god names with their own, as they thought fit. Except for Saturday (Danish: lørdag), which Danish name comes from laundry day.

The names of the Weekday let us also believe that Thor and not Odin was the main god. The Romans gave names to the days of the week after their gods, which system was imitated by the Germanic tribes, except that they replaced the names of the Roman gods with the names of their own corresponding gods. In the Roman world the fifth day had its name after their main god Jupiter, and in the Germanic world, the fifth day was named after Thor, making us believe that he was the Germanic main god.

Also Snorre let us believe that Thor was the main god. Actually he tells that Odin was a descendant of Thor. The Prologue to Snorri's younger Edda says of Thor: "A king among them was called Munon or Mennon, and he married a daughter of the noble King Priamos, her, who was called Trøan; they had a child named Tror, whom we call Thor. He was raised in Thrace by a certain war-duke called Lorikus, but when he was ten winters old, he took his father's arms to himself. He was so magnificent to look at, when he moved among the other men, like ivory inlaid in oak; his hair was more golden than gold. When he was twelve years old, he had reached his full measure of strength; he lifted ten bear-skins off the ground all at once, and then he killed Duke Lorikus, his foster-father, and with him his wife Lora or Glora, and took in his own hand the area of Thrace, which we call Thrudheim."

Thor battling Jotuns
Thor battling Jotuns. The bronze statue, showing Thor's battle against Jotuns, was made by sculptor Carl Bonnesen in 1926 to the order of the businessman Harald Plum. It took Bonnesen more than four years to complete the statue, and then it took the skilled bronze workers four years to cast it. At that time it was the second largest bronze statue in Denmark, surpassed only by the Gefion fountain in Copenhagen. It was originally erected on the island of Thorø at Assens, which Harald Plum owned. After Plums death it was moved to Næsbyvej in Odense outside Haustrups Factories, which now is Glud & Marstrand. There it is today half hidden behind some bushes. Photo: Fyens Stiftstidende.

"Then he went out far and wide over the lands, and sought out every quarter on the world, alone defeating all berserks and Jotuns, and a dragon, the largest of all dragons, and many animals. In the northern half of his kingdom he found the prophetess called Sibil, whom we call Sif, and married her. Sif's descent I can not tell; she was the fairest of all women, and her hair was like gold. Their son was Loridi that resembled his father; His son was Einridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Moda, his son Magi, his son Seskef, his son Bedvig, his son Athra (whom we call Annarr), his son Ítermann, his son Heremod, his son Skjaldun (whom we call the Skjold), his son Bjaf (whom we call Bjarr), his son Jat, his son Gudolfr, his son Finn, his son Friallaf (whom we call Fridleifr); His son was the one who called Voden, whom we call Odin: he was a man widely famous for wisdom and many heroic deeds. His wife was frigida, whom we call Frigg."

Odense - Odin's city
Odense Odin's city.

Also in Olav Tryggvason's Saga Thor is the main god. It is said that Olav forces his way into the peasant Jarnskjegge's cult site: "- but when the king came to where the gods were, Thor sat there and was most venerated of all the gods and was adorned with gold and silver."

In the saga of Olav the Holy the King overcame a pagan chieftain in Gudbrandsdalen and took his son hostage: "In the evening the king asked Gudbrand's son, how their god looked like. He said that he looked like Thor," - and he has a hammer in hand is hefty and hollow inside. Under him a kind of frame is made, on which he stands on top, when he is out. He does not lack gold and silver. Four bread will be brought to him every day - and thereto slaughtered meat." Further in the saga: "The peasants carried their graven image in front of King Olav and said, "You try to frighten us with your god, who is blind and deaf, and can not help himself or others, and is not going to move unless he is carried. I now expects that he shortly will get hurt, and now look up and see to the east, there comes now our god with much light!" As the sun rose, and all the peasants looked toward the sun." One can believe that they connected Thor with a sun god.

Håkon Jarl worshipped the valkyrie Thorgerd Hölgabrud as his personal protector. In Jomsvikinge Saga he sacrifices his 7-year-old son, Erling, for victory over the Jomsvikings. She sent a hailstorm from north, who stood the Jomsvikings right in their faces and led to their defeat.

According to Njals Saga Håkon Jarl and Dale-Gudbrand owned a God House, in which there were images of three gods: Thorgerd, Thor in his chariot and Thorgerds sister Irpa all adorned with a gold ring in hand or on arm. According to the Faroe Saga Håkon Jarl owned a temple in Lade or nearby, in which there were several idols, of which the best known was Thorgerd Hölgabrud, also here wearing a ring in her hand. Also in the later story of Thorleiv Jarleskjald can be read on the same temple, and here it is called the sisters Thorgerd Hörgabruds and Irpas temple, and a spear is mentioned, which Haakon had taken from these sisters temple, and which Hørgi (Hølgi) had owned. According to Hardarsaga Grimkelssoner Grimkel Gode, son of Bjoern Gullbere from Orkedalen at Ølvuvatn, had a temple with images of many gods, of which Thorgerd must have been the most prestigious since the temple is called "Hof Thorgerdar Hölgabrudar". During the late Viking Age and the Middle Ages Thorgerd Hölgabrud gradually was reduced to a sorceress on an island in the far north.

Domalde on the sacrifice bench
King Domalde is being sacrificed to the gods to save the Swears from famine. Illustration to Heimskringla by Erik Werenskiold. Domalde was the eighth descendant of Odin the Old as king of the Svears. However, no one knows precisely how he died. The Ynglinge Saga only says: "The chieftains held council and agreed that the bad year came from Domalde, their king, and also they agreed to bear arms against him and kill him, and color the Gods' alter-supports red with his blood. And they did." - and it worked.
A few hundred years before Jesus became known all over the world, because he in a similar way sacrificed himself on a cross to save mankind, not only from famine, but from death, because Jesus by his suffering and death enables that the believer can be forgiven their sins, and thus get access to eternal life in Paradise, after they have left this world.

The Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan met the people Rus, whom we think were vikings, at the Volga: "As soon as their ships had come to anchorage, each of them went ashore, having bread, meat, onions, milk, nabid (beer) with him and went to a tall wooden figure with a face that looks like a human face. Small figures are all around it, and behind these figures are high timber poles which are put into the ground." Ibn Fadlan thus confirms that in the sacred place is a main god represented by the largest wooden figure, having wooden figures, which represent the less important ones located on either side. The biggest wooden figure may have represented Thor or possibly Odin.

The German bishop Thietmar of Merseburg from 1015 wrote in a chronicle of the German King Henry I's achievements: " - Moreover, he used his troops to suppress the Normans and Danes, and when he had brought them out of their original errors, he learned them and their king, Knud, wearing the yoke of Christ. But as I heard some strange things about the traditional prisoner sacrifices of these people, I will not let this matter go unchallenged. In these territories there is a place called Lejre also called Sjælland, which is the kingdom's capital. There they gathered all of them every nine years on that day in January, when we celebrate the holy three kings. At this place, they slaughtered 99 humans and a similar number of horses in honor of their gods, and they sacrificed dogs and roosters instead of hawks in the firm belief that this would help them in the underworld and make amends for the crimes, they had committed. What a noble act of our king to prevent them from such an abominable ritual! Every one that protects human blood brings her godfather a welcome sacrifice for the Lord forbade us to kill innocent and pious."

Only Adam of Bremen talks about that the god figures were placed indoor, in a temple, however, such that the actual sacrifices took place in open air in a sacred grove near the temple. Thietmar and Ibn Fadlan do not mention anything about temples, so we must believe that godfigures in general were placed in open air.

Tacitus reported on the Germanic tribes in the first century after Christ: "they consider it incompatible with the celestial powers' greatness to confine them behind walls and give them human traits" and further that they: "inaugurate groves and forests to their gods".

There is much to suggest that Tacitus statements about worship of the gods in the nature was still valid in the Viking Age, we can even today find the gods' names in place names, designating natural formations.

Odin, Thor og Frøj
From left to right: Tommy Olesen from Roskilde Museum excavated in 2009 a two cm. high gilded silver figure in Gammel Lejre, which without doubt imagines Odin on his throne Hlidskjalf, from which he can look out over the world. Odin's ravens, Hugin and Munin, are sitting on the armrests. They fly out each morning to return home in the evening and tell Odin on all that had happened.
On the farm Eyrarland near Akureyri on Iceland the owner found in 1815 or 1816 a 6.4 cm high bronze figure from around the year 1,000. It is believed to imagine the god Thor with the hammer Mjolnir.
Near Rällinge in Södermanland in Sweden a bronze figure with an erect penis has found, which undoubtedly represents Frey.

Odin gave name to the city of Odense, which name according to Snorri's Edda original ment Odin's Island (Óðinsey). Onsved south of Fredrikssund may mean Odin's forest. Onsild south of Hobro was called "Othenshyllæheret" in Valdemar's Jordebog interpreting "hyllæ" as hill. One can imagine that Oddense north of Skive and Oens south of Horsens have a similar meaning as Odense. Onsbjerg on the island of Samsø must obviously mean Odin's mountain, and the meaning of Onsjø in Scania is obvious. Vojens has undoubtedly been named after Odin. There are no examples that a person had the name Odin.

The historian Peter Sawyer writes: "In addition, many of the place names containing the name of Odin were owned by the king, here especially Odense must be highlighted. Odin was a distinguished war god, who demanded human sacrifices, an awe-inspiring hallmark of a royal deity. Although the Icelanders well knew Odin, his name does not appears not in the Icelandic place names; it fits nicely with the notion of the royal affiliation of the worship of Odin, as there were no kings on Iceland."

Thor's hammer from Vendsyssel
An incredibly well-preserved Thor's hammer found in Vendsyssel by the brothers Michael and Peter Stokbro north of Frederikshavn in 2013. Photo from the brothers' website bricksite.com.

In Eyrbyggja Saga is a description of a temple consecrated to Thor. It was built by the landnam man Thorolf, when he settled in Iceland. A number of the objects in the temple are mentioned. Two high seat pillars were erected, in which were inserted two "Regin nails", there was a kettle to collect blood from the sacrified animals, a gold ring, as well as depictions of Thor himself and other gods. The gold ring was used when you took an oath, which shows Thors position as the god of justice. The Regin nails could have been pieces of steel used for making fire.

Place names that contain the name Thor, are found in many places, and the meaning of the ending is very straightforward. For example Thorsbjerg (Thor's Mountain) at Vojens, Torshavn (Thor's harbour) on the Faroe Islands, Thorstedlund (Thor's place Grove) near Thisted, Thorshøj (Thor's Hill) in North Jutland, Thorsager (Thor's field) on Djursland, Thorskoven (Thor's Forest) south of Aarhus, Thorsø (Thor's Island) north of Silkeborg, Torslunde (Thor's Grove) between Copenhagen and Roskilde, Thorning south of Viborg, which probably means descendants after Thor, and Torsjö (Thor's lake) in Scania. Place names with Thor are complicated by that personal names containing Thor, have been used since the Middle Ages, such as Tor or Thor, Torben, Torbjørn, Torkil, Torleif, Torsten, Torvald, Troels, Tora and so on.

A few place names in Denmark contain the name of the god Frey. It is about Frøbjerg (Frey's Mountain) north of Assens, Frøsmose (Frey's bog) at Ringsted Frølunde (Frey's grove) north of Korsor, Frøslev north of Flensburg and Frøstrup west of Thisted. Most place names containing the name of Frey, are found in Sweden around the lake Mälaren, such as Fröslunda (Frey's Grove) and Frösvi, which obviously refers to the shrine for Frey.

Sacrificed weapons found in Tissø
Weapons from viking age found in the lake Tissø between Kalundborg and Slagelse. The ancient custom to sacrifice weapons to the gods in lakes and bogs were still used in the Viking Age. Foto pintertest.com

Casting lots was a Germanic custom that already Tacitus wrote about: "To divination and casting of lots, they pay attention beyond any other people. Their method of casting lots is a simple one: they cut a branch from a fruit-bearing tree and divide it into small pieces which they mark with certain distinctive signs and scatter at random onto a white cloth. Then, the priest of the community if the lots are consulted publicly, or the father of the family if it is done privately, after invoking the gods and with eyes raised to heaven, picks up three pieces, one at a time, and interprets them according to the signs previously marked upon them." Adam of Bremen has a very similar description of divination by casting lots by the early Saxons.

"The Life of saint Willibrord" tells of another example of divination by casting lot. The missionaries visited the cruel king of the Frisians, who determined that they every day should cast lots to see, who this day was to suffer death. The author recounts with pride that only one monk on that occasion was martyred.

Such a confidence in drawing of lots testifies that people in the early Viking Age thought that the gods could impact on events in the world of the humans through chance. If they had known the chaos theory, they would probably have meant that the gods intervened in the earthly affairs through manupulating chance as the first cause in a sequence of events characterized by cause and effect.

Chaos theory: A butterfly is flapping randomly with its wings over a West Indian Island, becoming the first cause of a long chain of cause and effect, all determined by the unchangeable laws of nature, which ultimately leads to a cyclone is ravaging the US East Coast causing extensive destruction.
A piece of textile from the Oseberg ship
A piece of fabric found in the Oseberg Viking ship. The tapestry shows a religious procession, and a scene with apparent human sacrifices - where human bodies are hanging in a tree. The tapestry gives archaeological support to Adam of Bremen's account on the Uppsala shrine, where nine men is said to have been hanged in a sacred grove along with different species of animals. Photo: Freyia Völundarhúsins.

There was also continuity in the religion. The ancient custom to immerse defeated enemies' weapons in sacred bogs and lakes were still used in the Viking Age. There are found about 50 objects in Tissø from the Viking period, it is especially weapons as swords, axes and lances, but also some jewelry. We believe that the lake's name means Tyr's lake. And as Tyr was a viking god of war, it is tempting to interpret these findings as a sacrifice to him.

The ropes were still sitting around the necks of the Tollund and Borremose men when they were found, suggesting that they were hanged or strangled. One can believe that human sacrifices to the gods should be killed in this way so they came into the gods' possession whole and undamaged; that is to say without outside wounds or bone fractures. This custom still existed in the Viking Age, both Adam of Bremen and Thietmar of Merseburg describes that human sacrifices to the gods were being hanged.

Sacrifices on Gotland picture stone
Gotland picture stone from Hammars in Lærbro - now in the Bungemuseum in Farøsund. It shows a warrior in full armor with a noose around his neck tied to a bowed down tree ready to be sacrificed by hanging, when the tree is released. To the right a person is sacrificed on a sacrifice-bench. Photo Wikipedia.

The Chronicle writers report on Danes or Normans, who were baptized by the Frankish Emperor. But not all converts were equally serious. The Swiss monk Notker, who wrote Gesta Karoli Magni, tells the following anecdote about converting of northern pagans: "Each received a white robe from the Emperor's wardrobe, and from his sponsors a full set of Frankish garments, with arms, costlly robes and other adornments. This was done repeatly and more and more (Danes) came each year, not for the sake of Christ but for the mundane advantages. They used to hurry over on Eastern Eve to pay homage to the Emperor, more like faithful vassals than foreign envoyes. On one occassion as many as fifty arrived. The Emperor asked them if they wished to be baptized. When they had confessed their sins, he ordered them to be sprinkled with holy water. As there was not enough linen garments to go round on that occasion , Louis ordered some old shirts to be cut op and tacked together to make tunics or to be run up as overalls. When one of these without more ado was put on a certain elderly envoy, he regarded it suspiciously for some time. Then he lost control of himself completely and said to the Emperor: "Look here! I have gone through this ablutions business about twenty times already, and I have always been rigged out before with a splendid white suit; but this old sack makes me feel more than a pig-farmer than a soldier! If it were not for the fact that you already have pinched my own clothes and not given me any new ones, with result that I had to feel a right fool if I walked out here naked, you should keep your togs and your Christ, too!

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