Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - Show 69 - Twilight of the Aesir

Episode Date: January 16, 2023

This show picks up where Dan's Thor's Angels show left off. In the early Middle Ages Pagan Germanic-language speakers like the Vikings are a dying breed. Many of their contemporaries wish they'd die f...aster.

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Today's show is sponsored by SEGA's Company of Heroes 3, available February 2023. This story begins, well, probably like most stories, before this story begins. I mean, what historical account doesn't have its precursors or its backstories or its prologues? In this case, we had an entire show and an extra show devoted to this very story. We called it Thor's Angels, and you'll hear me say that a couple of times in this discussion upcoming. This is the last chapter in that story. Involving a people, history often calls Vikings, but Vikings are not a people. And how connected the people in this era are to today's modern day Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes is iffy.
Starting point is 00:01:02 And the idea of ethnicity and cultural aspects and everything else is fraught with all sorts of baggage. I mean, this story about who these people were about to talk about really were as buried beneath layer upon layer and century upon century of romanticizing and demonizing and fetishizing and nationalizing of a people that once upon a time were just real folk and converting them into Hollywoodized barbarian tropes. But once upon a time, there were people all over northern, western and central Europe who had a linguistic affiliation, a cultural affinity, and believed in the same sorts of values and deities that these Viking era Scandinavians believed in. And by the time the early middle ages rolls around, these people in modern day Scandinavian maybe just north of Germany are the only people left to do. And there's a certain historical irony that the peoples who will put the lion's share of sweat into extinguishing these old gods,
Starting point is 00:02:28 these ancient deities are people who not that long before this time period believed in them themselves. This is, as the old radio announcer Paul Harvey would have said, that when it comes to the Thor's Angels tale, this is the rest of the story. December 7th, 1941, its history, a date which will live in infamy. It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The events, the figures, not quite to the noise of the word goes for humanity from this time and place. I take pride in the words Ishbyn Ayn Bielin. The drama.
Starting point is 00:03:32 Mr. Wabachoff, tear down this wall. Eight-six and a half curts. Marine six. Hour two has had a major explosion and what appears to be a complete collapse surrounding the entire area. I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their presidents have come. The deep questions. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. It's hardcore history.
Starting point is 00:04:09 One of my favorite quotes in all history, and I'm careful about famous quotes now because so many of the ones in my quote books have been debunked over the years. This one's pretty well attested to. I wouldn't swear by it, but it's pretty well attested to. It involves something said by Joseph Stalin, autocratic leader of the former Soviet Union, a communist state. A state, by the way, that is officially an atheistic state and Stalin himself was probably an atheist. And the reason it matters is because the quote has something to do with that. The circumstances are that he's supposed to be talking to a French politician in the middle 1930s who in an attempt to solve a problem they're dealing with, suggests they might be able to solicit the help of the Vatican, the pope.
Starting point is 00:04:59 Stalin's response is so cynical, terra firma, rubber meets the road type of an answer that it just sums up the situation perfectly. And he's supposed to have said, and he wouldn't have said it in English, which is why you sometimes see different wording. He's supposed to have said, the pope, how many divisions does he have? You know, meaning armor and soldiers and guns and those kinds of things. Stalin doesn't want to talk about spiritual help. He wants to know, you know, how many soldiers the pope is going to provide. And of course, the pope can't provide any, the number of divisions that the pope has is zero. This sums up a problem that has existed for the popes and the center of Catholic authority in Italy since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. And the way that they managed to solve this problem goes a long way to explaining why Europe turned out the way it did.
Starting point is 00:06:00 Now, full disclosure, we've already discussed this process in an earlier show called Thor's Angels. We even did an extra show, a Thor's Angels extra utilizing some of the cutting room floor stuff that we had to cut out. But that show is about what happened to a religion that started off as a minority offshoot religion from Judaism, goes to a much persecuted religion, a minority religion in the Roman Empire, to eventually getting a Roman emperor converting to Christianity and then a later Roman emperor converting the whole empire to officially Christian. And you have the pope and Christianity in a pretty good position until the Roman Empire in the West disintegrates, which means Roman protection in Italy goes away at a time when the entire Western European area, Italy included, is becoming a very dangerous neighborhood. A time when the pope really could have benefited from having a few divisions. The way that successive popes solved this problem of living in a bad neighborhood with no military protection
Starting point is 00:07:15 is to form a partnership with some entity that can provide it. That entity turned out to be a people, another one of those people, the Romans would have called barbarians, a people known as the Franks, located in the modern day area of sort of France. Just change the soft sea in France to a hard sea and you see the connection, right? Frank. Look at the German name for France even today, Frankreich, right? Empire of the Franks. The Franks were sort of the odds on favor to be the up and coming people in Europe. And so when the church and the Frankish leaders over generations create this relationship, it becomes a symbiotic one. One that protects and allows the church to develop and expand its authority and the number of its followers. While at the same time blessing the Franks with a sort of legitimacy that they wouldn't have had otherwise.
Starting point is 00:08:16 But this relationship changed both entities and changed Christianity also. The show we did earlier, Thor's Angels, got a little bit farther in the story than the era of Charlemagne. But Charlemagne seems to be a good person to sort of pivot back towards as a pivot point for the rest of the tale. For those who don't know, Charles the Great, Carl Deregrossa has a lot of names. Charlemagne's, how he's known to history, is probably, you could make a very good argument, the most important geopolitical figure in European history after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. He's absolutely astoundingly influential and important, and like so many people like him in history, he's overshadowed his direct ancestors, which if he didn't live, you'd have known about.
Starting point is 00:09:08 I mean, the same way you'd know Alexander the Great's father's name, if Alexander the Great hadn't been so great. I mean, Charlemagne, his dad, Pippin, his grandfather, Charles Martel, nicknamed the Hammer. The three of them gave the Franks about 90 years of really energetic, strong leadership that catapulted that people to really the heights of European power and dominance. Charlemagne will be, when he starts out, a king of the Franks, and by the time he ends, he's the emperor of a renovated Roman Empire, the way it would have been seen, and the church with him all the way. But somewhere along the way, the sword arm of the church, this protection provided to the Pope by this Frankish people, turned from defensive in character to offensive in character.
Starting point is 00:10:06 And it's hard to know how much the church wanted this or didn't want it. There were some complaints at the time by how this situation was actually playing out on the ground. But by the time you get to Charlemagne, the way it's playing out on the ground is genocidal and has a direct bearing on what happens afterwards. Charlemagne was famously involved in a multi-generational war against a people to his east who were called the Saxons. Now, using ancient sources to describe people's ethnicities, cultures, or political affiliations of tribal peoples is difficult, because they're not always consistent and people change. The Saxons, though, were a people that, before this period, were part of the great emigration of peoples from western Europe, around the north of Germany and Denmark and those places to England, and they create a fusion of peoples that history calls Anglo-Saxons.
Starting point is 00:11:11 And these Anglo-Saxons will convert to Christianity eventually and then send missionaries from England back to Saxony, where the Saxons are, to try to convert that pagan people. As you might imagine, sometimes the Saxons were amenable to this, and sometimes they weren't. Charlemagne isn't about giving them choices in the matter, though. His wars against the Saxons will go on for, like, 30 years and get progressively nastier. Saxony is a tough place to fight, by the way, in his book Charlemagne, Father of a Continent Historian, Alessandro Barberos sets up the conflict this way, quote. It was a ferocious war, in a country with little or no civilization, with neither roads nor cities, and entirely covered with forests and marshland. The Saxons sacrificed prisoners of war to their gods, as Germans had always done before converting to Christianity, and the Franks did not hesitate to put to death anyone who refused to be baptized, end quote.
Starting point is 00:12:27 That was not normally policy in converting the heathen, but Charlemagne's geopolitical goals and his religious ones dovetailed, and it's hard to know where one ended and the other began. He will famously have 4500, and you never know about these numbers, 4500 Saxons beheaded in a single afternoon at the edge of a river in a town called Verdun, because they were allegedly the leaders of one of the many Saxon rebellions against him. Every time he would take his army away from Saxony, after chastising the Saxons and go fight one of his other wars, they would rise up and rebel, and they would often destroy monasteries and kill monks and raid and all kinds of things. The victory conditions that Charlemagne set up in this war were that the Saxons had to give up their traditional religion. They were going to convert to Christianity, or else they were going to die. Now, defenders of Charlemagne will point out that the legitimate reason for this was he planned to conquer Saxony and incorporate it into his kingdom, and his kingdom was Christian, and they weren't going to have any pagans in his kingdom. The problem was is that the way he went about it was so draconian and totalitarian that he got many complaints from missionaries whose job it was to go convert these people through good argument and through preaching the gospels and showing the way to the light and the saving of souls. Charlemagne at some points will have rules in place that say Saxons who won't be baptized are to be killed, Saxons who don't follow the meal restrictions during Lent are to face the death penalty.
Starting point is 00:14:23 I mean, it's that heavy duty. The missionaries that have been going preaching to people like this often were putting their own lives at risk, as you might imagine, if somebody came into your community and started assailing your religion might not be the safest thing to do. And some of these missionaries who are very brave people would go to places like, I mean, St. Boniface famously will try to convert the Frisians and will be martyred. That's the term that is used, right, martyred means that one way or another they killed him. A lot of these missionaries will be killed and be martyred trying to convert the Germanic type heathen, the barbarian heathen. My favorite amongst these is a saint called Lebwin. And Lebwin, like so many of these other people trying to convert the people in what's now northern Germany or the Netherlands is from Anglo-Saxon England. And Lebwin is not going to be martyred. He's going to be one of these ones who survives. He goes to preach to the Saxons. And these guys would come in, by the way, and they would do things like burn or chop down their sacred trees that they believed held up the universe or were the pathways from the gods to man. I mean, sacred sites, they'll come in here and chop them down. I mean, what kind of guts do you have to have to be an unarmed cleric who comes in and does that amongst a warrior people that don't even leave home without weapons?
Starting point is 00:15:50 But the story of St. Lebwin involves one of the greatest speeches ever given by a figure in the Middle Ages, if it really happened. And if it really happened, this guy is absolutely one of the more gutsy people you will ever see. The version I have comes from a book called The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany, translated and edited by a guy called C.H. Talbot. He claims that this version of the story of Lebwin is from an unknown author and that a later version that is attributed is simply taken from this version. But he describes this saint who wasn't a saint at the time, just a missionary named Lebwin, who goes to the Saxons during one of their big assemblies that they have. To call them democratic would be false, but they didn't have a king who ruled over every little thing. They would get together and have assemblies and hash this stuff out. But what that meant is that there's a lot of armed barbarians in a single place at a single time.
Starting point is 00:16:47 And this story has Lebwin just sort of appearing amongst them. It's hard not to see how many of these figures would have made great superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And you know, for reasons of not wanting to be accused of blasphemy, I understand why the Marvel Universe did not include the monotheistic religions like Islam and Christianity in their universe, but they have the Norse gods, they have the Greek gods, and yet who wiped out all those gods? Well, in Europe it was Christianity that killed pantheism, right? And if you read the account of Lebwin, he sounds like he can make himself invisible. They don't explicitly say that, but he appears out of nowhere. And when they want to kill him, he can manage to disappear.
Starting point is 00:17:32 And when he first appears to these people in their assembly, he's wearing his religious vestments, which might have looked like a superhero outfit to these barbarian types. He's got the gospels in the crook of his arm, which is like a book of magic. And he's got a cross with him, which is almost like a religious weapon if you're looking at it from a people who believe heavily in things like magic. And according to the unknown author who chronicles Lebwin's life, this is how it goes, quote. Suddenly, Lebwin appeared in the middle of the circle, clothed in his priestly garments, bearing a cross in his hands and a copy of the gospels in the crook of his arm. Raising his voice, he cried, Listen to me, listen, I am the messenger of Almighty God, and to you Saxons, I bring his command.
Starting point is 00:18:23 The author says, astonished at his words and at his unusual appearance, a hush fell upon the assembly. The man of God then followed up his announcement with these words. The God of heaven and ruler of the world and his son Jesus Christ commands me to tell you that if you are willing to be and to do what his servants tell you, he will confer benefits upon you such as you have never heard of before. Then he added, As you have never had a king over you before this time, so no king will prevail against you and subject you to his domination. But if you are unwilling to accept God's commands, a king has been prepared nearby who will invade your lands, spoil and lay them waste, and sap away your strength in war.
Starting point is 00:19:15 He will lead you into exile, deprive you of your inheritance, slay you with the sword, and hand over your possessions to whom he has a mind, and afterwards you will be slaves both to him and to his successors. Now I can't figure out if that is a warning or a prophecy or a threat, but that king he's talking about is Charlemagne, and he does just what Lebwyn says he will. And when the Saxons are eventually crushed, some of the leaders who fostered the rebellions flee to one of the last places they can still practice their traditional religious beliefs, which are being pushed farther and farther to the peripheries of the known world. They flee to Denmark. Denmark during this time period is like the rest of Scandinavia.
Starting point is 00:20:25 It is not any kind of a unified kingdom or state of any kind. There are lots of what are called petty kings. Sometimes these sorts of entities are referred to as chiefdoms. Norway, for example, I believe during this period has something like 15 different petty kings who are more like warlords in a lot of these cases. The University of Oslo historian and Viking expert John Vidar Sigurdsson estimates the Scandinavian population around this time period to be about 650,000 people, half of which would fall into the realm of what would be controlled by Danish rulers. He says those numbers will rise to about a million. These are just estimates he cautions in the year 1050, so sort of brackets the Viking age.
Starting point is 00:21:18 But the petty king who's ruling the part of Denmark over by Jutland that butts up against Saxon territory is about to have Charlemagne for his next door neighbor when Charlemagne's conquering the Saxons. So his involvement in this war between Charlemagne and the Saxons may be a little like a proxy war situation where he's hoping to help the Saxons defeat Charlemagne so that he doesn't have to directly fight him. One of the main leaders in the Saxon rebellion is a hero in Germanic history called Vedukint, who may be married to one of the daughters of one of these Danish petty kings. And when Vedukint is fleeing Charlemagne, he flees to Denmark and is given sort of sanctuary by one of these Danish petty kings. This is where the story gets interesting though. And a hundred years ago in his book The Art of War and the Middle Ages, Sir Charles Oman describes the situation as it might have been seen from the Danish point of view. And remember, by about this time, your history books are going to start labeling this entire era in this region as the Viking age.
Starting point is 00:22:33 And people like the Danes are one of the key peoples who make up these so-called Vikings, who we always think of as aggressive pirates who are on the attack all the time. But a people that more modern day historians are starting to see that from their point of view, they may have felt like they were the ones threatened. And interestingly enough, a hundred years ago, Sir Charles Oman's already saying stuff like that when he writes quote, Perhaps the first seeds of trouble were sown when Vedukint, the Saxon, fled before the swords of the Franks and took refuge in Jutland. We need not doubt that he told his Danish hosts terrible tales of the relentless might, the systematic and irresistible advance of the Iron King of the Franks, he means Charlemagne. The danger was now at their doors. The fate of Saxony might soon be that of Denmark. The kings of the southern Danes gave shelter to Vedukint, but they sent fair words to Charles and did their best to turn away his wrath. Yet when Vedukint yielded and was baptized in 785, they must have felt like their own turn to face the oncoming storm had now arrived.
Starting point is 00:23:47 End quote. The Danish kings during this era will fortify and perhaps expand an already existing fortification, which separated sort of the territory of the Danes from the territory of the Saxons or soon to be the territory of the Carolingians. It was called the Danework or the Daneverka or the Daneverga. And you can still go see the remains by the way of that long, I think it's something like miles and miles of wall across the entire sort of narrow area of Jutland. I believe the last time it was used was in the 1860s against the Prussians who will fight the Franco-Prussian war something like a decade later. I mean, you're getting pretty modern. And in more modern histories, this point of view of the Scandinavian peoples during the Viking Age is much better examined. For example, historian Neil Price in his book The Children of Ash and Elm suggests that these Danish peoples, the Scandinavians in the Viking era felt threatened the entire time and may have thought of themselves the ones who were on the defensive. Sort of the last stand of the Norse gods, if you will. Notwithstanding the traditional focus on Viking aggression, for much of the period, the peoples of southern Scandinavia were under near constant threat from the belligerence of their Christian neighbors. The Frankish Empire was being carved out at the point of a sword by Charlemagne's expansionist wars in the late 8th century, and the North would have been feeling these social pressures at the time of the first raids.
Starting point is 00:25:38 The great man, he means Charlemagne, died in 814, decades after the seaborne attacks had begun. The 9th century division of the Carolingian Empire, following years of civil war, did nothing to alleviate tensions along the Danish frontier. And there is little to suggest the slowly expanding Viking polities ever felt entirely safe from southern assault, even into the new millennium. Scandinavian military endeavors almost always included an element of proactive defense alongside their more immediately mercenary ambitions. End quote. Now, I don't know about you, but I have to really try to get my brain into the right headspace to see these Viking warrior raiders whose nickname given to them by the English is the slaughter wolves. To see the slaughter wolves as the aggrieved injured party here lashing out in an understandable way defensively. But there's a lot of advantages to that root cause, and it's been around a long time, we quoted Charles Oman, but there's others. One of the advantages is it answers a key question in this whole affair, the question of why now? Why do you have the Viking Age kick off when it does and not a hundred years earlier or not a hundred years later? If it's a response to certain actions on the part of a well-armed militant Christianity continually moving north, well, then the reason it happens when it does is due to Charlemagne's activity, right?
Starting point is 00:27:25 We should mention because it's key to zooming out and understanding the state of affairs, that Viking activity was not something brand new and that piracy was always going on and the pre-modern world piracy is pretty much omnipresent. The difference between the Viking era and the one that preceded it is the intensity level. Piracy in the pre-modern world is best thought of like a campfire, maybe, and when there's a lot of root causes and fuel thrown on the campfire, the flames burn brightly and with a lot of heat, but without those things, it can die down to just glowing ash-covered embers. But those embers always have the potential with more fuel thrown on them to blaze up again, right? Or maybe think about piracy like a stock market and sometimes you're trading at low-level ranges and then something occurs, you know, the root causes pile on other root causes and you get a spike in the stock market, maybe even an extended sort of bull market and maybe you could look at the Viking age as a three or so century unprecedented bull market in piracy. Another key root cause that's often cited for this era's explosion in piracy is, well, call it the equivalent of having a place to fence your stolen goods, right? I mean, if you steal something, how do you convert that into cash, for example? Or how does cash get converted into something tangible that's usable? Because during this era, you see the growth in these emporiums, these trading centers, these nodes of economic activity in the Scandinavian world that pop up. Places like Berka in modern day Sweden, which I've been to, but there's several other sites like this that become places that get tied into what passes for a global trading network at the time, right?
Starting point is 00:29:38 Something that ties you into the trading web that includes Europe and Asia and Northern Africa and the Middle East. Places where you can take stolen goods and fence them. Places where you can convert cash or pretty metals that don't have any other purpose into usable goods. And Berka is a good example of one of these places where there's a ton of legitimate commerce going on here. If you have a farm in, you know, what's now modern day Sweden and you want your excess food to make you some money or get bartered for something else, you bring it to one of these trade emporiums and you can do it there. Maybe you've got wood that you've chopped or maybe you have traded with another peoples like the peoples, the indigenous peoples in the north for skins and furs and you want to trade those. Or maybe you've just gotten back from a raid someplace else and you have slaves or you have silver or something like that that you want to convert into more tangible usable goods that fit your needs. Well, these places crop up and create the economic dynamism that makes this period a little bit of a gold rush era and that incentivizes people to do things that they might not have been as incentivized to do before perhaps. It's also possible that all this wealth coming into Scandinavia through piracy is creating a level of inflation. I mean, they're finding tons and tons of coins from the Islamic states in Viking era Scandinavia and always have. It may be the largest repository of certain kinds of Islamic coins anywhere, but that might mean that the cost of everything's going up. I mean, Scandinavia is a society where gift giving is the road to power, right? Gift giving is how you create friends and relationships and friends and relationships are the sort of supporters that propel Scandinavian leaders into rulership roles. According to historian John Vigard Sigerson, he says that violence was the Vikings most important export, but that at home, quote,
Starting point is 00:32:00 they were not particularly bloodthirsty. In most cases, local power games were acted out peacefully as the players competed to display their wealth in the form of great feasts and gifts. Consumption was a Vikings most important virtue. The brutality we usually associate with the Vikings was displayed abroad, end quote. In addition to these trading centers cropping up, you get a lot of people pushing the root cause about the engineering and technological and navigational developments that create a singularity of its own. And these incredible Viking ships, which will continue to be enlarged and improved upon during this entire Viking era. If you go look at pictures of either recreations, artists, conceptions, or even the skeletons of these ships that they found, it's absolutely terrifying to think of going into the open sea in these things for days on end. But not only could you brave the open sea in these incredible engineering marvels, but they could be used in the river systems as well. And during the pre-modern era, you know, when you're talking about before railroads and highways and all these kinds of things, traveling the river system of a place like Europe or Asia or any of those areas is the quickest way to get around. It's like a giant subway system. And so the use of this naval technology as a way to penetrate deeply through the river systems into all these areas opens the door to the kinds of raiding that might have been difficult, if not impossible before this era. And also add this idea to it too. And that's that in the north, they didn't previously, as I understand it, use much in the way of sales. It was strictly rowing that got you from place to place.
Starting point is 00:34:04 But during this era, sales are adopted and you get the better ships with the sales and the nodes of trade operation. And I mean, it starts to come together in a way that you can see what Neil Price is talking about when he talks about a singularity. And by the way, there are more things that might go into the singularity. We only scratched the surface. I mean, Neil Price brings up new evidence that suggests there might have been volcanically induced climate change working on the Scandinavians during this era, right? Reducing crop yields and things like that and putting more pressure on these societies to get what they needed to survive from farther afield. So there's never any shortage of possible root causes. I tend to myself always default towards this idea of collective human behavior. And I've talked about this many times. And it's the idea that as individuals, we are unpredictable as all get out. But when you get us in larger groups, we sort of devolve toward the mean. And then our activities become a little bit more understandable and predictable in advance. And can you imagine being in, let's just say some small Norwegian fishing village during this era with no centralized kingdom where you have hundreds of different, you know, chieftain ships and somebody in your neighborhood, your neck of the woods is out there in the nice weather one day, flashing around a whole bunch of conspicuous wealth, better clothes, wife running around with some very expensive looking brooches to pin their cloaks with.
Starting point is 00:35:53 They paying for everybody's drinks at the tavern with some hack silver and maybe a new slave or two by their side. You're going to sit there and say, hey, Olaf or life or Eric or Harold, where'd you get all that good stuff. And if they say, oh, well, me and the lads joined up with my cousin and their people over at the farming community next door. And we got 40 or 60 guys together, a rich person paid for a big ship. And we went over across the water and took all this stuff from a mostly undefended monastery. You'd want to get some too, wouldn't you? I mean, wouldn't it be just the most normal thing in the world to say, wait, there's practically free, practically undefended stuff somewhere nearby. Well, count me in. I want to get some stuff too. And the undefended nature of these places is probably another root cause that explains why these happened. It should be pointed out that these pagan heathen as the Christian or Islamic for that matter, religious groups would see them, that these people were immune to special protections that kept other people from stealing the same sort of stuff they wanted. I mean, think about these monasteries, which will become the early targets in places like Scotland, Ireland and England. Oftentimes they're located on islands just offshore. They are all at once sites for monkish contemplation and the reading of the sacred scriptures and all that.
Starting point is 00:37:37 But many of them are also quite wealthy places that are like minor industries, lots of farming and winemaking and all kinds of other stuff happening. They are extremely tempting targets. But the reason that they're not attacked by people in their own neighborhood is because they have a sort of a magical force field protecting them. And the force field is that they form the infrastructure of the Christian religion. And if you are a Christian living nearby, one of the worst things you could do in your worldview to imperil your mortal soul would be to go steal stuff from the house of God and kill his servants. That's bad Christian karma anywhere you look at it. Now, I'm not saying it didn't happen. In Ireland, for example, they did burn religious monasteries sometimes. And it was a classic thing to do if you were a pagan people. The first thing the Saxons used to do when they would have an uprising against Charlemagne, you know, he'd leave, go on some other expedition, they'd have a giant revolt. The first thing they do is burn the monasteries and kill the monks. So it's pretty classic. But because these places didn't need a lot of defenses against Christian people, they had a sort of spiritual armor, a spiritual armor that did not work against pagans. And so a bunch of places that should not have been as easy marks as they were, were. And there's nothing that a potential pirate likes more than an easy score. Now, the first famous raids in your history books are going to happen in the 780s and 790s in England and Scotland and those areas. Bioarchaeology keeps pushing the Viking age earlier and earlier and they're finding more and more sites all the time.
Starting point is 00:39:35 And that suggests that the famous starting gun sounding for the Viking era, which is famously like 793 at Lindisfarne in the monastery up in northeastern Britain, that this is probably a bit of an illusion created from our lack of knowing about other earlier raids. We've found, for example, a famous now, very quickly famous Viking burial in what's now the Baltic area that predates the famous Lindisfarne raid of 793 by decades. And so it's pretty possible that this low level of piracy was going on all the time, especially in Scandinavia. And in the 780s and 790s, it moves out of that confined area. In the late 780s, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, I think lists it as 787, but I think most historians think it was 789. You get a famous incident where a bunch of Vikings show up in southern England are met by the local authority. He's called a Reeve. Think about a sheriff or a trade official who goes there presumably to tell the Vikings who he thinks are traders, merchants, to tell them where to go so that they can pay their tax before they get their trading started and famously those traders kill the Reeve. They murder the king's official, and this is often looked at as the first sign of trouble. In 793, which is four years later, you get the attack at Lindisfarne in northeastern Britain. And it's a famous raid. Monks are killed. Stuff is stolen. The altar is famously splattered with blood and the gods instruments thrown into the dung heap according to a primary source. There is a bit of romanticism sometimes connected to what a Viking raid is like. There was a famous Brady Bunch episode, if you're old enough to remember, where one of the young members of the family was starting to romanticize Billy the Kid, right?
Starting point is 00:41:43 The old Western outlaw. And the way the story wraps up is the father in the family finds someone whose father was actually killed by Billy the Kid, an old timer who tells the young boy, listen, this person you're romanticizing is not worth your romanticizing, right? They were bad people and this wasn't exciting fun stuff. This was murder. Well, there's a similar sort of point made by historian Neil Price in the Children of Ash and Elm, where he wants us to keep our eyes on the prize when it comes to these Viking raids and not see them as a bunch of dates and locations on a map or a timeline. He writes, quote. Before venturing there, however, there is something else, almost a moral imperative. The cartographic Viking age, the raids as mapped is a useful but comfortably distant way to approach these events. A violent reality check is needed, a corrective and necessary acknowledgement of what the maze of dates and place names and labeled arrows really meant. He continues, quote. At their most immediate on the spot on the day for many the raids were the most bitter of endings behind every notation on our maps lay an urgent present of panic and terror of slashing blades and sharp points of sudden pain and open wounds of bodies by the wayside and orphaned children of women raped in all manner of people enslaved of entire family lines ending in blood of screams and then silence where there should be lively noise of burning buildings and ruin of economic loss of religious convictions overturned in a moment and replaced with humiliation and rage of roads choked with refugees as columns of smoke rose behind them of utter ruthless brutality expressed in all its forms and quote. Now if you are made homeless or turned into a refugee or even killed during one of these Viking raids at least most of your trouble is behind you the worst is over maybe imagine being taken prisoner and held in slavery by these kinds of people.
Starting point is 00:44:06 Imagine being in their total power, you know, tied up not being able to do anything. A bunch of armed Viking raiders. I mean, Tom Holland in his book The Forge of Christendom which is a great book by the way he quotes a Norman poet from after this period who talks about, you know, some of this activity and take this for what it's worth although there's not much that's unsupportable here I mean they talk about heterosexual gang rape on slaves but that's something that's attested to by eyewitnesses in other sources with the Vikings but also homosexual gang rape and urinating on these recently captured people I mean it's all part of degrading them mistreating them and maybe just, you know, trying to figure out a way to entertain a bunch of bored Vikings. It's horrific. It's part of the human condition though especially in the pre modern era, and it's interesting to kind of figure out why that's the case because it shines a light on why it's so hard to stop things like these Viking assaults. We mentioned earlier that piracy was basically omnipresent in the pre modern world but piracy is sort of just a subcategory of raiding and raiding has been around. Well at least since Neanderthal man I think I'm safe in saying I mean if you want to study the roots of warfare, you're going to find that the earliest, you know, historical accounts you can find and read about are from the middle of the story. I mean you need to go into things like archaeology and anthropology and stuff like that to try to figure out, you know, where things like raiding starts and raiding is probably a subcategory of war. So piracy is a subcategory of raiding. Raiding is a subcategory of war and you need to go back in time to like, you know, what anthropologists do when they study conflict between simians that come together, right?
Starting point is 00:46:02 I mean, you know, talking apes, right? That's how the roots of war go and there's almost a Newtonian reliability in the idea that if you have tons of stuff people want, right, tons of wealth, whatever counts for wealth, you know, at whatever time period and you don't protect it, somebody's going to take it. Right, not every society is a raiding society, but all that has to happen in your geographical neighborhood, in your historical period, is that somebody in your region needs to be a raiding society and that's going to change everything. I truly believe that raiding is one of those prime movers in human history because of all the sort of the downstream effects it has, right? The Newtonian pinging for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. And if you live next to a community of people that raid, you have to defend yourself. Right, that's the equal and opposite reaction. And you can choose defense, you could choose offense or you could choose both, but not choosing anything is an option that will get your people wiped out, taken into slavery, absorbed and eventually have them disappear. Some societies do it defensively, right? Some Native American societies will build these tall sorts of abodes or in rock cliffs where they can pull up ladders if the dangerous raiding peoples nearby them show up, right? So we're just going to flee and escape them in a, you know, Native American version of a castle. And my goodness, one of the most obvious examples of a defensive downstream adaptation to dealing with people who want to take your stuff, who live near you, are walls.
Starting point is 00:47:43 I mean, walls can serve a lot of purposes, obviously, but the Occam's raised a reason that you have them and that you have them from the very beginning of human cities. I mean, Jericho is one of the oldest cities in world history. What is it famous for? Walls. So walls is another one of those downstream sorts of Newtonian impacts. And you see walls, by the way, if you go look at drawings and paintings of cities, you have walls until cannons started reliably knocking them down. So that's one of the adaptations that human beings do when they live near people who raid. But most societies include an offensive component. If the other guy has warriors, right? The other society has people who train with weapons and have experience using these weapons and encourage, you know, activity on the part of the people who have experience in training using weapons, then you're going to have to have people like that. If you want to live in a garden of Eden, you can't have a raiding society there because they're going to force everyone else to adapt.
Starting point is 00:48:49 And that's going to turn everything into the sort of, you know, militaristic, counterbalancing force thing we live with today. And the people have always had. Well, if you look at the societies in this Viking era, let's call them the haves and the have nots. There are some very rich societies and it's a hell of a temptation if you want to just go take their stuff, especially if it seems like an easy thing to do. I mean, think about the temptations that any, you know, group of Viking type pirates would have in the modern world today. We, of course, have piracy in the modern world. International naval patrols go out there and take on these little, you know, fast boats with guys armed with AK-47s and whatnot. But it's not like the kind of piracy that you could run into in the Viking era where they're going to bring a lot of people on shore and take stuff on shore. I mean, try to imagine, and it's impossible to imagine because of all the aspects that make the modern world the modern world, but those aspects didn't exist 100 years ago. So human history up until about 100 years ago was totally open to somebody doing, oh, I don't know, some sort of a raid on a fabulously rich area that was just beckoning people to come and take stuff.
Starting point is 00:50:02 How about the area I'm from, Southern California, a place like Laguna Beach or some of these communities, Manhattan Beach, some of these wonderful Malibu coastal communities. Just imagine, and we'll talk a really small force of maybe five Viking ships roll into Emerald Bay or Almoral Bay in Laguna. By the time the first morning light, you know, comes up over the horizon, the five ships are there in the cove and guys are jumping out of those ships. I suppose if we're going to make a modern analogy, we'll give them, you know, AK-47s and rocket launchers. And they're going to come and they're going to rush through that community, stealing everything they can get their hands on. By the time the residents wake up, you've got screams and smoke and armed men and before you know it, there's five guys in your room taking your stuff, stealing your wife into slavery and killing you. 200 Vikings in Laguna Beach would create absolute havoc. And if they're gone before the sun sets again, we don't have very long to respond, do you?
Starting point is 00:51:12 Now in the modern age, you don't need very long to respond, which is why the last hundred or so years is a bit different. In Laguna Beach, they would have known about five Viking ships approaching the coast long before they got anywhere near the coast, right? Satellites would have found them, aerial reconnaissance would have seen them, somebody on a boat somewhere fishing would have, you know, called in something on their cell phone. And then you would have scrambled air assets when you aircraft, helicopters, you'd be on them before they got anywhere near Emerald Bay, right? And then of course you have, you know, naval units, you've got them in Long Beach, you've got them in San Diego. They're going to converge on that area within an hour or two hours and it's a suicide mission for any Vikings. But you take away those modern surveillance and response elements, those military elements and all of a sudden you have a wildly attractive target that's super rich and that people could get in and out of before the people that would punish you for doing something like that could even arrive on the scene.
Starting point is 00:52:13 Military historian Hanstow Brook calls this one of the great, and it's obvious, isn't it, one of the great advantages that the Vikings have? Because by the time they strike and get out of there, I mean, it would take you quite a while to get a thousand local people together to fight Vikings and some of the real nasty reputational aspects of the Viking warrior are because they were often fighting people that were nowhere near their equals. I mean, if I told you we need 200 people to combat the 200 Vikings that just, you know, landed in Emerald Bay, what kind of 200 people are you going to come up with? In a lot of these communities, it might be peasants, people who sometimes fooled around with weapons, but if you need to have people fast, you get the locals, but the locals can't deal with this. They can't deal with a bunch of people who have a religious belief, for example, that creates fearsome warriors, right?
Starting point is 00:53:07 A societal element that, well, let me put it to you this way. One of my professors once said, if you want to start to understand, you know, just begin to understand any given people throughout history, look at what the gods they worship want from them. Look at their idea of what the hereafter is and who gets the good seats in the hereafter and who doesn't, and that will give you an idea of what that society creates in terms of individuals. The god that these pagan and heathen version of the Vikings believe in are gods that do this kind of thing, too. These are not turn the other cheek gods. These are gods that suggest that they have their minions watching you when you're fighting, and the better you fight, the better your chances you're going to be at the important table in Valhalla with Odin.
Starting point is 00:54:00 The way you handle your weapons matters, whether you flee or not matters, and the more you gloriously seek out death and don't fear it, the better your chances, having a place to sit when the music stops at either Valhalla or some of the other places you can go in the Viking and Germanic, you know, after world. You pit those up against a bunch of local peasants quickly raised to deal with them, a bunch of Laguna Beach peasants, if you can imagine, who believe in a heaven and a hell, and if they're good, they go to heaven, and if they're bad, they go to hell, and they're not completely sure about all. It's a recipe for facing a bunch of people who are more likely to run away before you run away, and as we've said before, in a pre-modern battle, but really in any battle, the real killing starts happening once one side begins to flee or rout. It's a morale contest until then, and these Vikings live in a system where the societal carrots and sticks encourage fearlessness.
Starting point is 00:55:02 You want to create a real super soldier, forget about doing what they did with the Captain America comic book character, right? Make him bigger, make him stronger, make him faster, just make him braver, and that will create the super soldier in this era, and most of the time, the armies and troops and soldiers and forces that were arrayed against them when Viking pirates and raiders showed up were far inferior to them in these categories, which is partly how you get such a fearsome reputation. And let's recall, in these early raids that famously kick off this whole era, a lot of the opponents that are trying to stand up to these fearsome and fearless Viking warriors are monks. And I mean, we're not talking Shaolin priests in China doing kung fu or anything, we're talking about the guys who have their heads shaved with the rim of hair around the edges that in the famous artwork, the stereotypical artwork,
Starting point is 00:56:05 but it's not that far from the truth are being shown trying to parry the Viking war axes with crosses. So you get an idea that it's perhaps not the stiffest competition these Viking raiders have to face early on, but it's worth pointing out that the ideas of fearlessness and fierceness are kind of neutral in terms of what they imply. I mean, you can be fearsome and fearless defending your own family, right? It doesn't mean anything by itself. It doesn't imply aggressiveness, but there are the other elements in this culture that are so fascinating. And that in some ways, although this may be true for many different cultures out there, but remind me of my own culture in the United States or the traditional one that we celebrate anyway in both good and bad.
Starting point is 00:56:54 I mean, you can see one of these elements going on in Viking society that reminds me of the old American trope of go west, young man, right that line and that would apply equally well to young Viking males too, right? Go make your fortune, venture forward, risk and get reward, right? You're going to go out there if you're a young Viking male done with your apprenticeship, and you're going to take this wonderful adventure on this ship. And it's a little like forging off on a giant grand male bonding expedition with some threat posed and some challenges faced and some daring do established and some, you know, treasure looted and you come home and you can afford the wife now and you can put a down payment on the farm and you get your life started, right?
Starting point is 00:57:41 You've made your bones. There's a little bit of an element of that in this whole Viking sort of culture that encourages people to go out and do something like this. And then the fearsomeness and the fearlessness well has a different sort of cast about it, doesn't it? If you're a monk having to try to fend off a Viking axe with your crucifix, their fearlessness and fearsomeness is a little less neutral, right? It's not a quality you want to celebrate. It's something that comes with as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said, dreadful forewarnings, you know, immense sheets of light, whirlwinds, dragons and Vikings.
Starting point is 00:58:27 The first years of these Viking raids are all about hitting the easy targets, these monasteries. So from about 793 all through up until the early 800s, England, Scotland, Ireland, the islands around those islands are getting hit a lot. And we probably only know about the major raids. It's likely there were lots of little attacks. I mean, even if one Viking ship with 30 Vikings in it pulls up near the shore somewhere, that's quite a bit to have to deal with, especially if they're back in their ships in 20 minutes, right? These are devastating and very difficult to defend against raids.
Starting point is 00:59:06 And part of the irony of the whole thing, if you look at it from a really wide historical lens, is that the people during this early time period that are getting hit the hardest, right, the Anglo-Saxons in England and the Irish, for example, were in their days, centuries before this time period, some of the great pirate raiders of their time. I mean, the Irish raided so often into what's now Scotland that the Roman name for some of these Irish, Scoti or Scodi, eventually evolved into the name for the entire region. And of course, the only reason you have Angles and Saxons that gave the name England, right, England to England, is because hundreds of years before they came over in a very similar sort of wave
Starting point is 00:59:55 of Valhalla-ish pantheists arriving on the shores of this island and terrorizing the locals in a very similar way. As Hans Delbrook had written about this time period, and he cast it in sort of cycles, but this is what we talked about in Thor's Angels too, and he had said, quote, we now see a repetition of the conditions that developed in the Roman Empire after the Limies were penetrated, end quote. In other words, the Saxon attacks against Roman Britain, you know, the 300s and 400s are now being repeated by people from even farther north than the Saxons in the realm of the now Christianized Saxons.
Starting point is 01:00:46 The era of very easy targets is going to end in the not too distant future for the reasons we mentioned earlier about for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, there's downstream effects from all this. And if you are a monastery like, for example, Iona, right, on a Scottish island, and you get hit every couple of years, four years, I mean, in one of the attacks between 60 and 70 monks are slaughtered by the Vikings, your downstream effect is you're going to move a lot of your operations away from that site. And recent evidence suggests that the site was never abandoned like we used to think, but you still saw a lot of people say, the best way for us to respond to this is to leave. By about the early 800s, you can see the targets that the Vikings have been hitting, hardening,
Starting point is 01:01:44 which necessitates a higher level of coordination and larger attacks from the Vikings to deal with the fact that their targets are now expecting them. And this is why partly the 800s are going to be this period where the scale and the intensity and the amplitude of these attacks explodes in size. And this is when the stock market that measures piracy shoots up to all time highs. And the point where piracy on a mass level can actually be civilizationally threatening. Now, we should point out that some of these areas that had sort of been too strong for the Vikings to want to mess with, right, they're looking for easy targets, they're not looking for Charlemagne's defenses in the Frankish Empire. But when Charlemagne dies, as we've mentioned, and his son takes over, then his son has the famous problems with his sons
Starting point is 01:02:46 and the Carolingian Empire starts sort of devolving into civil war and disintegration and all this. They have bigger fish to fry than coastal defenses, right? They're fighting huge wars for the future of the Empire, which leaves things to sort of fray at the edges. And that's just the kind of sort of a situation that the Scandinavian raiders always took advantage of. This is why some of the historians often think that there weren't Viking traders, you know, merchants and raiders. They were the same thing. Historian Max Adams in his book The Viking Wars points out that if you went to one of these Viking raiders and tried to make the distinction with them between traders and raiders, they might be baffled by the whole thing, right?
Starting point is 01:03:37 Are you a trader or a raider? Yes. Regardless, what it means is if you've got lots of these Scandinavians and all the trading centers in the entire region, you are getting first class, you know, information on the ground. We might as well think of a lot of these traders slash raiders as intelligence operatives, right? Or if we're going to stick with sort of the organized crime kind of motif here, think about these guys as inside moles in, you know, the business that the mob wants to take over, feeding them information like when's the night watchman not around, you know, where do they keep the loot? Is the cash register open, things like that.
Starting point is 01:04:19 But they certainly get the word when the Frankish Empire begins to be undermined after Charlemagne's death. I mean, to give us an idea and remember, there is stuff going on almost certainly, you know, you can infer things without knowing things. There's almost certainly raiding going on at beneath the level that gets noticed in the sources. But listen to a standard timeline of Viking activities in the West up to this time, right? So we'll catch us up on what's going on. And I took this timeline from the book Vikings and Encyclopedia of Conflict Invasion and Raids by Tristan Mueller, Volmer and Kirsten Wolf. And so here's where we go from like the establishments of these trading nodes to about the death of Charlemagne. And I'm not going to follow or quote the timeline verbatim because frankly, I can't pronounce some of the names of the places where these Vikings hit.
Starting point is 01:05:14 It's going to be in this early period, the area around Ireland and the British Isles that are the hardest hit areas and arguably the hardest hit during the entire Viking age. But I won't follow the timeline verbatim. I was trying to get a sense of the time, though, in how long something takes and what a person alive during the time period might have noticed. And understanding, as we said, that there's going to be a lot of Viking raids that are too small to have been recorded that would have been a part of these people's rumor mills and life and sort of, you know, what do you hear is going on elsewhere kind of information that we don't get today. Just going from the ones that were big enough to make it into the chronology. Look at what a person who was let's just say eight years old. Is that about when memories stick? I think that's arguable.
Starting point is 01:06:05 But let's just say eight for the sake of argument. Let's say you're an Anglo Saxon kid will call you Ethel Dan and you get apprenticed out to the court of Charlemagne, not an impossible thing to have happen. I put you there so that you'll be able to be one of the few people in this time period that's actually privy to the news might have heard of all these things might be getting reports. And if you're eight years old in 789 and Ethel Dan is in Charlemagne's court, he will certainly hear of that first incident we mentioned earlier. The famous arrival on the shores in England where the Danish men show up the Reeve, you know, the sheriff, the tax official, whatever he was goes down to talk to them first, you know, typical merchant agreement and they kill him. Right. So there you go. The famous kickoff of the Viking era and old Ethel Dan is young.
Starting point is 01:07:01 He's eight. Now it's four years later, 793 when you have Lindisfarne famously, right. And that's the one that shocks everybody that is the traditional kickoff date for the Viking age. And Ethel Dan here would have gone from eight in 789 to 12 and 793. All those Viking raids that were flying out of the radar are probably known about, but so four years in this guy's life, that's how long between raids. That's his reality. According to the timeline, you have more raids in multiple places in the British Isles in Ireland 794 795. So while Ethel Dan is 12 1314, these occasional raids, these places being hit here and there as part of his reality.
Starting point is 01:07:49 15 had to be a little bit of a break on the big timeline and then in 798, the Vikings raid the coast of Ireland. So Ethel Dan would be 17 years old when that happens. The very next year he'll be 18 years old when the Vikings launch a raid large enough to make it into the history books in southern France and Aquitaine. When he is 19 years old, Charlemagne in 800 will strengthen the defenses, the anti piracy defenses, the fleet, the coastal watch, all that kind of stuff, right? So for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Charlemagne hardens the Vikings targets. Now, of course, this can do a number of things, can't it? The hope is that it deters the Vikings from raiding at all.
Starting point is 01:08:36 But if the Vikings are already addicted to what they're raiding and can get the numbers together, well, what you're really asking for is a more serious effort. If 20, 40, 60 Vikings can no longer get the job done, maybe 500, 600, 2000 Vikings can. More on that in a minute. When Ethel Dan is 21 years old, the monastery at Iona in northern Scotland will be raided a second time. Three years later, when he's 24 years old in 806 ADCE, Iona will be raided a third time and between 60 and 70 monks will be slaughtered by the Vikings. So these are all things that Ethel Dan in his living memory would have known about by the time he's 24. And the next year at 25, there are more raids on the Irish coast. This about brings us up to speed to where we were when we started this story.
Starting point is 01:09:40 The Vikings, Charlemagne, is defeating the Saxons and finding himself the new next-door neighbor to at least some of the people called the Danes. And we have to be so careful here. And boy, does it get confusing, because the modern day peoples, the Swedes, the Norwegians and the Danes from modern day nation states are not the same people that are sometimes mentioned throughout different sources, including relatively recent ones, including modern ones that people will start calling Swedes and Danes and Norwegians when they mean peoples who live in chieftainships. The whole question of kings here can get extremely confusing. There was a wonderful footnote attached to my copy of the Adam of Bramon primary source materials that was talking about this, and this is the way they put it when they were
Starting point is 01:10:35 talking about kings, and they would often use the name kings in quotation marks, and it said quote. On the use of the expression Danish kings, often so-called, the early rulers of the Scandinavian countries were like the Indian chiefs, they mean Native American chiefs, of our early days often called kings by their contemporaries in more advanced cultures. Some of these in quotation marks, kings, were merely rulers of a part of the country struggling for primacy with other in quotation mark, kings of Denmark, a genealogical table in this period would be marked by gaps and uncertainties, end quote.
Starting point is 01:11:22 Sigurdsson suggests that it's pretty well understood that both the Swedes and the Danes had something akin to a royal family, but that kingship was something that was sort of, if not elected, then appointed by a group of also powerful chieftains or warlords, and they could choose other people from other branches of the, I mean, it's very confusing. But the reason it matters is because the first, if not the first, maybe one of the first of these Scandinavian kings whose name makes it into the history books is this guy that Charlemagne runs into when he conquers the Saxons, this guy who for five minutes looks like he's going to fight a war against Charlemagne, and the record shows that that's a suicidal
Starting point is 01:12:11 thing to do, Charlemagne beat everybody. He came from a time period in Frankish history where they were just badasses and they beat everybody, which is why it's so shocking. It's like Mike Tyson, when he eventually loses, it's so shocking when Charlemagne goes away and then all of a sudden this bad assery collapses, but for five minutes there's this challenge where this king of the Danes in air quotes, a guy named, you'll see it a bunch of different ways, Godfreyd, Godfreyd, Godafreyd, he will sort of puff up his chest as Einhardt says, one of the primary sources, and think he can compete with Charlemagne.
Starting point is 01:12:54 This is the guy that we mentioned earlier had strengthened the old ramparts and walled defenses of Denmark, right, the Dane work, and anyone who could get that kind of labor forced together and the money and resources required to do a centralized task like that is seen by modern historians as an example of the beginning of the process of centralization right in a place like Denmark. It's a spreading disease if you're looking at this from an old fashioned Viking viewpoint who worships the Norse gods and believes that all Vikings are equal, there's a famous story of a Viking ship pulling up to a port once and the guardian at the port saying something
Starting point is 01:13:40 to the effect of who is your leader and the voice coming back yelling we have no leader, we are all equal, and that's sort of an age old Viking, it's a trope but at the same time it's part of their culture, mentioned by contemporaries by the way, and yet that's going against the tenor of the times, right, the trends, what's happening in places like the Carolingian Empire, now that's the trend that's taking over, the one that's the hierarchical society with a king at the top, you know, in a pyramid position in this state with a powerful church and a hierarchy of classes and a Christian religion and that's spreading and it's been spreading northwards for generations and that's what Thor's Angels about and as
Starting point is 01:14:26 we said we've stumbled back into the middle of a process here and this trend is continuing northward, Norway and Sweden are still farther north from here, the first of these Scandinavian places to feel the real pressure of living next door to a place that is both centralized and Christianized are the Danes and the process that's going on with this guy Godefred is he's one of these early Danish kings where it seems like, you know, the process of turning from a place with hundreds of chiefdoms into just a few or maybe even one king is now underway and it makes them more dangerous to a person like Charlemagne. The Franks love by the way to meddle in Danish and Viking leadership contests and they like
Starting point is 01:15:16 to have a strong leader in these places when that leader is a friend of theirs and they like to instead meddle and create chaos and disharmony and all kinds of things if the leadership is not prone to like them. You can see how dangerous though these powerful Viking era kings might be when Godefred at one point brings an army to negotiate with Charlemagne so that they have armies facing off and then in 810 famously raids the Frisian coast, Friesland is where it's mostly the Netherlands coast today but there's a little bit of Germany too and it's right by the Viking Danish territories but he allegedly and take this number for what it's worth has a fleet
Starting point is 01:16:01 of 200 Viking ships attack the coast using Roger Collins' conservative way of estimating how many Vikings per ship because we don't know how big each of these ships were probably a mix. He estimates 30 is a good conservative number so if you really had 200 ships then that's going to be about 6000 Vikings and the primary sources at the time period say that these Vikings absolutely scoured the coastline of Frisia which is Carolingian territory. So this is asking for war against Charlemagne isn't it and this face off is about to happen and then all of a sudden this powerful sort of unifying maybe early Viking era Danish King
Starting point is 01:16:50 Godefred gets shanked in the back or something like that by one of his bodyguards allegedly and there's a little JFK assassination type speculation going on here but exactly who might be responsible for that but wouldn't that just be like a Charlemagne move? Why do I have to fight you when if I just kill you your relatives will fight over the kingship and dissolve into those same Viking band of you know feuding barbarians you always were and Charlemagne should know because you only have to go back a few generations in his family and they're not that different in the life of Charlemagne the primary source account by Einhard from Charlemagne's era wrote about this this is his entry into the
Starting point is 01:17:39 affair we just talked about and he writes quote the last of these wars was the one declared against the Northmen called Danes they began their career as pirates but afterwards took to laying waste the coast of Gaul and Germany with their large fleet their king Godfred was so puffed up with vain aspirations that he counted on gaining empire over all Germany and looked upon Saxony and Frisia as his provinces he had already subdued his neighbors the abode retire and made them tributary and boasted that he would shortly appear with a great army before Achon where the king held his court some faith was put in his words empty as they sound and it's supposed that he would have attempted something of the
Starting point is 01:18:29 sort if he had not been prevented by a premature death he was murdered by one of his own body guard and so ended at once his life and the war that he had begun and quote now if the shoe were on the other foot when it came to an assassination if that's what this was if the so-called in quotation marks king of the Danes here Godfred had assassinated Charlemagne you would have seen one of the advantages of one of these centralized hierarchical sorts of societies you would probably have a stable transfer of power now this is not guaranteed at all but you probably would have I mean Charlemagne had already sort of set his son Lewis up for this gig the church would have supported it you have this internal sort of
Starting point is 01:19:21 system designed for a peaceful transfer of power you don't always get it but it's designed to provide that that's not how it is in Viking era Scandinavia in fact it's almost a recipe for the opposite sort of results so when this Danish king Godfred is done away with the place just collapses for a while Roger Collins has sort of a rundown of how unstable these conflicts between all of these kings was in Denmark after Godfred died and he points out that all of the sons of Godfred were called kings so this is like a civil war amongst kings but listen to how often they're you know fighting amongst each other as opposed to what you know Charlemagne in a centralized sort of organized state is doing Collins writes quote it has been questioned
Starting point is 01:20:15 whether a single kingdom could have existed in Denmark at this time but the Frankish Chronicles do not refer to rival territorial kingdoms in Jutland and the islands but rather to civil wars between members of an extended royal dynasty such conflicts are recorded in 812 813 814 817 819 823 827 828 850 and 854 and there may have been others end quote so if Charlemagne was figuring again all conjecture here that by knocking off this early centralizing figure things would go back to sort of retributional chaotic barbarian style violence turns out he was right again but this is sort of built into the system here it's got its pros and it's got its cons one of the things it does play into though is the whole rating question
Starting point is 01:21:21 because as we had mentioned earlier the Vikings have been called a consumption society what's really going on here is you know if you were to put it into modern terms these people who gain power leadership type roles you know petty rulerships these are people who build up large followings of powerful supporters they're building up posse's and they're doing it over the course of their careers the problem with the Scandinavian system is that when these people die their posse just dissolves doesn't get transferred to their kid for a stable transfer of power it just starts over which leads to a need to find stuff to give these people because that's why they're your posse generally right there's a trickle down
Starting point is 01:22:13 economic effect here that plays into the whole dynamic for why this society can get so addicted to rating because it becomes addicted to the stuff because the stuff is required to keep your posse happy and if you don't have a posse well then you're probably in somebody else's posse in his history the Viking Wars historian max Adams writes about this perverse interesting sort of you know government by posse and these posse's even have a name I mean if you're a fan of the Vikings you've heard of the herd men of the house carols that's just a fancy Scandinavian way of saying my boys max Adams writes quote by the turn of the ninth century a network of elite clientele with all its benefits for stabilizing kingship was deeply
Starting point is 01:23:01 embedded in the Christian kingdoms in the pre-Christian geographically disparate lands of Scandinavia the state was the king with his death it collapsed networks of affiliation loyalty gift exchange and obligation built up during his reign were reset to zero each new king had to reinvent his kingdom and quote historian neo price had a really interesting line that stayed with me too that's also part of this dynamic that sort of addicts these societies to the rating and that's that from the standpoint of a non powerful person right not not one of these people striving to be a petty king or chieftain or what have you just an average you know Scandinavian Joe I was going to say but to be more like a Scandinavian
Starting point is 01:23:51 life or something price as one successful raid if if you got lucky could change your life forever I mean that's the equivalent of striking it rich the temptation for young men especially from the poorer communities must have been intense right not only are you going to get on or make something of yourself show off to the Valkyries your prowess to get you a better seat with Odin eventually but you're going to come back a made man and maybe even you know hit the jackpot I mean it's it's something that would attract young enterprising people from all over the world right if that's part of your dynamic and truthfully dynamic is the right word because you can see the same dynamic in a lot of warrior societies
Starting point is 01:24:41 that practice raiding they'll have war leaders or war chiefs or people who become known for being very good at organizing raids right they get you back safely they they are successful in getting lots of loot and these people then become the people sought out for these things and you develop sort of a power base and Neil Price and the children of Ash and Elm was talking about what a self-reinforcing prophecy this sort of is in the sense that if you're good at this and you lead some successful raids and then decide to take your winnings and reinvested in the enterprise right by bigger ships more ships acquire a larger entourage with which to carry out these sorts of attacks you can sort of parlay your winnings into
Starting point is 01:25:30 sort of a war chief status or something like one of the famous sea kings as they're called these are people by the way and I believe that dozens have been identified that actually are more like your pirates from the 16th and 17th centuries in the Caribbean people with very small land holdings maybe an island or a Cove or something like that but they have ships and they have men right they've got their herdman their house carls their ancient Germanic version of a warrior brotherhood whatever you want to label it and the two of those things put together warriors and ships in this time period that might be all you need to be a viable economic sort of entity now throughout the course of Charlemagne's
Starting point is 01:26:22 lifetime and as we said several times already and there's nothing confusing about that he dies in 814 up until the end of his lifetime this Viking problem was at the nuisance level of trouble and had there been a continuation of you know by 814 you've had almost a century of really powerful Frankish leadership had that continued I don't think you would have had the Viking age the way you had it I think you'd have had to have been a history nerd focusing on early medieval studies to have even really noticed the blip in piracy caused by the Viking era if what we've talked about to this point is all there were but it's what happens to Charlemagne's empire that opens up the door to something at a much higher
Starting point is 01:27:13 level of threat and impact to anything that it's seen you know up to this point with monasteries and small towns and things like that the occasional extra intense attack but as we'd mentioned if you look at a timeline there are going to be a period after the initial first 20 years where it seems like things calm down a little bit but it's only sort of by comparison right compared to the big spike initially it got quiet again but it's not going to get as quiet as it was before the Viking age kicked off it's going to be though in about 830 when things get very serious again 848 5860 it's shocking what happens but that's all precipitated by other shocking things that happen in the various places that are going to be victimized
Starting point is 01:28:00 by these Vikings Charlemagne's empire falls apart the wheels completely come off in the next ruler's reign and he gets a lot of flak for this I it's hard to know now how much he deserves it because after all Louis the pious as he'll be known Charlemagne's only legitimate surviving son when he takes over Louis the pious has a very different job than his predecessors who had to conquer a place he has to rule it and there's a lot of different entities that make up this Frankish Empire that don't want to be in this Frankish Empire and Louis has to deal with them he also has to deal with a bunch of male relatives most importantly his sons who do not like his plan for the inheritance little bit about Louis
Starting point is 01:28:44 the pious now because he's very important but you wouldn't think inheritance should matter right away after Charlemagne dies but famously Louis the pious has like a near death experience bunch of people are killed in an accident he's almost killed to which makes him think right away famously I better get this inheritance thing in order just in case so he divides the empire amongst his sons which is typical Frankish practice unlike typical Frankish practice though he's not dividing the family farm here he's dividing a full blown giant empire the likes of which no one has had certainly no one in Frankish history so it's a little bit different so he mandates that even though the division will be the same
Starting point is 01:29:25 you still have to have the emperor and it's going to be this son and you all have to give you know your allegiance to the emperor none of the sons end up liking this and they will cause a lifetime's worth of problems for their father over it the trouble will begin like four years after he takes over and will dog him the rest of his life he will be involved in three civil wars he will be deposed from the throne and return to the throne multiple times this is not exactly conducive to stability and when stability is required to do things like you know make sure the coastline is defended from pirate attacks and all this kinds of stuff where you can see how if you're fighting for your existence right if it's an existential
Starting point is 01:30:11 threat you face as the emperor of the Franks piracy is going to fall on the triage scale of importance quite a bit and that's exactly what happens in his book powers and thrones Dan Jones sort of describes a little bit about you know what the Carolingian Empire descends into and he writes quote between 830 and 840 a series of three major rebellions broke out in which Lewis's sons banded together in various combinations to try to improve their portions of the imperial inheritance in keeping with Carolingian custom he writes many cruel murderous and disgraceful deeds were perpetrated including further further blindings drownings and exilings accusations of witchcraft and adultery leveled against
Starting point is 01:31:03 Lewis's wife and Empress Judith and a general commitment to naked self advancement in June 833 he writes at a meeting in Rothfield in the Alsace Lewis was confronted by his eldest son Lothar who had proven himself an attentive student of Carolingian family history and persuaded Pope Gregory IV to back him as supreme ruler Lothar's play for power spooked Lewis's supporters and almost to a man they abandoned him for his eldest son an act of collective spinelessness that earned the meeting the nickname the field of lies and quote the field of lies though would not end Lewis's career he would get the throne back basically forgive the children Jones says and this would be his opinion but he says that like Alexander the great before
Starting point is 01:31:59 him Charlemagne had built an empire that quickly proved itself possible only as an extension of one man's political self well this echoes what German historian Hans Stubbroke had written a hundred years ago when he said quote Charlemagne's empire had no inner unity it was the creation of the dynasty the Arnulf family end quote so if it devolved into a family squabble I suppose that's somewhat understandable but Charles Oman pointed out also over a hundred years ago that the various sons of Lewis were being also used by the component parts people who represented parts of the empire like the lumbards who didn't want to be a part of the empire so you use Lewis's son as a way to you know help break up or help secure a better
Starting point is 01:32:52 portion of the empire for yourself or whatever it might be what this means though is that every piece of the empire and a bunch of the empire's surrounding peoples become like pieces on the chessboard for all these different players in these civil wars to use the Slavic peoples for example will become one of these you know pieces on the chessboard and so will the Danes in the same way that the Carolingians had meddled in Danish politics now for a long time trying to you know see if they could get the kind of ruler that they wanted on the Danish throne will now turn about spare play and using one of Lewis's sons or having one of Lewis's sons use them depends on your point of view they're able to throw their
Starting point is 01:33:36 hat in the ring and try to influence a little bit about who the ruler of the previously so intimidating and dangerous Frankish Empire is going to be and that's why you get this next level of the Viking age when you do because the former apex predator in the geopolitical environment right this Frankish state was so dangerous just you know what a couple decades before when Charlemagne was destroying the Saxons and the Danes felt like they had a gun to their head and now all of a sudden the tables are turned by the 830s and if you look at your timeline the 830s are when the attacks get larger and more sustained and don't just involve a bunch of Norwegians and sea kings and war chiefs but start to involve much larger
Starting point is 01:34:27 entities like the one Gottfried or God of Freed launched in 810 against the the coast of Friesland right big big endeavors unusual before this time period much more usual as we move into it though and if you start to ask why again the primary sources are going to let you down because they're going to simply suggest that these are just bad people motivated by bad things or maybe they'll say that this is God's punishment for the sin of the victims but they generally aren't looking at this from the perspective of the Viking attackers themselves and if they are they're just going to the most base elements right they want loot they want stuff they want slaves as opposed to any sort of larger perspective that might be involved
Starting point is 01:35:22 here but there are ways you can view it from other perspectives and a bunch of histories well ever since I've been around certainly have and we quoted some from a hundred years ago that gave this perspective from the point of view of the Danes and how they might have felt threatened by the Carolingian expansion but this outbreak of new violence on a higher level and more amplified scale can also be viewed as a sort of a response to a you know F around and find out kind of situation I mean when Lewis the pious gets on the throne he continues a lot of the things that his father was doing with the Danes right he's pushing his own claimant to Danish kingship right the preferred Frankish candidate one of these very
Starting point is 01:36:10 early Danish names by the way to emerge from the mists in the fog of prehistory a guy named Harold Clack and Harold is one of those you know it's one of the favorite Viking names you'll run into 10 million heralds and Viking history H a r a l d and Harold Clack is this guy who's famous because he becomes I don't know if you can call him the lap dog of the Carolingian ruler but he's certainly the one that will do whatever it takes to have the backing of somebody who can help him get a advantage over his you know competitors back in Denmark and in the late eight twenties Harold Clack with hundreds of his followers will ostentatiously convert to Christianity right now he's got something more in common with his benefactor Lewis the pious
Starting point is 01:37:01 and then he's going to eventually go back there and wrestle for the throne of Denmark well once again as we had said there's going to be a lot of people in Denmark that don't look at the idea of having a ruler coming in and maybe looking to convert them from their traditional religious beliefs perhaps so positively at the same time by the way that Lewis the pious is converting the guy he wants to be the king of this country next door he's also sending out missionaries and evangelists right these are the we had said earlier the sort of a Marvel superhero kind of figure who are going to go into the lion's den you know safe comparatively from the damage that these you know heathen men can do and bravely convert them and remember
Starting point is 01:37:48 converting them is an interesting thing if you're looking at this from Lewis's perspective because from one perspective he is a devout believer this is his worldview it's like science to him and the idea that he could bring all these people to God is going to you know is going to be something God is going to be pleased with that is a good thing you can go to your grave feeling like you accomplished good deeds at the same time it's been proven including by the Franks themselves that the you know preferred way to defang these warrior god worshiping barbarians is to make him Christians so there's a geopolitical advantage here if you can make these people Christians you can pacify them and then you can get their country you know on the road to
Starting point is 01:38:35 modernity will put a king in there set up a hierarchical system the church will be there to start writing stuff down for you and you'll become a valued trusted and um answerable to authority member of the international community there you go legitimate the point is is that when the 830s happen there's a way to look at this as kind of the equivalent of blowback is with the way we would describe it in a CIA you know failed operation when it's taken you know over the long haul right you try to instill your own ruler and boom all of a sudden you know you've made enemies of the people well it's possible lewis the pious messing in danish politics f around and he found out and the 830s was you know his wake-up call the anglo-saxon
Starting point is 01:39:23 chronicle gets dates wrong during this period so it can become confusing and it actually makes a lot more sense when you read the corrected dates by historians they're only off by a couple of years but it puts everything in the right context because what happens is you start to see a a time when you know attacks are here and there and then all of a sudden gets stepped up in multiple places at the same time which makes one a little suspicious about you know why all of a sudden and one of the places that's going to get hit early on famously is going to be one of these places that is never hit and there's a lot of reasons you wouldn't want to hit it if you were viking including the idea that this is like the best place in northern europe if you want to sell
Starting point is 01:40:04 stuff or you want to fence those slaves you just took or something like that you want to go to doorstead to do that it's in northern europe it's a frankish trading post it is big it is wealthy and nobody touches it normally until 834 when all of a sudden somebody does the annals of saint burton are kind of like the frankish empire's anglo-saxon chronicle for this period all these chronicles i mean there's nothing dramatic about them they're very bare bones and there's no eyewitness accounts of either the point of view of the raiders or the point of view of the raiders victims for any of these viking raids so it's all a little bare bones but let's remember that the viking area is not about particularly nasty raids it's much more
Starting point is 01:40:50 about the quantity of them and when you read sort of a rundown of like 20 years of viking raids it makes your head spin how many places are being hit and sometimes over and over again over what period of time it's a quantity versus quality kind of a phenomenon and in the annals of saint burton for the year 834 it just happens to mention this quote meanwhile a fleet of danes came to frisia and laid waste a part of it from there they came by way of eutect to the emporium called dorostat this is a market town like burka by the way dorostat and destroyed everything they slaughtered some people took others away captive and burned the surrounding region end quote dorostat is for this second viking phase what lindis farne famously is for the first
Starting point is 01:41:51 one of these moments that just sort of announces in hindsight that everything's about to be taken up a notch and in the children of ash and elm historian neil price says this quote in the year 834 dorostat the wealthy emporium at the fork of the rye in about 100 kilometers from the dutch coast was attacked and burnt apparently by a force from denmark it was an astonishing move this was no monastery or isolated community but one of the most important places in the trading networks of northern europe this would be like physically assaulting one of today's great financial hubs the vikings slaughtered at will and took shiploads of slaves the surrounding region was devastated the same was to happen every single summer for the next four years
Starting point is 01:42:44 in the face of ineffectual frankish responses that included failed peace negotiations the vikings seem to have played a careful hand combining feigned diplomacy supported by the rating that they never had any intention of renouncing end quote like tribal rating societies everywhere there's a lot of plausible deniability built in here these rulers can use the fact that they don't control everybody with an iron fist to sort of fob off responsibility for this stuff sometimes you saw it in the native american situation which is of course my favorite thing to compare things to you saw it all the time the us or mexico or spain would go to some ruler and said i thought we had a deal nobody was going to raid anybody and they'd say well i
Starting point is 01:43:33 don't control those people and some of these histories refer to elements in the danish hierarchy as hawks and doves and the king sort of caught in the middle trying to you know keep everybody happy but the way you can tell that this probably isn't just random is all of a sudden at this time period the anglo-saxon chronicle which has been silent about viking attacks for like half a lifetime starts cranking it up again a lot of historians wonder why that is is it hiding the fact that those raids have been going on all the time but the official chronicle of the house of wessex doesn't want that told i mean there's a lot of theories i'm certainly one of those people that thinks attacks were still happening just at a lower level but
Starting point is 01:44:21 why you would all of a sudden after decades of not saying anything start saying things again is an interesting question you know if we take that uh made up figure that we had of that kid who was eight years old when the vikings first showed up in britain right what do we call him ethyl dan well if ethyl dan is eight in seven eighty nine by the time the anglo-saxon chronicle starts mentioning heathen men again he's in his early fifties should he live that long and as i said the chronicle gets the dates a little wrong by a couple years because dorstead happens first but it's like the next year all of a sudden that now we have vikings in england again and they're not in some out of the way monastery on the edge of you know the continent they're close by the centers of power
Starting point is 01:45:07 and they're danes apparently the anglo-saxon chronicle says quote it says 832 here i believe the right year is 835 which would make it the year after dorstead was hit and the chronicle says quote quote this year heathen men overran the isle of sheppy end quote now that doesn't sound like such a big deal but the fact that all of a sudden it's talking about heathen men again after all these these years of not saying anything should make your ears prick up and then when you take a look at the satellite view of the island of sheppy today and it might be subtly different but this is the 30 mile island just off the coast or really in like a river estuary it's 40 miles from london which is an important center even back in this time period it looks even to the untrained eye
Starting point is 01:46:00 today like a base for pirates doesn't it good sight for it now the chronicle just calls them heathen men so we don't know who they are except the very next year according to the chronicle a big battle is fought big in early medieval terms is a relative concept by the way you could have 2000 guys on each you could have let's put it this way you could have a bad disappointing crowd for a community college football game and that might be a decent size early medieval battle in some places but the most powerful king in britain and they had several usually a guy named egbert will face down a force of danes the very year after the island of sheppies overruns so we can assume maybe it's the same group of people and the chronicle says quote this year fought
Starting point is 01:46:51 king egbert with 35 pirates that means 35 pirate ships at charmouth where a great slaughter was made and the danes remained masters of the field end quote that line that the danes remained masters of the field should be paid attention to maybe that's a good way to put it because now you're not talking about a bunch of let's just say norwegian raiders you know attacking some island off the north scottish coast or something and then running away before you know the group of towns people gets together with farm implements to drive them out you're talking about a group of people that was attacked by the most powerful king in the british isles with some sort of military force and beat him the very next year according to the chronicle a group of unnamed vikings but
Starting point is 01:47:47 then they named them danes later has a pretty good sense of the political feel for britain because they apparently land near modern day or in modern day wales the welsh are recently conquered and sometimes not conquered and not happy with these sacks and kings in britain and the vikings decide to work with them to maybe help overthrow their overlords and the chronicle says quote this year came a great naval armament into west wales they mean the vikings where they were joined by the people they mean the welsh who commenced war against eggbert the west sacks and king when he heard this he proceeded with his army against them and fought with them at hengiston where he put to flight both the welsh and the danes end quote
Starting point is 01:48:42 by the way i don't know if that mention in the anglo-saxon chronicle would really mean it was vikings and welshmen it might be vikings and cornishmen i'm not sure so no mention of these people for half a human lifetime and all of a sudden they're back and get multiple mentions multiple years in a row right at the same time doris dad's being hit we've entered into a new phase in this viking era and in trying to talk about this era and organize it in a way that sort of makes sense and seems to correspond to something that can be visualized i realized that this really isn't military history in any real sense of the word right having talked about lots of wars and battles and there's a certain sort of feel and style and approach and that's
Starting point is 01:49:34 not what this is when you read the accounts of what's to come this looks like a crime blotter from a local police force i mean that's what this looks like these look like if you opened up the you know commander's log of the history of the 12th precinct over the last 10 years and these would be the big notable crimes but they all read like a woman and dog knocked over a purse stolen and i mean they all sound like entries into the police blotter and the interesting thing about it is when you think about the damage here unlike you know normal military history where wars sort of have consequences and violence is sort of driven towards some eventual political outcome right remember your clause which that's the whole goal but that's not what this is at all this is not only
Starting point is 01:50:24 about stealing stuff but oftentimes these raiders will come into places and refuse to leave they will terrorize the locals until they're paid off this is crime this is organized crime and the thing about crime and it compares very well to this piracy thing that we talked about earlier is that even in the nicest neighborhoods in the world you have crime it's always a question of what level of crime right what is your level of insecurity and that's usually based on what are the chances that you're going to become a victim and what becomes apparent reading the equivalent of the geopolitical historical celestial crime blotter here is during the middle 800s to the late 800s your chances of becoming a victim in the area of the world that has viking sky rockets
Starting point is 01:51:15 and that creates a sense of insecurity and you can see it in the collapse of some of the local trade routes that will result from the danger of simply trying to apply your trade in an era with the ash men about i love that term that's what um uh adam of bremen who's a famous chronicler from the era said that the germans called the viking the nordic people the ash men probably why neil price calls his book the children of ash and elm right it's a great term so rather than go in order what i'd like to do is just sort of give a general sense of the police blotter type activity going on in the 800s in the west because the 900s are going to be yet again a different phase with sort of a different you know feel to it but in the 800s you're going to go from crime to
Starting point is 01:52:13 a lack of enforcement which encourages even more audacious crime and then the traditional newtonian for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction reaction to the crime which may indeed make everything even worse it's not hard to find one of these you know early equivalents of a police blotter from this era to see the rundown of various attacks and incidents involving you know viking raiders during the scandinavian age the problem is trying to figure out which one to use and how much to quote because you obviously can't rundown every incident that made the record books for the 300 year long viking age right and in fact even when you read these
Starting point is 01:53:06 rundowns you have to know that incidents that were too small to be mentioned in the chronicles are still happening all the time but how about 1950s the age of faith by wil dirant and a lot of these old history books are outdated in a lot of respects but this is the kind of information that isn't and he does a good job compressing it into a short space it's just a tiny little slice of the police blotter from the equivalent of one early medieval police precinct right he's not talking about germany for example or areas like that just one little area during one little slice and ignoring all of the stuff that's too small you know to even be noticed and he writes about this and by the way talks about the death of lewis the pious which happens in 840 adce and if you
Starting point is 01:53:57 thought it was bad during lewis the pious is reigning in terms of the you know carolingian state disintegrating it gets worse after he dies and so do the viking raids and dirant writing in 1950 giving you a tiny little slice of you know how bad the neighborhood has become says this quote after the death of lewis the pious these raids became great expeditions with fleets of over 100 vessels fully manned with oarsman slash warriors in the ninth and tenth centuries france endured 47 norse attacks in 840 the raiders sacked ruin beginning a series of assaults upon normandy in 843 they entered another french city he says i'm not going to try to pronounce some of these names and slew the bishop at his altar in 844 they sailed up a particular river to toulouse in 845
Starting point is 01:54:54 they mounted the sain to paris but spared the city on receiving a tribute of 7 000 pounds of silver in 846 while the sericins were attacking roam he says the northman conquered frisia burned dortrecht and sacht limoge in 847 they besieged bordeaux but were repulsed in 848 they tried again captured it plundered it massacred its population and burned it to the ground in the following years they dealt a like fate to and he mentioned six more french cities we may surmise he writes something of the terror by noting that the city of tours was pillaged in 853 856 862 872 886 903 and 919 paris he says was pillaged in 856 and again in 861 and burned in 865 and a quote now his head spinning is all that sounds let's recall that dirant is basically talking about
Starting point is 01:56:05 part of the viking age and all those attacks he runs down and only one limited area affected by the viking era so you'd have to do the equivalent of adding up all the log books of all the regions touched in the viking age together right for 300 years to get a full accounting of what's going on here and i was trying to think about how to even talk about it and it occurred to me somewhere along the line that the reason you can't is because it's both decentralized and centralized so it'd be like the equivalent of trying to talk about crime and and you have to talk about street crime done at the individual level with it with a person robbing another person but at the same time you'd also have to include organized crime with you know the mob running something you know at a higher
Starting point is 01:56:56 level because it's all going on at once right but some of it's driven and purposeful another is just sort of random so the viking age lines up similarly and i should warn you now this is the part of the dan carlin version of the story this is what i had to sort of try to internalize to come up with a way to talk about it but there's multiple levels of activity going on here so start at the top one and the one that's easiest to catalog the the viking age equivalent of the mob being involved in some level of crime some of these viking attacks are closer to war than they are than they are to piracy take for example um in 845 adce a particularly tough year to be on the receiving end of viking raids the vikings hit both hamburg and paris now let's not confuse the early
Starting point is 01:57:45 medieval towns that these places were with anything like the major cities they are today nonetheless one doesn't expect pirates to be giving places like that much trouble but these are probably more than pirates especially in the case of hamburg most of the chroniclers associate that with something a purposeful state-to-state type activity like i said closer to war where maybe some of the danish kings are organizing attacks on the francs so that's not really the kind of piracy that you're seeing in other places but it makes it tough to talk about because if that's all that was going on you could say you know that this is a war between the danes and the francs but it's not all that's going on there's also you know some other levels so let's look at
Starting point is 01:58:27 the mid-level the mid-level is something i think a marxist would probably say involves the people that own the means of production in this case imagine some very wealthy scandinavian men who've um over time managed to get their hands on a couple of ships right invested in um sailing and oars and powerful long ships and every year they have expeditions right it's sort of like a limited liability company as far as they're concerned right olufson ericsson hackinson and ragnar right sign up for us every year reliably we need a crew if you're bored we go someplace every year this year it's paris next year it's hamburg and everybody gets a share right so these things become like business ventures right these are entrepreneurs and you can sign
Starting point is 01:59:16 up if you want to and then there's the the lower level again compare this maybe to the one on one street crime but but there are the people that sign up for this stuff and as neil price said in his book um you know if you're a person signing up for a raid and the raid goes particularly well it can change your life right change your economic forecast for the rest of your days and i'm addicted to looking for historical analogies and i mentioned earlier that the viking age kind of reminds me in some ways of like the sea peoples in the bronze age and all that but there's something at play here by the middle 800s that reminds me of something else and here's your disclaimer this is the dan carlin version of this story is i try to make sense of it so i apologize
Starting point is 02:00:00 if if i'm going off the deep end here but there's a you know and you got to gleam it with limited sources but there's if you're looking at this from the viking point of view you one would say it reminds you of like a gold rush period in some places so i'm from california originally and the gold rush there is famous but it's famously a time when everybody sort of loses their mind over the potential for an economic score and in the same way we mentioned there's those multiple levels of sort of the viking activity right the higher up the middle level and the lower level i see the same sort of situation during a gold rush where you know some people come in and buy entire mining operations right the bigwigs come in and they're the equivalent of like the royal danes attacking
Starting point is 02:00:43 hamburg but there's the mid-level owners of the means of production too who come in and pool their resources into a partnership and buy a mine or something and then there's the lower level people like the scandinavian who could change his life with a big score on a raid they come in and buy a burrow a pick and a pan and they go panning for gold or something try to find a a claim somewhere so it starts attracting regular people i mean you don't even need to have some bigwig organizing an expedition there's a level of people showing up at these places that reminds you a little you know of like the grapes of wrath and the oklahomans people showing up in the west coast to pick fruit because there are jobs there right i mean the economic incentive just attracts people
Starting point is 02:01:33 and it was obviously working because the archaeologists during this time period in scandinavia are finding tons of stuff and always have from these areas that are being hit with the viking raids it's this giant sort of wealth redistribution phenomenon going on during this era where wealth is transferred from the places that do a lot of writing and chronicling and all that sort of stuff to some of the places that don't from christian areas to non-christian areas from you know the center of europe to its periphery and an economist would have a field day with us wouldn't they because you can see how the economic incentives become ingrained in the culture and the rhythm of life if you will because this is the era where many historians believe that the practice of raiding
Starting point is 02:02:22 becomes a part of sort of the annual yearly calendar in scandinavia it's just a time of a year right after you get the seeds in the ground for farming that's raiding time right you get your ships out you get them ready you go on your raids and you get back before the harvest it's sort of the rhythm of life there now again context we talked earlier about how the the vikings don't look anywhere near as barbaric and inhumane and bloodlusty when you compare them to the other people in this era well the carolingians for example had a rhythm of life that wasn't that dissimilar either they didn't call it raiding they called it the campaign season right so we plant our seeds we go on the campaign season and then we're back for harvest so again perhaps not
Starting point is 02:03:04 that dissimilar rhythm of life but it shows a dependence and it shows how this has sort of been encoded into their cultural expectations and practices I'm reminded of a of a phrase that an apache raider had once used to describe what this was because of course your raiding is one of those great human practices as we said and the apache's name is palmer valor and he was interviewed and it's chronicled in a book called western apache raiding and warfare he was interviewed in the early 1930s when he was already almost 100 years old and he described it as this is how we made a living and he said for example of raiding the mexicans and it sounds a little like this could be a viking talking about raiding the anglo
Starting point is 02:03:58 saxons or the irish right and palmer valor said in the early 1930s about his raiding days with the apache's quote our people used to go on raids down into mexico to bring back horses mules burros and cattle this is the way we used to take the property of the mexicans and make a living off them there were no white people to take things from in those days we never used to travel around with the mexicans because we were always fighting with them this way when we fought with them some of us would get killed and some of them would get killed it was hard living in those days and sometimes a raiding party would get nothing in mexico and come back empty-handed end quote i imagine if you change the names there that could sound like a viking couldn't it
Starting point is 02:04:49 by the 840s a change is evident and the histories will talk about it certain elements that had been part of the standard operating procedure in viking attacks turns into something else when all of a sudden the hit and run aspect of this sometimes turns into a hit and stay and it starts with sort of overnight winter camps that are meant to perhaps help these vikings avoid a terrible rough you know worse than usual weather kind of trip home will just stay over the winter maybe to something that evolves into towns over time and its sustained presence in some of these areas in other words we're going from stealing stuff to coming in and stealing stuff and then squatting in your residence too that's what we're going to stay
Starting point is 02:05:46 the problem with staying though if you look at this from like you know and that's what we're doing here because there is no on the ground viking story the sources just don't exist we're looking at this entire phenomenon and when you look at it from the perspective of the people who are trying to deal with it there are precious few tools at their disposal right how would you deal with this phenomenon how are you going to punish these people who attack you how are you going to stop them in the Mediterranean during the the Roman era for example every now and then they conduct like a naval raid to the dens where these pirates sort of had their bases and root them out but who's going to be able to do that in this era right what the English kings are going
Starting point is 02:06:30 to put together a fleet and sail off into the foggy icy north and find the Scandinavian layers of these priming once these Vikings get over the horizon after looting someplace they are home free for the most part unless you decide to not leave right if you decide to stay in the neighborhood of the people that you just robbed well that takes away one of your great superpowers doesn't it but in the 840s more and more Vikings are wintering in winter camps at the places that they're raiding and then these winter camps will slowly but surely grow into larger more permanent settlements and this creates the beginning of something that you will see all over the Viking world the fusion of Viking DNA and culture with the locals in a bunch of places that they're hanging
Starting point is 02:07:19 out in I almost named this show after the Beach Boys song I get around because genetically and culturally speaking so did the Vikings it's one of the things they're most known for and amongst the many things that I think plays into why the Vikings are so popular today you know and enduring sort of interest in them is that we're naturally interested in our own ancestry and so many of us can trace at least some little DNA in our you know genetic code to those people because they managed to spread it all over the place I mean my family identifies as Irish even though we're the typical American mongrels but it's not just Irish if you believe any of the genetic stuff from you know the people you send genetic stuff away to I'm not sure I do but it's
Starting point is 02:08:09 Norse Irish the ancestry so there you go there's a fusion right there but once the Vikings insert themselves into the local situation that means that they're now a part of the local situation and depending on where you are that can be a good thing or that can be a problematic thing take Ireland that I just mentioned I love the way in Vikings at war authors and I hope I pronounced authors and I hope I pronounced their names correctly Kim Shardar and Vigard Vicke describe the Irish situation when the Vikings decide that they're just going to stay for a little while and don't realize what they're getting into because the very thing that makes it easy to sort of shoehorn your way into Ireland traps you once you're there and they write quote
Starting point is 02:09:00 in 797 AD CE the character of the attacks changed from carrying out quick overwhelming raids in search of valuables the Vikings gradually became more audacious when they ravaged Lambay Island outside present-day Dublin they also took cattle and food stores they then used the island as a base for raids on the mainland and were soon drawn into Irish internal conflicts landing on the Emerald Isle they write they were treading on a uniquely complex political vipers nest Ireland was divided into over 150 independent kingdoms which in turn belong to six supreme kings they continue a little farther down quote the various power groupings were in a constant state of war even the smallest disagreement between factions could at any time spark orgies of violence which would spread throughout
Starting point is 02:09:59 the whole island before dying down until the next conflict flared up strong local loyalties they write prevented the Irish from coming together in a single kingdom and coordinating their defense against the Vikings but this also prevented the Vikings from gaining control over large territories in Ireland the Vikings were both willing and unwilling participants in the never-ending Irish power game end quote to show you how crazy it can get at one point in the Irish Viking experience there will be Vikings from Norway that the Irish will have one term for and Vikings from Denmark that the Irish will have another term for all of them fighting in like three-way combinations against each other for control of the territory I mean it's crazy but the bottom line is that by the
Starting point is 02:10:52 840s you're starting to see a change in the way the Vikings do things and now they're settling they're squatting on your territory whether you like it or not and several major modern Irish cities will have started their days as some of these camps that the Vikings would originally use to sort of overwinter and then just never leave by the time it's happening in Ireland it's almost certainly happened in a bunch of other islands small little ones around the British Isles and north of Scotland by the 850s you start to see it happening in England and in none of these cases is this by choice right the locals don't want it that way there's nothing they can do about it but that's not the only way that the Vikings acquire land during
Starting point is 02:11:41 this era because they'll be given territory or at least control of territory by the various successor kingdoms of Charlemagne right Lewis the pious his sons and then their offspring and by the way you can see the decline in empire it's kind of a joke because you know sometimes these words don't translate and things like bald don't mean anything about your geopolitical skills but you go from being Charles the great or Charlemagne and his grandfather right Charles the hammer to you know Charles the ball Charles the fat Charles the simple pep in the hunchback Lewis the stammerer I mean not exactly the kind of leadership you probably want not confronting the Viking age shouldn't surprise any of us I suppose if they violate
Starting point is 02:12:35 the you know ironclad supposedly ironclad 1980s rule that you don't negotiate with terrorists because they do all the time and one of the things that they do in order to get the protections that they seek is give up land now before we get carried away you know in the same way that these Vikings only appear extra barbarian to us because we're taking them out of their time period right their context and their neighbors were pretty barbaric by our standards too the same applies to this famous arrangement that's going to be put in place to try to get the Vikings to help you out right by protecting your territory from people just like them gets hassled a lot in the sources over time it's seen as just a suicidally dumb strategy right
Starting point is 02:13:27 absolutely negotiating with terrorists just give them up your territory and then say you know protect me you know here Al Qaeda take this territory and protect me from ISIS with it there is by the way a similar sort of dynamic going on here with what you have if you're a ruler trying to deal with this Viking age phenomenon that you're that you have on your hands I mean it's something between a law enforcement problem and a you know military one I mean think of the narco gangs operating in Mexico or something or think about the gangs in old Chicago back in the prohibition days right something between a military and a law enforcement problem and when you don't have the law enforcement in place you try all kinds of things that might
Starting point is 02:14:16 violate the no negotiate with terrorist idea one was the same thing that the romans did when they had a fjodorati for example but other peoples have used some of these viking leaders would be turned into the equivalent if we were having this conversation in a 400 year era after this you'd say dukes or counts or something like that urls they're sort of to govern or control these royal territories for the royal entity right so if vikings come and attack the royal lands you living in these royal lands at our behest will defend these royal lands right this is the same way by the way hundreds of years before this time the francs first sort of made their bones historically speaking they had this same sort of deal going with the romans and um maybe history
Starting point is 02:15:08 would teach that because the francs are still in those territories the romans gave to them the to govern centuries later maybe it's not the best idea maybe not going to work out the way you want long term but here's the thing about that and i remember a history professor slamming this into our brain all the time we have the benefit of hindsight when we assess whether a decision made at the time was right or wrong also our interests are different if these people by themselves a couple of lifetimes um of safety because of these deals then they're going to judge whether they're successful or not differently than we are if we look at them ago you know 300 years after this period this really worked out badly for them really do they care i mean if the things once upon
Starting point is 02:15:57 a time that they used to think i think edward gibbon used to think you know that it was these sorts of arrangements that the romans made with barbarians that ended up destroying the western roman empire yeah but if it bought you generations of safety before it poisoned the roman empire was that still maybe the right decision for the people at the time to make give you another example in one of the many raids on paris during this period the king will get the vikings to stop attacking paris by giving them a lot of silver this is not just negotiating with terrorists it's doing so in their favorite currency and i often think by the way the vikings come to these places and say we want a certain amount of wealth
Starting point is 02:16:42 and we'll take it in slaves of your people we'll take it in your stuff or you can just pay us and oftentimes people just paid them and one of those famous raids was like seven thousand pounds of silver or something every person in the in the whole empire had to be taxed or something to make this payment but the problem is is you know why do you not negotiate with terrorists because it encourages more terrorism holy cow you know you have this going on during the viking era too and the annals of st burton almost side by side you see two attempts to try to deal with this viking problem in two different ways the first attempt is something that almost makes you sad because it's it's the equivalent of you know if the bad guys take over your neighborhood and
Starting point is 02:17:28 turn it into a crime den maybe the locals all band together right in a citizen's organization or a posse or vigilante groups or whatever to sort of you know look you know to stick up against the narco terrorists you know who control you or what have you and in the annals of st burton for the year 859 it recounts one of those situations where that's exactly what happens in the absence of any sort of federal law enforcement authority the people just take matters into their own hands and face up to the danes as they're called and the annals of st burton write quote the danes ravaged the places beyond the shelt he means the shelt river some of the common people living between the sane and the lower formed a sworn association amongst themselves and fought bravely against
Starting point is 02:18:18 the danes on the sane but because their association had been made without due consideration they were easily slain by the more powerful people end quote and he means the vikings there so that's one attempt to try to deal with this difficult problem the other is to just give in and say well if you can't beat them join them if we've got to give money to somebody let's not give it to the you know people that are extorting from us let's give it to someone like them and tell them to go get the people that are extorting us it's a little like having a problem with a mob family controlling your area where you live and so to deal with them you go hire another mob family to protect you and the annals of st burton talks about one of these sons of louis the pious
Starting point is 02:19:13 i believe deciding that since he can't make a deal with one group of danes which may just mean vikings of any kind he's gonna hire another group of danes and the chronicles say quote king charles deceived by the empty promises of the danes on the psalm ordered attacks to be levied on the treasuries of the churches and all the traders even very small scale ones even their houses and all their equipment were assessed so that the tribute could be levied on them them for the danes had promised that if three thousand pounds of silver weighed out under careful inspection were handed over to them they would turn and attack those danes who were busy on the sane and would either drive them away or kill them end quote in neil prices book he mentions
Starting point is 02:20:05 that sometimes the danes would make this sort of deal take the money then share it or combine with the group that they were supposed to attack and then both turn their forces you know on the very people who paid them they used to call this era in human history the dark ages they don't anymore for obvious reasons there's lots of places that weren't dark during this era some places one could make the argument or at the height of their power and wealth and learning and all that kind of you know western european centric to focus on what's going on in france and germany and britain and all that during this viking era nonetheless if you do look at it from the point of view of the people in the era being touched by viking raids in the west it sure looks pretty dark
Starting point is 02:20:59 and the vikings are exhibit a why one can also suggest that the instability caused by you know problems with ineffective government is another reason but there's a symbiotic relationship between the vikings and governmental instability as we've been talking about chicken and an egg deal going on there but people who say that this wasn't a dark age for everyone are absolutely right and one of the societies that they point to as an example of some you know group of people that are at maybe one of the heights of their you know powers and civilizational levels are the Byzantines the Byzantines of course would not have thought of themselves as Byzantines they would have thought of themselves as romans
Starting point is 02:21:45 who speak greek and whose capital is located in modern-day turkey and the francs are set up to kind of be competitors of theirs by the marketing messages right i mean they they market themselves as the renovation or the restoration or the rebirth of the roman empire and if you're the Byzantines you don't think that there needs to be any rebirth at all right don't call it a comeback we've been here for minute one we never went away who do you think you are and then there's the christianity thing they're not catholics and orthodox christians yet in terms of being that different but you can see the divisions you know already quite established by this period problems over popes authority you know i mean frenemies not a bad word to describe
Starting point is 02:22:37 this relationship but it will be the Byzantines that introduced the people of the west to the vikings of the east and that's the part of the story that comes into play right around where we are right we said eight fifties vikings are establishing uh permanent bases or or over wintering in england well that's just before the time period where you start to hear stories about activities that we know now involve vikings in the east and like children acting up for attention or i'm reminded of my television news roots and they used to slur us by saying that the way we decided about headlines was if it bleeds it leads and they've always said that journalism is the first draft of history and you can see the similarities because sometimes if you're just a
Starting point is 02:23:29 peaceful group of people trading with your neighbors not bothering anyone no one ever hears about you in the history books but you go attack somebody kill a bunch of people or conversely become a victim of somebody who does well then you know film at eleven you make the headlines extra extra read all about it and by eight sixty the Byzantines are writing about what these people who have a name well that's recognizable today but in a different way they're called russ r u s you'll see it written r h o s r o s all those versions and yes it sounds like the root word for russia because it probably is but when the Byzantines start writing records that we can still that were preserved that made it to today that we can look at about these people we already
Starting point is 02:24:23 have found out about these people because they showed up in western records first it's a little ironic isn't it this brand new people because that's how history always treats it right the illusion of the written past it's like the old parable that if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it did it really make a sound well if the people weren't written about were they really in existence until somebody chronicled it and the first chronicled account that's made it to us today so we can read it right because some things were in inadvertently lost of course and even the stuff we do have went through permutations and fragments and all this kind of stuff but in eight thirty nine that's when that that name gets heard first russ and it happens
Starting point is 02:25:07 in the court of lewis the pious charlemagne son the year before he dies eight thirty nine is right before he dies and you know we've already told you the kind of life he had and by eight thirty nine most of it's behind him so this is a guy who's had you know his sons deposed in multiple times he's watched his dad's empire and his inheritance crumble he's got vikings nibbling large chunks of his land away he's got viking ptsd let's be honest and then the Byzantines his frenemy is show up at his court in eight thirty nine which is chronicled in the records and want his help getting some people back home and when he says who are these people the Byzantines say the russ and lewis the pious and his court have never heard of these people thoroughly confused
Starting point is 02:25:52 and suspicious because they look at these people and as i said he's got vikings on the brain already ptsd from scandinavian raiders and these look like vikings to him and he does a little checking because these Byzantines want lewis the pious to help these people get home he says that there's dangerous ferocious tribes between Byzantium and where they're from and then they need his help he does a little checking and they determined that these people who call themselves ross are swedes from one of the groups who live in viking era sweden lewis the pious and his advisors are suspicious that these people might be spies and they promise the Byzantines that they'll do some checking and that's the last you ever hear of them in the records anyway musta freaked a guy out
Starting point is 02:26:43 though who's already worried about where these vikings are going to find vikings appearing at his court coming from a completely unexpected geographical direction what the heck are they coming from Byzantium for but you can see how in his head he must think well they must be going in the other direction too and they were so if you think about like the Baltic sea as being a viking lake during this period well most of the vikings we've been talking about take you know the direction of the Baltic that exits into the north sea right and then you're in the open roads you're in the the western highway there but you don't have to go to that direction you can go the other direction you can put your boats as many in modern day sweden at the time did and some in
Starting point is 02:27:28 denmark and you know the vikings could all talk to each other language wise so there was a lot of hiring on for jobs and we go read beowulf and things like that lots of soldiers of fortune so you often had mixed crews that would do this but generally because of the location it's going to be mostly swedish groups of Scandinavians who put their boats in the water and go the other way towards what's now like the Baltic coast or Russia up by st. Petersburg or the polish coast and they get into the river system and all this happens sort of under the radar but you can tell you know sometimes you can infer that historical things are happening because when they do burst on the historical stage they're often fully formed so you can say well something was going on in the
Starting point is 02:28:11 darkness you know to so that this could burst on the stage like this it's like when they find planets because they can sense okay we can tell by the gravitational forces there's another planet pulling on them somewhere and then they find it well you can tell that these Scandinavian peoples were making their way down the river system because you start to see the trading posts either arise or get larger right so we talked about Berka earlier and Hedibi and all these places you know Dorostat all these places that are these nodes of economic operation you see this exact same thing in the east right around the same time period and you can almost track the movement of these Scandinavians down the river systems of the east by decades if you want to get a mental image of
Starting point is 02:29:04 the area we're talking about look at Eastern Europe look at the modern-day countries of Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, the Baltic states that whole area from about the Baltic Sea in the north where those boats first go in the water all the way down to the Black Sea in the south which is the major slaving area and by the way is alongside Byzantium they have found all sorts of bioarchaeological signs that point to interesting things in this area and the amount of trading is incredible and incredible because of the trading system that was already in place that these Scandinavians plug into we talked about Berka in Sweden as one of these things that all of a sudden plug the Scandinavians into a system that was you know essentially as
Starting point is 02:29:55 far as these people are concerned in this time period worldwide and I thought historians Matthew Gabriel and David and Perry in their book The Bright Ages did a great job describing what we mean when we say worldwide and as I said these Scandinavians this isn't stuff that you can go and read in the history books because this was happening in the historical darkness you know about it from things like archaeology and whatnot so when they run into the Byzantines and the Byzantines write about it you can tell that something's been going on for decades that's something is catalogued in the bright ages and those historians write about these you know Vikings in the east and the situation in the east quote the story in western and central Asia plays
Starting point is 02:30:40 out very differently than in western Europe because the pre-viking situation was so distinct instead of fragmented states and wealth hoarded in easily rateable religious institutions Vikings found themselves on the northern edges of scattered settlements within vast trading networks that stretched from China in India to the Mediterranean Constantinople offered one node Baghdad another with perhaps hundreds of cities providing connections across steppe mountain desert and forest the centralized power and military might of these cities and civilizations did not preclude frequent raiding but made a collaborative economic exchange the much more profitable option end quote cat jarman in her book river kings described the east as being a
Starting point is 02:31:37 place for entrepreneurs and one of the throughput threads she follows in the work is the transportation of a semi precious red stone that became all the rage in Scandinavia during the Viking age had to have it right demand was huge but this stone apparently only came from what's now modern day northern India and so she would follow you know the trade routes sort of that starts in northern indian finds its way to Viking era Scandinavia it's fascinating but it's a sign of exactly how interconnected these trade routes are and how these ideas we had a long time ago sort of splendid isolation of all these areas right all these areas exist in ethnic and cultural and commercial isolation from each other was never true and the trading was always going on back to
Starting point is 02:32:31 probably neanderthal times but as the two historians from the bright ages point out you know these vikings are opportunists and they model their approach to the conditions and the conditions in the east are very different than the conditions in the west you know if we talk about organized crime taking over your neighborhood well if you live in the west the neighborhoods easy to take over the mob moves in and they move in on the territory and there's no strong central government and they can get away with it in the east it's much more survival of the fittest already you have tons of powerful groups of people we mentioned the Byzantines there are always step tribes that are powerful on the Eurasian step which you know pretty much dead ends on the
Starting point is 02:33:19 Hungarian plane but if you go east from the Hungarian plane it stretches all the way to China and it is always Serengeti planes live and die evolution on the step and it's always survival of the fittest and so you have powerful tribes there all the time you know the the step tribe confederation du jour and there's also multiple large tribes of people it's an ethno let's call it an ethno cultural identity of people we would call slobs today oftentimes this is linguistic and that's how they determined a hundred years ago who all these people were what was their language what was their pottery style and now of course you know you don't have to be a genius to realize well wait a minute anybody can adopt a pottery style and wait a minute anybody can
Starting point is 02:34:08 learn a language the first time I ever encountered this it blew my mind because it made me change the way I thought about all these groups was when I was doing research on the 1980s on a people called the Goths not the musical fans the people that helped overthrow the western roman empire famously right the gothic peoples and back in the 19th century they would have told you that the Goths were Germans but ethnically pure basically Germans spoke the language had the culture had the same basic belief system had origin myths dating to scandinavia Hervig Wolfram wrote a book I think he wrote it in the 70s but it didn't make it into English until the 80s that pointed out what nonsense that this was and that all these groups are multi
Starting point is 02:34:53 the the dna is quite mixed the ethnicities are quite mixed and have been mixing way into pre-history and he explains how groups form based on shared values and ideas and origin myths and language but this is all stuff people buy into including and he was talking about this with the gothics escaped slaves from all kinds of societies and then I had another professor once and I believe we said this may be even earlier in this conversation about how you cannot really have some ethnically pure society in a slave state because people rape their slaves well the ethnicity in this region matters more than it does in the west the west has all those white supremacist arian sorts of overtones uh that we've lived with forever you
Starting point is 02:35:42 know connected to 19th century national origin myths I mean it's it's it's much debated and talked about and the nazis didn't do anybody any favors by latching onto it there's a great uh letter the jr r Tolkien wrote once spitting mad at the nazis for ruining you know the Nordic history and reputation forevermore something like that but in the east the ethnicity is important too but for different reasons and in the west you might want to claim you know that you're related to Scandinavians if you're a white supremacist in the east traditionally people like the russians have wanted to downplay how much Scandinavian blood is in the ethnic mix and the reasons they are fascinating too when I was a kid and there was a soviet union
Starting point is 02:36:26 they wanted to downplay it because they didn't want to give any ethnic credit to anybody but slavs mainly right that was the preferred group group of people that they were going to say was the major makeup of the people that became russians and any other dna impact from any other groups in the regions not just Scandinavia but steppe people you know and and multiple other groups that all of that stuff was minimal and there have been theories you know pushing every kind of combination or um ethnic mix you can think of genetics of course as you might imagine that dna is starting to solve all this stuff and once again as you might imagine people are more mixed than anybody thought and these regions I mean we said the Byzantine empire was a melting pot
Starting point is 02:37:10 but it's right in this region too lots of coming together lots of slave trading lots of um you would say in an american town you say it's four corners where where a bunch of places come together and the Scandinavians in the east because it is such a tough neighborhood do more trading than raiding but they do raiding too I have a I have sort of a mental image of it these are my numbers they're totally made up they're not based on anything but this is just how I think about it I always thought that you know in in the west they're more raider than they are trader right so maybe 60% raider with weapons taking stuff and 40% trader bartering you know selling what you stole that kind of thing in the east I flipped those numbers I feel like the the Scandinavians
Starting point is 02:37:54 mostly from Sweden but the ones that went east and that operated in that cutthroat but much more scary world that they're more like 60% trader and 40% raider and as we said one way or another you could trade for generations and not have anybody write your story in the history books but you cause problems and you're going to make it into the era's equivalent of the police blotter for acting up and in this case in the 860s at the Byzantine precinct you get an entry on some of these eastern peoples probably these eastern Viking raiders there'll be a famous attack on Constantinople in 860 AD CE now I should say to protect my rear end right here the experts argue about some of this stuff this is very early in the story in the east and the sources are few
Starting point is 02:38:50 it's difficult to corroborate what your few sources say and sometimes there are heretics although when it's this unknown calling them heretics is probably not fair there's debate amongst the experts over a lot of this stuff for example there is supposed to have been an attack in the 830s in the suburbs of Constantinople by a people that most likely were these roosts if it happened a lot of people don't think that one happens some people don't think the one in the 860s happens and some people think if it did happen it might not have been these roost people that did it I am unqualified to choose between experts all I can say is I'll read some stuff from some very good books here and we can try to update ourselves on what was likely
Starting point is 02:39:40 it is a sign though isn't it exactly how history works and how these things unfold and I mean especially in the case of Jacobson who I'm going to quote in a minute the detective work involved in piecing together a mosaic here that forms some sort of a picture that you can maybe rely on a little bit is amazing and intoxicating it makes you want to be the Indiana Jones of history you know put on the hat grab the whip and go out there and do some of this stuff they do as good work as you can do with the amount of sources available but let me give you an example of what we're talking about so in the book Vikings and encyclopedia of conflict invasions and raids tristan mulary volmer and kirsten wolf have this to say about these early viking
Starting point is 02:40:22 incidents in the Byzantine precinct if you want to call it that with our crime motif and they write quote the roosts were in frequent conflict with their most powerful neighbor the Byzantine empire the earliest recorded raid took place sometime in the 830s when the roosts attacked the sea of marmara and then several cities along the path lagonian coast the life of st george of amastris documents the campaign and describes the roosts as quote now quoting from the source the people known to everyone for their barbarity ferocity and cruelty and quote the authors continued quote in 860 the roosts led their largest military campaign against constantan opal where they
Starting point is 02:41:14 raided the suburbs and burned many buildings end quote now as i alluded to a second ago i was just marveling at the job that i slandik historian and i hope i pronounce his name right there's going to be some challenges in this show uh spevrier jacobson in the verrangians god's holy fire his ability to try to piece together these pieces and make them into something you can look at and assess is is fabulous and and he does it in this 860 invasion of constantan opal and he does it by using the main source everyone uses the the emperor's way when this attack happens with the army and the fleet which is maybe not a coincidence and so there's a religious patriarch in charge and he gives some sermons during the time that the raids are happening they go on for
Starting point is 02:42:05 over a month and those sermons have come down to us and the information in the sermons is some of the information that makes up the majority of the evidence in the bizantine precinct about this you know crime from these northern peoples in 860 and jacobson writes quote the attack came suddenly and unexpectedly in mid june 860 an unknown northern tribe attacked the most holy city of constantan opal the capital of the eastern roman empire it did not experience such an onslaught in many decades let alone from a people which had hitherto played an insignificant role within the perspective of the roman elite end quote he then quotes the early sermon by this patriarch who talked about a dreadful bolt fallen on us out of the farthest north he also talks about a thick
Starting point is 02:43:01 sudden hail storm of barbarians bursting forth jacobson points out a couple of things though including the fact that there's a certain kind of terror and one we won't experience in the modern world but that goes back to the laguna beach example we used earlier of the ability in the pre-modern world to find yourself attacked as in wartime by somebody you don't even know you don't even know who they are again this is a more like a crime than a war also isn't it i mean seems pretty rare and weird doesn't it to think you could fight a full-on war with another kingdom or state of some sort and not know who the enemy was but in a criminal situation that almost seems like the way you plan it out right i mean uh we're a stocking cap over your face don't leave
Starting point is 02:43:55 any fingerprints i mean the whole goal is to not have people figure out who you are trace you back to your layer or anything like that eventually prosecute you and put you away and jacobson says that the fact that they didn't really know who these people were that descended upon them was part of what made it so scary as you would imagine and the patriarch's name by the way who gave this sermon is and i found multiple pronunciations is phodios phodios or fatias and jacob says that he quote makes both these points repeatedly that the attack was unexpected and that the attackers were from lands very far from the empire lands situated at the end of the earth the terror associated with these attacks stemmed partly he writes for these two reasons
Starting point is 02:44:48 it was the terror of the unknown of a mysterious enemy that had suddenly revealed himself the tenor of the language is similar he writes to the descriptions of the viking attack on lindisfarne almost seven decades before end quote and as many people will suggest that the lindisfarne raid in the 790s kicked off the viking age in the west some suggest that this attack on constantanople in 860 if indeed it really did happen kicked off the viking era in the east but you can tell that if they really were able to put together anything like the 200 rumored ships that are supposed to have shown up in 860 then something's bubbling beneath the surface even if you don't have the primary source material in 850 840 830 right this doesn't just spring
Starting point is 02:45:37 out of nowhere although the attack itself if you believe the sources did and that's one of the things that this patriarch writes about that the the fact that these people weren't even seen as a threat and that you didn't have warning that they were on the borders you wake up one morning and the ships are there and that's the viking way right the laguna beach attack in a nutshell you wake up first morning light and you see those telltale sails and if you believe how many ships were in the Byzantine situation it's hundreds of ships filled with dangerous scary warriors that do things that freeze the blood of the locals famously in the attack one of the attacks on Paris the vikings had captured uh i think it's 111 which is a very specific number
Starting point is 02:46:30 but but more than 100 just over a hundred of the defenders and took them to a famous island that's in the same you know right by Paris and within view of the countrymen of these captives hung them all right in other words watch this well there's a story out of this attack in 860 that sounds a little like that to me and it involves the vikings taking a bunch of people onto their ships and then chopping off their limbs with axes and i imagine it sounds like this is the kind of thing where you would do it in front of people in other words you're trying to make a point and this is written by another patriarch who was actually living in eggs not in eggs island retirement if you could say forced retirement on an island in the same area who saw the same
Starting point is 02:47:20 wave of vikings attack and the life written about him says quote for at that time the bloodthirsty skithian race called russians advanced across the black sea to the bosphorus plundering every region and all the monasteries and they also overran the small island dependencies of Byzantium carrying off all the chattels and money and slaying all the people they captured in addition they attacked with barbaric spirit and impulse the monasteries of the patriarch and removed every possession that they found and they seized 22 of his most loyal household servants and cut all of them to pieces with axes on the stern of one of their boats end quote you know you never can tell when something is an exaggeration or a fabrication or the truth but let's just say if something like
Starting point is 02:48:20 this did happen and a chronicler saw it or got wind of it surely that's the kind of things that you'd have written about you know if journalism is the first draft of history and if it bleeds it leads the history geeking me at this point is all set up for this encounter now what's going to happen to these alleged russ people when the Byzantine military shows up and chastises them or tries to but this you know history geek slash if it bleeds it leads former assignment editor need to have this curiosity fulfilled that would take thousands of lives by the way to do is thwarted because like so many of the Viking raiders in the west the russ get away when the authorities come to punish them for their crimes never get to see what would happen if the Byzantines in the russ
Starting point is 02:49:16 faced off the primary sources say that the Byzantine emperor once he you know sort of does his investigation figures out what had happened implements what I guess you could call sort of maybe general order number one for the Romans and remember the Byzantines are like a continuation of the Romans general order number one standard operating procedure whatever you want to call it I always like to refer to it when it comes to the Romans dealing with people like this it's the recipe this is the recipe what they're going to do to these Nordic peoples is that they're going to turn them into reputable members of the international community or whatever passes for it in the early medieval version of this part of the world I mean look at the history this is an age old strategy
Starting point is 02:50:09 that has worked on all sorts of peoples I mean to just name a few you could say the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths and the Lombards and the Vandals and yes a couple of centuries before this time period even the Franks themselves were in this same situation and the Romans cooked them using the recipe into nice civilized states now the term cooked is the way the Chinese used to describe this process when they used to do almost the very same thing to the so-called barbarians on their borders you know there's a lot of people that believe history has cycles and that's much argued about I don't know if I agree with it or not but it has things that look like cycles and one of those things that look like cycles is the continual recycling of effective ideas certain things
Starting point is 02:51:06 tend to work and so you see them brought up again and again and this idea of cooking the barbarians in air quotes next door is something you see over and over and the recipe is different place to place like the Chinese version doesn't include Christianity the version here in the European context does and the Byzantines do in the east what Charlemagne Louis the pious and his sons are all doing in the west he sends out missionaries and evangelists and these people that are going to be the saint Bonifaces and the saint Lebuens of the east and they are involved in a long term strategy here right they are planting seeds to be harvested generations from now and as I think about this phrases from the war on terror in 1990s era pop
Starting point is 02:51:57 into my head read a multi-generational war on terror and that's what this is right when the Byzantine emperor sends those you know monks northward he's not expecting instant results from that but he is hoping to replicate the success that he's seen with this in the past the Vikings these Scandinavians these Rus might specifically if you believe the sources and I'm not sure I do but specifically be a new people to the Byzantines but they're an old type and they've been dealing with this type for a long time and they know just what to do with them what's interesting is the way you frame this can make it seem completely different right because in effect what the recipe is is destroying the culture of the peoples you're targeting and then replacing
Starting point is 02:52:55 it with one more like your own the reasons one can do this with a clear conscience is what makes this sort of a dual use kind of strategy for a Frankish ruler or a Byzantine ruler and by dual or by dual use I mean there's a wonderful way one can console oneself thinking one is doing a favor for the very people on the receiving end of this treatment if you are a Christian ruler for example and you are bringing the Christian religion to a bunch of pagans and a bunch of heathens you are doing them a great deed this is a gift you are helping them potentially get into heaven you are showing them the truth you are teaching them that the traditional gods that they bury their grandparents in the backyard you know using ceremonies and incantations directed towards
Starting point is 02:53:46 are instead demons and devils you are showing them the error of their ways and this makes you a better person for doing so at the same time this will create conditions on your border that are much more stable controllable answerable and that will long term eliminate your pirate problem that's the second part of this and this is the sort of things that the Chinese version of cooking their recipe would entail but it's taking these places that have no real strong central authority right lots of different chieftains or warlords you know calling their own shots and making their own arrangements and policies and moves and consolidating them into a more centralized sort of state someplace with a you know hierarchy where there's somebody in charge that's answerable right if
Starting point is 02:54:46 pirates from this other territory raid your coast you want to be able to go to someplace and say hey you better control these people in your territory or you and I are going to go to war right what's the you know international 101 textbook definition of the state right a place that has a monopoly on the use of force and state building is another one of those words that echoes the 1990s war on terror as part of a long-term solution right nation buildings what we called it you go in there and you destroy the terrorist government and then you you build a new one a nation that will preserve things like freedom and the rule of law and give people the benefits of you know our civilization well you see this same thing going on as a solution to the pirate problem
Starting point is 02:55:30 in this era after all when you have something that's reached the phenomena stages as we said when it's possibly a part of the annual calendar right the rhythm of life in some of these Scandinavian communities right after the seeds are in the ground we go raiding and get back in time for the harvest I mean that's like well that's a cultural challenge and civilizing the Vikings if that's a phrase I can put in quotation marks civilizing the Vikings is the long-term way out of this problem as far as these people are concerned and the recipe for doing that in the west is heavily involved with the Christian religion and again if we can make a kind of a comparison with the war on terror when you know the old governments were thrown out of places and the new governments backed by
Starting point is 02:56:23 the west were put into place all sorts of resources were brought in and experts and consultants and advisors and you know people who would do groundwork and organizers I mean it was a giant sort of a mass infusion of all this talent and resources and expertise well in this time period Christianity shouldn't be thought of the way somebody might think of it today like some sort of a merely a spiritual change of focus right I'm going to change my belief system from one religion to another maybe change my moral code slightly the way I act my rituals and all that it is so much more than that in this period it is truly let's call it a civilizational commitment it is the equivalent and this is one of the big selling points by the way if you're trying to sell this to a potential
Starting point is 02:57:18 Viking ruler somebody you could back and get behind and say hey let me tell you why you should convert to Christianity and why your people should and what's in it for you I mean it is essentially the instant legitimacy for a ruler instant legitimacy for his dynastic successors so dynastic security instant infrastructure and instant literacy just add Jesus we're going to bring in educated people who write they'll start chronicling your story your your history the greatness of your people your crop yields all of that overnight right literacy will arrive we'll start building things we'll start teaching your people I mean the whole thing is state building in a very real sense in the word and state building is a little risky because it does
Starting point is 02:58:09 create entities that are more powerful I mean it's more powerful to have a centralized state with you know an organized army and somebody controlling you know the government and policy and all that that's it's much more theoretically dangerous but it's much more conventional you can deal with a state the way states always deal with each other right we can threaten to go to war with you if nothing else right there's traditional carrots and sticks and pressures and things you can apply incentives disincentives when you're dealing with pirates and raiders and terrorists and I mean who do you even begin to pressure to get that I mean yeah somebody has to have control before you can figure out some sort of deal right this is in my mind to get back to the
Starting point is 02:58:47 crime sort of an idea I mean this is you're trying to make crime families go legit here and then control their communities themselves if some pirates raid your coast you want to be able to go to the king of that area and say hey what's up with this you can't keep the people from your territory from attacking me and if you can't I'm going to attack you and hold you responsible and I can't tell you how many times in the sources you run into the wonderful plausible deniability of decentralization let's call it that when some Viking ruler who almost certainly is the one doing the raiding will tell some ruler nearby who's calling them on it hey it's not my people I don't even know what you're talking I'll be happy to investigate I'll find out who it is
Starting point is 02:59:31 in one particular one I was reading I don't even know how to explain this but the gist of it was that the Viking ruler was accused by the Frankish king of raiding he said it's not me I don't know who it is but I'll investigate comes back later says I investigated it's these other people comes back later and says I got the other people I killed him now you should reward me for doing this and meanwhile he was likely the one doing the raiding himself and in fact the people that he may have killed may have been the allies of the people that he was trying to pressure for money that he was also raiding I mean it's let's just put it this way after a while and as the sources said you had talked about how how the the Danes weren't keeping their promises and you couldn't negotiate with them
Starting point is 03:00:13 after a while centralization starts looking like a better deal and if you can get some of these Viking warlords or chieftains to convert to Christianity and then swing their people along with them well your pirate problem might go away and you might break this cultural phenomenon's momentum in a way that allowed a long-term solution to the problem and as we said it's not a theoretical idea it's one that people like the Byzantines can go check their own records they've seen it work time and time again and the Franks know that it works because it worked on them once upon a time so if that is your multi-generational victory strategy to win a multi-generational war on terror what do you do in the interim I mean if you're going to solve this three or four
Starting point is 03:01:11 generations from now what about the piracy that's going to happen in your domain next year and the year after that I mean is your are your people even going to be around if this continues to get worse at the pace it's going right now so I mean there's got to be a multi-pronged approach don't you think well the Byzantines will do a lot of the same things that they do in the west it's interesting how the strategy is sort of parallel the Byzantines do it in a much more Byzantine way though I mean the word Byzantine doesn't just refer to the Roman Empire's Roman Empire's continuation into this era it also has a meaning connected originally to just how intricate and exquisite Byzantine diplomacy is right the highest refinement of the Roman Empire art
Starting point is 03:02:01 can you imagine them dealing with an unsophisticated people like the roast during this time period I mean it would be like a villager coming in for a contract meeting over whether or not you know he should sell his property to a high-level sports attorney today or something in the same room when you be selling Manhattan for a bunch of beads again here just put your little X right here and we'll call it I mean Byzantine diplomacy is famous they'll have these people fighting and dying for their empire before this whole thing is over with and that's a great way to deflect you know the attention and ferociousness of this people in another direction right maybe even a direction the Byzantines would find it to be a positive outlet for their enthusiasm right
Starting point is 03:02:51 their murderous enthusiasm here go work off that energy against this step tribe for us would you and then there's of course the ultimate answer which is the military response and the military response has two levels doesn't it one level is the higher level one right the strategy level one and the other level one is the tactical level one what happens when you know your people with axes meet their people with swords that kind of thing the strategy part you start to see a reaction that's part of that Newtonian thing we were talking about earlier right this for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction well if vikings keep raiding your coast you're going to start trying to figure out how you can counter punch or at least defend yourself and
Starting point is 03:03:44 the ways that that cropped up I want to say organically but maybe I'm not you know not being a historian not qualified to go there but but it seems like feudalism is the outcome how about that 75 years ago when people were much more direct and black and white and said a led to be led to see and it was also easy they would say that the feudal era you know the early nights in the middle ages and feudalism and castles and all that was a direct outgrowth of these viking attacks this is the response right and it seemed to make sense because well it is a pretty good response to the viking raids but it's much more complicated of course like everything now including the fact that feudalism is sort of a always around kind of thing it seems
Starting point is 03:04:30 but in the era following the viking raids maybe you could say spikes feudalism is like a decentralization and you decentralize to try to allow the people's on the scene to respond to a problem that happens quickly and goes away quickly right if you can't respond from the central authority fast enough to do anything about you know lightning viking attacks you need someone on the scene who can and count so and so duke you know what's his name maybe even another one of these viking people to guard the territory from other vikings this becomes a wonderful tool as we've said but strategy wise during this period the methods that are eventually adopted and encouraged and the momentum begins to you know push these things will then have an effect on the surrounding society
Starting point is 03:05:27 right so the the response to the viking raids if that's what they are prompt this response that response then changes society that society then is like the middle ages right how clear cut were those wonderful old history books but there's enough truth in there for the short-term description to be kind of correct that that on the strategy level looking for ways to respond to attacks that happen really quickly becomes paramount and the romans and the Byzantines of course had had long had to deal with similar problems and had organized their militaries in ways to be more johnny on the spot to deal with threats that were far too you know quickly manifesting to go ask the central authority for help right so this is not all of these things follow a sort of
Starting point is 03:06:16 a rhythm cause and effect threat and response and as we had said all these changes are not just to deal with the Nordic Scandinavian types there may be the number one problem if you're a guy like lewis the pious but if you're a guy like lewis the pious you have raiding and piracy and brigandage nibbling at every border you have you've got step tribes doing it in the east you've got muslim pirates in the Mediterranean raiding all up and down into italy you've got problems on the spanish march continually so it might make sense to change this organization to allow for some sort of flying column ready relief force whatever you want to say you know law enforcement on the scene in general during this time period right but then you get to the second part of this problem right
Starting point is 03:07:06 is that if everything works the way you're hoping it does and you're able to catch these people what then because traditionally raiders and pirates and brigands and those types do not give the authorities in air quotes whatever the authorities might be much trouble you don't generally hear of pirate fleets fighting it out you know head on with the navies of states do you but it isn't always easy and it depends on what sort of force shows up i mean the vikings aren't like cornering the fox that stole a couple of hens from your chicken coop they're more like cornering the bear that kidnapped a family member and the first part of the battle is cornering the bear the second part of the battle is fighting the bear and of course discussing how to corner the bear
Starting point is 03:07:56 is strategy discussing how to fight the bear is tactics and if you're into war gaming this period as i am tactics are what it's all about right it's all about what the vikings do on the field of battle versus their opponents so let's talk about that for a minute the first question worth asking about this whole thing is how many people do you have to have to have an in a military encounter to call it a battle is there a minimum number i'm just the reason i ask is because this is warfare in the early middle ages in the european theater and in this time and place the average size of battles seems smaller now it doesn't mean you don't get big battles from time to time it just means the battles that would be considered too tiny to even count as battles in other places and times
Starting point is 03:08:49 count i mean you could have 900 guys against 900 guys in anglo-saxon england and that could easily be legit but a thousand years before this period that's a reconnaissance clash between the romans and the carthaginians in one of the punic wars right so this is not exactly the high water mark of the european you know military history section of the history book it is a great period for other militaries i mean china's got a good one in this period the persians are always strong the islamic areas of the middle east and in spain even in this period tough good militaries but the civilizations in western europe during this era can't support the same kind of militaries that they could support in that same region hundreds of years before this time when the
Starting point is 03:09:39 roman empire was running the show not on the strategic level and not on the tactical level and not on the you know whole society level i mean the romans had something nobody knows right something like 500 000 men under arms now that's not on any one battlefield at any specific time but that's the size of their military think about the think about what's involved in a state supporting a military edifice like that and everything that goes with that they can't do that in western europe during this time period central europe during this time period even the great carolingian state here that has the largest amount of european territories under one ruler that you're going to have until napoleon's times can't do that and it can't do it on the micro
Starting point is 03:10:28 level either where you know on the tactical level the romans can put 20 000 30 000 40 000 people in the field right the chinese can do that too how do you feed that i mean how do you logistically support that how do you get what you need to the people who need it i mean that's again something they can't do in the european theater in this era which is why the armies are smaller 900 guys against 900 guys could be a legit battle in this place in this time so i'm trying to figure out what even counts it's worth pointing out that i don't think you have this viking in quotes problem in an earlier era because i think they're just too tiny of a of a population to do much more than act as a bunch of gnats right just sort of bothering you as opposed to threatening you
Starting point is 03:11:18 and there was a great question asked in hanstel brook's histories of more than 100 years ago you know the reason that they still print these histories is not because they're accurate because they're completely out of date in so many ways it's because there's certain elements of them that still touch us hgl's history from 100 years ago does too but in del brook's piece he'll talk about the numbers that the you know the frank's under a guy like louis the pious or charlomagne the kind of numbers that a people like that could theoretically put in the field if this is a modern if it's the first world war you have the frankish empire like this and they can conscript you know this giant amount of their population which is huge they could really just make scandinavia go away
Starting point is 03:12:04 scandinavia's got one what did we say maybe a million maybe a million 500 000 people in this 500 000 people in this era maybe less so the franks should be able to crush these people in scandinavian this period and del brook asked the question you know why the millions available to the franks wasn't able to do that and then he answers it and the way he answers it is by talking about the amount of the population that goes to war in these various societies the vikings he says the scandinavians in this period are in a warrior society military level of development and in those kinds of societies it's pretty much every free man is a soldier and when you show up to the battlefield everybody brings their own weapons and their own armor and they show up they're prepared to fight it's a big
Starting point is 03:12:57 cross section of the adult male part of the population but and this is del brook's thinking but it was popular during the time and i'm not so sure it's out of date but when societies become more specialized and this isn't even a modern thing you see the same dynamic between say the assyrians in the biblical age and the nomadic and you know so-called barbarian peoples you know around them once society becomes more modern it begins to separate into categories and specializations right people do different jobs and one of the jobs is soldiering and the society supports a small segment and an upper crust of the population who does the fighting for them and then the rest of the population either through their tax dollars dollars you know what
Starting point is 03:13:43 i mean their taxes or their um you know they're in the carolingian state for example uh if you own a certain amount of land you have to fight and a bunch of other people can then outfit the warrior so that everybody sort of pools their resources and puts a good you know well equipped well armored warrior in the field um but it's not the whole population and so del brook says what that means is that on the day of the battle when everybody shows up to the battlefield this smaller society these danes for example are able to put a larger percentage of their population onto the field than the people in the carolingian state they're fighting now here's where i want to break it down a little bit more because this is where it gets interesting to me i don't think the vikings are
Starting point is 03:14:29 particularly better as warriors or soldiers or fighters than the best troops of their enemies and we should first make a disclaimer that there's basically two stories here and in the anglo-american west we really only followed one probably until the 1980s 1990s i mean we started really getting into it after the fall of the soviet union but there's two viking worlds right as far as we were concerned and kat jarman and river king suggest we should fuse these and start treating them as one viking world because that's how the vikings would have treated it but what's going on in the east is so different than what's going on in the west the vikings that went east have to face very diverse you know kinds of armies and not just one of them i mean the challenge of facing those
Starting point is 03:15:12 nomadic horse archers of the steppe is a very different challenge than facing you know Byzantine forces which are organized a little like the old romans were in terms of i mean they do have a modern style military they do equip their troops uniformly they do pay out of a treasury right they they supply them out of a supply depot that's not how things work in western europe during this period in fact you've probably gone to a party once upon a time where they've they've said on the invitation that it's b y o b bring your own beer in this period in fact in most of human history up until modern times it was much more common to have a b y o g system of warfare rather than be you know something like the Byzantines or the romans or the chinese or the way we are today
Starting point is 03:15:59 b y o g means bring your own gear i was trying to imagine if we still did this today or if we had a single event where we had to and they organized a war and they said we're gonna have a big battle in this giant open field you know near the hills nearby um everybody in your whole town has to line up there you know all all the fighting age males is what they'd say in the old days that it's b y o g can you imagine what shows up to that field and you'd line up in my mind's eye you line up just like they did in the old days whether you're vikings or whether you're your francs i mean they did it by either towns or clans or kin i mean but but you were associated with people that live near you right so you'd line up with your neighborhood maybe and you can imagine
Starting point is 03:16:46 the differences in the equipment based on any number of factors right i mean certainly the wealthy are going to have nicer stuff than the poorer folk right and the people who have a real interest or experience or who do this all the time likely to have better gear than those who don't so i'm imagining you know one neighbor shows up and they're a gun enthusiast and they have an AR 15 with a nice scope and they come with body armor that they own and they've got a big truck with a big spotlight up on the top of it i mean very useful when you're gonna have battle day and their next door neighbor shows up and they've got the nine millimeter handgun that they keep on the night stand for home defense and their kids football helmet and their other kids hockey and baseball
Starting point is 03:17:32 catchers gear for their armor i mean that's a little what it's going to look like in this period there's nothing uniform about a b y o g era battle i mean the kind of equipment someone's going to have is going to be based on any number of factors including you know how many previous engagements they've taken part in i you know it's like it's like a dungeons and dragons character here and the amount of quests that you've gone on already kind of impacts what you have to fight with because after you know you may start your first campaign with almost nothing and after a few of those you come back and you've gotten some armor from one of these quests that you went on and you made enough money to buy a sword at burka with another one and you show up on the day of
Starting point is 03:18:17 the battle with better stuff than you know you would have shown up with a couple of years previously now in terms of what people are fighting with this is an interesting aspect too first of all let's talk about you know how hard it is to get your hands on some of this stuff um the francs have and it's kind of famous and it's i find it fascinating personally they have an arms industry and i don't mean an arms industry where they're just making weapons and armor and stuff for their own people they export this stuff it almost looks modern at times and you will see the francs cut off uh access to this equipment to peoples that they don't want well armed charlemagne will declare that the you know the the best swords and the armor that the francs make in their
Starting point is 03:19:04 workshops are not to be exported to the danes and the viking peoples and then it's charles the ball the descendant of his i believe that makes it a capital offense you get your head cut off or you get hanged if you give frankish swords to the viking peoples right can't give them the best military hardware available they're dangerous enough without it and the question of armor is a good one and this is for geeks like yours truly but all during my life the feeling on how common armor was in this era and in these places has sort of fluctuated and gone through phases when i was a kid it was thought to be really rare and then we went through a period there i want to say 80s 90s where um there was this idea that
Starting point is 03:19:48 maybe it wasn't as rare as previously thought and now we're back toward this it was very rare kind of an attitude um and i was reading one book where they were trying to come up with a an amount of effort required and an amount of time required to make some of this stuff and they were talking about a male shirt so think about a standard shirt not not the extra long version that goes down to mid-thigh or down past your elbows for sleeves just the really like a t-shirt of interlocking iron rings right male chain mail and in the one book that i was reading it said that it might take four smiths right these are trained individuals professionals of their time period craftsmen four smiths 18 months to make a male shirt and you have to
Starting point is 03:20:35 add the cost of the metal which was not inconsiderable at that time and then according to a seventh century frankish illegal text it was explaining the relative costs of equipment and it said that a helmet right so your you know helmet's going to protect your head pretty important in warfare right like a football helmet in football said that a helmet cost as much as a shield spear and sword combined so you can have a shield a spear and a sword for the cost of a helmet and then it said a coat of mail cost twice the price of a helmet it's like an algebraic word problem isn't it um but so two helmets for a t-shirt of ring mail so that gives you an idea of how expensive this stuff is and perhaps how rare modern testing has shown just how
Starting point is 03:21:32 protective a nice you know chain mail shirt and a helmet is especially against sword cuts which were one of the really big threats during this time period and you can always tell what the threats were because you look at the armor and you can see what the armor is built to stop so the helmets that are going to be all the vogue coming into the period uh and into the next period of the so-called nasal helms the ones that look usually pointed but they can be rounded at the top but they have one piece of metal that extends from the helmet down sort of over the nose and it is so clearly designed to stop a sword cut across the face right horizontally across the face but these kinds of things as you could see would be really important on a field of battle and if
Starting point is 03:22:19 some people get to wear you know helmets in the football game and some people have to go without um you could see why it would be something that was coveted whether or not you were stealing it from someone else on a raid or whether or not you're part of that wonderful entourage of the professional elite who serve a warlord or a viking yarl or king the herdman the house carls the posse the entourage or as my army list once referred to them uh the warlord's retinue the historian we quoted earlier said that this was a consumption society and that it was based on gift giving and power was heavily connected to gift giving and one of the best gifts must have been military equipment and the people of the country who were involved in the war
Starting point is 03:23:08 and and the people who formed these retinues of elite troops who were well armored and well equipped and well trained and very experienced with you know elite sort of status these people formed either the tip of the spear for the viking forces or you could and this applies to other armies in the middle ages as well or you could mix them through the formations of the lower quality troops to stiffen them as it would be called right so these are your first class troops in any viking army now the situation for the anglo-saxons in england are going to be like you know vikings sort of organization mixed a little bit with the kind of organization that they would have in the frankish territories on the continent now let's contrast this for a
Starting point is 03:24:04 minute with something like what they do in charlemagne's realm or lewis the pious's realm the carolingine francs there the central authority is going to set minimum standards for people and they're they're not going to give you equipment the way the Byzantines perhaps will do for their troops they're going to tell you what you have to show up with and they're going to tell you if you have this much land you have to have this kind of equipment right so the the more land you own the more likely it is you have to have better gear and oftentimes a bunch of people will sort of pool their resources to outfit one warrior well but what that means is generally the carolingines are going to have better stuff on more of their soldiers than the vikings they face
Starting point is 03:24:48 which brings me to this idea of the kind of troops that we're dealing with here um vikings have a fearsome reputation and they had the reputation at the time so there's a psychological intimidation question that the best units in warfare have always possessed if you're looking for my boxing analogy on this you look at your sunny listings your george foreman's your mike tyson's and boxing trainers used to say that some of their opponents were defeated before they even came into the ring michael spinks before he fought tyson he's already lost the fight and the same is probably true on a lot of battlefields and in fact as many of you have emailed me there's a um sort of a revisionist idea going on right now
Starting point is 03:25:32 about whether or not the spartans in the ancient greek world were as nasty fighters and disorganized and and raised the way we thought and always treated them or whether or not they just had a sort of a psychological edge on their opponents and the vikings certainly had that but otherwise if you were to get an artist rendering of a viking a well-equipped viking warrior and put it next to an artist rendering of a well-equipped anglo-saxon warrior from england or a well-equipped um you know heavy cavalrymen from the frankish one of the frankish kingdoms put them all next to each other other than the cosmetic differences right the hairstyles and those kinds of things and the clothing from a military standpoint they are pretty interchangeable aren't they i mean they're all
Starting point is 03:26:18 going to have the round shield that's so common in europe in this era they're all going to have some combination of swords spears axes neither weapons are not different although the scandinavians make somewhat more use of archery than they do on the continent or anglo-saxon england conversely on the continent they have true cavalry which they do not use in england or in scandinavia yet i mean they fight from the saddle a lot of people use horses and just dismount on the day of the battle in um you know the frankish world they have proto knights a little bit on that just as an aside because i'm geeking out now and you're stuck with me um but it's a big controversy over when knights first begin when you can confidently label a european heavy cavalryman
Starting point is 03:27:05 a knight i think i'm on safe ground saying that most people will say that the norman knights that invaded england in 1066 under william the conqueror were knights early knights but knights if that's the case these heavy cavalrymen from central and western europe in 850 a d c e say they're proto knights to me not as nasty as early knights and early knights were not as nasty as the knights of the high middle ages but if we were going to have a one-on-one battle between a european proto knight in 850 and a well-equipped viking warrior in 850 i think that's a toss-up i mean these frankish proto knights are probably going to have a lot of the best armor and equipment that the frankish state can provide and ironically enough the same applies to the top of the line viking
Starting point is 03:28:00 first stringers too they probably have some of the best stuff the frankish state can provide but when troops are armed and equipped similarly when they fight in similar formations when the tactics are similar you're reduced in the number of things that can impact the outcome of a battle which means that the things that are left over increase in importance right so in my mind the first stringers from both a viking army and most of the enemies in the west a viking army would face cancel each other out and you start talking about things like you know how many first stringers you have right it becomes a numerical question so i don't see a big advantage for either side on the first string question the place where i see the scandinavian armies in the west having a huge advantage
Starting point is 03:28:50 over their opponents though is when it comes to the second stringers because the viking second stringers seem to be a lot better than most of the second stringers they're going to encounter for a couple of reasons i would say the first would be a handstill brook kind of reason he would say well you know these viking second stringers are still warriors these are people that go on raids every year they come from a society that you know requires them to carry weapons and know how to use them and know how to take care of them and celebrates their prowess in using them in their book vikings at war authors kim yardar and vigard vika describe it this way based on you know things that the later sources laid out and they write quote free men in the
Starting point is 03:29:45 viking age were expected to carry weapons they had both a right and a duty to be armed and there was a strong obligation on every man to maintain the weapons needed for the defense of the land the laws required free men to have three basic weapons spear shield and either sword or axe if a man failed to attend the annual weapons inspection or if his equipment was deficient he would be fined end quote now while that may sound like an early medieval scandinavian version of the united states his second amendment to the constitution right the right to bear arms and a well regulated militia and all that it really is just the sort of requirements that well regulated militias all throughout history have always had and most armies throughout
Starting point is 03:30:36 history probably could be classified as well regulated militias i mean the ancient greeks of the hoplite era that's not a warrior society i wouldn't consider it one a bunch of farmers but when the collective defense required it they put on armor took spears lined up shoulder to shoulder and fought in phalanxes to protect their land and if somebody shows up with you know a bad spear or poor armor they endanger the safety of the collective whole so minimum standards in your well regulated militia just makes sense right but clearly all militia armies are not created equal i remember reading dub brook and he was talking about the phalanxes and military formation and said that it doesn't really help very much if the people inside the
Starting point is 03:31:28 phalanx are all cowards so there's a combination between sort of the fighting attitude of the people involved and the way they fight there are obvious differences between say your greek farmer hoplites and your viking warriors and i would say it's very akin to the difference between say an american settler or pioneer or farmer in the old west who probably kept a rifle above the fireplace you know use it whenever something threatens the herd whether human or animal when they could be very dangerous against indigenous natives if push comes to shove but they're not warriors by nature they're warriors by necessity as needed their counterparts though amongst the native americans often are warriors and it's a part of their makeup personally
Starting point is 03:32:24 and the many steps that one goes through in terms of respectability and building one's reputation over time are military related i mean things like counting coup among the plains indians is a perfect example of something that no farmer you know amongst the settler population would give a hoot about but would be worth somebody risking their lives for amongst the native american warriors of the plains right so just a whole different way your worldview is constructed and the hoplite farmers are principally farmers who fight whereas the viking warriors are warriors who farm farm but they have something special attached to them militarily speaking and i was trying to figure out how to get into it and i thought you know i could spend 15 or 20 minutes really
Starting point is 03:33:16 trying to explain this or i could just use a cheap metaphor based on game mechanics that we're all gonna understand and go from there so of course being the non-professional non-historian that i am i chose the cheap metaphor of course and there's a macro and a micro version of this we'll start with the micro version the tactical version the individual version if you are playing a role playing game or dungeons and dragons type game or you are playing a computer or a miniature figure war game and you are the viking or playing the vikings you're going to expect certain bonuses in the game aren't you die bonuses pluses things like that the special ability of the vikings that acts as an equalizer to a bunch of armies that normally you wouldn't
Starting point is 03:34:07 think they stood a chance against but if you've ever done as i have and fight military encounters outside of your period everybody fights with miniatures in the old days in the pre-gun powder era armies from wildly different geographical areas and periods there's just nowhere around it so you'll fight your new kingdom egyptians against your romans and your romans against your knights and all that's pretty typical and if you're commanding a viking army against romans or chinese or steppe peoples or alexander the greats army you're going to think to yourself will i stand no chance except for the great equalizer that the vikings have in every gaming system known to man and if they didn't have it and you were playing vikings you would think it was a crappy
Starting point is 03:34:49 gaming system you're going to get some sort of bonus for some combination of trying to think of the terms that would apply here and i came up with three and they all happen to start with a letter f but i mean ferocity fanaticism and fearlessness some combination of those things are commonly associated with the vikings and so much so that if you're playing a game and that game mechanism doesn't account for that you're going to think it's a bad game so it may be just conventional wisdom on all of our parts it may be a falsity that we've sort of ingrained into a sort of a stereotype or it may be reflective of something that was really there what is that give me back up and try it from the macro level another game mechanics question
Starting point is 03:35:36 if you've ever played one of those world building civilization games in your life you'll remember that at the very beginning you have to choose which civilization you're going to play as you might choose russians or irikoi or zulu right or aztec there's a whole bunch of them and they traditionally all come with some bonus right every society gets their advantage so this one might be plus two science another's plus three seafaring another's plus one commerce whatever it might be and usually there's a couple of societies that the special ability that they have is that their culture produces a special kind of entity maybe a warrior so if you're playing japan for example during a certain period you may be allowed to build a unique sort of a unit called a samurai
Starting point is 03:36:26 just like if you're playing Scandinavians during a certain era you might be able to build a certain unit called a viking these are units that are a facet of the culture and that's why these societies get them and other societies don't that's why you don't have a german samurai and a japanese viking but again what is that game mechanics element representing there right that's something about the culture produces a unique entity that is particularly feared or fearsome on the battlefield and it's funny because if you look at samurai or viking i think they both classify as the kind of troop types you would give a special ability to in a game a bonus right and a plus four die roll for fearlessness fanaticism and ferocity even if in my mind it's like a stew with those three
Starting point is 03:37:19 ingredients and the viking stew version of the mixture is going to be somewhat different than the samurai version right different ratios of fearlessness fanaticism and ferocity in each and by the way the japanese version isn't even really a period thing because i feel like it lasts until the end of the second world war i mean you look at an imperial japanese army force in 1942 and they are jaw-droppingly willing to sacrifice their lives and and their fearlessness is legendary so much so it shocked their opponents i mean a japanese general gives away a lot of advantages to an allied force right firepower logistics all kinds of things but the one thing he's gotten his toolbox it's better than anything they have in theirs is he can order his people to do anything
Starting point is 03:38:07 and they'll do it and they'll do it even if they know it's suicidal and they'll do it even if they know it will contribute to victory not one iota charge that dug in american fire position sure no problem here's the interesting thing though well that's a great tool to have in the toolbox if you're a japanese general in 1942 there's a lot of things that minimize that advantage right fire power for example the fact that your people will go charge into firepower and die to a man might be useful but it's not effective doesn't really change as we said alter the victory conditions but you take away a lot of those variables like firepower for example and you equalize a bunch of other factors same armor same weapons same formation same tactics and all of a sudden what's
Starting point is 03:38:56 left over can become exalted dominant even including this question of plus four bonus for fearlessness fanaticism and ferocity and i was trying to figure out what this is right this is the twilight zone that i love to play in and we always use the same example we'll say toughness right toughness because it's the same sort of thing it's it's this thing that keeps a foot in the in the academic discipline of the humanities because what is it we have no problem calling an individual tough or the opposite but you start applying that sort of an adjective to societies or peoples and it starts getting weird they didn't have a problem doing that a long time ago for obvious reasons they don't do it much anymore but we're left with this sort of gray area
Starting point is 03:39:44 you know you don't want to use the old way of doing things we don't have anything that really represents what that plus four bonus is so i like talking about it even though there's no answers because i think in the case of the vikings or a samurai it's pretty key issue isn't it and unlike the japanese in 1942 charging that american fire pit suicidally in a battle between say vikings and francs with all the other things that are equal in the battle like that like two phalanxes coming together right farmers on each side no other differences what determines the outcome well if one group of people has the plus three fearlessness freneticism and ferocity bonus and the other side doesn't well that sounds like it could be a pretty dominant thing and i think in
Starting point is 03:40:30 this era it probably was worth also pointing out that the psychological advantage that happens after many victories would begin to build up i mean if the vikings weren't scary enough to the people like the francs when they first encountered them after losing to them a bunch of times you begin to fear them you begin to go into the fight like michael spinks against tyson you begin to go in not with both sides you know having an equal chance but one side disadvantaged psychologically before the combat even starts now it's worth asking another key question about this special ability is it really a special ability or is it something that everyone has in warfare and everyone talks about and everyone knows about just turned up to a very high amplitude i mean
Starting point is 03:41:24 are we talking about something as simple and basic as morale here because as everyone knows morale is a key element in warfare go read your sun sue go read your claus witz the military maxims of so many generals um morale is key when we talk about this plus bonus for samurai and vikings and others like them is that simply because they have sky high morale or is this another quality entirely can it exist side by side with morale one of my war game rules used to refer to it as impetuousness interesting adjective um del brook referred to it as savage courage if this is simply morale well then that would seem to explain why knights seem to have a similar sort of quality right impetuousness savage courage some sort of diro bonus on the fanaticism
Starting point is 03:42:25 ferocity and fearlessness bonus but i think we all know and hollywood tells us it is so that there's more of a barbarian borderline crazy edge to the viking version of this savage courage right the knight is at least publicly with the public face of piousness righteousness and justice playing his anointed role in society as the protector of the weak and all that sort of stuff and only when he rips the mask off in battle does he become the pagan savage barbarian butcher again right we channeled that violent tendency for the good of all in this era there is no mask in the viking show everybody exactly what they are and while i was reading about the teeth grooves the other day and that would freak anybody out right they carve i guess would carve like grooves
Starting point is 03:43:21 into their teeth and then fill them in with ink or other color some of the members of certain brotherhood see this is all the stuff that's just made for hollywood isn't it teeth grooves but here is the part i always try to remember this isn't a specifically viking thing very little of this is specifically Scandinavian stuff the vikings are as i may have already said to me i see them like the american bison the buffalo that once upon a time these odin worshiping types or these Celtic peoples who had sort of similar cultural you know values when it came to sort of military stuff had a wide range of habitat and then over time the settled societies of the Mediterranean tamed them converted them co-opted them and now you're down to the last little hinterlands the
Starting point is 03:44:16 last holdouts the bit of habitat that has not been gobbled up yet in a colonial way and the indigenous people and culture transformed wiped out would be the way a member in that culture a cultural conservative may see it civilized might be the way that the church or the king of the francs might have seen it or emperor of the francs it's all a matter of perspective in order to prove my point there is a wonderful source account and i'm not going to go into deeply into everything that happens when you some sort of source in the foreign tongue at least a foreign tongue to me arrives in our hands and how many permutations and translations and fragments that are put together go through to make something but many of you i'm sure have read more rhesus
Starting point is 03:45:05 strategic on because it is a rather singular piece of premodern military gear for people like yours truly i guess you could say and what it is is it's a sort of a handbook if you will for it seems like a general would know more than a handbook like this would help them with but maybe there's something to it where either the emperor more research people writing as his ghost writers i guess put this account together that is actually so valuable for modern-day military historians because it explains a lot of stuff that no other document explains stuff like you know how many ranks of fighters you want here and how many it's really basic stuff but they have several chapters all dealing with different things and one of them is sort of advice on how
Starting point is 03:45:54 to deal with particular enemies because as they say in boxing styles make fights same things true in warfare there's a very rock paper scissors element to some of this stuff and in the premodern era it was much more diverse than it is now and much more tied to culture everybody's military is pre-homogenized these days the iranian military and the u.s. military today have a lot more in common than they have in terms of cultural differences everybody uses you know modern military gear everyone studies the same military manuals i mean you can find cultural differences but it's nothing like it is in the ancient world or the medieval world where the society and the culture often dictates what kind of warriors you have available to you
Starting point is 03:46:38 and how they fight and the way your people fight could be very different than the way that people you're fighting fight a lot of time these styles last for centuries instead of changing all the time the way our military tactics do right every time there's a war something's changing sometimes changing sometimes if it's a big war entire military revolutions take place right you even have an acronym for that a military a revolution military affairs rma you didn't have that very often in the premodern world what that means is the way people fought sometimes stayed the same or relatively the same for generations and there are regional similarities in styles styles racist some people like that will sometimes over the air is make this into a racial question
Starting point is 03:47:29 but race has nothing to do with it it has to do with you know your culture where you develop how the people around you fight for example along the step which is a huge expansive land which has to be said has europe on one side and china on the other you have an entire vast you know gumbo of ethnic makeup every kinds i mean there are turks there are indo europeans there are europeans there are asians bongolians and all mixed together right a cultural estuary and ethnic estuary and they all fight like horse archers so something's going on there right well in the strategic con there's a chapter just on how you fight those people and then there's a chapter on how you fight these people that if not the vikings because when this was written in the late 500s early 600s
Starting point is 03:48:17 the vikings as the vikings didn't exist yet but these people that would be indistinguishable if you showed a photograph of them to the emperor morise did and ironically one of them are the francs long before this charlemagne civilized version of them know when the francs were people that looked exactly like the vikings and worshiped gods with the same names these strategic cons chapter on how you deal with people like that is entitled dealing with the light haired peoples such as the francs lombards and others like them now let me just say others like them is where i would put the scandinavians truthfully before this period i would also put the earlier kelts the people the julia sees are faced and and their ancestors they're not the same ethno
Starting point is 03:49:10 culturally maybe you could say different gods and whatnot but a sort of a similar military style and approach to the big picture things right and the big picture things are where the bizantine sort of cliff notes on how you fight these people including you know with a few asterisks i would say and maybe a couple of footnotes talking about you know subtle differences we're it's like we're dealing with indigenous native tribes here and we're talking about the differences between you know cherokee and crow right yute and comanche um to an outsider they may all look like indigenous native americans from north america but they can tell each other apart and experts can too but these bizantine military cliff notes talk about you know you know an almost movie like hero
Starting point is 03:49:59 here from the western perspective it sounds a little like rambo for a while and by the way i should mention that i am using the version of the strategic on that is translated by george t denis and the strategic on says in fighting the light haired peoples quote the light haired races place great value on freedom they are bold and undaunted in battle daring and impetuous as they are they consider any timidity and even a short retreat as a disgrace they calmly despise death as they fight violently in hand to hand combat either on horseback or on foot if they are hard pressed in cavalry actions they dismount at a single prearranged sign and line up on foot although only a few against many horsemen they do not shrink from the fight they are armed with
Starting point is 03:50:52 shields lances and short swords slung from their shoulders they prefer fighting on foot and rapid charges end quote so our rambo like character in the movie here sounds just about perfect right but the bison teens are going to start you know there's going to be a tone i feel like that comes into the writing here where they're making fun of the barbarians who consider the bison teens so weak and maybe you know so so feminine would be the way maybe they would think about them because they're clever and they don't just get up there and and you know wrestle in hand to hand mono on mono combat and the bison teens think that's just stupid and they're going to use all these wonderful rambo like qualities against the very practitioners in a very jujitsu
Starting point is 03:51:41 type fashion the next paragraph says quote whether on foot or on horseback they draw up for battle not in any fixed measure and formation or in regiments or divisions but according to tribes they're kinship with one another and common interests often as a result when things are not going well and their friends have been killed they will risk their lives fighting to avenge them and quote again it sounds like the hero in our movies being heroic right but you get a sense as you get farther into the piece that this is the bison teens just explaining what sort of cheese you can bait a trap for these people with right now all you have to do is kill a few of their friends and they'll just throw their lives away to avenge them this is all stuff that general
Starting point is 03:52:31 could use right this is how you play you know the the game of poker here and these are some inside tricks let me tell you about the guy you're playing it continues quote in combat they make the front of their battle line even and dense either on horseback or on foot they are impetuous and undisciplined in charging as if they were the only people in the world who are not cowards they are disobedient to their leaders they're not interested in anything that is at all complicated and they pay little attention to external security and their own advantage they despise good order especially on horseback they are easily corrupted by money greedy as they are end quote if you're a Byzantine general about to face one of these light-haired peoples or others like them that's
Starting point is 03:53:24 a pretty good scoop there isn't it that's something you can use the next paragraph is interesting because it defies the stereotype especially of the Scandinavians because i can't believe the Scandinavians are more bothered by cold than people from a warm climate like the Byzantines but maybe they're much more bothered by heat but this is the next chapter on you know how you beat these light-haired peoples how you fight them quote they are hurt by suffering and fatigue although they possess bold and daring spirits their bodies are pampered and soft and they're not able to bear pain calmly in addition they are hurt by heat cold rain lack of provisions especially of wine and postponement of battle when it comes to a cavalry battle they are hindered
Starting point is 03:54:17 by uneven and wooded terrain they are easily ambushed along the flanks into the rear of their battle line for they do not concern themselves at all with scouts and the other security measures their ranks are easily broken by a simulated flight and a sudden turning back against them attacks at night by archers often inflict damage since they're very disorganized in setting up camp end quote this to me is a graded on a curve sort of situation because sometimes you'll read sources from a part of the world where everybody by Byzantine standards is lax in camp security right or scouting and they'll judge each other based on you know how did the Vikings compare to the Anglo-Saxons but from the Byzantine standpoint they all suck at reconnaissance
Starting point is 03:55:04 right the next paragraph you know once again there's going to be probably more boxing and gaming analogies in this show than anyone we've done but it always lends itself to it there was a line Muhammad Ali used as one of his poems about fighting smoke and Joe Frazier who was basically Mike Tyson and that's exactly what the Byzantine emperor or his ghost writers is suggesting you do with these people because like Joe Frazier or Mike Tyson these western light haired peoples are ferocious sluggers head-on punchers who disdain any sort of cleverness or slickness at all right just come on up here we'll settle it you know in an arm wrestling match or whatever and they're fighting you know more of an Ali type character who said of Joe
Starting point is 03:55:48 Frazier I'll be pecking and poking pouring water on his smoking and that's what the Byzantine emperor says you're going to do to these people but just don't get into a slugfest with him early take him into the later rounds and he writes quote above all therefore in warring against them one must avoid engaging in pitched battles especially in the early stages instead make use of well-planned ambushes sneak attacks and stratagems delay things and ruin their opportunities pretend to come to agreements with them aim at reducing their boldness and zeal by shortage of provisions or the discomforts of heat or cold end quote and while these aren't specifically comments about Vikings and they come earlier than the Viking era there are Byzantine accounts from right after
Starting point is 03:56:43 the Viking era from people who are recent descendants of the Vikings that talk about this same sort of plus four bonus thing I mean the Byzantine princess Anna Kamnana writes about it and she talks about she calls them Celts which I think is wonderful because then we're recycling these old names again there they could be Celts they could be Vikings they could be Franks they could be I mean they're just light-haired peoples right? Latins they call them sometimes these Greek speaking Byzantines but she basically describes it as this irresistible force that these Celts have initially but that if you can withstand that it diminishes right they get tired they begin to flag they get discouraged so if you can survive the initial impetuousness bonus they return to sort
Starting point is 03:57:35 of a normal standard of fighting after that it can be defeated in one encounter Kamnana says the emperor of the Byzantines ordered his men to shoot the horses out from under the Celts and then once they fell to the ground with their big shields and their heavy spur as they lost their impetuousness and were vulnerable so this to me shows more of a style of fighting than something specifically Viking but if we want to talk about specifically Viking because they didn't fight specifically like the Franks for example let's turn to historian and Viking expert Neil Price who wrote The Children of Ash and Elm and he describes it and he also taking a shot may be a little strong description here but but points out that so much of what's portrayed as Viking
Starting point is 03:58:26 styles of fighting and all this sort of stuff is really based on tenuous information and that we know less than the popular culture would suggest is known he says quote it is hard to know what a Viking age raid or battle was actually like several books have been written claiming to give detailed treatment of tactics battlefield formations and the like but these are almost entirely drawn from later practice applied retrospectively and often from literal readings of textual sources with debatable reliability in reality he writes we know comparatively little other than the impressions of noise chaos and violence that are conveyed so vividly in poetry and in the names of the Valkyries end quote then he gives a rundown of kind of what we do know which is sort of
Starting point is 03:59:20 traditional foot warfare in this era in the western central northern europe area and he writes quote the primary battlefield strategy involved the shield wall in which a force formed up in a line several men deep with overlapping shields as a cohesive unit it could be used to advance and push opponents back by sheer impetus while spears and knives could be employed to stab forward between the ranks swords and axes could also come into play and the legs of anyone facing a shield wall were especially vulnerable from the underhanded thrust the formation strength lay in unity as a collective and the greater degree of protection afforded from frontal attack shields could also be raised to deflect incoming arrows end quote now i love a good viking shield wall as much as the
Starting point is 04:00:19 next guy but i need to point out for those who might not otherwise know there's nothing special about a shield wall formation in fact i think it's probably i don't know if i'm safe to say this but probably the most common formation before gunpowder was invented worldwide all throughout history i mean there's sumerian art that shows mesopotamian warriors in a shield wall and just like all militia armies aren't created equal all shield walls aren't either i mean there have been armies that could turn you know their entire force 90 degrees on command drill like fashion you know in their shield walls these shield walls are not those this is a very primitive sort of level of warfare but what that means is without anything else to differentiate you know one
Starting point is 04:01:06 side from another what's left over becomes even more important as we said exalted your morale or your plus four bonuses or whatever it might be experience right warrior hood versus farmers whatever it might be it's worth asking the question if something like this plus four bonus thing would account for supposed phenomena like the berserkers or the berserks this is a group of uh people that's associated with viking warrior hood let's be honest though it's a little dubious i mean it comes from the sagas and the poetry which is you know we'll get into it later because it's it you have to but in terms of the historicity of something like this if anything it looks to me these berserkers look like outgrowths of the sorts of things that the romans would have written
Starting point is 04:01:59 about dramatic tribes centuries previously in other words sort of a known type on the battlefield i think one could make a case that when you filter out all this stuff about them being psychotic or using hallucinogenic drugs which is still an open question but i think i think the stuff i've been reading lately seems to trend against it but all of this could just be simply the descriptions of elite units right on the battlefield that were simply known as being like the other great units but with some you know amplification of some of the differences and thinking that you are immune from the enemy's weapons and acting that way is a sort of a psychological uh self-hypnosis trick that would not be unique to viking warriors right i mean i think you almost have to work
Starting point is 04:02:46 yourself up into something like that sometimes to be the first ones to charge into somebody else's spear points but you know again nothing i know about personally i think the same holds true for the women warrior idea um there are women warriors throughout history famously the ones that are called amazons who were probably you know women from some of these step tribes uh that seems completely confirmed but the question of decisiveness and numbers is interesting i mean how common was it i would suggest from what we know now probably more common still uncommon but more common on the amongst the horse archer tribes than in scandinavia but they do find women buried with weapons but nothing i've read suggests that there would be many women warriors that it would be a rarity
Starting point is 04:03:39 when it happened and neither the women warriors nor the berserks are likely to play pivotal roles in anything we're talking about here but worth mentioning during this time period when we're talking about armies and stuff and some of the military side of this to me the most interesting aspects of the viking military stuff though and the stuff that really is different to me obviously the ships and the naval stuff which we'll get into more later but the other thing is that there's this and this may be something that is an illusion from the sources but there's this untethered nature to the viking armies and especially during this period where they seem to be able to defy the normal laws of things like supply lines and logistics and all that i mean their mobility
Starting point is 04:04:26 is crazy and we think about it being a naval mobility but think about it this way if you're looking to move an army during this time period there's a very sort of a ponderous point to point to point sort of approach that that in advance takes because you're moving from supply hub to supply hub on land you want to stay on the road so that your your carts and your wagons and your pack animals can go easily with you if you're being supplied by rivers and stuff like that you need to be close to the barges and the ships but it creates a sort of a very slow point to point to connect the dots kind of approach the vikings don't do any of this during this era because by the middle 800s in the west they've ensconced themselves in certain places and they can't be
Starting point is 04:05:13 dislodged it's like gangs you know we talked about earlier the police blotter kind of an idea it's like gangs have taken over certain areas in modern day france and the netherlands and places like that and the powers that be can't dislodge them and they usually try to control these areas where they can where it's right where the rivers and the sea come together so that they have easy access to the you know it's the subway turn styles of these places river transport systems and trying to figure out what viking hosts or armies or mini armies or whatever you want to call them trying to figure out what they're doing is like trying to follow you know gangs around and during the 850s 860s these these groups of vikings will actually get
Starting point is 04:06:00 names you know they'll be the army of the same they'll be the army of the psalm eventually there'll be the great heathen army and the great summer army and to think about these as armies is crazy because the first thing in any modern military is when you sign up for a military you're in and if you leave without permission they may shoot you you're a deserter or you go a wall that's not how these armies work and cat jarman the bioarchaeologist put it well when she said that these military forces whatever we want to call them hosts are the way the primary sources sometimes refer to them that they could pick up and lose members along the way there's going to be a core of people that are there because they have oaths or responsibilities or they're members of a war
Starting point is 04:06:41 lords retinue or entourage and they're gonna you know they're gonna do whatever they want to do uh if the warlord says we're going to raid this area you're in but there's a whole bunch of people that are sort of following the moving party here like the second group of people that show up in a gold rush or teenagers looking for something to do on a saturday night and they hear rumors of where the latest parties are and they just show up and they break up the same way in the um primary sources of uh saint burton at one point he talks about armies viking armies splitting up into several different flotillas and then he writes that they quote sailed off in different directions according to their various choices and the quote what army does that but it's not like an army it doesn't
Starting point is 04:07:31 act like an army it acts like a pack of wolves or a bunch of looters or people that are just running around um in it's like it's like trying to be the police officer at central command that keeps track of all these groups and you have multiple groups operating i mean one of the histories i was reading is following one of these fleets and you can you can trace it because it'll hit things all along the way it'll hit spain and then as it goes down to the Mediterranean it hits you know what's now like the southern spanish coast and then it hits the southern french coast and then it sacks cities in italy and you can literally follow its progress in 861 some of these groups burn paris now paris is not as we said this great city during this time period it's more of a town it's not anyone's
Starting point is 04:08:17 capital but it is important and it's been hit before right this is not unusual by this time period but it sounds specifically bad and charles the bald who is the king of that region finally does something about it in the in the next couple of years he has a bad reputation for how he handles vikings he's charlemagne's grandson by the way and in the 840s charlemagne's grandson split up his former united empire into a bunch of different parts that morph into modern countries charles the bald rules frankia which will morph into france after paris is burned in 861 that creates a sort of an equal and opposite reaction on charles the bald's part he puts into place a bunch of rules that we've already covered some of the details of one of them is the creation of sort of a
Starting point is 04:09:05 a ready reaction force a rapid deployment force to try to catch these vikings in the act and maybe either punish them or prevent them from doing what they want to do he prohibits the sale of weapons and armor to these people also because the franks make as we said some of the best stuff if not the best stuff in this part of the world and no one wants the command she's having repeater rifles except of course the command she's and apparently whatever his grandfather had put into place was not strong enough because he strengthened all the penalties right now now they're gonna hang you or cut your head off as we said so he puts that into play at the same time and then finally and this is fascinating to me he finally manages to get whatever needed to get
Starting point is 04:09:50 done to get bridges fortified because he's certainly not the first person that ever did this but for one reason or another it hadn't happened now it's gonna happen you burn perish you get everyone's attention and fortified bridges are like turning bridges into castles you know you'll see towers and all sorts of fun things walls and battlements and if you're a viking that's the equivalent of blocking the turnstiles that lets you into the subway you put a fortified bridge in in a key spot and they can't get into the river system and that screws up everything when they've already sort of stolen all the easy stuff to steal on the coast all the good stuff's in the interior and to block these places is to frustrate and make any viking ideas about rating much more
Starting point is 04:10:33 risky and costly but this doesn't make the viking stop it just sends them elsewhere if charles the bald wants to play superman and wants to get in front of his people and block the incoming viking bullets he needs to understand or maybe it's not his job to care that those bullets might bounce off of superman's chest and kill a bunch of innocent bystanders in a place like anglo-saxon england for example charles the bald's response to things like this burning of paris in 861 is often tied into what happens in 865 866 in another location england britain really the north of britain by york now where they're gonna get hit with something that all the histories portray as something out of the ordinary well up until now soon to be all too ordinary a change in the way
Starting point is 04:11:29 vikings do things and we mentioned it earlier when we said that they were starting to over winter in the eight fifties and the eight fifties by the way it's hard to keep track of all this stuff isn't it look at this scope of what they're doing in the eight fifties they start to take over ireland but it's the eight sixties that this starts to happen in britain and it will change the course of everything and once it gets going it becomes like a happening it's hard to figure out what these things are we mentioned earlier that there are these entrepreneurs and it seems like they're the ones who call the shots you know maybe they own 12 ships and they know another entrepreneur who has 10 up the coast and another one down south who's your cousin who has five
Starting point is 04:12:09 ships and you get these people together they all bring their entourage is and they sort of go to where this year's party is going to be and then all the other vikings looking for parties or to pan for gold or to pick fruit in john steinbeck's version you know of the people from the dust bowl coming to try to make a living whatever it might be those people show up they follow the party they're like grateful dead fans who go from place to place following the band although they look probably a little bit more like motorhead fans in eight sixty five eight sixty six the big party is going to be in northumbria and the group of people that shows up to watch and participate in that show is going to acquire a name which might work for some of the motorhead get-togethers too they're
Starting point is 04:12:55 going to be called the great heathen army the origin of the great heathen army is literally legendary it involves at least the traditional story involves one of these vikings whose name we have but that's a rare thing in the middle eight hundreds believe it or not after all this discussion we've already gone through this is the early viking age and it's the next hundred years when the sources are going to comparatively explode so even having names during this period to work with is a little problematic but the most famous name if you were to talk to people on the street who have no connection to history at all and ask them do you know any names of any vikings the name you would get most of all because of what popular culture has done to this figure is almost certainly
Starting point is 04:13:52 Ragnar Lothbrok and trying to get your mind around who that person was in real life in history is one of the many things in the story above my pay grade some people will suggest he never existed at all i think most of what i read would would go to the other direction and say that he did but like so many figures in early history you know ancient intermedieval history he was one of these figures that over time maybe got turned into something like a demigod a person whose name shows up here and there in historical chronicles but is most known because of things written about him in sagas and the epic eddick and scaldic poetry of Scandinavia which is what allows the viking side of this story any interplay in it at all even with all
Starting point is 04:14:50 of its problems more on that later but so who this Ragnar Lothbrok guy is is hard to figure he's supposed to have been one of the leaders in the great attack on paris in the middle 840s where those guys were slaughtered by the vikings you know hanged in front of their compatriots but on an island in the same river he was one of those guys this is a couple decades later and the way this story starts and remember ancient and medieval people love these kinds of things where whole geopolitical conflicts start because somebody steals another guy's wife or something but this supposedly starts because of something done to Ragnar Lothbrok and because of the thing that was done to him his sons come looking for payback and in a society like Scandinavia known
Starting point is 04:15:36 for its blood feuds during this era that's not hard to believe but what they kick off if that has any connection to truth at all is one of the most important geopolitical events in the viking age and one that's always taken to sort of kick off a new era in the viking story although a case can be made that this is sort of just things sliding into one another historically speaking right what happened the last five years moves into what happens in the next five years and it just sort of slides to this destination but regardless when I was growing up I was reading things like A History of the Vikings by Gwen Jones and here's the way Jones describes this era and Ragnar's involvement in it and writes quote we've already seen the nuisance raids of individual
Starting point is 04:16:29 leaders develop into big well-organized expeditions which exploited local divisions and lived off the invaded country for lengthening periods of time a news stage he writes that of conquest and residence now followed in 865 a big heathen host or horde at a guess 500 to a thousand men arrived in england to initiate a more sustained and coherent assault than had yet been attempted their leaders were Ivar called the boneless Abba and Halfdan legend tells us that they came from Scandinavia and Ireland to avenge the death of their father Ragnar about whom we know nothing very much after his withdrawal from the Sain in 845 that was the attack on Paris in 845 which he was supposed to be one of the leaders of with 7 000 pounds of silver and the seeds of plague in
Starting point is 04:17:28 his army save that he was reputed to have come to england with two ships crews and been defeated by King Ella of Northumbria who had him thrown into a pit and stung to death by snakes before he died he was heard to say prophetically the piglings would be grunting if they knew the plight of the boar and suddenly here they were snouting and tusking in england end quote that's a great story how much of it is true is completely open to question the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of course is much more dry this is not a saga this is not you know the the scaldic poetry this is just the facts ma'am and in 865 according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle here were the facts quote this year sat the heathen army in the Isle of Thanet and made peace with the men of Kent who promised money
Starting point is 04:18:32 therewith but under the security of peace and the promise of money the army in the night stole up the country and overran all Kent eastward end quote the next year is also um a continuation of what's going on and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says for 866 quote and by the way when they're talking about Ethelred and Ethelbert they're talking about kings of one of these kingdoms that make up you know the british isles during this period quote this year Ethelred brother of Ethelbert took to the west saxon government and the same year came a large heathen army into england and fixed their winter quarters in east anglia where they were soon hoarse and the inhabitants made peace with them end quote hoarse that's a great term isn't it what it means is that deals
Starting point is 04:19:29 were struck the vikings have this quality of you know people who show up in your neighborhood and say something like you know nice kingdom you have here be ashamed if something happened to it if we had some horses maybe nothing would go bad for you um the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has this great line and the people here or they're made peace with the vikings well they didn't just say you know you don't hurt us we won't hurt you made peace with the vikings means you know you say what do we need to give you for you to go somewhere else and and they tell them and they land in Kent but they quickly move up into another one of these kingdoms at the time called North Umbria you know right around where the major city of York is they're using the Roman roads too isn't
Starting point is 04:20:17 it wonderful that they can just sort of adopt the you know the way that the locals get from place to place on these wonderful roads that were made by people centuries ago and they just use them to get up to North Umbria where the vikings wonderful intelligence that they always seem to have has told them that there's you know civil war problems up north right a dynastic struggle things are going to be disorganized chaotic and that's just the kind of thing that vikings enjoy you know when they're looking for a place to strike right number one thing we're looking for you're not ready and it's a bad time for us to do this and in 865 866 it's a bad time for the people of North Umbria to get hit with a viking attack which coincidentally is exactly what happens the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
Starting point is 04:21:03 entry for the year 867 talks about this sort of dissension in the royal house of North Umbria mentions that the rival claimants to the throne decide to unite though in the face of the viking threat somehow and it doesn't tell you how this happens the vikings get inside the big city or the major city in that part of britain york within the walls occupying the city and then these North Umbrian claimants to the throne have to unite and try to retake their own city somehow I should say that when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle during this period says the army they mean the great heathen army until later when they'll start calling it the Danes which will just get more confusing so according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle though these rival claimants to the throne
Starting point is 04:21:56 quote returned to their allegiance and they were now fighting against the common enemy having collected a vast force with which they fought the army at york meaning the great army and breaking open the town some of them entered in then there was an immense slaughter of the North Umbrians some within and some without of the walls and both the kings were slain on the spot the survivors made peace with the army end quote the survivors made peace with the great heathen army this is one of those moments though that you really get these sorts of things in early medieval warfare where the kings fight and at the end of the battle you have dead kings on the battlefield or whatever passes for kings as we said that the whole king thing gets a little bit more exclusive
Starting point is 04:22:46 when you get to the high middle ages in this period there's a little bit more democratized you have more often you ran into kings in this era but still kings dead on the battlefield to North Umbrian claimants to the throne dead on the battlefield in 867 at the hands of the Vikings is shocking and gives them control of North Umbria which is a very different thing than deciding you're going to smash and grab and leave or you're going to overwinter in a little fortified you know long port on the coast this is conquest and there's always been some sort of inference that some of these kings deaths at the hands of the Vikings are not in battle but maybe more like executions you know on the field of battle
Starting point is 04:23:34 afterwards in cold blood and several of these kings that the Vikings will kill over their course of time in Britain will be executed perhaps some in the sagas for example if this is the Ragnar story as it was traditionally told then one of these kings from North Umbria who dies here is the guy who threw Ragnar into the snake pit so his sons find him and carve the old blood eagle on his back I split his rib cage from behind pull his lungs out it kind of looks like a bird's wingspan I was reading Max Adams he had a footnote that just said most historians are very skeptical of anything like that ever happening but certainly one would imagine given you know behavior after this event that it would be in keeping if the Vikings got their hands on one
Starting point is 04:24:23 of these kings that they would kill them on the spot we should go into how many people were talking about here since my early 1960s Gwen Jones quote there a moment ago said 500 to a thousand in his mind I think those numbers are obsolete the closer numbers that I've seen you know with my own biases thrown in right but but people throw around 4000 or 5000 Vikings and that seems logical for all sorts of different reasons but that's a lot of Vikings in one place at one time even though that's a minuscule army throughout most of history again a sign of the level of warfare and of you know infrastructure and capabilities and capacities in the early middle ages in this part of the world where a you know 5000 man Viking army is unstoppable
Starting point is 04:25:18 the contemporary leadership of a place like China or you know the empires in India or the Islamic world would consider that number to be something you dealt with as part of a police action in this part of the world it is overwhelming I have read multiple accounts from multiple good people who have different takes on what this is we used our analogy of a roving party led by some you know very organized and targeted and logistically sound leadership but there are people that will suggest everything from this is a giant raid for looting that just keeps going right until until it gets any natural pushback it just keeps flowing forward and others who suggest that this is an outright attempt at conquest conceived as such planned as such and carried out
Starting point is 04:26:21 as such now there's another theory that was floated around for a couple of decades pretty strongly in the last 30 or 40 years and that's the idea that maybe the violence has been overemphasized in this whole Viking thing and that maybe they came more as sort of peaceful settlers or immigrants or whatnot I think that's been discounted at least to a certain degree but I like the way Neil Price sort of fuses the traditional view of the Vikings as these you know conquest oriented super raiders and people who are you know looking for more of a migration and a new life and he calls it sort of an armed family migration and I thought to myself hmm there's a lot of times in history where you could describe something as an armed family migration and they're definitely at least
Starting point is 04:27:09 in my mind seem to be echoes of you know the American mythology of the pioneer conquest of the west you know with the covered wagon and all that and substitute a Viking longship for the covered wagon and like I said you could almost do a little bit of mad living here a little plug and play with those two societies. Price also has this absolutely fascinating and difficult to explain easily idea of this being kind of a social experiment perhaps these are theories I mean and he acknowledges all of this but a social experiment in the same way that someone you know traveling out west in the old American you know mythology might see it as a kind of a social experiment and we're going to start a new country we're going to do whatever it might be and
Starting point is 04:27:54 his his idea was that during this period as we've mentioned where governmental systems are changing and today we would look at it and say that personal freedom was you know being under threat because all of these people that were used to having a sort of decentralized farmer base but everybody sort of gets a vote in the all thing get together was being threatened by consolidation and Scandinavia was going to go all European and become a kingship and well we're out of there we're fleeing to the new world and for them the new world is Anglo-Saxon England amongst other places and they will keep just like the settlers in the old American west they'll keep going farther west won't they as time goes on it's also very possible that this starts one way and morphs
Starting point is 04:28:41 into something else that you get a clash of armed forces here for a while and then once things settle down the Vikings who are in Anglo-Saxon England send for their relatives you know we've got a little land taken we're off here in New York it's wonderful it's beautiful there's no glaciers anywhere to be seen come on over and bring some of your friends right we're going to settle this area this area initially is going to be Northumbria that the Vikings have just captured and Northumbria is going to be sort of ground zero for Vikingdom in this in the British Isles for quite some time it's a great sort of striking out spot to hit other places and during this time period there were four main kingdoms that make up Britain Northumbria which the Vikings have just
Starting point is 04:29:28 taken south of that Mercia over to the east of that east Anglia where the Vikings had originally landed made some sort of deal and became Horst and then Wessex ruled by King Ethelred in 868 which is the year after the initial taking of Northumbria they try to take the next kingdom over Mercia they do this by a method the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is going to say that they do over and over again fixing their winter quarters they call it it's essentially the moving of the concert venue in this sort of grateful dead motorhead analogy thing we have going and everyone comes in they fortify a camp sort of rather quickly and then the crowd moves in and then there they are right in the middle of your neighborhood in a fortified camp the interesting thing about these
Starting point is 04:30:18 camps is that they would give no trouble at all to any of the major powers during this era or any earlier ones it's not that sophisticated but in this time period and in this geographical area siege warfare is sort of you know at a low point and if the Vikings decided to you know put up some earthen mounds and some wood plashing on top of that you might as well just negotiate with them in an 868 the king of Mercia who had asked for help from the king of Wessex and who brought his army and so that both their armies sort of face off with the Vikings but the Vikings won't come out in play so the Mercians pay them to leave and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives the you know devastating you know sentence where it says over and over again by the way in its pages the Mercians made
Starting point is 04:31:08 peace with the army so the Vikings go back to their main base which is now Northumbria they'd put a puppet king on the throne but they do whatever they want the next year they sort of rest the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says in 869 this year the army went back to York and sat there a year I have one history book that says this was the a key time period for the second wave of this invasion to happen right the people that are going to turn conquest into country come and create the infrastructure provide I mean women children the whole thing right movable wealth who knows then in 870 the Viking army sets out from York crosses over Mercia and attacks the place where they originally landed East Anglia where they were hoarse so maybe the the deal lapsed by now
Starting point is 04:32:05 whatever they were paid or maybe this is just a breaking of whatever arrangement they had and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that in 870 quote this year the army rode over Mercia into East Anglia and they're fixed their winter quarters at Thetford and in the winter King Edmund fought with them but the Danes gained the victory and slew the king whereupon they overran all that land and destroyed all the monasteries to which they came the names of the leaders who slew the king were Hingvar and Hubba and at the same time they came to Medemstead burning and breaking and slaying Abbott and monks and all that they there found they made such a havoc there that a monastery which was before full rich was now reduced to nothing and quote
Starting point is 04:33:00 so they kill another king here the traditional story for this guy who he will be canonized and turned into a saint I believe is that he was tied up they the viking demanded that he renounces Christian faith when he didn't they shot him full of arrows and cut his head off as is usual for this era the evidence is fragmentary on the details but what's clear is the Vikings have killed yet another king in Britain and taken yet another territory so they now have Northumbria and East Anglia and now they set their sights on Wessex before they do in 870 the great heathen army breaks up or at least one chunk of it moves away that's the chunk that goes northward maybe under Ivar you hear sometimes attacks the Scottish kingdoms
Starting point is 04:33:58 and will eventually end up in Ireland fighting against other Vikings it's a wonderful part of the story the Irish as I may have said I don't know that they have names for the different Vikings that they run into because Ireland is originally one of these places that's heavy duty Norwegian Viking territory and there's a lot of crossover I mean these raiding parties often involve people who are just interested in fighting and they come from all over the place but basically Norwegians in Ireland and then Danes show up and the the Vikings are known to the Irish as the light haired pagans or the dark haired pagans and the light haired pagans are the Norse and the dark haired pagans are the Danes but they both involve themselves in Irish
Starting point is 04:34:42 politics will fight each other I mean the kings of Dublin are Norwegian brothers I believe and this part of the great heathen army will head on over to Ireland and fight there the remaining part will be reinforced there's going to be another group that shows up called the great summer army and these people head on over into Wessex to take on what will turn out to be the most formidable of all the kingdoms in Britain and 871 is going to be a key year in the whole affair it's known as the year of nine engagements and that gives you an idea of how many battles are fought the Vikings established their camp at a place called Redding and then they start facing off against the king of this region called Ethelred and his younger brother Alfred now the
Starting point is 04:35:38 sheer fact that they're mentioning the younger brother of the king as often as they're going to in this document should give us a clue that this document is not exactly an unbiased source it will actually be compiled a couple of decades after this era and the person who's going to be involved in its compiling is this Alfred guy so you already get a sense of you know we're shoving a very important person in this later story into this earlier story and making sure you know where he is in the earlier story here's the way the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has its entry for 871 which as you might imagine is one of its longer entries it goes on for a minute and then it says quote about four nights after this King Ethelred and Alfred his brother led their main army to Redding
Starting point is 04:36:25 where they fought with the enemy and there was much slaughter on either hand Alderman Ethelwolf being among the slain but the Danes kept possession of the field and about four nights after this King Ethelred and Alfred his brother fought with all the army on Ashdown and the Danes were overcome end quote then goes on to explain you know the tactics of this battle and apparently the Vikings got the high ground first and separated into two separate divisions you know two separate shield walls and so this was emulated on the other side and Ethelred commands one shield wall and Alfred the other as I was reading this story it has a sort of you know Alfred's a very important figure in British history arguably the most important I mean you could make a case this is the the father of
Starting point is 04:37:17 England and his story is in so many places positively Churchilian you know the 1940 version of Churchill we will fight on the beaches on the landings you know with the Vikings playing the parts of the Germans and I all of a sudden remembered that Churchill actually wrote about this era he published something called a history of the English-speaking peoples and he covered Alfred the Great in it and so I thought well I wonder if Winston Churchill's portrayal of Alfred the Great in history is Churchillian turns out it is this is Winston Churchill talking about Alfred the Great and it sounds like he could be talking about himself he writes quote the results of this victory did not break the power of the Danish army in a fortnight they were again in the field but the
Starting point is 04:38:11 battle of Ashdown justly takes its place among historic encounters because of the greatness of the issue if the West Saxons had been beaten all England would have sunk into heathen anarchy since they were victorious the hope still burned for a civilized Christian existence in this island this was the first time the invaders had been beaten in the field the last of the Saxon kingdoms had withstood the assault upon it Alfred had made the Saxons feel confidence in themselves again they could hold their own in an open fight the story of this conflict at Ashdown was for generations a treasured memory of the Saxon writers it was Alfred's first battle end quote it will hardly be his last in his classic 1950s work the age of faith historian Will Durant gives his life
Starting point is 04:39:07 the quick rundown when he says quote Alfred mounted the throne of west Saxony at the age of 22 Acer, a chronicler, describes him as then illiteratus which could mean either illiterate or Latin-less he was apparently epileptic and suffered a seizure at his wedding feast but he is pictured as a vigorous hunter handsome and graceful and surpassing his brothers in wisdom and martial skill a month after his accession he led his little army against the Danes at Wilton and was so badly defeated that to save his throne he had to buy peace from the foe but in 878 he won a decisive victory at Ethenden Eddington he says half the Danish host crossed the channel to raid weakened France the rest by the peace of Wedmore agreed to confine themselves to north
Starting point is 04:40:00 eastern England in what came to be called the Danelaw end quote I admire Durant's brevity there but the truth of the matter is the rest of Alfred the great's life is going to be trying to deal with this arch nemesis of his these Viking peoples either defending his territory from them or trying to reconquer the lands that they took from the English some of the Vikings at this time settled down and the sources talk about the Viking rulers in these territories parceling up the land and handing them out to you know members of these Viking groups that are like Oklahoma Sooners and the ones who want to settle down get a farm start a family do so the ones who want to continue living the Scandinavian version of Lovitaloka just sort of cross the channel looking for
Starting point is 04:40:56 softer targets and as fate would have it just as Anglo-Saxon England's getting tougher the places that drove them there in the first place when Charles the Bald played Superman and let those bullets bounce off his chest and hit Alfred's kingdom now ricochet off of Alfred right back to where they originally came from there are some primary source entries and most of the history books I have have suggested that the great heathen army can be tracked as it goes back over the English Channel to the continent and raises hell over there I've got some other histories that suggest that after the Alfred the great treaty you shouldn't call whatever's left the great heathen army anymore because of course as we said these Viking hosts have an organic sort of
Starting point is 04:41:42 flash mob kind of feel to them and pick up members and lose members all the time make alliances with other groups of Vikings that are squatting you know in territories that they move to these groups are very fluid and hard to you know keep track of what they're doing but when these Vikings make peace in Anglo-Saxon England and this is the pattern it the violence just crops up elsewhere whether it's the same band doing this or it just so happens I don't know maybe it's all the roving people looking for the next you know where's the next oil strike right where's the next gold rush um but in the early eight eighties you see it back in Frisia again and Frisia is always getting hit right because it's the modern day Netherlands as we said it's right by Denmark
Starting point is 04:42:30 so you're right there but this time in the early eight eighties the raids moved down into Germany way down into Germany I mean places like Cologne and Trier get hit uh famously ironically and symbolically the Vikings will stable their horses in the royal palace at Aachen where Charlemagne you know used to rule all this was recorded by Adam of Braemann a couple hundred years later he had access to a Danish king and supposedly you know this is what the Dane history said from a couple hundred years previously but the description follows a similar sort of an account that you will have heard in many of the places struck by the Vikings and Adam of Braemann writes quote then was Saxony laid waste by the Danes and North men Duke Bruno was killed with 12 other
Starting point is 04:43:21 counts and bishops Diethard and Markvard were slain at that time Frisia was depopulated and the city of Utrecht raised st. Radbad bishop of the town retired before the persecution fixed his sea at Deventer and taking his stand there took vengeance on the pagans with the sword of Anathema then the pirates set fire to Cologne and Trier they stabled their horses in the palace at Aachen the people of Mainz began to erect fortifications for fear of the barbarians why say more cities with their inhabitants bishops with their whole flocks were struck down at one time stately churches were burned with the faithful end quote now this is an interesting period in Carolingian history at this same time because this is the end of Carolingian history you get the last guy who
Starting point is 04:44:21 tries to put Humpty Dumpty back together again his name is Charles the fat and Charles the fat gets an army together goes up to this area confronts the Vikings in Germany and gives them like 24 2500 pounds of silver to stop oh and some land to settle on and they're going to convert to Christianity if you happen to be a person from Cologne for example or Trier or any one of these places who's just had their farm destroyed all your stuff stolen family members killed others taken into slavery and the emperor shows up with an army that can really deal with these people and I don't care what size Viking army you had they do not want to deal with anybody's royal army if they can avoid it I'm thinking this is the chance to show you what you get when you mess right with my
Starting point is 04:45:14 people right to pay back time and Charles the fat essentially looking like he knuckles under here obviously he's not going to play well now there is a sort of a back channel that there's always been a historical thought that maybe Charles the fat had something going on here that we don't know about and that maybe this is intelligent behavior if you understood his position at the time in a way that our sources don't allow us to understand it now I don't know but he's got a bad rap at least some people have said that he is the one of the most maligned figures in all Viking history because by paying off these Vikings like that it just displays weakness and as the evidence has already shown as it just showed in Anglo-Saxon England if you calm things down in
Starting point is 04:46:02 one area they're just going to go somewhere else and it turns out that somewhere else is in Charles the fat's empire also so all he's done is remove a problem from one area and send it to Paris this time and Paris is part of his realm too and Paris as we had said it already been hit multiple times in 845 the middle 840s maybe by Ragnar Lothbrok the 860s it gets hit a couple of times but the so-called siege of Paris from 885 to 886 is one of the more famous Viking incidents ever it is also one where we have an eyewitness account but it's a really difficult eyewitness account to use it's from a guy a monk actually called abo and he writes a piece that the translator of the version that I have calls a piece of magical realism where the ordinary he says becomes fully
Starting point is 04:47:05 charged with the otherworldly but that's not abnormal for the literature of the time period and this is a poem actually but it's a poem by a guy who watched the siege of Paris it's the first eyewitness account we have but it's not all that trustworthy I mean when the battle goes bad and the reason it turns around is because a couple of saints intervene well you know you need to take it maybe with a grain of salt right a piece of magical realism but the only piece of magical realism by an eyewitness so for example when abo describes a Viking climbing up a ladder getting a mixture of tar wax and oil that has been boiled poured on his head and his head explodes one can say that that's the sort of thing an eyewitness would know that maybe we can tease
Starting point is 04:48:02 out of the rest of the story that might be a little unbelievable but if you want to see the you know dilemma facing the Vikings here just go look at a satellite photo right now the island in the middle of the Sain it's the part of Paris that's the really old part where Notre Dame is and everything else and it's an island right in the middle of this river it's an ancient place recognized as important I mean Clovis the first king of the Franks had his throne there I believe I mean it's just it's sort of a seat of power area main sort of center of Paris even back during this time period and for 20 years ever since Charles the ball had said you know we're going to start a ready reaction force we're going to stop selling best weapons to the pagans and we're
Starting point is 04:48:51 going to create fortified bridges they've been working on fortified bridges right and there's one almost done here and there's another one made of wood that is done and those two connect this island in the Sain to the two banks of the river and the Vikings want through there now abo is called by some a surreal exaggerator uh del brook is merciless in saying his convoluted hexameters are not to be believed in any way shape or form but as I said sometimes you can pull out the little nuggets like what happens to someone's head when you pour boiling oil on it he says 700 ships show up in the river which is a huge exaggeration no matter how you slice it but these Vikings were making deals with local Viking groups on the scene and they often did these sort
Starting point is 04:49:43 of joint expedition arrangements and there may have been eight ten thousand Vikings which you know that's a ton of Vikings um supposedly they just want passage right to raid down river and according to abo who may have been in the room again what can we trust what can't we trust he's got his own reasons for writing this he says that the Viking warlord who he says is not a king but does command a lot of warriors shows up and and ask for the deal and um my translation of the Viking attacks on paris is by uh dr uh nirmal das and in it um the bishop spelled differently i'm just going to give him his traditional name which is joslin the other person in the story is count odoh who's important to it and then the Viking leader zigfried and in the poem abo says of this conversation
Starting point is 04:50:35 where the Viking leader shows up and basically says don't be a fool just let us go by we don't want any trouble with you uh i should also point out that abo doesn't describe these Vikings as sort of any sort of stereotypical barbarians loudish drunk brutes you know in uproarists i mean he calls them grim several times that's the translation grim man and he writes quote and when in two days these ships made landfall hard by the city zigfried did make his way to the great hall of the famed shepherd though king in name only he still commanded many warriors after bowing his head he addressed the bishop in these words oh joslin show mercy to yourself and the flock given you that you may not come to ruin grant our plea we ask you give us your
Starting point is 04:51:29 consent that we might go our way well beyond this city nothing in it shall we touch but shall preserve and safeguard all the honors that belong to you and odoh meaning count odoh who is the noblest of all counts and who is the future king end quote that should tell you right there that maybe you shouldn't trust this totally because you know how does zigfried know that count odoh is the future king nonetheless it gives you a sense of the feeling and as we said abo may have been there the response from bishop joslin and count odoh is part of the french tradition that's similar in vibe to the alfred tradition in britain right these are the heroes that stand up to the vikings when the major authorities like charles the fat won't right this is batman and this is the french
Starting point is 04:52:22 version of the time period and it's interesting that they are contemporaries of alfred right and abo writes the response the bishop and odoh have to this viking this grim man's demand is quote then the lord's bishop in greatest loyalty offered these words by our king charles have we been given this city to guard by him whose majestic realm spreads almost over the whole earth by the lord's will and who is king and master of the mighty the realm must not suffer by the destruction of this city but rather this city must save the realm and preserve the peace now if my chance these walls were entrusted to you as they are to us and you were asked to do all that you have asked of us would you deem it right and agree then zigfried answers by my honor rather my head
Starting point is 04:53:20 were lopped off by a sword and thrown to the dogs however if you do not agree to my requests we shall have our siege engines at daybreak hurl poisoned darts at you with sunset you shall know hunger's curse it shall go on for years thus having spoken he went his way and assembled his men end quote historians have no idea how many people this warlord commands the translator for my obo says that the number obo gives his 40 000 vikings versus 200 defenders should be discounted it's a religiously symbolic number not to be taken literally but once again that leaves us with no numbers my encyclopedia of military history says this is the high watermark of viking attacks on the continent you know against the formerly or current frankish empire i don't know
Starting point is 04:54:17 if that's exactly true but it's pretty safe to say that this is one of the largest groupings of vikings that the world has ever seen and eight to ten thousand seems very possible and that's a lot of vikings they have a camp nearby we are told by obo that they are raping pillaging taking slaves killing everybody in the vicinity he makes them sound over and over again like tokens orcs there's a lot of talking in this actually in the defense of the vikings though this is standard operating procedure in the pre-modern world much more normal to have this happen in a siege situation than not go back to your ancient Greece right where the traditional hoplite deal unwritten agreement is that if you hide behind your walls and say come and get us we can scour your territory right until
Starting point is 04:55:07 you decide to come out and fight for it the other thing in defense of the vikings here is that this is an army that has to feed itself where are they going to get the food from these aren't roman troops or chinese troops or you know troops that are going to have long supply chains that continually feed them from continually reinforced supply depots these people live off the land as napoleon and his revolutionary troops what that does to the land but these people in paris are kind of shut up especially in the one central island which we should imagine having an entire sort of early medieval stone wall around it with those two bridges that we talked about and the vikings are going to fight essentially a battle against fortifications and fortifications
Starting point is 04:55:53 are as we all know a force multiplier so if they outnumber the defenders by quite a bit it's not as big of a deal as if we were talking about a field battle here and in october november eight eighty five the vikings assault these defenses and if you want a sense of the rhythm the rhythm is is that there are several big pushes over the next eleven months and in between those pushes it settles down to sort of a typical blockade situation there's a lot of innovation that happens and a lot of it involves fire at one point the vikings will take i think the sources say three big ships load them with incendiary material light them on fire guide them down the river with ropes you know in both banks and try to steer it into the bridge
Starting point is 04:56:36 and at least burn up all the defenders there may be a clue into the building practices of the early middle ages when we find out that they've been working on the defenses here for 20 plus years and they're still not totally completed they build them really well but maybe it takes a long time the stone tower on the stone bridge is not quite done yet and this becomes a focal point in the early battle but you will read abo says about you'll read about them essentially dropping things on the vikings all the time as the vikings have ladders or on ships below the bridge and they're trying to make their way up at one point that giant wheel and it makes it sound like it's massive is thrown over the side and abo says it crushes six vikings who are then dragged back to the boats
Starting point is 04:57:20 where they're apparently keeping the corpses the mixture of pitch wax and oil that is boiled and thrown over the side we talked about it earlier to me the most interesting part of that part of abo's poem is that the soldiers on both sides talk to each other during the fighting and I forget that this happens but in an era where people were close enough to do that I guess it's only natural what would you say to somebody you were trying to kill or that was trying to kill you and abo has another interesting line I had to read the translation several times and I hope I got it right but I had thought it was one person that was yelling stuff from the christian side to the viking side but abo makes it pretty clear that this is like a group chant which begs the question
Starting point is 04:58:05 how did these people know what to say so they must have said it multiple times and and the way he writes it makes it sound almost like a sports chant like a soccer chant and like every time that they throw the cauldron of boiling you know pitch or whatever over the side and scorch a viking they all yell the same thing here's a taste of the battle as abo describes it talking about the viking assault on that unfinished tower and they made a lot of progress one day and then they go to sleep come back for the next day to continue where they left off only to find that the people of paris have come out with their hammers and chisels and nails and everything and with wood instead of stone rebuilt a lot of what the vikings destroyed the day before so here's how the story
Starting point is 04:58:44 goes from abo quote now the tower did not shine forth with all its magnificence for it was far from finished but its foundations were solid and stood firmly grounded proudly it rose its krenels were sound during the night that followed after the battle had ended a wooden tear was built all the way around the tower raised atop the old bastion and half as high as before thus together the sun and the danes beheld this new tower the latter were soon locked in a frightful fight with the faithful meaning the christians arrows flew here there through the air blood gushed and flowed darts stones and javelins were hurled by balista and slingshots nothing was seen between heaven and earth but these projectiles the many arrows made the tower built in the night grown out
Starting point is 04:59:38 it was the night that gave it birth as i have chanted above fear seized the city people screamed battle horns resounded calling everyone to come and protect the trembling tower christians fought and ran about trying to resist the assault end quote he then talks about how amazing victorius odo as he calls the count was again this is batman stepping in when the central authority is either you know too corrupt too ignorant or too hapless to step in and do their job and he comes in and he's he's everywhere to be seen once bishop joslin dies apparently of disease it's odo all the time he's as we said a little bit like alfred the great in england at this moment abo says of him quote he fortified those who were exhausted revived their strength and rushed on
Starting point is 05:00:31 about the tower striking down the enemy as for those who sought to dig beneath the walls with iron picks he served them up with oil and wax and pitch which was all mixed up together and made into a hot liquid on a furnace which burned the hair of the danes made their skull split open indeed many of them died and others went and sought out the river and then our men with one voice my emphasis with one voice loudly exclaimed right badly scorched are you end quote to make matters worse if you are a blistering dying viking and you retire towards your ships in the hopes you can get a little medical attention or whatnot it turns out abo says their wives are there but instead of being in a mood to you know moisten their brow give them some water you know and
Starting point is 05:01:22 comfort them they're heckling them basically saying what the heck is this why are you coming back here get back in the fight you wimp you know that kind of thing now you'd be inclined to discount this as some sort of exaggeration or weird invention of abos except it actually fits as a data point in a long-running amount of historical evidence we have for at least pagan germanic women doing this and maybe even a broader section of europeans going back to Celtic times doing this where the the wives and the women of the group are there at the battle in fact the Icelandic sagas of the viking era from later in this period actually say the same thing so this is another data point that suggests that the wives are there and in the old germanic
Starting point is 05:02:09 tales by the romans there were wagons that were behind the battlefield and the and the wives were there here it's the ships that play the same role and the women have several different approaches they can use this is the the one you see all the time the heckling but they also have the ones you know the roman things they would bear their breasts and tell their loved ones what would happen to them if they lost this battle and the other side conquered them right think about what will happen to your family that's here i mean would you fight harder if your family was at the battlefield you were fighting on and finally the last thing that sometimes the women in these situations do is actually do what you would hope if you were a viking that they would do
Starting point is 05:02:45 moisten your brow give you something cool to drink and maybe give you some food and and nurture injuries but not this time abo says that they're heckling sort of goaded them in back into the cauldron in the fight there is a ton of almost like commando activity maybe is the best way to describe it that happens between the big attacks you know people will scale the walls in one spot you know a couple dozen and then a couple dozen of the defenders have to take them on so there's a bunch of force 10 from navarone stuff in this abo including the way that they eventually solve the problem because the batman count odo character is going to slip out of the blockade get all the way back to the command palace of you know the emperor himself charles the fatter if you want
Starting point is 05:03:31 to be a little kinder charles the stout says please come and help paris he's inclined not to the sources say but has some advisors say it would look really bad if you just let the vikings do this so he goes through the laborious slow process of putting a royal army together the laborious slow process of having it make having it make its way up to where the battle is happening then they establish a camp there and they start killing every viking that they find outside the viking camp and now you have a bit of a face off right royal camp with charles the fat viking enclosure nearby and then of course you know paris under siege and bodies rotting in the sun which is going to equal disease you're not going to want to have to sit there very long waiting for
Starting point is 05:04:16 something to happen when people are dying as i said bishop jocelyn supposedly dies from disease so the vikings make a deal with charles the fat and it's the exact same sort of deal it sounds like that they asked for before this entire 11 month siege even started in other words the vikings got the same deal that they asked for originally and the emperor gives it to them can you imagine how the people of paris having endured 11 months of this feel when the royal army finally shows up and you have a chance to chastise the people who've inflicted this pain and suffering on you and instead he gives them a bunch of silver and lets them continue down past the now broken and destroyed bridges of paris down the same to raise havoc deeper into the interior of france right the
Starting point is 05:05:04 things that bishop jocelyn abo says had said we have a responsibility we have to protect france and the deal the emperor says is i'll give you a bunch of silver and you can go raid these people in burgundy who are in revolt against me anyway this will contribute to the fall eventually of charles the fat whose empire is going to splinter into multiple kingdoms and the guy who gets to be the king of this part of the former carolingian empire is going to be count oddo who is going to start his own royal line in french history which is one of the more again one can make a case that this is like the founding foundations of france charlemagne would be another one of those possible candidates for that title by the time count oddo becomes king oddo in france in the late
Starting point is 05:05:54 eight eighties the spike in the piracy stock market that we call the viking age had been going on for a hundred years and the economic costs are unquantifiable if we want to get a little teeny window into what the cost might look like historian dan jones in his book powers and thrones quotes another historian who estimates that 14 percent of all the silver pennies minted by the entire frankish empire over the entire century of the eight hundreds went to pay off the vikings just for protection money just for go away funds right doesn't include any of the money the vikings directly stole or looted in their many many many attacks doesn't include any of the money that the empire had to spend to defend themselves or fight the vikings doesn't include any of the
Starting point is 05:06:52 lost productivity or emotional costs of all the people the vikings killed or stole and sold into slavery 14 percent of all the silver pennies in direct payments for protection sometimes when you see estimates of what organized crime drains away from a society's economy kind of looks similar doesn't it in some societies anyway nonetheless you would think that with the nine hundreds approaching that finally after a hundred years of steel sharpening steel and weeding out the incompetence and bringing the effective people to the fore that things would look good for the traditional opponents of the vikings here right king odo and france and alfred in anglo sax in england but by about 900 901 902 both guys are dead and in fact you know the batman that is king odo will live to
Starting point is 05:07:42 eventually see the hero become the villain when he will disappoint his fanboy obo and pay off the vikings himself at one point right pulling a charles the fat if you will it just shows how unavoidable it was sometimes but if you're looking at this in 900 you can't help but notice that these viking groups that had been disjointed fragmentary groups of people under warlords or chieftains are starting more and more to unite into more viable larger economic and political entities they're in the process of state building and they're getting stronger all the time it's almost like you can hear the ominous darth vader music in the distance approaching alfred dead odo dead the vikings consolidating the nine hundreds looks particularly scary if you are a viking opponent
Starting point is 05:08:37 the weird part about this era though is you could also apply a sort of a rachamon lens here and say that if you're a viking you may be hearing ominous darth vader music going into the nine hundreds as well we quoted a couple of recent historians who point out that the vikings in this period were well aware that their culture and belief system and way of life was under siege they are by 900 an endangered species the cultural equivalent of a white rhino a representation of a style of germanic language paganism on its way out in the last convulsions of its dying days soon to see its values supplanted and its gods abandoned but even if you have mortally wounded a white rhino doesn't mean you still can't be gored
Starting point is 05:09:49 so far as far as we've been discussing elves and trolls and sorcery and female spirits inhabiting all viking peoples don't seem to have played a huge role in the story but if that's the framework that your reality is constructed upon it's hard to tease out exactly what kind of an important role it plays in the worldview of a people who in some cases are fighting to preserve a worldview the nine hundreds in the period we're entering in now is in books like gwen jones's viking history book the one i grew up with this is the period where he really starts the conversation and everything we've already talked about is almost like prehistory which should tell you something
Starting point is 05:10:42 in part two we'll get into a little bit of the material troubling difficult um and strange as it is that gives the viking soul at least a little bit of a chance to sing that and some runes and a long ship or two and you can get very far in the world and in part two we'll see exactly how far the vikings get before that wave breaks and is rolled over by the exact same opponent that rolled over all of these people's precursors the end of a process that's been going on since the roman republic all that and more in part two of twilight of the iser
Starting point is 05:11:34 i've always said i'm an uncomfortable pitchman because i really need to like or use whatever it is that i'm talking about and i seem to like or use few things these days but i do use this or at least i use the first version of this then i use the second version of this and in february 2023 the third version of this is coming out and i will instantly snap it up sight unseen and i haven't seen it i've got a list of features that are going to be involved with it but it doesn't matter to me i know i know what i'm getting here i almost feel like this ad should just be me saying hey company of heroes three is coming out in february 2023 some some products sell themselves and to me this is one of those games that at least for my standpoint i
Starting point is 05:12:24 can't stop playing i mean the company of heroes two has been around quite a while and i'm still playing it and they have all these mods that people create so there's this endless sort of growth tree that comes off of at least you know one and two where it just seems to never get old never get stale and once you have sort of your base foundation there you can play it for years and i'm living proof of that i mean i'm told that the graphics are better i like the graphics on two i'm going to like the graphics on three legendary battles that they're including are going to be like l lamin the landings at anzio the modic casino struggle in in the central idli area they have some things that i don't know what they do but i'm excited about them a turn-based
Starting point is 05:13:07 dynamic campaign map so that sounds strategic to me that'll be fun something that they call a full tactical pause feature again i'm all ears they have one thing under a heading here i'm just going to read it verbatim it says lead both the deuchess africa core in their assault across libya and the allied war effort to liberate the italian peninsula in our biggest single player offering to date excited about that i'm easy to excited about this game though like i said i've been playing it for years and i played the precursors to this game which are some of the greatest games that have ever been invented for pc platforms anywhere so um like i said i feel like i should just be saying that it's coming out in february 23 get yours in february there's a tease here for
Starting point is 05:13:56 the graphics i think when it says battle from the sweeping deserts and oases of north africa to the sleepy fishing villages and rolling mountains of idli okay i'm in company of heroes three you'll be out in february 2023 get yours and let me know what you think and um you know i should have i should have mine by february right i'm not waiting till march

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