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Denmark's History

19. Harald Bluetooth

The emergence of a united Danish kingdom, first under the Sons of Godfred 825 AD and later under Harald Bluetooth 970 AD, was forced by the threat from the south. The Danes saw that Emperor Charlemagne subdued the Saxons in 802 AD after he had 4,500 Saxons beheaded at the city of Verden. In 973 AD the Danes again feared an attack from the south and the kingdoms of Jutland and Denemearce were joined together under Harald Bluetooth. Otto 2. actually attacked Denmark, broke through the defense rampart Danevirke and ravaged Jutland all the way to Limfjorden. Harald Bluetooth saved the situation by being baptized and thereby pulling the teeth out of the idea of a crusade. He then had ring fortresses built throughout the country as a defense against future attacks. In Norway, Harald Fairhair united many small kingdoms in 872 AD. One must believe that these formations of bigger kingdoms were a chain reaction created by the threat from the Holy Roman Empire.

1. Jutland and Denemearce unite

Harald Bluetooth belonged to the Jutland Knytlinge dynasty. He united his own kingdom in Jutland with the eastern kingdom of Zealand and Scania, which Ottar called Denemearce.

Tidslinje for Danmarks historie - Timeline for Denmark's history - The kings all descend from "Hardegon, son of a certain Sven", who conquered part of Jutland around the year 917 AD as told by Adam of Bremen in the section under Bishop Hoger.
But it is a pedagogical advantage to divide the line of kings and thus the history of Denmark into some natural groups or dynasties, as it makes the history manageable.
It is easy to recognize some obvious groups, such as the early Viking kings, whom I call the Knytlings, separated from the period of Svend Estridsen and his sons by the turbulent years under Magnus the Good. The civil war of Svend, Knud and Valdemar naturally separates the period of Svend Estridsen and his sons from the Valdemars. The kingless period clearly separates the Valdemars from Valdemar Atterdag and the union kings.
The Oldenborg royal line was introduced quite undramatically, because Christian 1. was a descendant of Valdemar Atterdag.
The final collapse of the Kalmar Union with the Stockholm Massacre, the fall of Christian 2. the Count's Feud and the Lutheran Reformation is a clear and inevitable dividing line in Denmark's history.
The ancient electoral monarchy was abolished in a coup in 1660 and replaced by the absolute monarchy. The Oldenborg kings were involved in both elective monarchy and absolute monarchy. Furthermore, it was an Oldenborg king, namely Frederik 7. who abolished the monarchy in 1848 and introduced the constitutional monarchy, which is characterized by the fact that the royal power is hereditary and defined in the constitution. Own work.

The royal family Knytlingerne - Adam tells about "Hardegon, son of Sven", and a little later about "Hardecnudt Wurm". But some historians believe that a "filius" was omitted from Adam's text during a deletion, so that it should have read "Hardecnudt filius Wurm", meaning Wurm , Hardecnudt's son. It is supported by the fact that Canute the Saint in his letter of gift to St. Laurentii church in Lund from 1085 is called Knud 4. which implies that there must have been a Knud 1. or a Hardeknud 1. before Gorm, which is probably what Adam tells.

There are no written historical sources that tell, when Gorm the Old died and Harald became sole king. The only thing we can stick to is that the timber in the burial chamber was felled in 958 AD. Thyra died before Gorm, documented by the Little Jellingstone, Gorm does not appear in the sources regarding the battles against Emperor Otto 2. in 972-73 AD, and in 934-35 AD when Bishop Unni visited Jelling, Gorm was the father of at least one son, with whom he could talk about religious matters and who could make government decisions, and thus perhaps about 40 years old. Perhaps Harald became sole king around 968-70 AD.

The Roskilde Chronicle reports that Harald was co-king with his father for a long period: "This Gorm was Harald's father; Harald ruled the kingdom during his father's lifetime for 15 years, and after his father's death he ruled for 50 years". This would explain Gorm's epithet, "the Old", as he would then be the older of two kings. Besides, he became pretty old by the standards of the time.

At one point, Harald succeeded in being elected king also in the eastern kingdom, which the merchant Ottar called Denemearce and which, as Alfred's geography says, was located "both on the mainland and on the islands". It is unclear what year it happened. In 968 AD he was, according to dendrochronological analyses, still in the process of expanding the Jelling construction with palisades, but as we know, the whole project was abandoned at some point, which we can guess must have happened because he "won all of Denmark" and therefore shifted the focus to Zealand. Which in that case must be sometime between 968 and 973 AD where he undoubtedly represents the whole of present-day Denmark in the battles against Otto.

In collaboration with Håkon Jarl, he also became king of Norway. It happened most likely around 970 AD probably also because of the threat from the south.

In his time, about 979 AD. the major construction works, the ring fortresses, the Jelling construction, Kovirke and Ravning Bridge were built, Dannevirke was reinforced and the half-circle ramparts around Hedeby and Aarhus were built. He founded the fortress of Jomsborg on the southern Baltic coast, probably at the mouth of the Oder, where he is also believed to have had some dominion.

He erected the great Jelling stone in memory of his parents, Gorm and Thyra, on which he wrote that he made the Danes Christian.

Harald died in battle against his rebellious son, Sweyn Forkbeard, sometime between the years 985 and 987 AD.

2. Harald Bluetooth

In most sagas, he is known as Harald Gormsson. The nickname Bluetooth first appears in the Roskilde Chronicle; we must believe that it is due to a tooth with a root problem, which was slightly darker than the others. To the author's knowledge, there are not handed down other direct descriptions of how he looked like.

Harald's queen was called Tove. The rune stone found in Sønder Vissing west of Skanderborg. The text reads: "Tove, Mistivis daughter, Harald the Good, Gorm's son's wife, did make Kuml after her mother." The stone was found in the cemetery dyke, where it served as side stone to the gate. Photo Roberto Fortuna, commisioned by the Danish National Museum - Wikipedia.

The historian Johannes Steenstrup believed that Harald was a royal name, which was not used by men of the people before the 13th century: "When we leave aside some figures in the Braavallary rhythm, who may even have been kings, we find in Saxo in these older times no Harald, who did not belong to Nordic royal families. King Valdemar's land register has no Harald at all."

On a runestone found in Sønder Vissing, he is referred to as "Harald the Good". Historian Palle Lauring believes that this byname refers to special religious achievements, and it is derived from the old term for a man with a religious responsibility at a pagan god's court, a gode. Harald shares the surname with Magnus the Good, who was the son of a Catholic saint and also a fervent Christian. In the same way, the Norwegian king Håkon Adelstensfostre was called Håkon the Good because, unlike his contemporaries, he had a Christian background.

When Bishop Unni visited Jelling a few years before his death in 936 AD perhaps in 934-35 AD. Worm was king, and Harald was his son, about whom Adam tells: "But the king's son Harald he did won for his case by his divine eloquence. Yes, he attached him to Christ in such a way that he publicly allowed that Christianity, which his father always hated."

But when Harald in 936 AD could thus allow Christianity, he cannot have been a mere child, he must have already then been a kind of co-king. Maybe at least 16-18 years old. This means that he was born perhaps around 918 AD. He died in Jomsborg from his wounds no later than 987 AD. which makes him around 69-70 years old.

Filed vikings teeth

Filed vikings teeth. The Swedish archeologist Caroline Arcini has analyzed 557 Viking skeletons dating from the years 800 to 1050 and discovered that 24 of them had deep, horizontal grooves across their upper front teeth. This kind of destroyed tooth enamel will easily turn black.
We remember that they called black for blue; for example, they called negroes for blue-men. Some had speculated that Harald Bluetooth may have got his epithet from this kind of tooth modification. Photo: Daily Mirror from an exhibition in British Museum.

It is striking that no one in the sagas felt the urge to praise Harald's skills in sports, his beauty and eloquence, as was usual for other kings.

The sagas' description of his sister, Gunhild, reads: "The most beautiful among women, but small in stature." Harald may have been a slender type like his sister, not particularly tall or strong, nor particularly outgoing and eloquent, but cunning, persistent and uncompromising - like his sister.

The somewhat later Knytlinge Saga admittedly says: "Very wise, he was not (Canute the Great), any more than King Svend, whom he in all was like, or as before Harald and Gorm, who neither were particularly wise."

But Widukind, who was his contemporary, says of Harald Bluetooth: "He was eager to listen, dilatory to speak."

Sweyn Estridsen told Adam that at the time of his death, Harald was "aged and physically weak", but it cannot have been completely bad, since he was still able to take up arms against his rebellious son.

3. Harald's family

It is known that King Harald had a big brother named Knud, who was Gorm's, his father's, favorite. He fell, however, on a raid on England or Ireland, and therefore he did not become king. The Great Saga of Olaf Tryggvesson says that he was bynamed Dana-ast: "With his wife Tyra he begat two sons, of whom the eldest was called Knud, the youngest Harald. Knud Gormsson was the most wonderful man you had ever seen; he was already in his childhood so kind and polite that the king loved him above all others, and besides, he was liked by all the people, so that everyone loved him dearly; he was also called Knud Dana-ast, it is: the Danes' love. Harald was like his maternal kinsmen, and his mother Tyra loved him as much as Knud."

Later in history we sometimes see the eldest son get a name from the father's line, while a younger son gets a name from the mother's line. The name Knud clearly comes from the Knytling line, while the name Harald in that case comes from the royal family of the Danes - perhaps the Shield Cubs - in the eastern part of the country that Ottar called Denemearce.

The big Jelling stone's three sides. Harald Bluetooth erected the great Jelling Stone. It is believed that the stone's motifs originally have been colored. From left to right:
The widest part is reserved for the inscription: "King Harald ordered this stone made after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother that Harald who won - "
- On the second side, the text continues: " - the whole of Denmark and Norway - " together with an animal fighting against a snake. We can guess that the animal is a lion; it looks a bit special because the artist most likely had rather vague notions about how a lion looks like. This motif can be found from Gansu and Qinghai in modern China over the Asia Minor to several finds in Scandinavia and England, including the London animal and as here on the Jelling stone. Until now it has not been possible to identify a myth or story that the motif illustrates. Perhaps the motif is a kind coat of arms of the Knytlinge lineage. We can believe that the snake is a symbol of the forces of evil, just think of the Midgard Worm and the snake that tempted Eve in the Bible. The author recalls no noble coat of arms, which includes a snake as the main motif. The lion, on the other hand, represents the brave, the noble and righteous and appears on numerous nobles and royal coats of arm.
- On a third side, the text continues: "- and made the Danes Christians," together with a Christ-like figure with outstretched arms, as bound with some ribbons. There is not shown any cross, and his expression is determined, it is not the suffering Christ. It may be Odin hanging in the tree sacrificed to himself, or it might be Jesus on the cross. In the context, we must believe that he is Jesus. We can also imagine that he looks like Harald himself and the motif also expresses that he had acted forced and bound by the objective historical necessity for the sake of Denmark - a sort of apology to his parents for having arranged their grandchildren killed and put the Knytling royal line opposed to the people due to extensive forced labor. The Jelling monuments are Unesco world heritage.

Saxo tells about Knud's death: "And after having enriched themselves by getting much prey on Viking raids, they put with the greatest bravery their hopes on attacking Ireland. While they besieged Dublin, which was said to be the country's capital, the king went with a few people, who were extremely good in archery, into a forest that was near the town. Here was Knud with a large number of his warriors occupied by watching plays, which was held at nighttime; and the king surrounded him then in such a deceitful manner and shot from far away an arrow against him, it hit him in the chest and gave him a fatal wound."

Urnes Stave Church's north portal. Here is also the motif an animal that fights against a snake. Photo: Aase og Thorkilds hjemmeside.

The big saga of Olaf Tryggveson tells that the king's sons Knud and Harald sailed on an expedition to Northumberland, and there Knud fell while swimming in the sea: "After him came Adelbrikt; he was a good king, and grew old. At the end of his days, an army of Danes came to England, led by the brothers Knud and Harald, Gorm hin Old's sons. They raided widely in Nordhumberland and subjugated a large piece of land claiming that they were entitled to the entire country, which Lodbrog's sons and many of their ancestors had possessed. King Adelbrikt gathered a large army, and received them, and met them on the north of Klifland (Cleveland), where he killed many Danes. Shortly after Gorm's sons went up at Skardeborg (Scarborough) and delivered battle, and they were victorious. Then they went against south down the coast and intended to go to Jorvik (York); all the people submitted to them, so they now no danger feared any longer. Now it happened that one day was warm and sunny, and the men jumped out from the ships and swam; and because now the kings were out swimming, people ran down from the land and shot on them. Knud then was hit by an arrow and killed; and his men took the body, and lifted it up into the ship. But when the people of the country experienced that, there at once gathered a great army; and as now King Adelbrikt came, all the people, who before had submitted to the Danes, turned to him; and now the Danes could not manage to make landfall anywhere, because the people were gathered, but sailed back home to Denmark."

But before his death, Knud had a son named Harald, who later in his life was called Gold-Harald because of all the gold that he had scraped together during his Viking raids. He should later become a problem for Harald.

Harald also had a sister named Gunhild, who was married in Norway to King Harald Hårfager's eldest son, Erik, bynamed Bloodaxe. Gunhild had a dramatic and eventful life. After a short time as king, Erik was banished from Norway because of his brutal behavior towards his brothers. Erik then became king of York, but after a while he fell in battle against the English king. Gunhild fled to Denmark with her many sons. Harald Bluetooth supported his sister and nephews in an attack on Norway, where the sons became kings and Gunhild was called kings mother.

Adam tells that Harald Bluetooth's wife was also called Gunhild, and they had a son, who was christened Sven Otto: "Harold himself received immediately after the baptism together with his wife Gunhild and their little son, whom our king sponsored and baptized Svein Otto." Later he repeats this with the words: "The memory of him and his wife Gunhilde will live forever among us". This son is confirmed by both Knytlinge Saga and Heimskringla: "People say that Emperor Otto was godfather to Svein, son of King Harald, and that he gave him his name, so he was christened Otto Svein."

Harald orders runestone to be dragged - Illustration to Saxo made by Louis Moe.

Saxo, on the other hand, says that Sven's mother was named Gyrithe. He recounts that Harald married Gyrithe, who was the daughter of the Swedish King Bjørn and sister of Styrbjørn, who was Harald's first chief in Julin, which may be the beginning of Jomsborg: "It is reported that Harold had two sons with Gyrithe. The oldest Hakon outshone his brother Sven by his admirable talents and glorious gifts of nature. However, the admirable Hakon attacked the Semberians with his men, and they became so impressed by the Semberian women that they chose never to return home" - "stucking to the foreign women by bigger desire" - "and the Semberians think not wrongly that they have descended from the Danish people." The Semberians' country is considered to be Samland, which is the Zemlandsky Peninsula near Kaliningrad.

However, it is firmly proved that Harald's queen was named Tove; it is attested by something as solid as a runestone, namely the above-mentioned rune-stone from sonder Vissing: "Tove, Mistivis daughter, Harald the Good, Gorm's son's wife, did make Kuml after her mother." It cannot be misunderstood.

As mentioned above, Adam and several sagas state that King Harald and Queen Gunhild or Gyrithe had a son named Svend Otto, who thus was born in wedlock.

Conversely, in Olav Tryggvesson's Saga Håkon Jarl says to Gold-Harald: "First receive this kingdom (Norway). King Harald is old and has only one son, he is not particularly fond of him, and he is also born out of wedlock."

Jomsvikinge Saga recounts that the king made love with a peasant girl on Fyn, "large in stature and with a manly appearance", named æsa. She gave birth to a boy, who was named Svend. The king refused to acknowledge the child, but Palnatoke received the mother and the boy and brought him up as his own son.

Thyra Haraldsdaughter cries

Thyra Haraldsdaughter cries and asks Olav Tryggvason to go to Venden and get her properties there back. This raid became King Olav's death, as his many enemies lay in wait for him behind the island of Svold. Drawing by Halvdan Egedius.

We know from later Danish history that it was very common for the kings to have extramarital sons around the country, just think of Sweyn Estridsen. Therefore, it is not unlikely that Harald had an illegitimate son on Funen, whose name was Svend. He need not be the same as the Sven Otto who was baptized with the emperor as godfather.

Adam mentions a third or fourth son, named Hiring: "England remained as above annotated, and as it is written in the English chronicles, after Gudreds death from his sons Anlaf, Sigtryg and Reinald to count, nearly 100 years under the rule of the Danes. But then Harald sent his son Hiring with an army to England. He subjugated the island, but was eventually betrayed and killed by the Northumbrians." No sagas or other chronicles mention Hiring.

In addition, Harald Bluetooth had two daughters named Gunhild and Thyra.

Gunhild married Pallig Tokesen Earl of Devonshire in England. She was killed with her husband in the Skt. Brictus' day massacre, which took place November 13, in the year 1002, when the English King Ethelred 2. gave the order to kill all Danes in England outside the Danelaw area.

Thyra Haraldsdaughter was, according to Olav Tryggvessons Saga, married to Burislav King of the Vends, but she ran away and traveled secretly to Norway and married Olav Tryggvason against her brother's, Sveyn Forkbeard's, will.

4. A Harald in Normandy

Duke Rollo

Rollo in the Six Dukes statue on the square in Falaise. Photo Michæl Shea - Wikipedia.

Already in the late 800's, Vikings led by Rollo settled in the Seine estuary. Many other Vikings had built their fortresses in an estuary, such as in the mouths of the Schelde, Loire and Garonne. Rollo and his men secured their stronghold, looted and destroyed monasteries far up the Seine and besieged Paris. The King of the Western Franks, Charles the Simple, resorted to a traditional solution and agreed with Rollo in the year 911 to give him the area around the Seine estuary as a fief in return for defending the country against other Vikings.

The monk Dudo of St. Quentin wrote Normandy's history under the first dukes:

The first Duke was Rollo, who was succeeded by his son Wilhelm Longsword, who already for some years before his father's death had been co-ruler. However, in the year 942, Wilhelm was murdered by some Frankish noblemen under the pretext of negotiation and reconciliation. The French king Louis 4. took advantage of that Wilhelm's son Rikard was only a child, and that Normandy, therefore, had no leader and easily may have been taken back to the French crown, and he, therefore, took the boy's person in possession.

Maps of France showing Normandy

Maps of France showing the area that Charles the Simple gave the Normans led by Rollo in the year 911 AD - Pinterest.com.

In their distress the Norman nobles sent men with message to Haigrold, Dacia's king with a plea to: "- He would rush to help Rikard, the great Duke Wilhelm's son, his family relative" - "- for the love of his kinsman Rikard the high-minded King Haigrold of Dacia received the Norman messenger with honor, and having built ships and filled them with food and warriors, he came as fast as he could with an immense amount of warriors to Sabina Corbonis, where Dive's strong current flows into the unruly sea. When the men from Coutances and Bayeux heard of King Haigrold's arrival for the help of the little Rikard, they went in his service."

In a great battle at the river Dive, the united Danes and Normans triumphed over the Franks, and King Louis was taken prisoner: "As the sun warmed in the third hour, the forces from Coustances and Bayeux began to go over Dive." - "There were also King Haigrold with the people from Coustance and Bayeux and near King Louis with the Franks around him. But there were also the Dacians' chosen youth leaning to their lances with shields in hands."

Typical Scandinavian brooches from the Viking Age

Typical Scandinavian brooches from the Viking Age found at Pitres south of Rouen. Photo: Musee Normandie fibules tortues de Petres. Wikipedia.

"They were just looking for an excuse to kill the Franks and the king." The Normans saw Duke William's murderer among King Louis' followers: "With a cry of anger that rose to the sky, all the Dacians swung their weapons and pushed in blind rage over the murder of their master against the count Herluin and killed him without blinking." - "Eventually surrounded on all sides by the countless crowd of enemies from Coustances and Bayeux as well as the pagans, they were cruelly cut down and slashed to death like sheep by wolves. Thus, in the deadly struggle eighteen noble counts were struck by death and fell in the battle on the King Louis' side."

"When King Ludvig saw himself abandoned by his Frankish bodyguard and had acknowledged the danger of continued fight, he sought rescue in a late escape. When King Haigrold discovered that Ludvig was no longer on the battlefield, he pursued him quickly with a half platoon on horseback. King Ludvig flickered to and fro on his flight, because the reins had become detached from the horse's head, and he sat with only the loose reins in his hand. King Haigrold sought soon Ludvig, who was so severely hampered. With his hand on his flashing sword hilt, he drew his sword from its scabbard, leaving Ludvig to his warriors with orders that he must not escape or be killed. As he congratulated himself with the king's capture, he rode quickly back to the battlefield and slew nearly all the Franks."

Anvendelse af vikingetids brocher

Use of the brooches: Illustration by Charlotte Rimstad in "Vikinger i Uld og Guld".

The Norman noble, Bernard of Senlis, confirmed Harald's achievements: "Let it now be known as a given thing that king Harald of Dacia for Rikard, my sister's son and his kinsman, have fought against king Ludvig and in this battle killed sixteen counts and Count Herluin and his brother Lambert, yes, during this terrible carnage in the Frankish kingdom even chased the king on the run taking him prisoner and put him in prison in Rouen under guard by Bernhard the Dane."

It has been suggested that Haigrold was the young Harald Bluetooth who came to the aid of the Normans in 942-45 AD. The age and name match. At that time he was his father's co-king and thus really had the title of king. He must have been 25-27 years old and probably in good shape to wage war.

But one problem is that the young Harald Bluetooth was king of Jutland and not king of "Dacia", as the savior of the Normans was. In 945 AD the Jutland king Harald Gormsen probably had not yet conquered "all of Denmark and Norway.

Harald was probably a traditional name of the royal family in Denemearce, Queen Thyra's homeland, which Alfred's geography tells us was located "both on the mainland and on the islands", i.e. Scania, Zealand and other islands. The legendary king Harald Hildetand had his seat in Lejre on Zealand, and Harald Klak "sailed" to his homeland from his baptism in Germany.

Viking Ships on the Bayeux tapestry.

Dudo mentions that Rollo came from eastern Dacia, and it would be straight forward for the Normans to seek help in their own original country, which must have been this Denemearce.

Therefore, it is most likely that the Norman savior, Haigrold, was a prince, co-king or king of Denemearce with the traditional royal name, Harald.

Twenty years later, in year 965, the small Norman duchy was again cornered by a French king, who was now named Lothar. The boy Rikard had then grown up and become a skilled military commander, but he thought anyway that it was wisest once again to seek the help of his kinsmen in Denmark. A large fleet from Denmark arrived in Rouen, and King Lothar's land was devastated wide over. This expedition was not led by King Harald.

5. Denmark and Norway

As told above, Harald Bluetooth had a sister named Gunhild, who, according to the Historia Norwegiæ, married the Norwegian king Harald Hårfager's eldest son, Erik. That she really was the daughter of Gorm and Thyra is confirmed by the fact that she called one of her many sons Gorm, which was otherwise a rare name. Furthermore, the fact that her sons were called Gunhild's sons - and only sometimes Erik's sons - indicating that the mother was of a particularly distinguished family.

The Eirik sons Saga is part of Heimskringla. They were sons of Erik Bloodaxe and Gunhild and thus Harald Bluetooth's nephews. They are often called the Sons of Gunhild. Their names were Gamle, Harald, Erling, Gorm, Gudrød, Sigurd, Ragnfred and possibly more - or les. Drawing Halvdan Egedius.

Erik became king after his father, but he behaved so fiercely against his brothers that he quickly earned the nickname Bloodaxe. After a few years, the Norwegians chased him away and instead chose his brother, Håkon Adelstensfostre, also called Håkon the Good.

Erik Bloodaxe then went on a Viking expedition and after some time he was elected king of York, on the condition that both he and his wife were baptized in the Christian faith.

But in 954 AD Erik was again expelled. Henry of Huntingdon wrote that the people of Northumberland "could not endure a ruler for a long duration. They had accepted Eric, son of Harald - in the third year of his reign they threw him out and invited King Eadred, whom they put on the throne."

Erik Bloodaxe fell in the battle of Stainmore in the year 954 AD against King Eadred, and thus ended the Viking rule in York.

Gunhild and her many sons fled to Orkney, where they stayed for some time.

Gunhild was accused of being a sorceress.

Orkney map with old names of Nordic origin

Orkney map with old names of Nordic origin - Kortbilag til Olav den Helliges Saga ved Udvalget for Folkeoplysnings Fremme, Kjøbenhavn 1906.

While they were staying on the Orkney Islands, she heard rumors that there were problems in the relationship between the norwegian Håkon Adelstensfostre and her brother King Harald, which made her find new hope, and therefore she and the sons traveled to King Harald Bluetooth - probably in Jutland.

Gunhild's sons were Harald Blåtand's nephews. When they had stayed with him for some time he helped his poor family with an army.

Håkon the Good's Saga sayes that: "Harald Erikson then became the leader of the brothers after Gamle's fall; they had a large army with them from south from Denmark." Saxo is talking about that "Harald Bluetooth gave Harald Gunhildsson Eyvind and Karlshoved as comrades in arms and a fleet of sixty ships." - " and "Harald Bluetooth gave Harald Gunhild's son Eyvind and Karlshoved for comrades in arms and a fleet of sixty ships."

The saga says: "When King Haakon Adalstensfostre had been king of Norway in 26 years after the Norwegians had expelled his brother, Erik Bloodaxe, it happened that his watchmen saw that many ships came sailing from the south. It was Gunhild's sons, who came to claim Norway after their father. It was around the year 961 AD.

There was a battle and Gunhild's sons fled, King Haakon had got a fatal wound. On his deathbed, he recommended that the Norwegians choose the eldest brother, Harald Gråfeld, as king. The sons then settled in Norway and divided the land between them. "Gunhild, their mother, took a much part in the government of the country with them; she was then called the king's mother" says the Erikssons Saga.

The rule of Gunhild's sons was a bloody, difficult and poor time for Norway.

They were poor sons of a king, who had never lived in royal opulence: "All Gunhild's sons were called greedy, and it was said that they hid treasures in the ground."

Haakon Adelstensfostre in battle against Gunhild's sons with his sword Kværnbit. King Haakon was easily recognizable by his golden helmet. One of his men put a cap over the helmet to protect the king - but in vain. Drawing by Halvdan Egidius in Heimskringla 1930.

"The Gunhild's sons accepted as before written, Christianity in England, but when they came to power in Norway, they came nowhere in making the people in the country Christian, then wherever they came, they broke down the shrines and disrupted the offerings, hence they got many enemies. It was in their days, that the prosperity of the country was wasted, for there were many kings, and each of them surrounded himself with household troops, which required many expenses; they were also very greedy and they did not comply with many of the laws that King Haakon had given, other than those, which they liked. They were all very beautiful men, big and strong and mighty sports-men."

Gunhild urged his sons to do something about Earl Sigurd in Trondelag in the north: "I find it odd that you every summer are sailing on Viking expeditions to other countries, while you in your own country let an earl take your father's inheritance from you. Harald - your grandfather (Harald Fairhair) whom you are named after - would count it nothing to put an earl from power and life - the one that won the whole of Norway and later ruled it until his old age."

Two of the kings - Harald Greycloak and Erling - did something about the problem: "They sailed at night by starlight." - "At the end of the night, they came to Aaglo - where Earl Sigurd was visiting. They set fire to the house and burned the farm and the Earl inside with all his people."

Gunhild provokes her sons to kill Earl Sigurd, Earl Håkon's father. Drawing Halvdan Egedius.

Harald Bluetooth then decided to change horse in Norway. He invited Sigurd Jarl's son Håkon Jarl to stay with him in Jutland.

At Harald Bluetooth also stayed Gold-Harald, who was the son of his brother Knud, who fell in England. He had his nickname because of all the gold he had gathered on his Viking expeditions.

Gold-Harald claimed half the kingdom, which made Harald Bluetooth very angry, following Olav Tryggveson's Saga he said: " - that has no man demanded of King Gorm, the father of mine, that he should be half-king of Denmark, nor of his father, Horda-Knut or of Sigurd Snake-in-eye or Regnar Lodbrog."

It is said in several sagas that Harald Bluetooth and Haakon Jarl founded their friendship by baking a fox-cake together: Harald Bluetooth invited the Norwegian King Harald Greycloak to Denmark. Haakon and Gold-Harald had to wait for him with all their men at Hals in Limfjorden to kill him. Gold-Harald attacked Harald Greycloak first with superior strength and slew him. But after the battle moved Haakon Jarl forward with fresh forces and attacked Gold-Harald, grabbed him and hanged him in a gallows. Haakon Jarl was quickly forgiven by Harald Bluetooth for having killed his nephew. Norwegian biographical encyclopedia believes that this happened around 970 AD.

Håkon Jarl

Håkon Jarl in depp thoughts. Drawing by Christian Krogh (1852 - 1925) - Wikipedia.

Thus Harald Bluetooth avoided getting blood on his hands with the death of his nephew, Gold-Harald and his other nephew and foster son, Harald Greycloak. At the same time, Haakon Jarl paved the way for his return to power in Norway in cooperation with Harald Bluetooth.

Knytlinga Saga recounts: "King Harald Gormson managed by deceit to end the days of the Norwegian King Harald Gunhildson; he fell at Hals in Limfjorden, as it is told in the Saga about the Norwegian kings; but thereafter King Harald sailed to Norway with his army and conquered the whole country, and put the Earl Haakon Sigurdsson as a chieftain."

Haakon Jarl was killed many years later in connection with that Olav Tryggesson became king of Norway. Haakon Jarl's Saga describes him: "Haakon Jarl was also very handsome in appearance, not tall, but strong and a great athlete, clever and a great army man."

Adam of Bremen knew many bad things about him, including that he descended from the Jotuns: "In Norwegien Hakkon was ruler until the Nortmanns expelled him because he behaved quite arrogantly. Harald got him reinstated by force and made him sympathetic towards Christ's followers. The cruel Hakkon was of Ingvar's lineage and descended from the Giants' kin."

Haakon Jarl is hiding under a pigsty.

Haakon Jarl is hiding under a pigsty. When Haakon Jarl was about 65 years old, Olav Tryggvason approached and wanted to kill this heathen. He went to his good female friend, Tora, who hid him in a burrow under a pigsty together with his thrall, Kark. While he slept, he was killed by Kark, who presented his head to Olav Tryggvesson, who, however, paid him by also to be beheaded.
In Olav Tryggvessons Saga is said about Haakon Jarl: "Haakon Jarl was the most generous of men, and it was the greatest misfortune that led such a chieftain to his death. But the reason why it that happened like this is mostly because that the time had come when offerings and heathen priests were to be condemned and instead came the right faith and the right customs." Drawing Christian Krohg.

Several sagas tell that he was very fond of women. Olav Tryggvessons Saga says about this: "But when Haakon Jarl began to be old, it went very far with his promiscuity, yes in the end it came to that he let noble men's wives and daughters bring home to him, lay with them a week or two, and then sent them home again, and it caused him much unfriendliness from these women's kinsmen."

6. Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire

At Harald's time, the emperor for some time had ruled Hedeby and an area around the city. In "Rex Saxonum Gestæ" of Widukind of Korvey from the year 970 is told that Henrik 1. Fowler fought against the Danes in the year 934 and forced king "Chnuba" to be baptized. Adam says about this: "Thus established the victorious Henrik the kingdom's borders at Slesvig, which today is called Hedeby, he introduced a border count and decreed colonists from Saxen to be settled there."

The Christian Saxons can not have been very many, as the Arab traveler al-Tartushi, who visited Hedeby in the mid 900's, says: "Its inhabitants worship Sirius except for a small number, who are Christians, and who have a church there."

There was a very tense political relationship between the empire and the northern kingdoms, perhaps Jutland, Denemearce and Norway, while Sweden was still protected behind large forests and long distances.

In 968 AD Emperor Otto sent a letter from Italy to the Saxons, where he urged them to attack a troubleling Slavic neighboring tribe. At a meeting in Werla, the letter was read aloud for a Saxon assembly, and they decided to leave their neighbors in peace: " - because a war against the Danes was imminent, and there was not enough manpower to wage two wars simultaneously."

Otto 1. hands over the church of Magdeburg to Christ. Ivory relief from around 970's Photo: heiligenlexikon.de

It is not known, if they really felt threatened by the Danes, or whether they were planning a push to the north, but the episode testifies that the relationship between Denmark and the empire was tense.

The Danes under King Harald and probably also the older king, Gorm, prepared thoroughly. Many construction works at Dannevirke can be attributed to Harald Bluetooth's early period; these are improvements to the hovedvolden, the Forbindelsesvolden, the Dobbletvolden, Krumvolden and other places.

Emperor Otto 1. the Great, died in May 973 and was succeeded by his son Otto 2. Harald Bluetooth, who was now sole king of Denmark, must have thought that now the chance was there with a new and inexperienced emperor. Harald took without problems Hedeby, which was an old Danish town, founded by King Godfred in the year 808.

Adam reports that the Danes themselves started the war: "It was the Danes who wanted war: they killed King Otto's envoys as well as the Margrave in Heidiba and completely wiped out the entire Saxon colony." According to many accounts, this must have taken place in 973 AD.

It is often seen that a junior, who for a long time has stood in the shadow of an experienced and famous leader, acts rashly and unwisely when he finally comes to power, because he eagerly wants to surpass his senior. Just think of Jes Søderberg and Mc-Kinney Møller.

We can believe that Gorm died a few years after his queen between 970 and 973 AD and Harald now became sole king. He immediately wanted to demonstrate his determination and therefore ordered the massacre in Hedeby, which had disastrous consequences.

Otto 2. then turned against the Danes. Adam of Bremen writes: "The king and his army immediately marched into Denmark. After breaking through the border rampart of the Danes, which was once upon a time located at Sliaswig, he ravaged the whole area with fire and sword even to the uttermost sea that separates the Normans from the Danes, and which even to this day after the king's victory is called Ottinsand. When he went out again, Harald met him at Sliaswig and attacked him. Both fought bravely, but the Saxons prevailed and the Danes fled defeated to their ships. As they under these conditions had become inclined to peace, Harald surrendered to Otto, and, receiving his royal authority from him, promised to accept Christianity in Denmark. Harald was immediately baptized himself, his wife and his little son, whom our king, when he raised him from the holy font, gave the name Suein Otto."

The Lombard king Berengar in Italy bows to Otto 2. Emperor Otto 2. was most interested in Italy, perhaps that is why he let Harald get away with being baptized. Manuscriptum Mediolanense, produced around the year 1200.

Which is actually confirmed by Saxo: "Without resistance the emperor passed through Jutland, which was devoid of royal leadership. When he was stopped by the Limfjord, which at that time surrounded Vendsyssel with its waters, he hurled his lance into the waves. But now, when Harald came to, he not only returned to the Eider, but his retreat had the greatest resemblance to an escape. But he flung the spear which he used into the waves of the sea to leave a memory, and named the strait with his name. But after Harald had negotiated with the emperor, he joined the Catholic Religious Society and brought his kingdom to peace with God and men."

Gudmund Schütte cites "Albaich-year books", in which, after mentioning Harald Bluetooth's attack on Hedeby, it is said: "When this was reported to Emperor Otto, he gathered an army, and marching towards Harald, he wanted to inflict a great war on him. But Harald then sent his messengers to the emperor and spread all his treasure before him, so that he would leave him alone. Cheered by these messengers, the Emperor returned to his home." It is further told that Harald surrendered, gave his son as a hostage and made peace.

And Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, writing only 40 years after the events, announces: "The Emperor hastened on his second expedition to Sleswic against the rebellious Danes. When he saw that his enemies with arms intended hold the dirch, which is made for the defense of the country, and the gate which is called Wiegtesdor, he pushed bravely through all these fortifications, following the advice of Duke Bernhard and my grandfather Count Henry, let a fortress be built in these borderlands and crew put in there".

Northwest Europe in the year 1000, as one can see, Denmark had a dangerous neighbor since 785 AD, namely the Holy Roman Empire, which had subdued the Saxons, deported them from Old Saxony north of the Elbe and given their land to the Obodrites. Foto: Kort over Europa 1000 e.Kr. 3.bp.blogspot.com

In Jomsvikinge Saga the emperor also push through Dannevirke. Haakon Jarl comes to the Danes support "because he found that necessity required that people in Denmark and other Nordic countries should not be forced to accept Christianity and renounce the faith and customs of their fathers." The emperor attacked also here several times. Harald and Haakon fought several battles against the emperor. Then they reinforced the Danevirke, and after 3 years the emperor attacked again. As thanks for help from the Norwegians Harald canceled all outstanding and future taxes to him. The emperor met a man, who called himself Ole, who advised him to set fire to Dannevirke. After that the defence dyke has been burnt down, the emperor moved into Denmark. Harald and the emperor fought several battles but finally, Harald accepted Christianity. It turned out that Ole, in fact, was Olav Tryggvesson..

Knytlinge Saga also has the story of Harald's baptism: "In King Harald Gormson's days Otto the Red was Emperor in Saxland; he had strife with the Danish king and ordered the Danish to be Christian, but the Danish king had an army out against him, and would in no way believe Christianity. King Harald Gormson held a big battle against Emperor Otto to the south of Danevirke, in which also Haakon Jarl of Norway was present together with the Danish king. The emperor lost the battle, but he took the country some time after, and chased King Harald and Haakon Jarl on flight to Limfjorden and straight out on Morsø. Since King Harald accepted Christianity, and the emperor stood godfather to his son Svend and gave him his name, with which he was baptized, and he came to be called Otto Svend. All of Denmark was then Christianized, and before the Emperor did not go away."

Popo and Harald on two of the plates of the golden altar in Tamdrup church near Horsens.
Left: Poppo carrying ordeal by fire.
Right: Poppo shows King Harald the unharmed hand.
The plates in the present Tamdrup Church are replicas. The originals are in the National Museum.
There are many accounts of how Harald was converted to Christianity. Some sagas assign Poppo's ordeal by fire to the island of Mors during the negotiations between Otto 2. and Harald.
Widukind, who lived in the same period as Harald, recounts: "The Danes were from ancient times Christians, but nevertheless they worshiped idols following pagan customs. Now it once happened at a party, where the king was present, there was much discussion about worshiping. The Danes claimed that Christ probably was a God, but that there were also other gods that were bigger than him because they let people see far greater signs and miracles than Christ. Against this testified a priest, who had devoted his life to God, a bishop named Poppo. He said there was only one true God and Father and his only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, while the idols were demons and not gods. King Harald, of whom it is said that he was eager to listen but slow to talk, asked him if he was willing to prove his faith on himself, to which Poppo without hesitation answered yes. The king ordered, therefore, the priest put under guard until the following day. When morning came, he ordered a large piece of iron to be heated and ordered the cleric to carry this for his faith's sake. The Christ's confessor grip without hesitation the iron and carried it, as long as the king wanted and showed then his hand, which was undamaged, and convinced, therefore, every one of the truth of the Catholic faith. Therefore, the king converted, and he decided to honor only Christ as God and instructed the people, whom he ruled, to reject idols. He showed priests and servants of God, great honor."

The Great Saga of Olav Trygvesson has a long description of the course of the war: Emperor Otto attacks Denmark several times on land and at sea - but without success. Dannevirke is valiantly defended by Norwegians under Håkon Jarl. But in the end the emperor is approached by a man who calls himself Ole. He tells the emperor how he should burn down Dannevirke with shavings soaked in tar. After this was done, the emperor's army crossed the Slien and pursued Harald as far as the Limfjord. The peace negotiations took place on the island of Mors. "It is said that Emperor Otto was godfather to King Harald's son Svend, and gave him his name; and he was baptized with the name Otto Svend." It turned out that the Ole who had given the emperor the victory, in reality was Olav Trygvesson. Incidentally, this saga has no details about the content of the peace treaty, apart from the fact that Harald was baptized.

Silver chain with Thor Hammer excavated in Trelleborg. The crews on the Viking Ring Fortresses must have been the king's most loyal men, yet there have not been found any traces of Christianity. Fra Vikingerne by Johannes Brøndsted, Gyldendal 1960.

Olav Trygvessons Saga in Heimskringla recounts: "Emperor Otta drew together a large army, he had men from Saxland, Frankland and Friesland and from Wendland King Burislav followed him and together with him was Olav Tryggvesson, his brother in law. The emperor had a great army of horse people and a much larger army of foot soldiers, also from Holtseteland he had a large army. Harald Dane king sent Haakon Jarl with the army of Norwegians, who followed him, against south to Danevirke to defend the country there. Emperor Otta came with the armies from south to Danevirke, but Haakon Jarl defended the fortress-dyke with his army. Haakon Jarl sat platoons of all fortress-joints, but the bulk of the army he arranged to rush along the fortress-dyke, where the fighting was hardest. There many of the Emperor's army fell, but they did not take any part of the defence dyke. Emperor Otta turned now with the army against the Slien and summoned a fleet, and with the army, he crossed over the fjord to Jylland. But when Harald Dane King experienced this, he rushed against him with his army, and there was a great battle there and finally, the Emperor got victory; but the Danish king fled to Limfjorden and crossed to the island of Mors." Then is told about Popos ordeal by fire and Harald's conversion, Harald's baptism and that Emperor Otta held Harald's son during baptism and named him Otta Svein.

There are some letters from the German emperor Otto 1. the Great which may indicate that he had power in Jutland in the middle of the 900s He issued on June 26, 965 AD a document which exempted the churches in Slesvig, Ribe and Aarhus from: " - any tax or service that may be due to us, and we order and command unwavering that this estate shall belong to these bishoprics without threats from our counts and tax bailiffs."

Map of Viking ring fortresses and bishop sites. Sure, probable and possible Viking ring-fortresses are marked in red. Indications of a Viking ring-fortress have also been found at Lyby near Oslo, Norway - which is not on this map.
It catches one's eye that in the area, where the archbishop Adeldag may have appointed bishops, there are no Viking ring fortresses. Maybe Harald for a period did not have full authority over Jutland South of Limfjorden and Himmerland. Own work.

Some explanation can be found in Roskilde Krøniken, which writes about the appointment of the three bishops: "The God-fearing king, who eagerly believed in Christ, not only allowed himself to be baptized, but even asked by messenger that bishops might be installed in his kingdom. At this appeal of his, the archbishop of Bremen, Adaldag, was pleased and, following the advice of the king and the pope, consecrated 3 bishops to Denmark."

But Adam of Bremen leaves no doubt as to what the terms of the peace were about: "On that occasion, the part of Denmark located on this side of the sea, which the inhabitants call Jutland, was divided into 3 dioceses and subjected to the archseat in Hamburg. In Bremen's church are kept the royal letters, which show that King Otto has owned Denmark in such a way that he has even given away bishoprics." - "Also, he has given Adeldag his apostolic authority to consecrate bishops for Denmark as well as for the other peoples in the Nordics in his place. As a result, our noble father was the first to consecrate bishops for Denmark, namely Horit or Hared for Slesvig, Livdag for Ribe, Rainbrandt for Aarhus."

The Thorulv runestone

The Erik runestone is also called the Thorulv stone or Haddeby 1. It was found in 1796 in Vedelspang nearby Hedeby. It lay in a field partially sunk into the ground between two mounds. The text reads in modern language: "Thorulv, Sven's hirdman, erected this stone after his companion Erik, who found death when drenge (warriors) besieged Hedeby, but he was a styrmand (officer), a very good dreng." We can believe that Hedeby was recaptured in the years 983-984 and that Sweyn was his father's fellow-king. Photo Arild Hauges Runer.

So, Summa Summarum, the Imperial forces penetrated Danevirke after hard fighting and then met Harald in a battle somewhere in Jutland north of Slien, which Harald lost.

The Emperor's troops included cavalry, which caused problems for the Danes. Quite a few years before, the emperor's armies had fought against the Hungarians, and there they may have learned the value of cavalry. Harald's army was the leding, which was a kind of marine infantry. They arrived in ships, but could fight on foot on land. But he could not field actual cavalry, and that may have been his problem in relation to the emperor's cavalry, as a saga mentions.

The imperial forces pushed further up through Jutland as far as the Limfjorden outside Mors. On the island of Mors, a peace was concluded, which meant that Harald took Denmark from the emperor's hand, he agreed to be baptized together with his queen Gunhild and his little son, who was named Svein Otto after the emperor. Harald accepts that the Arch See of Hamburg Bremen was given the right to appoint bishops in the conquered territory.

However, already in the year 982 AD Otto 2. suffered a disastrous defeat to invading Muslims at Cotrone in southern Italy. He prepared for a new campaign, but died in Rome at a young age in 983 AD and was succeeded by his three-year-old son Otto 3. which triggered internal unrest and a rebellion among the Slavic peoples east of the Elbe led by Harald's father-in-law, Mistivois. Harald is said to have been on the side of the Slaws and probably on that occasion recaptured southern Jutland including Hedeby.

Thietmar of Merseburg mentions that a Danish fortress was conquered by the Saxons in 974 AD but recaptured by the Danes in 983 AD. Two rune stones found near Slesvig can be linked to the Danish reconquest of Hedeby.

7. The Viking Ring Fortresses

Harald was cunning, flexible but persistent, and he may have thought like the later Henry of Navarre in France with a paraphrase: "Denmark is probably worth a mass", to fight another good day, when the chance of victory was better.
Harald and his advisors must have feared that Otto would one day return from Italy and finish the job and involve the rest of Denmark in the empire and Christendom. Immediately after the end of the war, he began extensive work to turn the rest of the country into an impregnable hedgehog position by erecting fortresses in the areas he still had free control over, regardless of financial and political costs. It was probably going on until the news of Emperor Otto 2.'s death in 982 AD in Italy reached the North.

In 1934, motorcycle enthusiasts in Slagelse applied for permission to use a ring-shaped dyke in some distance from the town at a place called Trelleborg as a training course. In connection with the authorities' handling of the application an archeological survey was performed, which revealed that the place really was a Viking Age fortress.

Traces of a similar but larger castle were found at Aggersborg near Løgstør. In order to alleviate unemployment in the post-war period in 1945, the government began an excavation of Aggersborg.

Lay out of Trelleborg at Slagelse. Trelleborg is dated to the years 980 - 981 AD Photo: Instoria rivista online di storia & informazione.

The archæologist Poul Norlund pointed out already in 1948, a noticeable similarity between Trelleborg and the over-plowed ring dyke called Fyrkat located on a small promontory in Onsild river valley near Hobro. But first, in 1950 the National Museum and Hobro Municipality started a real excavation. The fortress has been dated to the years 979 - 981.

Only Trelleborg, Aggersborg and Fyrkat are clear examples of Viking ring-shaped Trelleborg-type fortifications, although there are detected several other ring-shaped dykes in Scandinavia from the same time, which may be - or even probably - have been of this or very similar type.

Compared to other northern European ring-forts the Trelleborg-types are generally characterized by:

- The very accurate geometric shape of the circular rampart and the surrounding ditch, the inner buildings and wood-paved streets from port to port.
- The location and the perfect geometrical shape of the whole installation without any adaptation to the surrounding terrain.
- The location of the four gates with only a few degrees deviation from the four compass directions.
- The surrounding circular ditch with V-profile.
- They roofed gates.
- The inclined outer side of the rampart ring, protected by vertical oak planks.

Graphic reconstruction of a Viking ring fortress. Unfortunately, unknown artist. Photo: forum.paradoxplaza.com.

The ramparts and the surrounding ditches do not differ many cm from the perfect circle and the inner streets were as build after a string. All three fortresses have been safely dated to about the year 980.

Borrering also called Vallø Borgring near Køge. Graphic processed satellite photo. Photo danskebjerge - Wikipedia.

Aggersborg's excavator, architect Schultz, noted that: "They must carefully have followed firm incorporated military regulations", which were implemented consistently without regard to the surrounding natural terrain. The result could only be reached "with strict discipline and superior expert leadership" and he transferred rightly this to include the Viking raids' "amazing results in general." These facilities required such a concentration of power, organizational skills and superior technical mathematical culture that "sweeps all previous imaginations of the Vikings' simple and primitive organization off the table."

In addition to these initial three well-known Viking ring fortresses, clear traces of several other ring forts have been found.

Copper engraving of the city of Odense, Braun & Hogenberg from 1598: "Civitates Episcopalis Othenarum". In the very bottom slightly to the left is the round Viking fortress called Nundeborrig. In the picture, it has only two ports.

Nonnebakken in Odense was originally shown on old copper engravings of Odense.

Borg Ring at Køge, also called Vallø Borgring, has recently been found using new, precise laser measurements of the landscape.

The reconstructed Trelleborg in Scania during wintertime - Photo: Photorator - Photo: Photorator.

The ring fortresses in Trelleborg and Borgeby in Scania were first found in 1988 and 1997. Trelleborg in Scania has been partially rebuilt, a quarter of the fortress has been reconstructed with palisades, gate and a medieval house inside the courtyard. In 1997 a circular rampart was detected in Borgeby, probably another Scanian ring fort. However, the place has not yet been fully investigated.

In the area north of the city of Lille Hammar, on the western shore of Foteviken in Scania - only 10 km from Trelleborg - infrared satellite recordings have quite recently found traces of a ring-shaped fortress with a diameter of 240 m, which shows great similarity with Aggersborg.

Inspired by old engravings and recent excavations, yet another Scanian Viking ring fortress has been detected in Helsingborg. A satellite image from Lyby in Rygge, østfold in Norway has exposed a circle of 140 m in diameter, that may be a ring fortress.

The old circular Celtic rampart at La Cheppe, called "Le Camp d'Attila". It is assumed that this was the Catalunian fields, where the battle between Attila and the last Roman ætius and the Western Goths took place. - Photo Patrimoine Culturel.

The legendary Jomsborg was also built by Harald Bluetooth. No one knows with certainty, where it was located, and there is not handed down very detailed descriptions of how it looked like. But from the same period have been found so many ring fortresses, then one must assume that also Jomsborg was a ring fortress. Many believe that this stronghold was located in the Oder estuary, for example, near the modern Polish town of Wollin.

All these fortresses were built on the same template during a surprisingly short period of time under a ruler with great power, organizational skills, and not least great economic resources, as these projects must have required an army of workers, large quantities of timber and many talented carpenters and supplies for all of these. Some of the Viking ring fortresses have been dated to the year 980, and there can be no doubt that the ruler, who ordered them built, was king Harald Bluetooth.

Oost-Souburg ring castle

ærial view of the reconstructed ring fortress in Oost-Souburg. Photo: Stichting Cultureel Erfgoed Zeeland.

Circular ramparts were not something very special in Northern Europe in the early Middle Ages. It is believed that only in Ireland, South Wales and Cornwall are registered well over 50,000 circular ramparts, which were in use up to around the year 1000.

Some ancient Celtic cities were fortified with a circular rampart, such as "Le Camp d'Attila" near la Cheppe in northern France.

On the island of Walcheren in the river Schelde's delta, remains of as many as five ring forts from the 800's years have been found. They are called Oost Souburg, Middelburg, Domburg, Burgh Haamstede bij and Oostburg. Oost Souburg has been excavated and reconstructed; it has been dated to around the year 850. The ring dyke is strictly circular with an inner diameter of roughly the same size as Trelleborg on Sjælland. It had wood paved cross streets and probably four gates, of which only two have been excavated. The fortress was surrounded by water-filled ditches. Remains of buildings have been identified, but not in four-winged blocks as in the Danish fortresses.

Inside diameter of different ring fortresses

Inside diameter of different ring fortresses. Some from Wikipedia or other sources on the internet, some calculated from area declarations or estimated from photographs or sketches by the author.

Walcheren is known as a stronghold for Vikings; Therefore, the circular ramparts, especially of Oost Souburg, may well have been built by Scandinavians. Many Viking fortresses were located on islands or promontories in estuaries. Rollo and his men first settled in the Seine estuary, Hastings and Bjørn Ironside departed on an expedition in the Mediterranean Sea from a base in the mouth of the river Loire. Walcheren in the Schelde estuary would have been a perfect base for Vikings.

In fact, ring fortresses from that time have been found all over Northern Europe. In Brittany is Camp de Peran, which is also believed to have been built by Vikings. In Ditmarsken is Stellerburg from the Iron Age or early Viking period. Lembecksborg on the island of Fuhr has a diameter of 140 m and a 10 m high ring rampart.

Ismantorps Borg, Eketorp and Graaborg on øland are all ring forts, which have been in use in the Viking Age. The huge fortress on Gotland, Torsburgen, is a kind of ring fortress, but the rampart's form is far from a perfect circle.

Estonia has the ring fort Varbola 60 km south of Tallin from around the years 1000 to 1200.

Aerial photo of Camp de Peran in Brittany - Photo Maurice Gautier and Philippe Guigon.

In Obodrit area are many ring fortresses, which has been used for a long time. One of the largest concentrations of Slavic ring fortresses is located in the area Launitz, about 100 km south of Berlin, where remains of nearly 40 circular fortresses from the Viking Age have been documented, each surrounded by a water-filled ditch. However, only a few of them have a completely circular shape. The inner diameters are between 50 and 100 m.

Some Danish historians have sought to explain the Scandinavian ring fortresses by that the Vikings took inspiration from the caliph's Baghdad, which was surrounded by a circular wall. As you can see from the above examples there is no need at all to look so far away to find inspiration. The Danes have built ring fortresses ever since the Roman Iron the Age.

The Ring Fortress Bökelnburg in the town of Burg about 10 km. north of Brunsbuttel at the Elbe estuary. A cemetery has been arranged in the fortress' interior. Photo: Cultural Entities Schleswig-Holstein.

In Denmark circular fortresses were built already in Roman Iron Age, such as Troldborg Ring west of Vejle, Hagenshøj north of Skive and Smøl Vold north of Broager. They are much smaller than the later Viking fortresses, but it is interesting that ring fortresses very early were a tradition in Denmark.

Amminius wrote that when Emperor Valens' legions year 378 approached the Gothic wagon fort at Hadrianople, "the wagons were arranged in a perfect circle; as made on a lathe." This shows that Germanic military leaders very early wanted to utilize that the circle is the geometric figure in which the circumference is shortest with respect to the internal area.

Layout of Esefeld at Itzehoe north of the Elbe. As one can see it was far from perfect circular. There has been a railway running right through it. Photo: Instant Trout Company.

The Franks built a circular fortress in Holstein in the area north of the Elbe called Esefeld. In the year 817, it was attacked by Danes and Obodrits led by Godfred's sons. The fortress held out but the Franks abandoned it a few years later and established instead themselves in a newly built fort at the Elbe, Hammarburg, which was located 60 km further south. On that occasion, the Danes must have experienced that ring fortresses can be hard to take.

The Viking ring fortresses are something of a mystery. They are so large and so many, and they must have been impossible to overlook in the landscape in the early Middle Ages. But still, they are not mentioned with a single word, not by Saxo, not by Snorre or any other saga, legend or history. It's like the Chinese terra-cotta soldiers that are unique, but also not mentioned in any historical sources.

We feel no doubt that all the other ring fortresses in Northern Europe have been defense fortresses, which should either protect the population in case of attack or keep an area in a king's hand. It was for example typically the case with Esefeld which clearly was aimed to establish and maintain the emperor's power in the area north of the Elbe.

ærial view of Fyrkat at Hobro - Photo vikingeborge.dk

There has been much discussion about, what the purpose of Viking ring fortresses might have been. Some believe that they were training camps for the army, which was to conquer England, others believe that they were forced fortresses, which purpose was to maintain Harald Bluetooth's power over the newly unified Denmark. However, many are inclined to the view that they were defensive fortresses, which were meant to defend the country against a potential imperial crusade against North.

The famous archæologist Poul Nørlund leaned to the theory that the fortresses were training camps and winter quarters for the army, which was intended for attacks on England. To this, we must say that they have been very expensive training camps. It sounds incredible that they had spent so large amounts of labor and oak timber and peeled the turf of so many hectares of fertile arable land to make training camps; since there was no danger that the Angles would attack the unprepared warriors an early morning. Furthermore, no sources tell that time armies needed training. The sagas tell only that the king ordered leding, that is maritime warfare, and he rallied the army or navy. It was assumed that all adult men were able to use weapons and that they already had weapons.

In several articles, it is repeated that they were forced castles, prestige buildings or symbols of power, which were supposed to ensure the loyalty of the current parts of the country against a tyrannical royal power. But this theory also has problems. It is not likely that the Jutlanders, who were probably quite few in number and only lived in a small part of the Cimbrian Peninsula, could act as a lordly people who held the rest of Denmark in an iron grip.

There are no reports that Harald subjugated eastern Denmark with "violence and weapons" as Svend Estridsen reported that the Svea king Olaph did. On the contrary, Saxo tells that Harald inherited the kingdom.

Lay-out of Aggersborg at Limfjorden. It was the greatest of all Viking ring fortresses. As in all the other fortresses, there are four main streets from the center and leading to each of the four gates in the four compass directions. The gates were roofed. Between the rampart and the grave was about 8 meters. In between the houses in each quadrant of the circle were several small cross streets. It is believed by some that in the 48 longhouses was room for about 5,000 men. Aggersborg has a strategic location as the fjord in the Viking period was open for navigation between the Kattegat and the North Sea like today. Moreover, Aggersborg was located at one of ancient army road's three passes over the Limfjorden - Drawing: Statsministerium fur Wissenschaft und Kunst Freistat Sachsen.

Therefore, all other ring fortresses in Northern Europe appear clearly as defense fortresses; why should it be different with the Danish Viking ring fortresses?

Ever since Godfred sons' days, the Danish kings' policy in relation to imperial Germany had alternated between strength and appeasement. The Viking ring fortresses must have been an element of demonstration of military force, and receiving Christian missionaries and acceptance of Christianity have been elements of cooperation and appeasement.

None of Harald's impressive buildings show signs that they ever have been repaired; they were only allowed to live a very short period. After 20 years, all the ring fortresses were abandoned and destroyed. Fyrkat was destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt. Only Jomsborg had a little longer lifetime. It was first destroyed by Magnus the Good around the year 1043, but no worse than Absalon could destroy it again in 1185.

Excavations have shown that only a few of the buildings were inhabited in the lifetime of the fortresses, the rest were apparently used as workshops and warehouses.

Shield found at Trelleborg near Slagelse. It is made of pine felled in Norway - Foto Pinterest.

A full manning of all the fortresses in peacetime would probably also have been expensive and unaffordable, and it was not necessary. A hostile army approaching from the south would have a cruise speed of perhaps about 20 km a day, and it would give ample time to man and supply the fortresses from the local area.

Recent isotope analysis of skeletal material from 48 individuals from the excavation of Trelleborg showed that 32 were born outside South Scandinavia. The three women studied were all originally from abroad, and the younger men originated primarily from either Norway or the Slavic area. We must believe that they were professionals, the basic crew of the fortress, who was in the king's service.

There came no new attack from the Emperor, and the fortresses were never tested in combat. Therefore, we believe that the fortresses fulfilled their mission and acted discouragingly to a possible imperial crusade against Scandinavia.

8. The Ravning Bridge

In connection with the drainage of Ravning Meadows and straightening of the river Vejle å in the latter half of the 1900's, rows of oak posts were discovered, which rose up in the terrain. The draining of the moist meadows removed the water and made the meadow's surface level to sink. In several places, the surface level has sunk more than a meter since the 1950's.

Artistic presentation of the Ravning Bridge, which gives a good illustration of its construction. Unfortunately, unknown artist - Billed Galleri Mille & Søren.

A 760 m. long and 5 m. wide bridge of solid oak rose from the mud. It crossed the marshy river valley at Ravning ten kilometers south of Jelling.

The timber consumption and consumption of manpower have been enormous.

Careful dendro-chronological examinations of the tree rings in the wood have shown that the trees have been felled around the years 979 - 980, during which time Harald Bluetooth was king of Denmark. It was thus built in the same period as the Viking ring fortresses, and its construction exhibit the same championship in precision and symmetry and uncompromising lack of adaptation to the surrounding terrain.

Reconstruction of the bridge's location at Ravning across the widest part of Vejle river valley. Photo: Malcolm Bott.

The archæological excavations have shown that the bridge itself was very precisely built, taking into consideration the tools available. Each span consisted of four vertical posts that supported a horizontal cross-member, the outer vertical posts were further supported by inclined struts. Rope tied to hazel rods had guided the bridge builders with such accuracy that the greatest deviation from a straight line in the location of the vertical posts are 5 cm. This accuracy made the excavation in 1972 easy because the archæologists always knew exactly, where the next span had to be found.

Cross section of the bridge span, respectively the Ravning Bridge and a  smaller bridge at Risby

Cross section of the bridge span, respectively the Ravning Bridge and a similar but smaller bridge at Risby between Købnhavn and Roskilde. From "Dagligliv i Middelalderen" by Else Roesdal.

The transverse frames were located with about 2.4 m distance with variations of up to half a meter. In the longitudinal direction the bridge frames were connected by the longitudinal girders, and on top of these were fitted the bridge deck, which was made of multiple layers of half a meter wide planks; everything were joined with wooden nails.

It is assumed that the 1,120 tapered bridge pillars were lowered into the water until they reached solid ground and then cut off at the top in the same level. It sounds simple, but it is probably not, as oak has buoyancy.

Three mysteries are connected to Ravning Bridge:

- This magnificent piece of engineering became forgotten after a few years. Archæologists have estimated its lifespan to five years. It was never repaired or maintained; probably it has been completely useless after a few decades. Despite the zealous perfectionistic diligence that to the full measure was used in its construction, no evidence has been found that it has ever been repaired - just like the Viking ring fortresses. It is not mentioned in any chronicles or sagas; one gets the idea that the ancients were ashamed of it.

View of Ravning Enge. There is not much to see; the remains of the bridge has again been covered with soil. It is the broad stripe of green grass slightly to the right in the picture. In the foreground is a reconstruction of a few spans done by Vejle Museum in cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Authority and Nature Agency. Photo: Malcolm Bott.

- The bridge is very oversized. What has it been used for? The carrying capacity has been designed for an axle load of 5 tons.

- It does not represent a shortcut. A large bridge over the marshy Vejle Valley should aim to save north-south travelers - included armies - big detours and days of travel. But travelers in the Jutland longitudinal direction could just as well have used the ancient Army Road, which is dry and smooth and runs only 10 kilometers west of the Ravning Bridge.

Access road on the north side of Ravning Bridge. On the north side of the bridge were found carriage-roads covered with stone and branches, and further up on the hill is a double sunken road. Excavations have shown that the road had been covered with paving stones with a soft middle part, where the horses could step. Photo: vikingeborge.dk

Several historians have suggested that the bridge was built as a kind of pastime; so that the hard physical work of building bridges should maintain discipline in the army. Against this must be objected that in Harald's time, by all accounts, had been no standing armies - except the household troops, which kings and other great men always surrounded themselves with.

It has also been suggested that Ravning Bridge was, in fact, a kind of pier for seagoing vessels, as the water level in the Worlds oceans back then was 0,5 to 1.0 m higher than today, as the Viking period was warmer than the present. It also seems unrealistic; even if Vejle å really has been navigable at that time, there may not have been a need for 750 m. quay length.

It is also not entirely clear, who built the bridge. There is no doubt that the years 979 - 980 were in Harald Bluetooth's reign, but both Adam of Bremen and some sagas tell that Emperor Otto defeated Harald and the imperial army reached all the way to Limfjorden. One can imagine that Ravning Bridge was built by - or on the order of Emperor Otto. Against this - one can argue that the zealous perfectionism, which characterized the building, shows its kinship with the Viking ring fortresses. Besides, if it was an imperial bridge, you would expect to find remains of similar bridges in the emperor's home country, Germany, which the author does not know about.

9. Kovirke

Dannevirke is a system of defensive ramparts located some km north of the river Ejder. The defence dyke system connects the narrow fjord Slien with a wetland around Hollingstedt, which was impassable until modern times.

Dannevirke is not only one defence rampart, but a whole system of ramparts, built in the Iron Age and Viking time over a period of more than 500 years. In addition, the ramparts were improved and expanded in the 1860's. The oldest woodwork in the main rampart has been dated to the year 737. Photo: clioonline - historiefaget.

The most mysterious part of the Dannevirke system is Kovirke, which is the complete straight defence dyke, which cuts through the landscape from Selk Nor in the east to the wetland around Rheide å. It fulfills its purpose with a length of only 6.5 km and thus is considerably more economical than the other sections of dykes.

Cross section of Kovirke. The earth ramparts were 1.7 to 2.0 meters high and equipped with palisades, which also provided the parapet. The front was lined with a sloping plank coating. About 3.5 m in front of the rampart was a 4 meter wide and 3 meter deep pointed ditch. Photo: Grænseforeningen.

As for the Viking ring fortresses and the Ravning Bridge the rampart is not mentioned directly in any sagas or chronicles. The Ryd Monestary's yearbook from the year 1200 refers to the defensive dyke for the first time: "The dyke that is called Kovirke".

Kovirke has been pretty safely dated to the years 980-983, which is simultaneous with the Viking ring fortresses and Harald Bluetooth's reign. This dating is supported by the rampart's pronounced resemblance to the Viking ring fortresses, suggesting the same builders. The rampart and ditch are with zealous perfectionism built in a completely straight line without any adaptation to the surrounding terrain.

Kovirke and Kograv at Jagel Airfield. Foto: Volknei - Wikipedia.

Just like the Viking ring fortresses, the Kovirke appears only to have been in use for a short time. It has only been maintained for a few years. The dyke is complete without later repairs, and in the ditch cannot be traced dredging.

Kovirke is located 2 km south of Dannevirke Museum. A large part of it was demolished in connection with the construction of a military airfield in Jagel in 1935.

By analyzing growth rings of excavated timber it has been shown that Forbindelsesvolden further north was built or reinforced already in the years 964-968, in which year Harald was the King of Denmark. But he must have thought that it was not enough, and therefore he built also Kovirke, most likely in the year 983 AD.

Hedeby was surrounded by a semicircular rampart, just like Aarhus and Julin. Photo: Exploring Britain's Viking Heritage.

The half-circle ramparts around the trading towns of Hedeby and Aarhus were also built during Harald's reign.

In the years 980-985 AD there must have been feverish construction activity all over the country with fortresses, bridges and defensive ramparts. All must have been determined to defend the country and preserve the customs and traditions by not allowing themselves to be oppressed by the emperor, as they had seen happened for the Saxons.

10. Jomsborg

Jomsborg was a legendary fortress, particularly described in Jomsvikinge Saga and Knytlinge Saga. No traces of it has ever been found, but it is widely accepted that it was located in the Oder estuary on the islands of Wollin and Usedom - which today is divided between Germany and Poland.

The island Dänholm is located at the entrance to the channel, which separates the island of Usedom and Wollin from the mainland. The name Dan-holm is interesting because in Danish "holm" means a small island; then the name literally means Dane-island. It is really very strategically located opposite to Peenemünde at the inlet to the channel, which separates the island of Usedom-Wollin from the mainland. Here Jomsborg could well have been located. In the Long Saga of Olav Tryggvason the Jomsviking Sigvald Jarl says to King Burislaf of the Wends: "It is known for you my lord that we have spent a time in this country to protect you and your kingdom, and our fortress has a long time been like a lock for your kingdom, but we have left our own kingdom and our properties in Denmark." Which points to that Jomsborg may have been located on the strategically located island Dänholm. Photo Google Maps.

Adam of Bremen tells of the famous city Jumne: "On the other side of the Leuticians, also known as the Wilzers, meets us the river Oddara, which is Slavonien's water richest river. At the mouth of this river, where it meets the Scythian marshes, lies the famous city Jumne (Jomne). Which is a frequently visited anchorage place for both barbarians and Greeks living along the nearby coasts. This town is praised and many great things are told about it, I find it appropriate here to add a couple of credible things."

"It is truly the greatest of all cities in Europe and inhabited by Slavonians along with other nations, both Greeks and barbarians. For also the visiting Saxonians are allowed to live there on equal terms, provided that in the duration of their stay they do not publicly profess their Christianity. They all are still controlled by their pagan rites and delusions. But you will not find any more honorable or more hospitable people. Jumne is the richest store place for goods from all the Northern countries, and the city has everything that is great or rare. There is Vulcan's pot, which the inhabitants call the Greek fire, which also Solin mentions."

He clearly refers to the city to be situated on an island, as he continues, "There you can see Neptune in three figures. For the island is washed by three inlets, one should be green of green appearance, the second whitish, while the third is in constant turbulence because of raging storms." Which fits with Wollin-Usedom.

Most Viking fortresses lay at the mouths of rivers or creeks on island or peninsulas. The island of Usedom-Wolin in the Oder estuary at the Baltic Sea seems to have been a really perfect location for a Viking fortress. Knytlinga Saga tells that Harald Bluetooth founded Jomsborg: "Harald Gormson was taken to king in Denmark after his father; he was a mighty king and great warrior. He seized Holseteland in Saxland; also he had a large Earldom in Vindland, there he ordered Jomsborg to be built and put there a significant crew, to whom he gave wages and laws; they subdued him the country; in summer they were on war expeditions, but in winter they were at home; they were called Jomsvikings."

Viking graves at Altes Lager in western Pommern

Boat graves at Altes Lager near Anklam in western Pommern. There are also many small stone ships on the Usedom island. Photo: timeslipsblog.wordpress.com

In continuation of the description of the Gunhild sons' journey towards Norway and Håkon Adelstensfostre, which is assumed to have taken place in 961 AD. Saxo writes that Harald Gråfeld for three years "paid honestly and fairly the tax he had promised the Danes" and further "at that time came Styrbjørn, a son of the Swedish king Bjørn with his sister Gyrithe too humbly to ask for help, and he found him so much more redebon to befriend him that he willingly agreed to give him his sister in marriage." Which thus must be about 964 AD.

Saxo tells about Harold's rule south of the Baltic: "Then Harald seized Slavonian Land and laid a strong crew in Julin, the most prominent city in the country, and as the leader of the warriors he appointed Styrbjørn. Their war-raids, in which they showed the biggest bravery and little by little victoriously spread to the neighboring countries, eventually became so terrible that they filled all seas with continuous defeat." He seems to think that the Jomsvikings - although he did not call them that - had their garrison within the city. Perhaps we can then guess that Jomsborg was founded around 965-66.

In his description of Harold's death Adam of Bremen lets us understand that his men in Jumne were particularly loyal to him: "In this unfortunate war that was worse than a civil war, Harold and his men suffered defeat. He himself fled wounded from the battlefield, went aboard a ship and escaped to the Slavonian city of Jumne. Against all expectations, he was welcomed there - the population were pagans - but hospitable towards him. However, he was greatly weakened by his wounds, and a few days after, he died professing himself to Christ." Which makes it probable that Harald had a special connection to this city and that it really was him, who founded Jomsborg. Both in the fighting against Eric the Victorious and in the last fight against his son, Svend Forkbeard's rebellion, we find the Jomsvikings as Harald Bluetooth's faithful supporters.

Which is confirmed by Saxo: " - and wounded he was by his men brought back to Julin, where he soon after died".

The Curmsum Disc - Coin like gold disc found near Wolin 150 years ago. Around 1840 the ruin of the medieval church was broken down in the village Wiejkowo about three kilometers east of the town of Wolin in the northwest of modern Poland, afterwards the site was excavated. On this occasion, many objects were found. There is talk of many Arab silver coins, but also other things that were characterized as "scrap". The area around the church belonged to the German family von Plötz. The family was clearly not interested in the findings, which were conferred the local priest. One hundred years later, when World War II was in the final stage, many residents fled from the Russians. The priest sold some of the objects to the current owner's grandfather in order to finance his escape. The new owners settled later in Malmø, and a 14-year-old daughter of the family found in 2014 the disc in an old box, brought it to her school and showed it to her history teacher. In the same part of the find was also a coin from Otto I's time - death 973 - which dates the finding to Harald Bluetooth's time.
The disc is of gold and has a diameter of about 4.5 cm and weighs 25 grams. It is molded in a one-time wax form and is therefore not a coin. The text on the front reads: +ARALDCVRMSVN+REX AD TANER+SCON+IVMN+CIVALDIN+ which can be translated to: "Harald Gormson king of the Danes, Scania, Jumne, Staden Aldiburg". Obodritternes capital was Oldenburg, which was then called Aldinburg. On the back is an equilateral cross with dashes on the tips, reminding of a Byzantine cross, for example, the Dagmar cross. Equilateral crosses do not necessarily need to be Christian crosses; on bracteates from Germanic Iron Age also appear equilateral crosses; but in the context, we must believe that it is a Christian cross. Foto Wikimedia Commons.

Sven Aggesen tells directly that Harald founded Jomsborg: "This Harald controlled for a long time the kingdom as its king. He was the first who rejected the idolatry abominations and worshiped the cross of Christ. While he sent the army to pull the immense stone, which he had determined to put as a memorial on his mother grave mound, an uprising erupted in the country, partly because of the new religious customs, partly also because of the intolerable yoke of bondage, they suffered, and commoners went so far in their rage that they urged the king to leave the country and kingdom. Quickly he found his way, for fear gives feet wings, and he took the road to Wendland, where he found a peaceful reception, and where he should have laid the foundation for the city, now called Jomsborg - This city's walls were since by Archbishop Absalon leveled to the ground: what I myself was an eyewitness to."

The name Jomsborg is found in Knytlinge Saga and Jomsvikinge Saga, but Adam of Bremen says Jumne and Saxo Julin. The German researcher Adolf Hofmeister has demonstrated that they are all names for one and the same place, incidentally with several varying spellings, indeed, as most other place names at this time.

Jomsvikinge Saga recounts that Palnatoke gave the following laws for Jomsborg:

- In Palnatoke community no man must be admitted that was older than fifty years or younger than eighteen years.

- - And if anybody was admitted, who had killed one of the previously admitted's brother or father or any of his close relatives, and it was discovered after, he was admitted into the community, then Palnatoke was to pass judgment in this case.

- Kinship or friendship should not be considered, if any, that did not correspond to those provisions, wanted to be admitted.

- If some of the men, who already were Jomsvikings, invited somebody to join, who did not correspond to those provisions, it would not benefit them anything.

- Absolutely no man had to be there, who stepped back confronting an equally combative and equally equipped man.

- Everyone who came into their community should give solid promise that they would avenge each other, as table companions or brothers.

- Most important nobody was allowed to spread vicious rumors among people.

- No one was allowed to express any anxious word, or fear anything, no matter how dangerous it may look.

- Absolutely no man might have a woman with him in the fortress.

- No one could without Palnatoke's orders or permission stay longer than three nights away from the fortress.

- All the booty, which they took in the war, they had to, whether it was little or large, to be carried to the pole to be shared, also everything that could be assessed in money.

- If someone was found to act against that now listed, in violation of those laws, then he immediately had to be expelled and banished from their community - Whether he was a greater or lesser man.

(Gently edited from Jomsvikinge Saga)

As mentioned, no traces of Jomsborg have ever been found, nobody knows for sure how the fortress looked like, some believe that it did not exist.

The fortress is often associated with the present city Wolin on the southeastern tip of the island of Wolin, probably located on the Silberberg hill north of town. Other theories place Jomsborg northwest of the island of Usedom in places that now have been flooded by the sea. The small islands in this area are the remains of a long stripe of land between Usedom and Rugen, which fell victim to storms and floods in the early part of 1300 years. Assumed sites in this area are the Veritas Banks between the small islands Ruden and Greifswald Oie and Peenemunde bank. Although Viking jewelry has been found there, an archæological assessment of these sites has not yet been possible.

But the clearest indication of the castle's location comes from Saxo and Aggesen, as they tell of Bugislav's swearing loyality to Canute the Sixth, which took place in their lifetime. Aggesen was present in person. Saxo says it happened in the aftermath of a siege of the town of Camin. So we might think it happened near the city of Kamien, perhaps in the waters off the city.

Aggesen says: "This loyality swearing event I myself witnessed: it took place aboard the King's ship with the brilliant, golden proboscis - not far from the city, which I have told that King Harald in his exile laid the foundation for." In another connection, Aggesen says of Jomsborg: "The walls of this city were leveled with the ground by Archbishop Absalon: what I myself witnessed." Which indicates that Aggesen was fully aware of, where Jomsborg was located. Probably it was near the modern Polish city, Kamien, perhaps at Wollin or most likely at the mouth of the Kamien branch of the Oder's delta, remembering Sigvald Jarl's words to another King Burislav that "our castle has long been like a lock for your kingdom". All Harald's other fortresses were very distinctive ring forts, making it likely that Jomsborg also was.

Only in Jomsvikinge Saga is a more detailed description of the fortress: "A great and strong sea fortress, which was subsequently called Jomsborg. In this castle, he let make a harbour that was so large that at the same time three hundred longships could be there so that they all were confined in the fortress. It was decorated with much art at the inlet, ports were fitted on it, and a large stone-arch was above and in front of the openings were iron doors, which were locked from the inside, and upon the stone-arch was built a large fort, in which were balistas. One part of the castle was out in the sea, the fortresses, which are built so, are called sea fortresses, and in this way, the harbor was inside the fortress."

11. Denmark and Sweden

Hällestad Rune sten

Hällestad runestone. One of three rune stones, which have been found used as wall stones in Hallestad church in Torna-Hallestad about 20 km east of Lund in Skåne. The text reads: "Askell erected this stone in memory of Toki Gormr's son, him a faithful man. He did not flee at Uppsala. Brave men sat in memory of their brother the stone on the mound, marked with runes. They went close to Gormr's Toki." It is assumed that Toki fell on Fyrisvellir in the battle against Erik the Victorious. When talking about their brother it must mean brother in arms. The term "went close to" must mean that the warriors formed a ring around their leader in a difficult situation. We can believe that Toki was a jomsviking. Photo Kallerdis Wikipedia.

Saxo says that the Swedish prince Stybjørn sought out Harald for help against his uncle King Erik the Victorious, "By that time came Stybjørn, a son of the Swedish king Bjørn, after his uncle, Olaf's son Erik, had separated him from the kingdom, together with his sister Gyrithe to Harald, Thyras Son, humbly asking for help, and he found him so much more willing to make friends with him, as he willingly agreed to give him his sister in marriage. Then Harald seized the Slavonian land by force of arms and placed a strong crew in Julin, the most prominent city in the country, and as chief of the warriors he set Stybjørn."

Knytlinge Saga recounts that Stybjørn was less humble: "Stybjørn came with his army to Denmark, and took King Harald prisoner; then Harald gave him his daughter Thyra to wife and sailed even himself with Stybjørn to Sweden."

Stybjørn did not trust his men's bravery: "Styrbjørn set fire to all his ships before he went ashore, but when King Harald experienced this, that Stybjørn was without ships, he kept with his ships out of Løgen (Mälaren) and since away, back to Denmark. Styrbjørn made battle on Fyrisvalle against his uncle, the Swedish king Erik the Victorious; who fell Stybjørn and the biggest part of his men, but some fled; this escape is called the Swedish Fyriselta." Such an all or nothing strategy has probably not been in Harald Bluetooth's taste.

Everyone agrees that the Battle of Fyrisvellir took place in 980-85 AD. i.e. after the war against Emperor Otto and a few years before Harald's death in Jomsborg. Styrbjørn was thus the leader of the Jomsvikings from the beginning in 965-66 AD. until his death in battle, a total of perhaps 16 years.

Stybjørn's attack on his uncle failed completely. The prince should have fought valiantly, while many Danish are said shamefully to have sought escape. Stybjørn perished, and King Erik won a great victory that earned him a great reputation; it is said that it was this battle that gave him the epithet Victorious.

Sjörup Runesten

Sjörup Runestone near Ystad in Scania. The rune stone in Sjörup was known already by Ole Worms in the 1620's. Nevertheless, it was cut in six pieces in the 1800's and used as building material for a bridge. But in the 1990's, the pieces were taken out from the bridge and again put together to the original rune stone and erected near the church in Sjörup. The inscription reads: "Saxe erected this stone after Asbjørn, his companion, Toke's son. He did not flee at Uppsala. But fougth as long as he had weapons." Photo Ole E. Henriksen Wikipedia.
There are also two other runestones on the island of øland and in West Götaland that might be interpreted as set for men, who fell at Fyris.

The Jomsvikings participated in the attack under Stybjørn together with his own Swedes. In Eyrbyggja Saga Bjørn Kappe comes to Jomsborg: "He was in Jomsborg, at the time when Stybjørn the Strong took it. Likewise, he went to Sweden, when the Jomsvikings helped Stybjørn; and he was in the battle of Fyris, where Stybjørn fell and fled to the forest together with the other Jomsvikings."

Saxo tells that Harald Bluetooth supported Stybjørn in attacking the Swedish kingdom from Halland, but there he heard about the Emperor Otto's attack on Jutland and, therefore, interrupted the campaign against Sweden: "Harald went for that matter to Halland, but then he got the message that the Germans under Emperor Otto had made incursions into the kingdom. As he was less eager to attack a foreign country than defending his own, he preferred to take care of things at home rather than fight abroad."

12. Harald Bluetooth's death and burial

In an elective monarchy the king reigned until his death, and if some wanted to get rid of him earlier, they had to actively make sure that he died. This option has been used several times, for example by the Goths in Italy. It was precisely that solution that Svein Forkbeard and the country's best men chose for disposing of Harald Bluetooth. Following Jomsvikinge Saga the arrow, that gave Harald his mortal wound, was "easily recognized because it was wrapped in gold"..

Palnetoke dræber kong Harald med en guld-omviklet pil

Palnatoke aiming to kill King Harald with a gold-wrapped arrow. Drawing Jenny Nystrøm 1895. Wikipedia. .

Adam of Bremen wrote that Sweyn rebelled against his father, supported by the kingdom's noblemen: "In the Archbishop's very last time our position among the barbarians was weakened, and unrest emerged among the Christian Danes. Because of envy of the divine faith's beautiful growth, a hostile man tried to saw weed. Svein Otto, the great Dane king Harald's son, first tried several attacks against his father and planned then with them, whom he had forced to accept Christianity to depose the now aging and frail king." - "In this unfortunate war that was worse than a civil war, Harald and his men suffered defeat. He himself fled wounded from the battlefield, boarded a ship and escaped to the Slavonians' city Jumme."

There is some disagreement about, where the decisive battle took place..

Knytlinge Saga and the Great Saga of Olaf Tryggvesson says that the battle took place in Isefjord: Sweyn "steered with his ships to Sjælland and into Issefjord, where his foster father Palnatoke met him with a large fleet. King Harald, Svein's father, was there already in the fjord with men and ships and intended to take off on maritime warfare. Svend navigated to battle against his father, and it was a tough skirmish. Then flocked so much people to King Harald, that Svein had to give in to the superior force and flee; but King Harald had got several wounds that caused his death, and Palnatoke should following the legend had given him these wounds."

Jomsvikinge Saga writes that the events took place at Bornholm; but Saxo is sure that Harald and Svein met at Helgenæs off Mols.

However, almost all sources agree the Harald was wounded in battle, and his men brought him to Jomsborg, where he died from his wounds around the year 987.

Adam of Bremen also tells that Harald was brought wounded to Jumme after the battle, he died there and was then buried in Roskilde: "Against expectations - the population was the pagans - they received him hospitably. However, he was weakened by his wounds, and a few days after he died professing himself to Christ. The army transported his body to his homeland, where it was buried in the town of Roscald in the church, which he had built in honor of the Holy Trinity."

A few sagas and chronicles suggest the reason for Svend Forkbeard's rebellion.

Sven Aggesen indicates that there were two reasons, namely the new religion, which many could not accept, and the great workload, which Harald put on the people by the construction of the Viking ring fortresses, defence dykes and bridges: "While he sent the army to drag the immense stone, which he had determined to put as a memorial on his mothers grave mound, an uprising erupted in the country, partly because of the new religious customs, partly also because of the intolerable yoke of bondage, they suffered, and commoners went so far in their rage that they compelled the king to leave the country and the kingdom. Quickly he came away, for fear loaned feet wings, and took the way to Wendland, where he found a peaceful reception, and where he should have laid the foundation for the city, which is now called Jomsborg."

Aggesen's almost contemporary, Saxo, indicates a similar reason: "However, they, who together with Svend were leaders of the fleet, was fed up with Harold's rule, partly because he was favorably minded to Christianity, partly because he placed extraordinary burdens on the common people".

Claus Deluran points out that most versions of Harold's death are handed down from his enemies. He has combined Saxo and Jomsvikinge Sagas descriptions of Harold's death, both of which are quite hostile to Harald. Saxo writes: "When Harald trusting for the upcoming agreement went around, as if there was peace and no danger, and came into the forest thicket, where he sat down among the bushes to relieve himself, he was wounded by an arrow by Toke, who burned by covetousness to avenge the wrongs that he had inflicted on him." Jomsvikinge Saga writes that Palnatoke lurked in the bushes, and when the king leaned forward to warm himself by the fire, "and he laid the arrow on the string and shot to the king, and then the most knowledgeable men tell that the arrow flew straight into the butt of the king and along through him and came out from the mouth, and the king immediately fell dead to the ground, as one might expect."

When he for sure took refuge in Jumme, we must believe that the Jomsvikings were among his most loyal supporters. We may also expect that the king's professional warriors were most loyal to him.

It is also fairly certain that he was buried in Roskilde church.

The reason for that his grave cannot be found in the church, and that he was not elevated to saint, which Sven Aggesen mentions almost in passing, was that Harald renounced Christianity in his last days in Jumme: "In his exile his son Svend nicknamed Forkbeard was taken as a king in his place. The belief in the Holy Trinity, as the father during his exile had rejected, he assumed with a sincere heart."

13. Literature

Den store saga om Olaf Tryggvesøn Heimskringla
Olaf Tryggvesøns Saga Heimskringla
Roskildekrøniken Heimskringla
Adam af Bremens Kirkehistorie Heimskringla
Saxo Grammaticus om Harald Blåtand Heimskringla.
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Kong Knuts Liv og Gerninger Heimskringla - også kaldet Encomium Emmæ Reginæ.
Thietmar af Merseburg: Om danernes hedenske skikke Nomos
Heimskringla: Olav Tryggvasons saga Nettsted olhov.net
Heimskringla og andre sagær Nettsted olhov.net
Rimbert: Ansgars Levned Heimskringla
Eyerbygga Saga Heimskringla
Jelling-Monumenterne Steen Hvass
Danske runeindskrifter fra vikingetid Arild Hauges Runer.
Dannevirke Wikipedia
Stavkirken Moesgaard Museum.
Arkeologi i nord Frans-Arne H. Stylegar
Trelleborg (cirkelborg) Wikipedia
Ringfort Wikipedia
Vikingebroen i Ravning Fortidens Jelling.
Ravningbroen Wikipedia
The Trelleborg-type fortresses Anne-Christine Larsen
Mellem vikingetid og Valdemarstid - Et forsøg på en syntese Aksel E. Christensen
Norske stavkirker Aase og Thorkilds hjemmeside
Ny undersøgelse: Jelling-palisade ER fra Harald Blåtands tid Nationalmuseet
Die Schiffssetzungen im Flächennaturdenkmal "Altes Lager" in Menzlin Grossteingräber und Megalithbauwerke.
Det gyldne alter fra Tamdrup Kirke Biopix
Normandiets Historie under de syv første hertuger Claus Rønlev Slægtsforskning
Adam af Bremen - Adeldag Heimskringla
Danmarks Oldtid - Yngre Jernalder og Vikingetid - Jørgen Jensen - Gyldendal.
Danmarks Historie 3 - Peter Sawyer - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Snorres Heimskringla - Nationaludgave Oslo 1930.
Adam af Bremens krønike - oversat af Allan A. Lund Wormanium.
Danmark i Europa 750-1300 - Nils Hybel -Museum Tusculanums Forlag.
Roskildekrøniken oversat af Michæl H. Gelting - Wormanium 1979.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Dudo - Normandiets Historie under de første Hertuger - Erling Albrectsen - Odense Universitetsforlag.
"Danmark og Normandiet" af Erling Albrectsen - Skalk nr. 1 1986.
Illustreret Danmarkshistorie for Folket 8. del af Claus Deluran - Ekstrabladets Forlag.

Bent Hansen - last changed:


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