Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - Show 70 - Twilight of the Aesir II

Episode Date: November 19, 2023

Pagan Viking Sea Kings spend the 10th and 11th centuries morphing into Christian monarchs. But with rulers like Harald Bluetooth and Svein Forkbeard it's debatable whether things will be any less horr...ific for Scandinavia's neighbors

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Today's show is part two of a two-part series on the spread of Christianity to the far north of Europe and the last holdouts who still believe in the ancient pagan Germanic gods of the Norse sagas, the Odins and the Thoris and people like that. If you didn't happen to hear part one, you might want to catch that before you hear this show. Both shows are actually a continuation of our 2012 series called Thor's Angels. And if you want that, that's available for a nominal fee from our website. One last thing, stay tuned at the end of today's show for some announcements of live appearances. I might be making it a town near you.
Starting point is 00:00:37 So without further ado, let's kick off today's ending of our two-part series here with Twilight of the IZ-Earth Part 2. The Sumbus 7th... It's history. 1941. A date which will live in infamous... The events. A foreign small staff for man. Born by a police for man's time.
Starting point is 00:01:13 The figures would have fighting doubt. Not quite the noise of the word going. Humanities from this time and place. I take pride in the words the drama isp in I, the drama is being I'm the alien Mr. Walpatross tear down this world The deep questions
Starting point is 00:01:39 I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their presidents are corrupt. Well, I'm not a croc. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. It's hardcore history. Parallel universes, simulation theory, infinite world hypotheses, other dimensions. I'm not smart enough to understand these concepts, but I have been fascinated by them ever since I was first exposed to the ideas. Obviously, these are concepts that people like physicists study. Another reason I wouldn't understand them,
Starting point is 00:02:33 could never understand the math where you just take it to face value. But I've often wondered if such concepts couldn't explain or put some sort of a scientific sort of patina, or as they would say in the UK patina, on top of some of the ancient beliefs that earlier people had, that they talked about in ways that have come down to us as fairy stories, or myths legends or folklore that would be much more easy for us to grasp and accept. If some physicist explained it to us as something that was a part of another dimensional realm or a parallel universe or something connected to a physicist type theory that sounds a lot more logical and acceptable than talking about the existence of something like elves or trolls or, of course, magic. Sometimes I wonder if earlier peoples couldn't understand those higher concepts.
Starting point is 00:03:45 How would they explain things in their world that they saw or thought they saw or believed in? As we've said before, if a lot of people believe in something like magic fervently, doesn't that create a reality in all its own? There's something known as the tinkerbell effect. Maybe you've heard of it. If you remember the Walt Disney production of Peter Pan, there's this moment where you have to believe in tinkerbell or tinkerbell is gonna die.
Starting point is 00:04:21 If you go look up the definition of it, it describes the phenomenon of thinking something exists because people believe it exists. Right? Magic sorcery. elves, dwarves, trolls, valkyries, norns. These are Viking belief systems, things that they believed in. Wouldn't it be interesting if it turned out someday that these were their representations of things that a physicist could explain in scientific terms? One of my favorite parts of any Shakespeare play, and I'm not alone in this, is the earliest part of Hamlet, where you have this moment where the Night Watch comes and tells Hamlet and Horatio is somewhat skeptical. We would call him today more of a scientific, you know,
Starting point is 00:05:02 Terra firma kind of guy. And the night watch tells Hamlet that the ghost of his father has just appeared. So Hamlet and Horatio run up to the battlements and sure enough the ghost appears. An Horatio in his wonderfully skeptical, but can't deny what he's seeing in front of him sort of way is stunned. Doesn't believe in ghosts and says, Oh, day and night, but this is wondrous strange. Then Hamlet replies with that wonderful line that I feel covers a lot of what we just said.
Starting point is 00:05:32 He says, there are more things in heaven and earth or ratio than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Suggesting, of course, that the human imagination is limited. And there are many things we don't know, things that haven't been discovered. And in fact, things we don't know, things that haven't been discovered. And in fact, things we haven't even dreamt of. As we've said about magic before, what happens if lots of people believe in it and act on it? Magic might not be real, but the effects are. If some king goes to the oracle at Delphi in the ancient world and asked the, you know, the, the prophetess on the
Starting point is 00:06:06 Oracle's seat, you know, should I go and attack this rival kingdom and the prophetess says, yes, you should go attack this kingdom. And he does. Well, that may be a bunch of bunk, but he acted on it. And people died and kingdoms rose or fell because of it. How real does that make the magic? and kingdoms rose or fell because of it, how real does that make the magic? If you believe yourself to be cursed and then things start going wrong, does that double down on this belief that you're cursed? And does your mind start working on against you? I mean, there's a lot of things here where the human mind can interact with belief in a way that manifests a kind of reality that even if it is a phantom sort of reality at its core, manifests in real world consequences.
Starting point is 00:06:54 Maybe the effect of the human mind and positive or negative thinking is just as much of a physicist's undiscovered country as parallel universes, simulation theory, infinite world hypotheses, or other dimensions. But when you talk about what the people in the Viking world believed in elves and dwarves and trolls and valkyries and norns. They also believed in beings like giants, who they believed were an integral part of the creation of the universe and may not have been these overly large beings that we normally associate with the term, just like their view of dwarves, may not have involved beings who were smaller than human in stature. But many of these beings constituted what historian Neil Price in his book The Viking Way refers
Starting point is 00:07:55 to as the Invisible Population. And he says that to many in the Viking world, the invisible population of things like elves may have been more important to their daily life than the gods themselves. Because in a polytheistic religion, the gods had their own problems, and people were just one of the things that they may have been concerned with.
Starting point is 00:08:21 This is difficult for those of us raised in an environment of monotheism to understand, just like trying to get your mind around a belief system that may not have been orthodox and may not have been learned and may not have been understood by everyone similarly, right? They didn't all read the Bible and learn in Sunday school how things were. People just had an innate understanding, and it could differ person to person in the Viking way. Neal Price writes, quote, In the same spirit as Philip Velikot's description of the gods of classical Greece,
Starting point is 00:08:54 the worship, in air quotes, required by the Norse pantheon, was not adoration or gratitude, or even unreserved approval, and was thus utterly unlike the Christian relationship to the divine. The religion of the Isaiah and the Vaniar demanded only a recognition that they existed as an integral and immutable part of human nature and society, and of the natural world, and that is such they possessed an inherent rightness, perhaps even a kind of beauty. If one wish to avoid disaster, it was necessary to come to terms with the gods, and the terms would be theirs, not those of their followers. This is an important point in relation to the
Starting point is 00:09:36 interpretations he writes that I will develop in the following chapters, because I refuse ill to acknowledge the gods in this way could have dire consequences. It would also involve a contradiction, as such an act would be a denial of the undeniable. The question of believing in the Norse gods was probably irrelevant." Price also points out that there wasn't the sort of orthodoxy of belief that we are accustomed to in the more monotheistic religions, no Sunday school, no singular text that everyone could study and be on the same page with. There might be quite a bit of variation in the belief systems. Also, unlike the religions of the book, you could not automatically assume that the deities were on your side because they had their own problems, their own goals, and their own
Starting point is 00:10:38 issues that they were involved with, you might be a secondary or even lower on the list concern. Odin, who is sometimes considered to be the chief of the gods, but maybe not, Odin is the perfect example, right? It is said that you have to be careful because Odin can be tricky. He might sleep with a man's wife, or he might sleep with the wife's husband. These are not the sort of things one in the religions of the book need to worry about. Odin is a fantastically interesting figure that when you contrast it with the monotheistic religions, shows many of the various differences. I mean, famously, the God of the Bible is supposed to know when any sparrow falls from a tree.
Starting point is 00:11:32 Odin doesn't. Odin has a couple of ravens that he keeps for reconnaissance purposes. One is named mind the other memory. Sometimes you'll hear one is named thought too. You'll run into that neoprises mind and memory of the translations that he would ascribe to and these ravens go out in the world and report back to Odin so that he can know when some sparrow falls if he even cares about something like that. Odin also has powers and magic that he can use to gain further information. Again, one would assume that the God of the Bible has this information.
Starting point is 00:12:14 Odin needs to search for things like wisdom. He gave up an eye in his pursuit of wisdom. That's why he only has one. He's known by perhaps hundreds of different names, and one of the powers that he has and uses all the time, is he talks to dead people. He goes up to the bodies that are hanging on the gallows after someone is hanged, and he talks to them. He raises the dead so that he can question them. He has the decapitated head of another God that he has preserved and keeps with him so that he can ask it questions.
Starting point is 00:12:57 It reminds me a little of like a very gory version of a Harry Potter painting, where you can ask the figures in the painting for information. Odin talks to the head. There is no clear separation of powers and authorities and responsibilities amongst the gods. There's overlap, for example, Odin and Thor. Thor is Odin's son, and you know, from the comic books and movies and stuff, Thor is very famous
Starting point is 00:13:25 But Thor the god of thunder and weather also rules a part of military affairs war the actual brute strength of fighting Whereas his father Odin is the strategist and the god of that also apparently the god of Berserk kind of fanaticism Odin also Get slammed sometimes for using things like magic because in the Norse religious beliefs and society, magic is where the women shine. It's a female thing to do. And there is in one of the Norse sagas, Loki, who was thought to be the son of a god and
Starting point is 00:14:03 a giant, or a giantist, Loki sort of takes a slam at Odin by saying the fact that he practices magic is perverted and makes him feminine. But this is part of what makes women so both respected and in some cases veered. They are spell weavers and shaman and sorceresses, the three women who supposedly weave the destinies of human beings, the norns fall into this category. And there are some who think that there are similarities between many of the different European pre-Christian mythologies, because there are figures in Greek mythology, for example, the famous fates. And the names are similar, the three women.
Starting point is 00:14:51 One is named something akin to a version that means the past. Another is named with a version that means something like the present. And another is named with a version that means something like the future. It's sort of like Ebenezer's Scrooge is a Christmas Carol's Ghosts, Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future. The norms are somewhat more terrifying and some of the mythology suggests that they weave the fate of mankind on a loom with the intervals or bloody body parts of human beings.
Starting point is 00:15:27 I've also heard that ascribed to Valkyries. And Valkyries also have been completely distorted by things like comic books and male fantasies into sort of Scandinavian versions of Baywatch women that a man might watch and admire and lust after when the actual accounts from the sagas and whatnot describe looking at a valkyrie as terrifying and akin to staring into flame. The entire universe in North mythology is held together or girded by a tree, an evergreen ash tree known as Iggdrasil. And the Norns care for Iggdrasil, and Iggdrasil sometimes thought by some to refer to sort of a version of the Milky Way.
Starting point is 00:16:28 And Iggressil connects the various realms of existence. This gets us back to our physicist idea of other dimensions or multiple world theories. I mean, Iggressil connects like a interstate highway places like Midgard, which is where human beings live, and which is the term JRR Tolkien used and translated into Middle-Earth, connects Midgard to Asgard, and Midgard and Asgard to the realm of the giant Yodonheim, and the land of Midgard and Asgard and Yodonheim to the lands of fire and ice and all the other different realms. There's an interesting connection between ancient Germanic religion across Europe and this question of this sacred tree because when the Christian bishops are going around trying to convert people like the Saxons or other Germanic
Starting point is 00:17:26 tribes or the Freesians or any of those people. They all sort of have a tree that is connected to their worship. In fact, hundreds of years before when Tacitus is writing about Germanic beliefs, he talks about sacred trees in sacred groves, where they have sacrifices that involve the bloody killings of human beings and animals who are then ritually hung up around sacred sites. In his 11th century writings, Adam of Brahmins, who has, as his source, a Danish king, talks about one of these sacrificial places at Upsala in what's now Sweden. And by the way, when Adam of Brahmins says, Woden, that's the more Germanic version of the name Odin, when he says Friko, he means Frey, or Frey, and when he says Bjorko,
Starting point is 00:18:24 when he's talking about a city, he means the city of Berkho, which is the trade center in the island in the middle of a lake that's so famous, and he says, quote, that folk, meaning the Swedes, has a very famous temple called Upsala situated not far from the city of Sikterna and Biorco. In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the city of Sikterna and Bjorko. In this temple entirely decked out in gold, the people worshiped the statues of three gods, in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber. Woden and Friko have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows.
Starting point is 00:19:03 Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Woden, that is, the furious, carries on war and imparts to man's strength against his enemies. The third is Frico, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense fallace, but woe'd in their chisel armed, as our people are want to represent
Starting point is 00:19:32 Mars. Thor, with his scepter, apparently resembles Jove. The people also worship heroes, made gods, whom they endow with immortality because of their remarkable exploits." End quote. The sceptre that he says Thor has is probably the famous hammer, y'all near. Adam of Brahmins then describes what the sacrifice of these various places is like, and he writes quote. various places as like." The sacrifices of this nature, of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads, with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in a sacred grove that adjoins the temple. Now this grove is so sacred in the
Starting point is 00:20:22 eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrification of the victims, even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian 72 years old told me that he had seen the bodies suspended promiscuously. Furthermore, the incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly, therefore it is better to keep silence about them." End quote. Given how little is actually known about what went on at these sorts of Viking religious
Starting point is 00:21:00 ceremonies, one wishes Adam of Braemen wouldn't have been so scared or horrified, and could have told us what the Danish king told him about them. But Adam of Brahmins response to this is what you would have expected for most Christians of the Middle Ages, who would have seen these Viking ceremonies as little more than satanic rituals designed to play Kate or even conjure devils and demons, and the people involved in them as folk who were headed for the fiery pits of damnation. Viking expert and University of Oslo historian John Vardar Sigurdson in his book Scandinavia in the age of Vikings points out two interesting facts about the Scandinavians in this era and their belief system. He says that the worship of deities like Thor and Odin is part of an ethnic religion,
Starting point is 00:21:54 meaning it applied to a specific people, contrast that with something like Christianity, which is a universal religion. Islam is, too, the idea that anyone can convert to this, and it applies equally well to the people who are in the world. contrast that with something like Christianity, which is a universal religion. Islam is too, the idea that anyone can convert to this, and it applies equally well to people all over the world. Sighritson points out that that's not how the Scandinavians would have seen their gods. Their gods were exactly that. They are gods. Sighritson also says that you could classify this religion as an elite religion, meaning the people that communicated with the gods were people like the kings.
Starting point is 00:22:29 And this is key because the biggest threat to this religion in this time period is people like Adam of Brahmins, who simply want to keep these people from the fiery pits of hell and stop them from worshipping demons and devils, but to the people of Scandinavia, it's the same as saying that you want to kill their gods and destroy their worldview and make them stop believing in the traditional spirits and the invisible population, the elves, the dwarves, and yes, the giants and the valkyries. And as we said in part one, the Christian assault against the traditional Viking beliefs is a two-pronged one, both from above and below. They're able to find inroads in the Viking world through the Christian slaves that the Vikings take who can't help but
Starting point is 00:23:26 Share their belief system with their slave masters and also through the elite As Sigurdson said these are the people who communicate with the gods Well, what if you convert those people and you can see exactly what happens if you look From a little earlier in this story when Charlemagne and his Frankish Christians are able to use this same sort of tendency among the German peoples of Saxony to achieve the same sort of result, the long-standing tactic of converting the kings to Christianity who then take their people with them. But make no mistake about it. Odin, Thor, and the rest of the Norse pantheon
Starting point is 00:24:08 are fighting a defensive rearguard action against the most dangerous foes these gods have ever faced. And it's not the giants and the eventual destruction of Ragnarok, it's the Christian God and the many powerful states and their armies who go to war under that banner. But the followers of Odin are not the only peoples who feel threatened during this era. The people that threaten the people of Odin are themselves beset by the portance of doom in their near future. The Christian states of Europe, and their power is more latent than manifest in this era. And we see it more clearly than the people living through this time period right around 899, 900 ADCE when Alfred the Great died. We see it more clearly than they do. Because like patrons at a movie theater who've already read the book, the movie is based on, we know how the 900s are going to go for Europe,
Starting point is 00:25:28 We know how the 900s are going to go for Europe, the people in Europe during the 900s don't. And they see a quadruple threat on their horizon, the first of which has been plaguing them for more than 100 years by this time period. The Scandinavian Vikings have gone from smash and grab piracy raids to full-on colonization and settlement. Historian Neoprised suggests that there were 40 to 50,000 danes taking up residence in Britain during this time, and they control about half the island. It's called the Dane Law. They are settling elsewhere as well.
Starting point is 00:26:08 In addition, the long running feud between Islam and Christianity takes a decidedly negative turn during this time period in the Mediterranean, where the island of Sicily, which had been attacked and temporarily occupied by Vikings at one point is finally swamped and overwhelmed by Arab conquerors from North Africa. And by 902 they control the island and they are putting great pressure on the Christian Byzantines in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Add to that the latest and newest threat from the Eurasian step-breaking, like a tsunami on the defenses of Central Europe and penetrating them, the Magyar Hungarian
Starting point is 00:26:53 peoples who were raid into Bavaria and then finally into southern France. And as Tom Holland in his wonderful book, The Forge of Christendom points out, perhaps the greatest threat looming on the horizon for Christians in 900 ADC is coming. At the appointed date, a hundred years in the future, when the long-awaited, promised appearance of the anti-Christ is expected, like a giant, exponentially worse version of the Y2K virus from the year 2000. All of those things together create a climate of pessimism and negativity that shows up in the sources in his classic work, The Age of Faith, Historian Will Durant, in a condensed and edited account from a, it appears, monk in Southern France
Starting point is 00:27:54 gives a sense of the feeling when that monk writes, quote, The cities are depopulated. The monasteries ruined and burned. The country reduced to solitude. As the first men live without law, so now every man does what seems good in his own eyes, despising laws, human and divine. The strong oppressed the weak, the world is full of violence against the poor, and of the plunder of ecclesiastical goods, men devour one another like the fishes
Starting point is 00:28:26 in the sea." End quote. Now, as I always say, I'm addicted to context, and I also have a background in journalism, which some people have said, is the first draft of history? And there have always been criticisms about journalism. For example, one is the idea that stories get chosen because of their shocking or violent nature. Maybe you've heard the phrase, if it bleeds, it leads. Well, maybe there's a little of that going on in this story too, because right after he uses that quote, we just cited the one about the men devouring each other like
Starting point is 00:29:05 fishes in the sea. Will Durant in his nearly 75-year-old history notices that maybe there's a little trick history is playing on us about this as well. Maybe it's a case of historically speaking, something bleeding and so making the history of books more than the much more boring stuff like peace and commerce and happiness." And he writes, quote, Perhaps we exaggerate the damage done by the Norse and Maggyar raids.
Starting point is 00:29:37 To crowd them into a page for brevity's sake, darkens unduly the picture of a life in which there were doubtless intervals of security and peace. Monasteries continue to be built throughout this terrible 9th century, he writes, and were often the centers of busy industry. Rua, despite raids and fires, grew stronger from trade with Britain, Cologne and Mainz, dominated commerce on the Rhine, and in Flanders, thriving centers of industry and trade developed." End quote. There's another line we used to have in the news business, and it was that another story
Starting point is 00:30:16 is killed by overchecking. And what that meant is something that appeared to be a really good, scintillating tale. The more you looked into it, the less scintillating it appeared to be a really good, centillating tale. The more you looked into it, the less centillating it appeared to be. There's a case to be made that this very discussion on the Vikings falls into this category because Hollywood and accounts like Hollywood have so transformed the Vikings
Starting point is 00:30:38 into this uniquely barbaric and terrible entity that almost anything you do to put a more accurate sort of cast on top of them makes them look well less worthy of leading because of the lack of bleeding, if you will. Also because I'm addicted to context, the other reason that the Vikings look less outrageous, the more you dive into this time period is because compared to the people there up against, they don't look anywhere near as barbaric. Right.
Starting point is 00:31:14 They may score a 10 out of 10 on the barbarity scale, but what Hollywood doesn't often show is that the people they're fighting would often score a nine or an eight on the barbarity scale, right? Take the opponents of these Viking Raiders in Europe, the proto-nights, as I like to call them. These horsemen from Western and Central Europe, who several hundred years after this time period will take all sorts of vows to protect the weak and the poor, well, they need to take those vows because that contrasts greatly with the behavior of the proto-nites in this era. People, Tom Holland, and his book, The Forge of Christendom Labels, a gang of male clad thugs
Starting point is 00:32:00 who prey on the peasantry of Europe in ways that make them sound little different than the Viking attacks, in the forge of Christendom, Tom Holland writes about these gangs of male clad thugs, quote, Month by month, season by season, year by year their exactions grew ever worse. How gruesomely apt it was that their favorite mode of torture should have been a garriding chain. Notorious for inflicting upon its victims, not quoting a contemporary source, not one but a thousand deaths. He continues, a literal tightening of the screws, robberies too, and rapes and kidnappings all were deployed with a brutal gusto by hit squads determined
Starting point is 00:32:47 to trample underfoot every last vestige of independence in the countryside, and to reduce even the most prosperous of peasants to servitude." End quote. As the old line goes with friends like that who needs enemies. And if your enemies are barbaric, how much less do they stand out when your friends are pretty barbaric too? In the 900s, the era we are in this story, they will be such a reaction to the depredations of these gangs of male-clad thugs that a movement that I was surprised to read is considered one of the greatest peace movements in world history will get going.
Starting point is 00:33:33 It's known as the Peace of God. But in the early 900s, we're still seeing the sorts of activities that will create the equal and opposite reaction that leads to that movement in another century. This is the era of the Castalans, as they're known, and Holland talks a lot about them. Local warlords who put up what we were considered today to be rudimentary, small, primitive-type castles wherever they can, and then fleece the local area that they could now control using these castles and use the money to hire more and more gangs of male-clad thugs. And to show how history can be seen in multiple different ways, there are different ways to view this development, whether it's positive or negative. Let's go back to Charlemagne in the late 700s with a United Europe, which won't happen again for a thousand years after Charlemagne's time. It'll take Napoleon in the late 1700s, early 1800s through war to unite Europe similarly
Starting point is 00:34:40 again. This is often seen as a golden age by people who laud all the benefits of centralization and who see the disintegration of that empire as a terrible tragedy and the fragmentation of it as something that invited things like Viking attacks, right? When you have something we would call today a failed state, well, that invites terrorism, doesn't it? And war, Lord, is them. And the era that is the one that Europe is going into now is often a chapter of a book that calls it the rise of the dukes. Well, who are these dukes and counts and lords and barons? Well, these are the castalans and the more glorified, more decorated castalans
Starting point is 00:35:24 who will take over areas that used to be all part of Charlemagne's empire and rule all these little territories themselves. Is this a plus or a minus? History has seen it differently during different time periods. If you are a fan of centralized authority, and that whole thing, well, you see this is a terrible negative and Europe descending into a fragmented, unable to coordinate their activities sort of entity. And you will say something like, well, Charlemagne didn't have Viking attacks to worry about
Starting point is 00:35:57 because he could fight those things off. He could build all sorts of defenses. And then minute all that falls apart into anarchy. Well, that's when you create the conditions of, it's like taking the police force out of your community and keeping all your doors unlocked. You're inviting robbers, right, and interlopers. But the other way to look at it,
Starting point is 00:36:17 and it's been seen this way throughout different areas also, is that the decentralization here is a reaction to things like Viking raids, right? If the emperor or the king is so far away that by the time they're able to send soldiers to protect the people who are hit by Viking raids, the Vikings are long gone. Well, what if the central authority isn't who sends out the equivalent of the local police force? What if that's a local Duke count, Lord, Baron or what have you right
Starting point is 00:36:45 nearby with a little local castle right there on the spot, right? So there are historical accounts over the areas that see this fragmentation not as a downside, but as a reaction to the need to have local protection and authority and decision making on site, because otherwise it's hard to respond to these, you know, quick hit and run rages that the Vikings are launching. But by the time we are where we are in this story, right, we've gone from the 700 to the 800s now, we're in the 900s, the conditions on the ground are much different and the easy pickings of undefended monasteries and all that from the eight hundreds is a thing of the past. Now the Vikings are encountering the equivalent of locked doors, burglar alarm systems and local police forces nearby, and the 900s will prove to be an entirely different
Starting point is 00:37:39 sort of affair. As we said in the last part of this discussion, in places like modern-day France, West Franquia, they're starting to fortify the bridges because the Vikings use the river systems as a kind of superhighway to get into the inside of the territory. Well, if you fortify bridges at the mouths of these rivers, well, all of a sudden you have the equivalent of a toll booth or a police bureau or a guarded border in Britain, kings like Alfred the Great and his successors will start to create fortified cities, they're called burrs, and they'll do similar sorts of things. They'll put them
Starting point is 00:38:23 in important sites where the Vikings would use as superhighways, roads or river crossings. And once again, it doesn't mean you can't have Viking attacks, but it means all of a sudden the defenses are there to make something that used to be considered, you know, a relatively easy score, something where you can expect to lose people and maybe a lot lot of people, and maybe just lose, because the 900s start to see a lot more times where the Viking raiders, and maybe even larger forces than raiders, start losing. Of course, losing, in quotation marks, is a bit of an eye of the beholder thing sometimes, isn't it? There's a phrase often used about winning the war and losing the peace.
Starting point is 00:39:11 For example, one of the most important cases of maybe winning the war and losing the peace happens in the year 9-11 when one of the most famous Viking figures in all Viking history, and one of the earliest that we can say conclusively actually lived and was a real person and there's no doubt about it, is this guy known to history as Ralo. His Viking name was probably some version of Rolf and his nickname, because those Vikings often had, you know, Rolf, the, in his case, it was Ralph the Ganger. And that supposedly was a reference to his size. And he was supposed to be so large that he couldn't ride a horse and that he had to walk. He's not the only Viking that that is said about. But this Ralph the Ganger,, the future Rolo, the future Robert is one of the many Vikings supposed to have been involved in the famous siege of Paris in the late 800s that we talked about in the last segment of this discussion. whether he is Danish or Norwegian, both traditions exist. The Norwegians often claim
Starting point is 00:40:27 Rallo Rolf as one of their own, but he gets into a scrap one of many with the West Frankie and King, right? What will in the future be France? A guy named Charles the simple that we mentioned earlier and simple doesn't mean, you know, not intelligent. It kind of means sincere, right? Not not simple minded, but he will, uh, Ralph will lose this encounter in West Francia. And as part of the peace agreement, he will be given a territory that in the future will be called Normandy, which is a reference to the people who settled there after this peace agreements, the North men under Ralph the Ganger.
Starting point is 00:41:20 Ralph is fully a Viking right out of the Hollywood movie trope. In his book Powers and Thrones, Dan Jones writes quote, the creation of Normandy was directly linked to the dramatic siege of Paris in 885, 886. Among the Viking leaders of that expedition was a man called Rolo, who was probably born in Denmark, and whose career was described by a later biographer, Dudow of San Quentin, in idealized but undeniably thrilling terms. End quote, Jones is going to interspers some of those quotes from Dudow in this next part where he says, quote, Dudow described Rolo as a preternaturally tough and dogged soldier, quote,
Starting point is 00:42:05 trained in the art of war and utterly ruthless, end quote, who could typically be seen, quote, in a helmet wonderfully ornamented with gold and a male coat, end quote. Jones continues, quote, Rolo was one of the most violent men of his exceptionally bloody times. On one occasion, he prevailed in battle by ordering his men to kill all the animals, chop their carcasses in half, and build a makeshift barricade out of their freshly butchered meat. But he was a cany-negotiator, Jones writes. During the second half of the 9th century, Rolo made a tidy living
Starting point is 00:42:46 among the Franks, doing as all thrusting young Northman did, burning, laying towns and villages to waste, plundering and killing. By the early years of the 10th century, he and his Viking comrades had driven the rulers of the Franks to distraction, and their people to the state of abject war weariness." And quote, his biographer, Dudo, then says that the subjects of West Francia were complaining to their king that the land in the realm was, quote, no better than a desert for its population is either dead through famine or sword or is perhaps in captivity."
Starting point is 00:43:31 End quote. So Charles the simple defeats Rolo in a battle, a siege, perhaps. And the peace agreement is one that the people who are the fans of the highly centralized sorts of governments to cry is a huge mistake, but those who see the decentralized approach as something maybe more akin to, you know, doing the best with what you have available. If you have terrorists continually destroying and raiding a region and taking off captives and killing the population and robbing everything, what would you think of turning that area over to the terrorists, telling them that they now owe their allegiance to you, that they
Starting point is 00:44:20 need to convert to your way of thinking, you know, in these days we might make it a rule that they have to then become a democracy, but back in these times the rule is you have to become Christians and then telling them to defend that territory against other terrorists like themselves, because that's going to be the deal. Charles the simple is going to grant to Rolo, the Viking, the areas that Rolo is sort of already controlling and occupying these areas that will become Normandy around the entry to the Sain River and then tell him that, you know, if you accept this deal, you're my vassal, which may sound weird, except that this is the era, as we said, when the dukes and counts and lords and barons are going to start to come
Starting point is 00:45:12 to the fore. And what's the difference if your warlord happens to be, you know, a locally growned warlord, or if it's somebody, you know, from outside, right? I mean, if if you're giving lands to a bunch of barons who are going to throw up their own castles and be, you know, sometimes loyal to you and other times, rebellious, well, why not make it the guy who's already in charge of that area and who knows probably best how to repel Viking raiders because he is himself a Viking raider, and in his book Northman, historian John Hayward, writes about Rolo and this agreement, quote, In return for his homage, conversion to Christianity and agreement to defend the saying against
Starting point is 00:45:59 other Viking raiders, Charles appointed Rolo as Count of Rual. It was a mutually advantageous arrangement. Charles got recognition of his sovereignty over lands he did not actually control while Rolo's de facto rule over the lower sane was legitimized." End quote. Hey, would then point out that this is hardly a new arrangement and that other kings have done this with Vikings before. In fact, one can go all the way back to certain Roman practices from the Roman Empire that sound
Starting point is 00:46:32 similar, including the way the Romans treated the Franks themselves when the Franks were much more Viking-like than they are in this time period. Famously, Rolo may not be the submissive vassal to Charles the simple that the peace agreement may have expected. The biographer, Dudot, tells a story where at one point during the ceremony, Rolo is supposed to kiss the feet of the Frankish king. And instead says he's not kissing anyone's feet and orders an underling to do it for him. And normally you bend down and kiss the feet of the king. Instead, the Viking underling lifted up the king's foot to his mouth, toppling the king on his back. And supposedly the Vikings all laughed about this. It's a sign of exactly how much respect they have for this agreement and this king.
Starting point is 00:47:31 But Rolo did convert to Christianity, but like so many other Vikings who did first generation Christian converts from Scandinavia often hedged their bets a little bit. And John Haywood in Northman explains how that worked for Ralo when he says, quote, although Ralo was still a pagan when he won control of Ral. It appears he allowed what was left of the church to function in that area under his control much as the Danish rulers of York had done. Pagan Vikings, he writes, were rarely positively hostile to Christianity, sacking churches and monasteries and selling their occupants into slavery was just good business. Even after his baptism in 912, Rolo, like many first-generation Viking converts to Christianity, hedged his bets and worshiped the pagan gods alongside Christ. Shortly before he died,
Starting point is 00:48:27 Rallo ordered a hundred Christians to be beheaded as an offering to the pagan gods, but he also gave a hundred pounds of gold to the churches of Rua." The interesting thing about this, though, is that you can see the long-term anti-terrorism strategy at work here. What the Chinese would have called in their long-term anti-terrorism strategies would they're so-called barbarians nearby them, cooking, right, cooking the barbarians because you turn them into people more like yourself, and when that happens, it changes the relationship.
Starting point is 00:49:10 It's a good thing for a ruler like Rallo, because becoming a Christian and beginning to organize your society the way the Christian states did, exalts the king, turns the societies into one organized as a hierarchy. Not so good for the individual freedom-loving Viking farmers who used to get together at their assemblies known as things and make decisions that way, right? If you're freedom-loving and you like a nice decentralized system, having your ruler convert to Christianity, then mandating all his people do, all of a sudden puts you under the control of a much stronger, despotic ruler, maybe. The other thing though that
Starting point is 00:49:57 it does for the other Christian states is it takes away one of the great Viking Scandinavian advantages in war. All of a sudden, instead of the circumstances being that they can rage you, but you can't go and attack them because they live far away and who knows where and you can't get to them, when the Vikings begin to settle in places, for example, in the Dane Law, in the British Isles, or in Normandy. They lose the main advantage that they have of mobility. And now all of a sudden, their farms, their homes, their families, and their wealth are right next store to the people that they're sometimes making angry with them or vengeful or warlike. And now their foes can do to them what they've done for more than a century to their foes. And one of the really interesting things to follow during the Viking era are these overseas
Starting point is 00:51:02 settlements by these Scandinavian pirates, conquerors, colonists, settlers, whatever you want to call them, because they become part of the societies that they're embedded in over time. They become absorbed. I think we compared the Viking age in part one to a hand grenade detonating in the Scandinavian homeland and spreading burning shrapnel in all directions. It's part of why this story is so hard to follow. You're following all those pieces of shrapnel as they embed themselves in the surrounding societies.
Starting point is 00:51:40 But if shrapnel doesn't kill you, eventually the wound closes up and skin forms around it, and while the metal may impact your life and cause a lingering amount of influence forever, it just becomes one piece of a larger whole. And there are interesting stories about Rolo, for example, having dreams of creating a society that is the equivalent of a whole flock of birds that shows up in one place of all different breeds and types, but all bearing the same blood, red, left wing, and creating what one historian refers to as a mongrel society out of these many different parts, sort of foreshadowing the fusion to come. It reminds me of the American experience where the United States often referred to itself as the great melting potterhead. Latin phrase is associated
Starting point is 00:52:39 with it like Epluribus Unum, Epluribus Unum, which means out of many one. And that is not a bad phrase to describe. The Normans, and of course, Norman just means Northman. And Normandy is the land of the Northmen, but these men came from all over and quickly found themselves a part of the society around them, maintaining perhaps, though, something in their blood or their DNA or their cultural makeup that harkened back to the ferociousness and the fierceness of their Viking roots because you can hear chroniclers and even historians up until the mid-twentieth century and maybe even today talking about that weird sort of extra ferocity that the Normans had, even when they were Christian and French.
Starting point is 00:53:29 And you can see how quickly they're absorbed by the local population, Rallo, who's the first to settle there, right? This Viking who is almost the quintessential example of the type will marry a local woman in the Danish way we're told, and have a son who's already only half-fiking and who speaks French and who's Christian. He will have the respectively French name of William attached to him, and get a surname or a nickname afterwards he'll be known as William Longsword. He will have a rebellion, Rullo's son launched against him by a bunch of his own Scandinavian Viking peoples who consider him already to francified.
Starting point is 00:54:19 And then he's going to in the Danish way, which means sort of like a concubine or a hookup. Or what would they say today, a baby mama? He will hook up with another local woman, which means that his kid, who will be named Richard, is only one quarter Viking. So in the space of two generations, you can already see the burning piece of shrapnel being absorbed by the much larger West-Frankish body. But as we've been saying all along, what happens to Rolo and his pirate Vikings in what will be Normandy is just a continuation of a process that's been going on since long before
Starting point is 00:55:02 the Roman Empire fell centuries beforehand. It's the taming of these Germanic language pagan peoples. And earlier versions of them from Goths to Lombards to Vandals to Burgundians to Franks. Yes, even these Frankish people, they've already gone through this process. They're being, well, 150 years ago, somebody would have seen a very superiority kind of way of looking at things and they're being civilized. These savages are being turned into reputable members of the Christian community, answerable to God and the surrounding other nobles.
Starting point is 00:55:42 But if you're an average Viking farmer who goes on these raids, as your ancestors might have doing a little piracy work to better yourself, go home, marry the girl next door and start a farm with, you know, your winnings from your pirate affairs, you might look at something like this as being sold out, right? The big guys like Rallo and his Yarrals, and Yarral could mean Earl or Lord or anything like that. Those guys are the ones who benefit greatly from these sorts of deals. It's the average Viking who once upon a time
Starting point is 00:56:17 used to be considered sort of an equal who loses. If you want to make the Hollywood movie about the Vikings and you want them to be these barbarian type pirate, you know, movie tropes and you want them to be a bunch of warriors involved in an equal brotherhood that when somebody says, who is your leader? You say we have none, right? That's a famous line from the old Viking that we have no we're all equal here. then you want to set your movie in the 700s or the 800s, because in the 900s, ADCE, the Viking world begins to become more like the non-Viking Christian world and the hierarchies that are taking over in places that will become France and Germany and places like that, arrives in Scandinavia.
Starting point is 00:57:06 And you can begin to see the consolidation of these independent, small-time rulers, the so-called petty kings, by the great kings. And it's a bit like watching corporate giants swallowing up small-time businesses and mom and pop operations until they create the geopolitical equivalent of a monopoly. And in keeping with history's love of consolidation and consolidators, the men who do this are often lauded as the founding fathers of the modern day nations of Scandinavia, right? They're version of a George Washington type figure.
Starting point is 00:57:52 It's worth pointing out that the people who do this in the places like modern day Sweden or modern day Denmark or modern day Norway are figures that you can't 100% confirm or even reel. Welcome to the early Middle Ages. Take for example the guy who famously does this, in what will become the country of Norway. His name is Harold Feinheir, also known as Harold Feirheir, also known as Harold Heirfeir. Neil Price, the historian of Viking times, says that his nickname was Lufa, which means Mophead, and Price points out that these guys often had pirate last names and nicknames, compared to something like Black Beard
Starting point is 00:58:45 from the 16th or 17th century. And Mop Head is a famous figure in one of the sagas written by one of the most famous saga writers of all time, an Icelandic writer named Snorri Stirlisson. And in his work known as the Heimskringler or the Lives of the Norse Kings, he writes about Mop Head. And in very storybook-like fashion,
Starting point is 00:59:09 traces his desire to conquer all of Norway and be the king that unifies the entire place to a woman that he wants. And he goes to her and basically proposes that he become her man. And she says something like, why would a petty king like you appeal to me? I mean, she says when we have kings who are unifying Sweden and kings who are unifying Denmark, why don't you go unify Norway and then come back to me when you've made something of yourself? He in the saga says something like, oh yeah, thanks for reminding me. I was always going to do that. And then he vows to not cut his hair until he does.
Starting point is 00:59:46 And then he goes around like a mafia Don making the sort of offers that the other petty kings can't refuse because if they do, he kills them and all of their top men with them. If they instead join him, as we said with Ralo, all his top men can become his men, yarrals, and they can be bigger than the petty kings of old, but if they resist, he's going to kill them. And this creates a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction that precipitates one of the things that the Viking era is most known for, right? The pushing out and exploring farther and farther away lands, in part because these people need to get away from herald fine hair, who's going to kill them if he catches them.
Starting point is 01:00:34 It's a little bit more complicated than that, but let's let Snory Stirlisson in his work written. Farther away from the time that he's chronicling, then the American revolution is to our time, let's have him discuss a little bit of the career of Harold Fine Hare to show us what we're dealing with here. I'm using the early Monson translation, by the way. And it needs to be pointed out that there are reasons that people would resist what fine hairs trying to do. They often were people who were farmers on ancestral
Starting point is 01:01:10 land that had been handed down from father to son from time immemorial, and all of a sudden this great king comes in and says, all this land is mine. And you can stay on it if you pay taxes. And a lot of people said to help with you, I'm going elsewhere. And that's described by Stirlis and when he says quote. Amid all the unrest, when Harold was seeking to subdue all the land of Norway, the pharaohs, which are islands, and Iceland, lands out beyond the sea were found and settled. At that time also, there was a great fairing to Shetland, and many great men fled as outlaws from Norway, and they went on Viking raids to the west. In the winter, they were in the Orkneys and
Starting point is 01:01:51 the Hebrides, but in the summer, they harried in Norway, and did great scathe there in the land." What Stirlis and Means by that is that these people didn't just run away from herald fine hair and everybody let bygones be bygones, they came back and treated Norway, or what will become Norway, the same way the Viking raiders had treated the rest of Europe. They raided and robbed and took slaves from herald fine hairs growing kingdom. And this recalls something we said earlier in this story that before the Viking age supposedly begins, it was probably already going on in the deep dark Scandinavian mists before Europe ever knew about them, and it continued probably long after the Viking age sort of officially, in
Starting point is 01:02:45 air quotes ends. The Vikings raided Scandinavia too, and like all the kings of Europe, whose main job is protecting their subjects, Harold Feinheir's main job was protecting his. And so when Vikings who had fled Norway came back and raided Norway, Harold Feinheir goes after them." Sterlusson continues, quote, King Harold learned that the Vikings who in the winter were in the Westlands, which means Britain and Ireland, were harrying in the Midlands, which means Norway.
Starting point is 01:03:18 He went out to war each summer and ransacked the islands and the outlying rocks, but when his army came near the Vikings, they all fled, most of them outlying rocks, but when his army came near the Vikings, they all fled, most of them out to sea, and when the king was weary of this, it happened one summer that he sailed west with his army across the sea. First he came to Shetland, and there slew all the Vikings who would not fled fence. Next he sailed south to the Orkneys and cleansed them all of Vikings. Thereafter he went right to the Hebrides and harried there. He slew many Vikings who before had warriors under them, and he held there many battles, and most often
Starting point is 01:03:58 had the victory." So Harold Lufa, mophead, hair fair, fine hair, adopted the same anti-piracy strategy, common in the ancient world. When it becomes too much, you go find the pirate layers, launch the equivalent of Marines from your boats and wipe out all the pirates where they live. your boats and wipe out all the pirates where they live. Now, if you're trying to clear pirates out though, the problem is is how do you keep the areas from being reestablished as pirate bases later? If you look at the history of the Mediterranean, for example, in piracy in that area, and piracy in that area, you can have successive empires and kingdoms clear out pirate layers, only to have those places get reinvested later, usually because they're perfect. I mean, they're just, it's easy to hide. They're these certain islands that become known for piracy
Starting point is 01:04:59 are right along, important shipping routes. They just lend themselves to reinvestation. So according to the saga, as Harold will put some of his own people in charge of these islands, like the Hebrides and the Orkneys and whatnot. And their job is to sort of create a stable business climate and settle people there and make it one of those areas where there's just too many eyes and too much law and order and too many authorities for it to be a good place for pirates anymore. I don't know if that's true and the sagas are not necessarily all that trustworthy on this sort of stuff. There is another aspect though of Harold's rule that more modern histories are taking a much more jaundiced view of them my earlier ones and that the sagas take, which is that Harold's tyranny and people fleeing
Starting point is 01:05:46 from it are the reason for many of the great Viking discoveries, you know, the islands overseas, the Icelands, the Greenlands, the East Coast of the Americas, and, you know, places like the Orkneys and the Hebrides. And the reason that modern historians are discounting that as a major reason is because the dating doesn't line up. He couldn't have been his tyranny, couldn't have been the reason that the Hebrides and the Orkneys and those places are settled because they're settled long before Harold's time. Even Iceland is settled before Harold is putting immense pressure on other Norwegians.
Starting point is 01:06:22 And Greenland and the Americas aren't settled until long afterwards. So the dating doesn't line up. John Hay would points this out in Northmen that just that that couldn't have been the reason, but what he does say is it could be a reason for further settlement, you know, new waves of people leaving Norway to escape the new restrictions that a guy like Harold is putting into place through consolidation. Right. If you don't like it, get out and they do. And what do you go? Well, American draftees fleeing the draft during the Vietnam War went over the border to Canada.
Starting point is 01:06:55 If you're someone located in modern day Norway, maybe you go to the Hebrides or the Orkneys or if those are becoming too established and controlled by Harold's men, maybe you go farther. And farther in Harold, fine hairs, lifetime would have been a place like Iceland. And then after his lifetime would have been a place like Greenland. When you look at how those places were probably discovered, that's an interesting story in and of itself. And something that is undetermined as of yet, but more and more, the history suggests that some of these places were found before the Vikings even found them. Take Iceland, for example.
Starting point is 01:07:35 Iceland may have had Irish monks find the place first. Now, we need to take a different sort of approach with a place like Iceland than with most of the places the Viking settled in Europe, because we talked about the piece of shrapnel, you know, the Vikings embedding themselves in these larger societies and eventually being absorbed. It's a little different when the Vikings discover places that don't have pre-existing large societies to begin with. Then the shrapnel acts more like a seed
Starting point is 01:08:08 and grows into a real sort of Viking settlements and Iceland falls into that category. Because Irish monks would have been celibate anyway. They wouldn't have gone to a place like Iceland to try to start families and settle down and be fruitful and multiply. And there's no evidence that when the Vikings actually got there, the Irish monks were still there, although they supposedly found some leftover stuff.
Starting point is 01:08:36 Bottom line though is it's like finding free land with nobody there occupying it. The various histories that I've read suggest what would probably be considered a rather obvious way that these places get discovered initially, and that's not because you seek out places, because no one knows these places are here. They get found accidentally when the Scandinavian ships get blown off course. I mean, if you're a sailing ship and all of a sudden you get caught in a place like the North Atlantic or the Atlantic above what's now Scotland and those islands and the wind starts taking you where it's going to take you, you're kind of along for the ride, aren't you? And this is the part of the story that I find personally terrifying.
Starting point is 01:09:26 It is also the part of the story where we've been making connections between the Vikings and their contemporaries and the Vikings and their predecessors, right? The Germanic language, pagan peoples, like the Saxons and all these people who came before the Vikings and the people in Western and Central Europe during their time period and trying to show the context that shows continuity and how the Vikings don't really stand out so much from all these other peoples in most respects, the area where they really do stand out and where they break new ground completely is the seafaring part. And that's the part that blows my mind and has fascinated people,
Starting point is 01:10:06 well, for a very long time, the Vikings became very big in the 19th century, but people knew about these seafaring things long before then, the people in Iceland, for example, who were fascinated because they were an immigrant people too, like the United States and like Australia and a lot of other places now, you become fascinated
Starting point is 01:10:25 with your roots. And it was people like Snorri Sterlisson and all those folk who were writing about how their island originally got populated from the home country. And so everyone has been fascinated with both the Vikings were doing with ships because what they were doing with ships was relatively unprecedented. And I say relatively because there were other peoples, but there's some of the most famous seafaring peoples in history, people like the Polynesians and what maybe we could call the Proto-Polynesians who were doing similar things in the Pacific, mostly south of the equator, and the big difference between the Polynesians and the Vikings and all the other seafaring peoples before them
Starting point is 01:11:05 was the willingness to go out into the open sea. Because seafaring pretty much from the beginning of time until about the Vikings and the proto-pollinesions was all about staying within sight of land, hugging the coast or going point to point like a connected dots game, you know, from this island to that island to this island, never getting too far away from land. Even when you see, for example, the transfer of shipping or some of even the great naval battles in the Mediterranean, you can always see that it's a point to point to point navigation system. They're never getting far away from land. They're never getting, there's always an island here or there
Starting point is 01:11:48 that they're nearby. Once you go, the old line was beyond the pillars of Hercules, or Heracles, the Gibraltar area, out into the Atlantic, you were going off into the dragon territory on the edge of the map where people go and never come back. That's where you lose ships. But it's funny what you can discover while still hugging the coast, the great Phoenicians, who was the greatest seafarers of the ancient Mediterranean, they were able to get allegedly all the way up to the British Isles and the Scandinavian areas and everything simply following the coastline. But what the Vikings do is, as far as I can tell, except for the Polynesian
Starting point is 01:12:31 types unprecedented in this era and before, which is they will venture out into the open sea. Now after pointing out that both the Polynesians and the Malays in the Indian Ocean had gone farther distances in this era or earlier errors than the Vikings, historian John Haywood in Northman mentions that both those peoples at least had warmer weather and more predictable seas working in their favor, whereas these Scandinavians are operating C's working in their favor, whereas these Scandinavians are operating in close to Arctic conditions. Sometimes, I mean, go look at a map. Look at where the latitude of a place like Iceland is. There are no major cities above something like Reykjavik that I can see. It's sub-Arctic, maybe, you would say. say and Hey would says that like earlier people the Viking Scandinavian explorers and seafarers
Starting point is 01:13:31 preferred to stay within sight of land go point to point You know so that they were going from island to island and stayed as close as they could to areas You know where they felt safe to pull their ships into coves and harbors and places where at night time they didn't have to be out in the water, but often they were out in the water. And when you realize that these are open boats in sometimes arctic conditions, it boggles the mind. You can go online, by the way, and see videos of modern recreations of Viking longships and people traveling on them. And you just can't imagine doing it for days at a time, but that's what had to be done. And these Viking warships that are often used in
Starting point is 01:14:18 the recreations are usually not the kind of ships that Viking settlers traveled on. They traveled on Tubby or merchant men called Nars or Nors, and Haywood describes these, and he says quote, most of the leading settlers or he uses the Scandinavian word that means land takers because that was the phrase used or land takers arrived in their own ships. These were not long ships, but sturdy merchant ships called Nars. With shorter, broader, and deeper hulls than long ships, Nars relied on sales alone, carrying only a couple of pairs of ores from maneuvering in harbor." He then points out at the time of the settlements, the Nars probably had a cargo capacity of 25 to 30 tons.
Starting point is 01:15:06 This would go up as the Viking Age went on to probably more like 50 tons. He says modern replicas of these merchant vessels have sailed around the entire world, but the one that sailed around the entire world sank up the Spanish coast in 1992. So, you know, just like modern day fishing fleets. And I believe that fishing is still considered per capita. The most or one of the most dangerous professions you can have. And that's with satellites, modern ships, coast guards, and all those kinds of things.
Starting point is 01:15:40 Imagine what it's like with a wooden boat, with open decks, and people navigating, well, with none of those tools. And hey, would write, quote, the voyage to Iceland could take two to three weeks, often with stopovers in Orkney, Shetland, and the Pharaoh Islands. The voyage cannot have been a comfortable experience. Nars were basically just large open boats, without cabins to give crew and passengers shelter in bad weather.
Starting point is 01:16:13 Tents were stretched over ship's decks to provide shelter in harbor, but it is unlikely that this could be done at sea because the tent would catch the wind and drive the ship off course. People probably had to huddle under seal skin or greased leather coats in the hold, along with the livestock, to keep warm. Nor was there any possibility he writes of enjoying any hot food on the
Starting point is 01:16:36 high seas. Shipwreck was a real possibility in one bad year of the 35 ships sailing to Iceland, all but eight were wrecked." End quote. I've spent my entire life, except for when I was in college, within a 35 minute drive of the Pacific Ocean, I grew up body surfing at an age that was almost child abusive to have left me out in the waters at that age. I'm very brave on the coast, but you get me out
Starting point is 01:17:06 into the open water. And I get just terrified, much more cowardly. I remember a cousin of mine, an idiot cousin of mine, tipping us over in a catamaran three times in a day until the Coast Guard said that's enough of that. You get to go in, within sight of land and feeling absolutely helpless. I can't imagine what it would be like in subarctic conditions in the middle of nowhere with no help anywhere. I was looking for accounts that could give us some semblance of what it was like for these Vikings, but they don't exist during this period.
Starting point is 01:17:43 And the best ones that I found are actually in a book called The Perfect Storm. Now, you might have seen the movie based on the book, but the book is a very different animal. And it combines the story that the movie focused on with historical accounts, first-hand eyewitness remembrances, the science of the ocean and waves and shipping, and all that. It's absolutely fascinating. You can get your hands on it. It's by Sebastian Younger. It's wonderful.
Starting point is 01:18:09 And he has some accounts that give us a sense of what it might be like in the open sea and how absolutely terrifying it can be. So for example, one of the scientific parts of the book, talks about the difference between waves that are not crashing versus waves that do crash in the open ocean, and younger rights, quote. A general rule of fluid dynamics holds that an object in the water tends to do whatever the water it replaces would have done. In the case of a boat in a breaking wave, the boat will effectively become part of the curl. It will either be flipped end over end or shoved backwards and broken on. Instantaneous pressures of up to six tons per square foot have been measured in breaking
Starting point is 01:18:57 waves. Breaking waves, he writes, have lifted a 2700 ton breakwater and mass and deposited it inside the harbor at Wicks Scotland. They have blasted open a steel door, 195 feet above sea level at, I think it's oonst light or oonst light in the Shetland Islands. They have heaved a half tonne boulder, 91 feet into the air at Tilla Mook Rock, Oregon." So that gives us a sense of the power of the waves that these early mariners are having to potentially encounter. And then, younger talks about a phenomenon that used to be considered sort of an old wives tale, or one of those tall stories that a salty sea captain would relate, but it turns out that they're true
Starting point is 01:19:50 and buoys in the middle of the ocean and people in oil rigs in the middle of the sea have now conclusively proven that the phenomenon known as rogue waves are real and younger points out that the problem with eyewitness accounts is that a lot of people, especially in the pre-modern seafaring era who encountered large rogue waves never survived to tell anybody about them. Speaking about the rogue waves, he writes, quote,
Starting point is 01:20:20 In the dry terminology of naval architecture, these are called non-negotiable waves. Mariners call them rogue waves, or freak seas. Typically they are very steep, and have an equally steep trough in front of them, a so-called hole in the ocean, as some witnesses have described it. Ships, he writes, cannot get their bows up fast enough, and the ensuing wave breaks their back. Maritime history is full of encounters with such waves. When Sir Ernest Shackleton was forced across the South Polar Sea in a 22-foot open lifeboat,
Starting point is 01:20:56 he saw a wave so big that he mistook its foaming crest for a moonlit cloud. He only had time to yell, hang on boys, it's got us! Before the wave broke over his boat. Miraculously, they didn't sink. He continues. In February 1883, the 320-foot-steam ship Glamorgan was swept bow to stern by an enormous wave that ripped the wheelhouse right off the deck, taking all the ship's officers with it, she later sank.
Starting point is 01:21:27 In 1966, he writes, the 44,000-ton Michelangelo, an Italian steamship carrying 775 passengers encountered a single massive wave in an otherwise unremarkable sea. Her bow fell into the trough, and the wave stove in her bow, flooding her wheelhouse, and killed a crewman and two passengers. In 1976, he says, the oil tanker Creaton Star, radioed, now the radio message was, quote, vessel was struck by a huge wave that went over the deck, end quote, and he says was never heard from again. The only sign of her fate, he wrote, was a four-mile
Starting point is 01:22:06 oil slick off Bombay." He then tells an amazing story of one of the people who lived after seeing and surviving one of these waves, hitting, and the waves are very different sometimes. Sometimes they create, they come together, several waves come together and get larger than the, some of its parts, so to speak, and that's a phenomenon known as the three sisters sometimes when they come in threes, but this 1966 encounter off South Africa was a wave that stretched from horizon to horizon. And young younger rights, quote, most people don't survive encounters with such waves. And so first hand accounts are hard to come by, but they do exist. An English woman named Barrel Smeaton was rounding Cape Horn with her husband in the 1960s. I guess I said 66, 1960s, when she saw a sholing wave behind
Starting point is 01:23:03 her that stretched away in a straight line as far as she could see, now quoting the survivor. The whole horizon was blotted out by a huge gray wall, she writes in her journal, it had no curling crest, just a thin white line along the whole length, and its face was unlike the sloping face of a normal wave. This was a wall of water with a completely vertical face, down which ran white ripples like a waterfall." End quote, younger than points out that the wave flipped the 46 foot boat and over end,
Starting point is 01:23:38 snapping the eyewitness's harness and throwing her overboard. witnesses harness and throwing her overboard. Now, I know in this era where we see people surfing almost 100 foot tall waves and whatnot that we are blase to the power of the surf sometimes, but even a 12 foot wave. And I've been in 12 foot waves churning around after wiping out body surfing on the coastline. And I can just tell you the power of a mere 12-foot wave is absolutely shocking. And I can't imagine what this woman's experience was like after being having her ship turned over with a wave like that and then finding herself cord snapped in the open ocean. And then I recall that all those vessels that we just talked about had multiple decks. So you could go below deck when things got hairy up above. They had modern communications equipment, modern navigational
Starting point is 01:24:41 tools. They knew their relative geographic position on the map perfectly and it still freaks me out. Now, imagine having none of those things and being a Viking Eroscan Danavian in an open boat, no communications tools at all, no modern navigational equipment at all and, you know, no below decks and you're out in the open ocean. There's a part of me that thinks those people are crazy, but that might be an eye of the bold or sort of thing, right? Try telling them that we routinely go up in man-made metal tubes that fly higher than birds fly and take us across whole oceans continent to continent and see if they don't think we're the crazy ones.
Starting point is 01:25:31 And I imagine if you told people like that that we could do what we do with their travel, they probably want to see what manner of human being it was who could do that, and I feel the same way about them. And if you discount the sagas, which as I said, I don't know what Hollywood would do in portraying Vikings, if they didn't use the sagas, because discounting the sagas means you're left with very few eyewitness accounts of who these people were. And like all I witness accounts from people who found themselves on the receiving end of violence or mistreatment or even just very different cultural norms
Starting point is 01:26:13 and standards, hard to accept the idea that the Viking, Eris, Scandinavians are getting a good shake. I mean, if you're a monk writing about these people who as part of their business strategy aren't just pagans, but like to assault holy sites and monasteries and kill monks, well, is a monks account of these people going to be particularly even handed? I doubt it. We do have the rare accounts though that show up from eye witnesses who are not Christian monks and who run into people who may be Viking, Eris Scandinavians, and the most famous happens right around where we are in this story. It is an account which like the sagas, a lot of people have to hang a lot of assumptions on because you have so little to work with. And it's such a famous account and so rare that it has been used by fictional authors to sort of build stories off of Michael Criton, the author of Eders of the Dead, for example,
Starting point is 01:27:20 used this account as the foundation on which to build a fictional story. And a movie was built on top of that book called the 13th Warrior. So you may have seen that. But neither one of those tales gets told. If not for the original account, the eyewitness account of a Muslim traveler named Ibn Fadlan. And he traveled to regions in what are now Russia in the year 921 and 922 ADCE. And along the way ran into a people who were trading on the rivers back then who very
Starting point is 01:28:01 well may have been Viking,Aroscan denavians. Let's put some disclaimers in here, though. Shall we? For accuracy's sake. Disclaimer number one, these may not have been Viking-Aroscan denavians. These may have been people who were Slavic, for example, or it may have been what we would call today an international crew of people, a mixed crew of people that included some Scandinavians mixed with some slavs mixed with some bolts. You just don't know. Just claim our number two, even if these were Scandinavians, they may not be representative of the Scandinavians back in Scandinavia or Vikings in other places, even though
Starting point is 01:28:46 it's very possible that these same people that Ibn Fadlan talks about were migrating back and forth to Scandinavia and maybe then going west to Britain and maybe then to France. You just don't know because how representative of Scandinavian culture back into place like, well, what will be modern day Sweden, modern day Norway, modern day Denmark are these sea fairers. It's possible that you could look at them the way we would look at, you know, sailors today who spent their life at sea and then come back home covered in tattoos, the salty pop by the sailor slash, you know, long john silver characters from Treasure Island, where they are people from your culture, but they're not representative of most of the people in your culture. For example, one of the
Starting point is 01:29:31 thing Fudlon talks about in this eyewitness account is how dirty these people were, but this clashes with other accounts that suggest that Viking, Eroscan, Danavians, and Scandinavia were meticulously clean people with clean clothes and clean hair and all so These are the disclaimers in one of these very very rare Eyewitness accounts of a people that very well may be or include Viking Eroscan denavians probably if so Mostly sweet now. Here's the backstory of Fudlons account He sets out from Baghdad, I think it was, where his bosses and he doesn't want a light of
Starting point is 01:30:09 them. So these aren't like Marco Polo type accounts where, you know, there could be all kinds of exaggeration. This guy's trying to give a good account of what he runs into and he's not looking for Vikings. Remember, in the part of the world where Fadlons traveling, they don't call them Vikings. They call them Varyngians. And this is the era where these Varyngian people are morphing, perhaps again another disclaimer,
Starting point is 01:30:32 into that people we introduced in part one, the Russe. Who these Russe are is another one of these great non-understood things. And historians over the eras have had different opinions. I think we introduced the concept of the Normist and the anti-normenist controversy in part one when we talked about the roots because in a place like the old Soviet Union, you didn't want to assume or acknowledge that there was any Scandinavian influx of DNA or cultural influence in a predominantly Slavic sort of historical account. But on the Germanic side, it was just the opposite.
Starting point is 01:31:09 I mean, Hitler and his Aryan supremacists, I think Hitler famously said something like, if not for the infusion of the Scandinavian blood into the Russian bloodline, they would still be like rabbits in the forest, right? The only reason they're advanced in any way, shape or form is due to the area in blood. So, you know, those are the two extremes of the pendulum there. DNA, bioarcheology, and the assessment of artifacts that are being found is helping to clarify this. This would be a different show if we could have this conversation 20 years from now. Nonetheless, Fadlan talks about these people that he sees on his travels to what's now Southern Russia. He's there to talk to some step nomad, maybe semi nomad by this point, leader of a group
Starting point is 01:31:58 called the ballgars, right? This is a, you know, Bulgarian comes from that. So this guy is Islamic, but his ballgars are practicing a form of Islam that might not exactly be kosher, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors there. And so we ask for some instruction on the faith. Come on up here, tell us what we're doing wrong in practicing Islam. And oh, by the way, I'd like to make some deals with you,
Starting point is 01:32:19 I'd like to do some trading with you. So if Adlan goes up there and it's like a travel log, if you will, and with anything from that long ago, it's a miracle. It's come down to, you know, be read by us today that it survived, but amongst the many people he talks about are these people he calls the Rus or the Rosiah. Now, I'm using the translation by Richard Fry. There are others, but Fadlan talks about these people that he encounters along the rivers who are trading.
Starting point is 01:32:49 And in the east, if these are varanjians, if these are, you know, the Viking people from Scandinavia trading in what's now southern Russia, they are, you know, what are we seeing the first part of the show that the Vikings in the West are like 60% Raiders and 40% traders in the east? It's it's reverse like 60% Raiders and 40% Traders in the East. It's reverse like 60% Trader, 40% Raider. In part, because there's a lot of powerful entities in the East that make it a lot tougher to just go along sacking everything and killing everyone. They'll be pushed back in these ball guards are a perfect example of the kind of people
Starting point is 01:33:22 that would push back. So Fadlanza talks about these people. Now to show you how difficult it is, he talks about them having tattoos. Now we mentioned in part one, there's all kinds of things that they found on the Viking skeletons that have been uncovered. For example, the tooth grooves, right? Horizontal cuttings or carvings in the teeth of some of these skeletons that may have been died when they
Starting point is 01:33:45 were alive. You put a die in there so you can see them even more pronounced. And this may have been the mark of certain warrior bands where it shows that you're in this particular group of people. There are the accounts, of course, of the eye makeup. What did we call it in part one? War mascara that the Vikings are supposed to have used. And it was one of those things that was thought to be so cool by other people who saw it,
Starting point is 01:34:09 that the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, right on the opposite side of this great divide between they and the Danes, they start wearing it. Sounds like the girls liked it. Reminds you a little bit of like how the Romans in the Roman era started adopting garlic and German fashions like the tight pants, because once again, seemed to be popular with the opposite sex, right? I can look cool like a barbarian too. Give me that leather jacket.
Starting point is 01:34:31 Give me those tight pants. Little bit of the eye makeup, the guy liner, the warm ass garra, and you know, maybe the hairstyle. There's an account by, I think it was a monk in, I think it's in Britain who was talking about how scandalous it was to see Anglo-Saxon youth, you know, adopting the fashions of the barbarians and the heathen. Well, Fadlan has these people that he encounters. He says they're tattooed. Now, once again, we're brought into the situation
Starting point is 01:34:56 where do you extrapolate that and say, well, we have an eyewitness account of Vikings, so they must all be tattooed, or is this like Pope by the sailor and long john silver? And this isn't what Vikings are like at home. This is what the ones who go to see. And you know, it's a brotherhood of guys. And they act a certain way where dirty, where scroungy, where where a bunch of, you know, guys on the road were like musicians on the road. It's different on the road. You get home and, you know, you're amongst your own kind and you want to look clean and pretty and reputable and maybe you look different. So don't know how much you can extrapolate the Fadlan stuff, but what
Starting point is 01:35:30 he says is awesome and more awesome because it's one of the few accounts you have. This isn't a saga, right? This is a guy who saw these people and this is what he writes from the Richard Fry translation of Ibn Fadlán's Journey to Russia." I saw the Rusya, or Rusya, when they came here they're on their trading voyages and had encamped by the river I tell, or a tale. That's the vulga, by the way. I have never seen people, he writes, with a more developed bodily stature than they. They are as tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy, so that they do not need to wear a tunic nor a cloak, rather the men among them wear a garment that only covers half of his body
Starting point is 01:36:15 and leaves one of his hands free. Each of them has an axe, a sword, and a knife with him, and all of these whom we have mentioned never let themselves be separated from their weapons. Their swords are broad-bladed, provided with rils, and of the Frankish type. Each one of them has, from the tip of his nails, to the neck, figures, trees, and other things, tattooed in dark green." So this chives with what we know about the Vikings that they don't stray too far from their weapons. It also jives with the fact that they like Frankish swords. But if you're in Europe, who doesn't, right, the great arms, manufacturers of the Frankish war warehouses
Starting point is 01:36:56 and factories produce the best European weapons. So everybody wants them. It does show how much the trading though is it is completely interactive and interspersed in Europe so that if you can get your hands on a good, frankish sword, it's like a Winchester rifle of that era, you get it. Now, he also talks about, as I said, how dirty these people are. And as we've said, this doesn't necessarily job
Starting point is 01:37:21 with other things that are asserted about life at home, but this may be like a bunch of dudes on the road and, you know, we don't have to be so clean. And when we get home, we'll, you know, smarten up, clean up a little bit, get the nice clothes out, but, you know, we've been on, you know, safari here for a long time. And, you know, your clothes get a little dirty, and we live a little rough and ready and close to the ground and futlon rights. And remember, he's from a very, you know, in air quotes, civilized place during this time period where there are lots of manners, cleanliness, a lot of white collar jobs going on. We would say in his world, and he writes, quote, they are the dirtiest creatures of God.
Starting point is 01:38:02 They have no shame in voiding their bowels and bladder. Nor do they wash themselves when polluted by a mission of semen, nor do they wash their hands after eating. They are then like asses who have gone astray." End quote. Now he starts to talk about what they're selling, and they're selling goods, but the number one goods that they're trying to sell off to other people are other people. The Vikings were great slavers. These people are two. They take slaves according to the Muslim accounts, often from the Slavic people. And there are historians who say that the term Slav is connected to the term slave. the term slaw is connected to the term slave. But this is the part that people sometimes minimize when you talk about people like the Vikings,
Starting point is 01:38:50 they are a great slaving people, and they're a great trading people, and the number one thing, probably that they make the most money off of our slaves, and a lot of their raids are connected to the idea of getting more. Shall we say raw materials for sale? This is also where you get a chance to see a reminder,
Starting point is 01:39:12 shall we say, of the absolute horrificness of slavery, of human bondage, because there are women for sale, mostly from, according to a Fudllons account anyway, the people he run into are selling women. And when they're selling women, they're also using women. It's horrible, it's rape, it's slavery. And he writes, quote, they come from their own country, more their boats on the strand of the itel, which is a great river. It's the vulgar right? And build on its banks large houses out of wood. In a house like this ten or twenty people more or less live together, each of them has
Starting point is 01:39:51 a couch whereupon he sits, and with them are fair maidens who are destined for sale to the merchants, and they may have intercourse with their girl while their comrades look on. At times a crowd of them may come together, and one does this in the presence of the others. It also happens that a merchant who comes into the house to buy a girl from one of them may find him in the very act of having intercourse with her. Then he, the Rus, will not let her be until he has fulfilled his intention." Let her be until he has fulfilled his intention." One gets the vibe.
Starting point is 01:40:27 Again, this is a non-history in vibe, so take it for what it's worth. But one gets sort of a vibe here that this is not how these guys are going to behave amongst their own women folk back in Scandinavia. This is a bunch of dudes far away from women folk and manners and oversight, and you know, wink, wink, nod, nod, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and the levels of cleanliness and upkeep may not meet the standards expected of them back in their home territory, and Fudlon writes quote. As a matter of duty, they wash daily their faces and heads in a manner so dirty and so
Starting point is 01:41:06 unclean as could possibly be imagined. Thus it is carried out. A slave-girl brings, each morning, early, a large vessel with water, and gives the vessel to her master, and he washes his hands and face, and the hair of his head. He washes it in combs it with a comb into the bucket, then blows his nose, and spits into the bucket. He holds back nothing impure, but rather lets it go into the water." So far no problem, right?
Starting point is 01:41:36 Guys just being clean, washing, you know that whole thing, but the problem comes with what Fudlons says next. After he is done what was necessary, the girl takes the same vessel to the one who is nearest, and he does justice's neighbor had done. She carries the vessel from one to another until all in the house have had a turn at it, and each of them as blown his nose, spat into, and washed his face and hair in the vessel." Remember, what's so unusual about this is this isn't some story from some monk that some monk may have heard or is lying about.
Starting point is 01:42:12 This is an eyewitness, writing for his master. His accuracy is probably better than any other accurate account. You're going to get about the Vikings in this period, Aststerisk here, if these are Vikings. Then it gets truly dark, where he talks about what happens when one of their numbers, one of these chieftains of this group dies. He gets to witness this.
Starting point is 01:42:39 He says he's curious and wants to see what happens and what the burial practices are like. And by the way, one of these Risea people comes up to him and tells him through an interpreter that people like him are stupid, where he comes from because they bury their loved ones who allow them to be eaten by worms and frogs and slimy things. He says, we burn them. And then they go straight to paradise. No must know us, but the ceremony itself is a scene of gang rapes, drunkenness,
Starting point is 01:43:11 killings, and the archaeology of Scandinavian Viking Arab burial practices seem to indicate that at least some of the things Fadlan witnesses is in simpatico with what has been found archaeologically speaking, and he writes, quote, When a high chief dies, his family says to his slave girls and servants, which one of you wishes to die with him, then one of them answers, I, when he or she has said this, he is bound. He can in no way be allowed to withdraw his word. If he wishes it, or she wishes it, it is not permitted.
Starting point is 01:43:52 For the most part, this self-sacrifices made by the maidens." End quote. Then there's a whole ceremony, involves a lot of drinking, a lot of pronouncements and all kinds of things. It also involves a person, a female, known, he says as the angel of death. Remember, he's an eyewitness to this. This is why this account is so important. He's not telling you something he's heard. This is something he saw.
Starting point is 01:44:20 How many people ever wrote anything down like this? And of course, you know, how many of those accounts ever survived to come into our hands today. So he talks about this boat that is laid out with all sorts of precious material and whatnot and a couches put on it and the boat is dragged on the shore and they they build sort of a facade around it and over it. sort of a facade, a rounded and over it, and then talks about the slave girl who drinks to insensibility, makes a bunch of pronouncements. She's got a role to play in this whole ceremony too, and then he writes, quote, "'Thereupon an old woman came, whom they call the angel of death, and spread the draperies mentioned over the couch,' meaning the couch on the boat. She had held the oversight over the sowing of the garments of the deceased and their completion.
Starting point is 01:45:09 This old woman kills the girl. I saw that she was an old giantess, fat and grim to behold." End quote. He says that they then bring a bunch of different animals to the boat that the chief didn't is laid in, including all sorts of food, drink, fruits, flowers, and everything else. Bread, meat, onions. Then they brought a dog, he says, and chopped it into two halves and laid the halves on the boat. Then they brought weapons and laid them by his side. Then they took horses and chopped them in half,
Starting point is 01:45:44 which is not an easy thing to do. But it's probably a little bit easier than what they do next, which he says they take to whole live cows and cut them into, again, not an easy thing to do, and then laid them in the boat. And then he writes, quote, the maiden who wished to be put to death went here and there and entered each of the tents where the head of each tent had intercourse with her, saying, say to thy lord, I have done this out of love of thee." So what it seems like they're saying there is, take this message to wherever the spirit of the guy who just died is and tell him I'm having intercourse with you, because I love him. Interesting how the different cultures of the world can seem to us now.
Starting point is 01:46:32 She then takes part in some ceremonies involved in some drinking and some statements, and then he says, as it gets time for the killing of her to happen," he says, quote. I saw then how disturbed she was. She wished to go into the tent, but put her head between the tent and the side of the boat, then the old woman, the angel of death, took her by the head, made her go into the tent, and also entered with her, whereupon the men began to beat their shields with the stabs, so that her shrieks would not be heard, and the other maidens became terrified. Then six men went into the tent, and all had intercourse with the girl. Then they placed her beside her dead lord. Two men seized her by the feet,
Starting point is 01:47:17 and two by the hands. Then the old woman placed a rope in which a bite, meaning a noose, had been made, and gave it to two of the men to pull at the two ends. Then the old woman came to her with a broad-bladed dagger and began to jab it into her ribs and pull it out again, and the two men strangled her until she was dead." The end result of all of this is she's laid in the boat next to the dead. Sheft in the boat is then set on fire goes up in smoke and you have a very high ranking version of the Viking funeral. The low ranking version, by the way, they say if it's not a chief, and they often just
Starting point is 01:47:57 put them into a boat with weapons, light it on fire and push it out into a river or the ocean or whatever it might be. And as we've been mentioning, it is difficult to know how much one can talk about this as a, you know, an air quotes Viking funeral versus some sort of hybrid Viking slash Slavic slash Eastern sort of deal. Because in all the areas, as we've said that the Scandinavians sort of touch upon and enter into, they become more like the locals. They start to fuse with them, and they certainly adopt styles and practices, weapons, armor, tactics, maybe sometimes even religious beliefs of the locals.
Starting point is 01:48:39 That's how you get people like the Norse Irish in Ireland, for example, right? This, this, what do we say? The Schrapno begins to be absorbed, you know, into the flesh of the local population. Well, here in the east, it's an eastern population. You want to get a sense of the vibe? Go look at artist renderings of these eastern Vikings or these roast people. They look like Vikings with an eastern sort of flare, right? The hairstyles, the weapons, the armor, the armor sometimes lamular armor, which is sort of fish gale. Looks different than chainmail.
Starting point is 01:49:09 You don't see a lot of lamular armor in the West. But this is something you see all through on history. I mean, the step people are famous for this. The nomadic horse archer people from the entire Eurasian land mass, they tend to look like the big settled societies that they operate near. I mean, if you're on the borders of China and you're a step tribe, well, you're trading
Starting point is 01:49:33 with China, aren't you? You're rating with China. You're intermarrying with the Chinese in the border areas and you tend to look kind of, well, Chinese. If you're step tribes north of Persia, you have an Iranian sort of field. If you're step tribes in the West and you're getting your fabrics and your armor and your weapons from the Byzantines, either through raiding or trading, well, you tend to look like a Western step tribe and these Scandinavian peoples have the same sort of field to them. If you ever go look
Starting point is 01:50:01 at an artist rendering of the Scandinavian peoples in Eastern Europe, they sort of look different than the Scandinavian peoples in Ireland, for example, or Northwestern France, engraves in the merchant town that's located in modern day Sweden now, Berca. They have found clear influences from the east and the Step No Mads. And hairstyles, for example, the Russ will always look a little Step No Mad in terms of their particular look and in his book, The Children of Achanel, historian Neil Price talks about these Berkabarials and the fact that the Eastern Vikings were starting
Starting point is 01:50:41 to look well, very Eastern indeed. And he writes, quote, Recalling the people in the Berca Chamber burials, the mounted archers with their recurved bows and special thumb rings, the Russe appear as military elites, who have adopted the best equipment and tactics of those they might have to fight, or Nate Silks and Cafftands have been found in graves across Scandinavia, and depictions on gotlandic picturestones
Starting point is 01:51:10 of warriors wearing the wide baggy trousers that characterized Persian and Arab fashions, similarly imply that Viking dress codes were infused with an element of foreign flair. The same individuals also had armor of the Byzantine type, as well as the Lamelear that was particular to the mounted stepp nomads of Eurasia. All while the isotopes and genomic analysis indicate that they themselves were Scandinavian origin. In a way, this almost appears to be a uniform, not in the sense of identical clothes,
Starting point is 01:51:46 but in a recognized repertoire of symbolism and style, what one scholar has called a Turkic military outfit." End quote. There are some other elements in play too, where you can see why the Scandinavian Vikings in the East would start to diverge a little bit from the ones in the West. One has to do with cultural affinity. In some places in the West, England's a perfect example. The Vikings are running into people that are quite a bit like themselves in some respects.
Starting point is 01:52:19 I mean, the Anglo-Saxons in England spoke a language that was probably mutually intelligible. They could probably speak to the Vikings. In the past, they had the same gods. They look like them. They sound like them. They have a bunch of the same sorts of customs. It's not that way in the east. What's more, as we've said before, the east is a much more dangerous neighborhood. There are many more cultures coming together in a kind of a cultural estuary in the east, a sort of a meeting of a bunch of different worlds. The Scandinavians in the east are much more in a population and numbers sense a drop in the bucket. We quoted historians in part one of this discussion who suggested that the population of Scandinavia
Starting point is 01:53:00 in its entirety during this era might have been around two million human beings. And remember, it's only a small percentage of that two million that's going to go down the river systems in the east and become the roast. Well, they're intermixing with a Slavic population that's enormous. The Slavs today are still the largest, I believe, ethno-linguistic group in Europe. During this time period, there would have been many, many millions of slavs divided into all sorts of different Slavic tribes. How much of an impact could a small amount of Scandinavian adventurers or conquerors have had on such a large population? Maybe they're a layer of leadership or a dominant group amongst a bunch of different tribes, hard to know.
Starting point is 01:53:51 Archaeology is helping to flesh out some of the answers to these questions by studying graves, grave goods, skeletons. But what's missing are the stories, the sort of things that you would get from written accounts. And as we've said, and said extensively in the first part of this series, the Byzantines would write about some of this stuff. But when the Rus first appeared in the Byzantine accounts, they're treated like an almost unknown people. Remember, let's review here for a minute. The first time you hear about these Rus is in the eight thirties. Back in Western Europe, we told the story of the two or three roast travelers who show
Starting point is 01:54:26 up in a court of a Frankish king and the Byzantine send them there and say, can you help these people get home if they go the direct route for Rocious tribes will kill them. And the Frankish emperor has to say, well, tell me who you are. We'll try to get you home and they say, we're roasts. And he doesn't know what that means. They have to go do some investigative work. And they finally determined that Russ means Swedes. And these are Swedes.
Starting point is 01:54:50 So that's in the eight thirties. There is a rumor, is a good way to put it or a tradition that there might have been an attack on some Byzantine territories in the eight thirties also, but most historians seem to discount that. What they don't discount is the story we told in the first part of the show about the great raid on the suburbs of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, in the eight sixties, right, eight sixties famously. We told that story and the Byzantines treated that like a brand new people had shown up
Starting point is 01:55:19 in their territory, you know, from some parts unknown, which doesn't make any sense if a couple decades before they'd been sending them to the Frankish emperor and telling them, these are roast people, get them home. Nonetheless, in that whole era, we really don't know who, for example, that rulers were, what the politics were, or any of that sort of stuff. Now, you'll get some of that from the Byzantine records later.
Starting point is 01:55:44 We do have some information about what's going on in terms of the stories from this era, but as usual with these sorts of situations, they're not written down for hundreds of years and the people who wrote them down have their own reasons for writing them down, which makes the information suspect and requires historians to be very vigilant about what they accept and what they don't and try to cross reference and double check things. Those of you who know this story know I'm talking about a bunch of documents put together in Chronicle in something called the Russian primary Chronicle, supposedly written by Christian
Starting point is 01:56:22 Monks, one specifically named Nestor, living in caves. So you get a sense now of what we might be dealing with here. It is compiled hundreds of years after the events in question, and there are reasons why these monks might have skewed the story, including trying to sort of trace back the ruling dynasty's lineage and give support to the legitimacy of that. It is a fascinating text though, anyway, you slice it. And when you hear the accounts, you realize what a different animal it is than the sorts of information we have from archaeology, from Byzantine accounts or anything else. So it makes it very valuable in that respect, maybe as a jumping off point for detective work, but boy, when you read it, you also see stuff that reminds you of like Grims,
Starting point is 01:57:14 fairy tales, Greek mythology, J.R.R. Tolkien stuff. So well, take it with the grain of salt. I, by the way, use the Samuel Hazard Cross and Old Grid P. Sherbavid's Vetser translation. But this, you know, and what's wonderful about these sorts of documents is that they will like start the story at a logical beginning point and the Russian primary chronicle begins with the biblical flood of Noah and sort of works its way down.
Starting point is 01:57:47 We call that comprehensive where I come from. But the Chronicle tells the, shall we call it, legendary story of the founding of what will be called the Chiven Rus State. And it involves three brothers from Scandinavia. The story is that the Slavic tribes in what's now, Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine, Russia, that whole area, really a central area, sort of if you drew a line from like St. Petersburg now, all the way down to Istanbul Istanbul and there's that whole area
Starting point is 01:58:26 in between because the people who became the Kievan Rus desperately want to get to where the money is and the money is in Constantinople. So if you start in Sweden and you want to get to Constantinople and you want to control the pipeline in between, well that's the area we're talking about here. And the Russian primary chronicle says there were all these Slavic tribes in that area that the varangians, as they call them, these Scandinavians come in there, try to bully their way around, force the locals to pay tribute, the locals eventually throw them out, but then ask them back later.
Starting point is 01:59:02 And they ask them back later because the tribes of Slavs are all fighting with each other when they need someone to come in and rule them. This is the very basis, by the way, of that enormous, anti-normenous controversy we've talked about, you know, is this a bunch of Scandinavians who are imparting their DNA and their culture on the locals and improving them. Would it Hitler say something like if it weren't for the Scandinavian infusion of blood, the Russians would still be living like rabbits? The opposite viewpoint are the people in the Soviet Union who think that the whole thing is a bit of a scam and that this is mostly a Slavic story and all this other stuff is a bunch of meaningless sort of fringe material that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme
Starting point is 01:59:43 of things. But the story is that these three brothers are asked by the Slavs to come back and rule over them because they need someone to prevent the violence between the Slavic tribes. This might sound weird, except we should realize that bringing in royal families from completely other dynasties in places is not unusual at all. The current British royal family, for example, is German. You look at people like the Habsburgs that besides marrying into all kinds of places and conquering all kinds of places, sometimes when you just needed a ruler and you didn't have one, you'd
Starting point is 02:00:16 bring a Habsburg in. It also kind of makes sense if you have a bunch of tribes, none of whom wants to have their royal family ruling over them from one of their competitors. So you bring in a non-biased outside source, right? With no allegiance to any of the tribes that are involved in the current conflict, running outside, you know, unbiased person to come in here and rule fairly. So the Russian primary chronicle written by these monks in caves, supposedly hundreds of years later, tells the story. And here's the way they tell it, quote. The varanjians from beyond the sea imposed tribute upon the chuds, the slabs, the marines,
Starting point is 02:00:58 the vests, and the crevichians. But the Kazaars imposed it upon the Polianians, the Sverians, and the Vyachians, and collected a white squirrel skin from each hearth." The Kazaars are a very important group of people in this era. They are a step tribe confederacy. Their Turkish and other ethnicities, as these step tribes tend to be, and the upper echelons of the Cazaars converted to Judaism, which is a rather unusual thing. I'm interested in the squirrel skin comment, because if you think about peoples who exist in a
Starting point is 02:01:36 mostly non-currency sort of society, if somebody wants to force them to pay tribute, how do they pay? And this story basically says that they required each homeowner to deliver their share of the tribute, in this case, a white squirrel skin. Well, if you have hundreds of homes that pay tribute to you, and you say, I want a white squirrel skin from each of you, you end up at the end of the day with hundreds of squirrel skins, don't you? The Russian primary chronicle continues, talking about how these Slavic peoples and others, by the way, those aren't all Slavic groups, as I understand it, throw the Varengians out and send them home to where they came from. Quote,
Starting point is 02:02:17 The tributaries of the Varengians drove them back beyond the sea, and refusing them further tribute set out to govern themselves. There was no law among them, but tribe rose against tribe, discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war, one against another. They said to themselves, let us seek a prince who may rule over us and judge us according to the law. They accordingly went overseas to the Varyngian rooses. These particular Varyngians were known as rooses, just as some are called Swedes
Starting point is 02:02:51 and others Normans, English, and Gotlanders, for they were thus named. The chuds, the slabs, the crevichians, and the vests, then said to the people of Rus, our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us." The Chronicle then says that they selected three brothers who would come and rule over them, and each of the brothers was going to take and rule one of the key trading post towns along the rivers that formed sort of the pipeline from the Baltic to, you know, the money port of Constantinople and Byzantium. But within two years, the Chronicle says two of the three brothers died,
Starting point is 02:03:37 leaving the one brother that's famous, his name is Rurik. Now, to me, Rurik is an eastern version of a figure that reminds me of Ragnar Lothbrook in the West, right? Famous Viking. You see him on television in the movies all the time. But Ragnar Lothbrook's a figure that no one's exactly sure if he was even real. Or if he was really had so much myth and legend piled on top of him that maybe the real person doesn't even resemble the figure, you know, in the stories. But what you can't say about Ragnar Lothbrook is his descendants are real, and you can say the same thing about Rurik. You get a sense in the Russian primary chronicle that stuff is happening without it necessarily being spelled out to you that, you know, more of
Starting point is 02:04:22 these Slavic tribes are paying tribute, that things are being consolidated. By the time Rurik dies, it seems like it's a more subtle situation. The Chronicle says he turns things over to a member that says of his kin, not his child, but his kin, who'll be known to history as Oleg. The Russian histories call him Oleg the Wise. Now, if these don't particularly sound like Viking Scandinavian names to you, there's a reason for that. They are all sort of reimagined through a Slavic lens.
Starting point is 02:04:56 So when you read the history books, the historians will often go to great pains to give you the likely Viking name for these people originally, and then you get to see what the Slavic version of it is. So, where Rick was probably, Eric, Oleg was probably hell-guied, goes like that. Eventually, the names will be Slavic from the get-go, and then that's supposedly signifies some major change there, right? When you're not any longer giving them Viking Scandinavian names, but naming them Slavic names, something's gone different. So Oleg the Y is his famous. He does the same thing. Ruric does in terms of consolidating things, expanding things. These early rulers changed the tribute that people are paying. So oftentimes they'll
Starting point is 02:05:41 deal with these tribes who are paying tribute to someone else. The Kazaars we mentioned earlier are famous, the Bulgars are another one. And they'll say, you know, who you're paying tribute to? And they'll say, and the Scandinavian Rusvaransians will say, well, stop paying tribute to them and start paying it to me. Sometimes they'll say, well, charge you less. Usually they'll say, if they give you any trouble, they can come talk to us. And so there's this process of sort of taking over. In the last show, we compared some of the Viking activities
Starting point is 02:06:09 to sort of the organized crime or the mob moving in. If you want to give that overtone to this, it still sort of works. Coming in here and taking over the territory from the other mob. The best story in the Russian primary chronicle, whether it's true or not. Again, this all sounds like Greek mythology or Grim's fairy tales to me sometimes. You can tell by the story of how Oleg dies.
Starting point is 02:06:35 The story about how Oleg dies involves a wizard, and the wizard tells Oleg that his horse is going to be the reason he dies. Now somebody told you that your horse was going to be the reason you died long before your horse does anything to you. What would you do? Probably the same thing that O leg does. When the wizard says your horse is going to be the bane of your existence, she sends the horse away. Doesn't hold anything against the horse.
Starting point is 02:07:03 Tells us underlings to take it far away, feed it, take good care of it, just don't, you know, have it near me. And then one day when the prophecy is supposed to come true and Oleg finds himself still alive, he says to one of his squires, the Russian primary chronicle says, and you can see how very different this is, can't you, from information and archaeologist would provide or something the Byzantines would write, right? This is the origin story, as told, by the descendants of the people they're writing about, but Olig says to the Squire, whatever happened to that horse that was supposed to be the death of me, and the Russian primary chronicle says, quote,
Starting point is 02:07:39 The Squire answered that he was dead, meaning the horse was dead. Olig laughed, and mocked the magician, meaning the wizard, exclaiming, Suthsayers tell untruths, and their words are not but falsehoods. This horse is dead, but I am still alive. Then he commanded that a horse should be saddled. Let me see his bones," said he. He rode to the place with the bare bones and skull lay. Dismounting from his horse, he laughed and remarked,
Starting point is 02:08:09 "'So I was supposed to receive my death from this skull, and then he stamped upon the skull with his foot, but a serpent crawled forth from it and bid him on the foot, so that in consequence he sickened and died.'" End quote. and bid him on the foot so that in consequence, he sickened and died." End quote. Now I suppose there's a tiny chance that that's what actually happened, but you can see why people take the Russian primary chronicle, especially these early parts of the story with
Starting point is 02:08:39 more than a grain of salt. And you can also see, though, why it's the kind of material you just don't get from the other sources, right? Sometimes you're left with something that might not be good enough to hang your hat on, but if it's all you have, well, it's hard to throw away and it's entirety, isn't it? Now, Oleg leads to Igor, and Igor is a fascinating character, including because of the woman he marries. Igor marries Olga. There's a lot of names I realize, but Olga is also supposed to be a Scandinavian person. Her name was probably Helga in the Scandinavian naming system.
Starting point is 02:09:20 She's fascinating. In fact, I'm trying to think I know there has to be more because there's so many Christians saying, I'm trying to think of a Christian saint with a more bloody, vindictive, retributionally violent sort of temperament that would outstrip Olga's reputation. And I can't think of one off the top of my head,
Starting point is 02:09:39 but some would say Olga had a good reason for being the way that she was because Olga's husband will be killed by a Slavic tribe. Now if you are a Slavic proponent, you will say that they had a very good reason to kill Igor, because what happens is, is like his predecessors before him, Igor will go and lay tribute on these Slavic tribes. He shows up according to the Russian primary Chronicle
Starting point is 02:10:07 to this one tribe with his army. And basically says, you know, that amount you were paying to my predecessor were raising the rent. Right? So you're gonna pay me more. And what could they do? He had the army with them. They just sort of make me said, okay.
Starting point is 02:10:21 And then he and the army head back to headquarters, but on the way, the primary Chronicle says, and then he and the army head back to headquarters, but on the way, the primary chronicle says, he decided he was going to raise it even more. So he goes back to the people who's rent, you know, the tribute he just raised, but he only brings a small bodyguard with him. And when he tells the Slavic tribe he's raising, they rent even more than he said he was, they kill him. The traditional account is, and you'll run into this quite a bit, that they tie each of
Starting point is 02:10:49 his legs to a birch tree that is bent over, you know, under tension, and that will pull his legs in opposite directions. And then when they let go of the birch tree, it splits him right up the middle. And then they have the gall to go to his wife Olga and tell her what they did to her husband. And then they have the greater gall to say, well, now that your husband is dead, we think you should marry our leader. And that's where the story gets fantastic. Again, is it true?
Starting point is 02:11:20 Who knows? It's not something the archaeologist at least at this time can confirm, and it's not something that the Byzantine documents confirm. But Olga basically says, oh yeah, you know what am I going to do? My husband's dead, and the story starts off from there, and it's just wickedly retributional. Quote. Olga was informed that the de-revliens, that's the Slavic tribe in question, had arrived, and summoned them to her presence with a gracious welcome. When the Derevlians had announced their arrival, Olga replied with an inquiry as to the reason
Starting point is 02:11:54 of their coming. The Derevlians then announced that their tribe had sent them to report that they had slain her husband, because he was like a wolf, crafty, and ravening. But that their princes, who had thus preserved the land of Dereva, were good, and that Olga should come and marry their prince, whose name was, Mao. Olga made this reply, quote, your proposal is pleasing to me. Indeed my husband cannot rise again from the dead, but I desire to honor you tomorrow in the presence of my people.
Starting point is 02:12:28 Return now to your boat and remain there with an aspect of arrogance. I shall send for you on the Morrow." She then has her people show up the next day after they have dug a big trench without the de-revliance knowing about it. They pick them up in this boat, they carry them in this boat to the trench, they throw them in the trench, and then they bury them alive. Olga's not even close to being done, though.
Starting point is 02:12:55 She then, according to the Chronicle, sends a message back to the de-revlians, basically saying, quote, if they really required her presence, they should send after her their most distinguished men so that she might go to their prince with due honor. For otherwise, her people in Kiev would not let her go." Right? Send me your best people. They'll conduct me to you and we'll get this marriage thing underway basically. So they send their best people to her. When they arrive, she says that she's set up a wonderful bath and a bathhouse for them, they should go sort of wash off the dirt from the trip and then she'll receive them when they all go into the bathhouse. She has her people burn it down with them in it.
Starting point is 02:13:36 But all goes not done yet. She then tells the de Revlian's that she's coming to them, that they should prepare a feast with lots of alcoholic beverages and they'll party it up well. And then she shows up, everybody gets drunk. She has a small escort with her. And when everybody gets drunk, she has her followers kill everyone. The Russian primary chronicle says that her followers killed down 5,000 of the Derevlians, but that she wasn't done even yet. Olga then returns the Kiev.
Starting point is 02:14:14 The chronicle says and prepares her army to attack the survivors. It does. She puts their city under siege. It says for a year, eventually, both sides tire of the siege and they say, you know, what do we have to do to get this, you know, resolved? And she says, I only want a sparrow, actually three pigeons and three sparrows. I correct myself from each house. And then when they're really happy to find out that that's all she wants, they deliver up the three sparrows or three pigeons from each house.
Starting point is 02:14:47 She ties sulfur and other inflammatory materials to each one of them releases them. The primary chronicle says they instantly returned to where they came from all the various houses with their thatched roofs like the whole city on fire. The whole thing burns down. And as the Russian primary chronicle says, quote, there was not a house that was not consumed, and it was impossible to extinguish the flames because all the houses caught fire at once.
Starting point is 02:15:14 The people fled from the city and Olga ordered her soldiers to catch them. Thus she took the city and burned it and captured the elders of the city. Some of the other captives she killed while she gave others as slaves to her followers. The remnant she left to pay tribute." Now spoiler alert, in the future Olga is going to be sainted. She's going to become a Christian saint. When was the last Christian saint that you can think of off the top of your head, responsible for as much retribution of violence as Olga is?
Starting point is 02:15:50 She's clearly one of the women in history you would least want to make angry with you. But is any of this stuff about Olga, or for that matter, Rorik or Oleg or Igor, true. All this stuff from the Russian primary chronicle is open to debate and inspection and critique. What's more, I like the other name that the Russian primary chronicle is known by. It's also called the Tale of Baigon years, which makes it sound less authoritative and more like a hobbit might have written it. Right? It's the red book of West March or something like that.
Starting point is 02:16:31 An historian's trying to disentangle truth from fiction in it, have not only been trying now for generations, but they often disagree on what they consider to be truth and falsehood. I mean, there are several attacks on Constantinople that some historians think happened, and others think didn't. The question of Olga all by herself is interesting. In the emergence of Rus' historian Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepherd point out that the Olga story is formulaic and symbolic, and they write, quote, formulaic and symbolic, and they write, quote, Olga has ample space in the primary chronicle, and she also became the subject of a quasi-hagographical eulogy.
Starting point is 02:17:13 End quote, they point out that she meets certain specifications for how women are supposed to behave in the time that the primary chronicle was written, saying quote, Yet Olga emphatically confirms the rule. In the first place, her status is within the norms. She is shown as holding power not in her own right, but as her husband's widow during her son's minority, and her actions against the Derevlians were her revenge for her husband's
Starting point is 02:17:43 murder. Secondly, they write, most narratives about her have a curiously feminine texture, unlike the equivalent narratives about men. Mal, the prince of the Derevlians, sends end-voys to Olga proposing marriage. Olga agrees and orders that the end-voys be carried up to Kiev in their boat. When the end-voys reach Olga's compound, the boat is cast into a pit and the end-boys be carried up to Kiev in their boat. When the end-boys reach Olga's compound, the boat is cast into a pit, and the end-boys are buried alive in it.
Starting point is 02:18:10 This, they say, is Olga's first revenge. She then requests more end-boys to escort her on her journey to her bridegroom. When they arrive, she suggests they take a bath. The doors are then locked, the bathhouses set on fire, and the end-boys are burned locked. The bathhouse is set on fire, and the end-voys are burned alive. Finally, they write, Olga goes to the land of the Derevlians, requesting only that before marrying, she might hold a funeral feast for her husband.
Starting point is 02:18:35 At the feast, the Derevlians drink themselves into a stupor, whereupon Olga's men set upon them and cut them to pieces. All five thousand of them. These, they write, are formulaic tales. Under the guise of Betrothal, Olga sets a series of riddles, with cryptic clues symbolizing not a marriage, but a funeral, boat burial, washing the body, cremation, the funeral feast. The penalty for not decoding the riddle is death, and the de Reveilians drink at their own funeral feast." During the time period we just mentioned, there are a couple of treaties that are signed
Starting point is 02:19:16 between the Russ or some of the Russ and the Byzantines. These treaties are interesting because trying to figure out why treaties are being signed has created confusion. The Russian primary chronicle says they're signed because, well, they're ending conflicts, right? When do you sign a treaty? When you end a war, but whether these conflicts occurred or not is also controversial. I have many books on the subject. I would, you know, off the top of my head say, about 60% believe that these conflicts, but the treaties are supposed to settle didn't happen, about 40% by the idea that they did. The Russian primary chronicle, the tale of bygone years says that they did,
Starting point is 02:19:58 but this may be a later insertion to explain why there are treaties. For example, Viking historians February or Jacobson in the Verangians, God's Holy Fire writes, quote, The treaty is placed into the primary chronicle in context of the attack by Prince Oleg on Constantinople in 907. There is, however, no distinct reference to such a raid in any Roman sources, meaning any Byzantine sources, which is in stark contrast to the rate of 860.
Starting point is 02:20:29 It could thus be surmised that Oleg's attack on Constantinople was a later invention, perhaps intended to explain the circumstances of the treaty, which itself does not refer to any raid, only to a long-standing friendship between the Rus and the Roman Empire." In his book North Men, the Viking saga Viking, expert John Haywood puts it this way, quote, according to the primary chronicle, Oleg led an attack on Constantinople in 907. If he did, no one in Constantinople appears to have noticed because it is not mentioned in any Byzantine sources." End quote.
Starting point is 02:21:08 Yet, as I said, about 40% of the history is you'll read by the idea that those attacks happened. I'm not a historian. I can't make distinctions between arguments between historians. So I'm going to treat those attacks as suspect and stick with the ones we know happened, because there's going to be another one. But before we get to it, you have to know about a geopolitical firestorm that erupts the changes everything in the eastern Viking, Varangian, Rus world.
Starting point is 02:21:35 And that is the latest eruption of the newest step tribe, De Jure. If you follow Eurasian step tribe history, you know that they break like waves upon the settled societies that ring the Eurasian step. And there's always another wave behind the current breaking crest. And in the late 800s, early 900s, the newest wave is the Petchan eggs. And these people blow through the Cazars and the Magyars and destroy the stabilization that has occurred in that region over the previous decades, just rupt everything. When the Byzantines suggest to the Magyars,
Starting point is 02:22:20 also known as the Hungarians, that they fight these new tribal peoples from the East, the Hungarians, also known as the Hungarians, that they fight these new tribal peoples from the East. The Hungarians say they can't, in the emergence of Russ Simon Franklin and Jonathan Sheppard have this quote, quote, The Petsch and eggs overran the grazing grounds of the Hungarians during the eight 90s, having been egg-drawn by the ruler of Bulgaria, Simeon. The region between the dawn and the dawn yet steps in the east, and the neister, and then
Starting point is 02:22:48 subsequently the Danube and the West lay at their disposal. They were markedly poorer than the Hungarians in terms of material culture, ornaments and riding gear, but they were, perhaps for that reason, more ferocious. When a Byzantine emissary tried to stir up the Hungarians against the Petchan eggs, they protested, now quoting the Hungarians, quote, we cannot fight them. For their country is vast, and their people numerous, and they are the devil's brats." End quote. The devil's brats, I love that term, and the devil's brats are going to create geopolitical upheaval,
Starting point is 02:23:25 threaten the trade routes, make life miserable for lots of different people, the roasts not least amongst them. On this super highway from the Baltic to Constantinople and beyond that to Baghdad, there are going to be spots where the roast traders have to take their boats over land. And that we are told in the original sources is where the pension eggs wait for them, and they get them. But crisis can create opportunity, and in many places it is thought that these Russ warriors are able to make new inroads and create new tributary societies amongst the Slavss because all of a sudden these Slavs desperately need protection from the Pets and eggs,
Starting point is 02:24:08 and these rust, these Vikings of the East, are strong, well-equipped warriors. And one of the things I find interesting is you can start to see the development of what we can call true cavalry here in the East that's part of a new you know, Newtonian formula and warfare for every action. There's an equal and opposite reaction when you are fighting mounted people in wide open
Starting point is 02:24:32 country, eventually you learn that you need to be mounted to and true cavalry, meaning fighting as cavalry will start in the east long before it does in the west. And of course, when I say that, I mean Scandinavian cavalry, because of course, cavalry had been fighting as cavalry in some parts of the world for 2000 years or something by this time. But the Scandinavians in the Eastern areas will adopt true cavalry, quite a bit of time before the Scandinavians in the West will, it's in 941 that we see the famous great attack on Constantinople by the roasts that no one denies, that there are multiple sources for. As we said earlier, if it bleeds, it leads kind of works for
Starting point is 02:25:21 history the same way it does for journalism. And that's why the earlier attacks that supposedly happened in 907, for example, are harder to believe because, you know, you can't really have one of those big attacks without a bunch of people writing about it. Well, not easily anyway. And the famous 941 attack is written by about by a lot of sources, proving the point. We should talk a little bit about the place that's attacked, because we've mentioned it before, but it pairs some discussion. We call it the Byzantine Empire. This is a misnomer. That's not something anyone living during this time period we're talking about would have understood or used or called themselves, the people in what we call the
Starting point is 02:26:06 Byzantine Empire called themselves Roman. And it's easy to understand why. All you have to do is pretend that the same thing that left the Byzantines in the position the Byzantines are in by this time happened to a place like the United States. I mean, what would happen if in some future time and invasion of the United States happened and the invaders were able to conquer all the way to somewhere in the Midwest. Let's just say, you know, Iowa, you know, Illinois, Indiana, that whole area. So California to Indiana is gone, taken over, becomes a bunch of separate kingdoms. But every place east of that, you know, from like, you know, Michigan, all the way to the East Coast, remained, you know, as it was, the United States. As we halted the invaders at the Midwest and we continued on for another thousand years. Would you call that something
Starting point is 02:27:05 different? Would the people in those territories, renamed the United States as something else just because they lost some of it? Well, that's what happened to the Eastern Roman Empire when the, you know, barbarian tribes and the various other groups were able to eventually, let's just say extinguish government in the Roman West, the Roman East remained for another thousand years. What matters though in this discussion is that there is an unbroken historical tradition in those places that dates back, well, a good 1300 years, What would you say? I mean, Julia Caesar is in the 50s BCE. Well, they still call their emperor Kaiser. You know, that's what Caesar would have been called
Starting point is 02:27:53 in the Roman Latin, right? Kaiser. And by Julia Caesar's time in the 50s BCE, Roman military tradition is hundreds of years old already. You know, they write this stuff down. It continues to build upon, you know, the information that's been compiled since at least the peric invasions of the 280s BCE. So there's a huge amount, a well spring, we can say, of military and technological knowledge in a place like Constantinople in this time period. The dates back well a long way.
Starting point is 02:28:29 During this time, the estimated population of the city of Constantinople is about a half million people. This is probably somewhat less than the city of Rome at Rome's height, which has been estimated somewhere between 750,000 and a million people, but this still makes it, you know, at half a million people, the largest European city, the most technologically advanced European city, the most wealthy European city, and they have weapons that these Russ can't even dream of. And when the Russ attack in 941, just like in the attack in 860,
Starting point is 02:29:09 it is well timed, and that might not be an accident. They may know, intelligence wise, that the Byzantine Navy and Army is a way of fighting elsewhere, because just like in 860, in 941 it is a way in fighting elsewhere, and the emperor is too, and the Russ attack, they come down the rivers,
Starting point is 02:29:24 they head into the Black Sea, they sail over to the Bosphorus and they begin to attack the suburbs and the places that have lighter defenses because the defenses of Constantinople are famous. And it's part of the reason why it never fell to the barbarians back when the Western Roman Empire fell. It's one of the great defensible cities of all time. It's mainly surrounded by water and the places where it's not. It has massive walls. We should point out, as I believe we did for the earlier attack in 860, that the ships or boats, whatever you want to call them, it's it's somewhere between a ship and a boat that the Russo using are not
Starting point is 02:30:05 the long ships that they're using in the West because the long ships they're using in the West would never survive the river journeys with all the falls and the rapids and the rocks. They had to have boats that could be carried at times. So these are smaller craft. The Greek name for them makes them sound like they're kind of like large dug out canoes, but they're wood. If you today were faced with a bunch of wooden boats that you needed to defend yourself against, what would be a good weapon to use against them? Because in 941, when the Byzantines are faced with this attack, the Eastern Romans. Maybe we should say are faced with this attack They pull out all the technological stops
Starting point is 02:30:50 We are told in the sources that they have 15 old hulks. We would use the term Mothballed today and they pull them out of mothballs and they fit them with one of their great technological marvels. I think the best term to use for it probably to be somewhat near accurate would be to call them flame throwers. The Byzantines, the Eastern Romans have a weapon that the technological scientific experts of today still can't figure out what it was composed of. We have all sorts of accounts because they used it to keep themselves free for a very long time. The historical term you will usually hear it referred to by is Greek fire. It is sometimes called Medin fire. It is sometimes called liquid fire. It is sometimes called sticky fire.
Starting point is 02:31:46 There are lots of theories as to what the formula for this was. But it should be pointed out that the reason that this isn't better understood is because this is a jealously guarded state secret. In fact, I was reading that the Byzantines, the Eastern Romans, would make sure to keep the people who dealt with the Greek fire in compartmentalized situations. Right? So no one knew everything about it. These people might handle the making of it. These other people might handle the distribution of it. These other people might handle the wielding of it, but no one knew everything, and that's how you kind of keep the secret from getting out. There's a famous Byzantine manual written by one emperor to his son, and in it he talks about a lot of different things of importance that his son should know in ruling the empire, but one thing he wants his son to understand is, you keep this technological marvel, this super weapon secret, or else. And the accounts says, quote,
Starting point is 02:32:54 similar care and thought you must take in the matter of the liquid fire, which is discharge through tubes. So that if any shall ever venture to demand this too, as they've often made demands of us also, you may rebut and dismiss them in words like these. Now, he's telling the Son what to say to people that might want to put him in a position where he's forced to reveal the secret to Greek fire, quote, This too was revealed and taught by God through an angel to the great and holy Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and concerning this too, he received great charges from the same angel, and as we are assured by the faithful witness of our fathers and grandfathers,
Starting point is 02:33:38 that it should be manufactured among the Christians only, and in this city ruled by them, and nowhere else at all, nor should it be sent nor taught to any other nation whatsoever. And so, for the confirmation of this among those who should come after him, this great emperor caused curses to be inscribed on the holy stable of the Church of God, that he who should dare give of this fire to another nation should neither be called a Christian nor be held worthy of any rank or office, and if He should be the holder of any such, He should be expelled therefrom and be enathomized and made an example forever and ever, whether He were emperor, or patriarch, or any other man whatever, either ruler, or subject, who
Starting point is 02:34:26 should seek to transgress this commandment. And he adored all who had had the zeal and fear of God to be prompt, to make away with him who attempted to do this as a common enemy and a transgressor of this great commandment, and to dismiss him to a death most hateful and cruel. And it happened once, as wickedness will still find room, that one of our military governors, who had been most heavily bribed by certain foreigners, handed over some of this fire to them, and since God could not endure to leave unaventched this transgression, as he was about to enter the Holy Church of God, fire came
Starting point is 02:35:05 down out of heaven, and devoured and consumed him utterly. And thereafter, mighty dread and terror were implanted in the hearts of all men, and never since then has anyone, whether emperor, or noble, or private citizen, or military governor, or any man of any sort, whatever. Venture to think of such a thing, far less to attempt to do it or bring it to pass." That is quite an admonition, isn't it? And that shows exactly how much of an important secret weapon this Greek fire was in his short history of Byzantium, the historian of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich, puts it this way, quote, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Greek fire
Starting point is 02:35:55 in Byzantine history to the serisins. It was all too familiar to the Russians, a total surprise. End quote, earlier in the work he describes how it worked against the serisins surprise." End quote. Earlier in the work he describes how it worked against the Saracens and says quote, The Byzantines moreover possessed a secret weapon. To this day we are uncertain of the composition of Greek fire. Whether it was sprayed over an enemy vessel or poured into long narrow cartridges and catapulted against its objective, the results were almost invariably catastrophic. The flaming, oil-based liquid floated upon the surface of the sea, frequently igniting the wooden hulls of the ships,
Starting point is 02:36:37 causing an additional hazard to those who tried to jump overboard." End quote. tried to jump overboard." The Byzantine princess, Anna Comnini, writing a couple hundred years later, and maybe talking about something different seems to slip and give a little bit of the recipe maybe when she wrote, quote, Now this fire was chemically prepared in the following manner. From the pine and other similar evergreen trees, they gather resin, which burns easily. This is rubbed with sulfur and introduced into reed tubes. A man blows on it with a strong, sustained breath, as
Starting point is 02:37:18 though he were playing a pipe, and then it comes in contact with the fire at the end of the tube, bursts into flames, and falls like a flash of lightning on the faces in front of it." End quote. She also describes how they would use this in a way where it was sprayed out of the sculptures, the metal carvings and images of like wild animals and lions and dragons. And she says, quote, the emperor thereupon ordered all provinces of the Roman Empire to provide ships. Many were also made in Constantinople itself. From time to time, he used to board
Starting point is 02:38:01 a ship with one bank of ores and give advice himself to the shipwrites about their construction. He, meaning the emperor, knew the Paisons were masters of naval warfare, and he feared to see battle with them. End quote, let me stop here. They were fighting the Paisons at the time. This is hundreds of years after the time period. We're talking about, but this is what matters for the time period we're talking about. Quote, accordingly, he affixed on the prow of each vessel the heads of lions and other land
Starting point is 02:38:30 animals. They were made of bronze or iron with wide open jaws. The thin layer of gold with which they were covered made the very sight of them terrifying. Greek fire, to be hurled at the enemy through tubes was made to issue from the mouths of these figureheads in such a way that they appear to be belching out the fire." End quote. So these 15 mothball rotting hulks of galleys are brought out of storage. They are loaded with these tubes that can shoot out essentially this explosive flame thrower-like material. And when these wooden dugout canoes end up surrounding these galleys, the Byzantines,
Starting point is 02:39:21 these Eastern Romans turn the flame throwers on the wooden vessels of the Russe, and it is, as the historian we recently quoted said, catastrophic. There are multiple accounts that confirm that the Russe are defeated by fire. That's how many of the accounts put it by fire. That's how many of the accounts put it by fire. One account is by a man who's stepfather visits Constantinople right after this four-month-long attack occurs. His name is, and I think it's pronounced Lude Prund of Kermona, and he talks about how the Byzantines, just like in 860, were taken by surprise in 941, and that the roost devastated the area near the coast. They were said to be crucifying people,
Starting point is 02:40:14 driving nails into their heads, chopping them up, using them for target practice with arrows, raping women, taking slaves, the whole nine yards. And this Lude Pran of Kermona says that the 15 old galley's were rigged with the Greek fire. And in their book, the emergence of roast historian Simon Franklin and Jonathan Sheppard talk about this original story from Lude Pran of Kermona and say, quote, if we believe, Ludbrand, the Byzantines were taken by surprise in June 941, as they had been in 860.
Starting point is 02:40:54 And the emperor, Romanoos Lecapinos, spent, quote, not a few sleepless nights in reflection, end quote, those are quotes from the original source by Ludbrand. While the roast devastated area is near Brand. While the Rousse devastated area near the coast, the day was saved by bringing 15, quote, battered old galleys, end quote, out of mothballs and rigging up Greek firethroers at the boughs, stirons, and broadside. Lyd Brandt depicts the Byzantines as winning fairly easily, thanks to this non-conventional weaponry. Rus boats swarmed around the Galleys, which began to, quote, project their fire all around, and the Rus, seeing the flames, hurled themselves from their boats,
Starting point is 02:41:38 preferring death by water to live in scineration. Some sank to the bottom under the weight of their queeruses and helmets. Others caught fire even as they were swimming among the billows. Not a man escaped that day, save those who made it to the shore." The Byzantine army finally makes it back from where they were otherwise engaged, starts picking off the roast soldiers on the shoreline where they're continuing to loot and commit atrocities. John Julius Norwich writes about the final part of the drama as the four month long attack is winding down and says that the Byzantine fleet as the ships would return would go
Starting point is 02:42:23 right into combat with the Rus boats. And he says, quote, the fleet, too, was on its way. And as each new squadron arrived, it went straight into the attack. Soon it was the Russians who were on the defensive. Autumn was approaching, and they were anxious to sail for home, but it was too late. The Byzantine fleet was between them and the open sea, and slowly closing in. Early in September, they made a desperate attempt to slip through the blockade, but suddenly the whole sea was aflame. As the Russian ships
Starting point is 02:42:56 went up like matchwood, their crews leapt overboard. The lucky ones were dragged down by the weight of their armor, while the rest met their death in the oil-covered water, which blazed us fiercely as the ships." End quote. According to Leard Prand of Cremona, his father was there when the emperor paraded a bunch of the roast captives in front of an Italian diplomat and had them all beheaded in front of him. The 941 attack is fascinating to me clearly because I'm interested in the technological and military capabilities of early states, you know, in the middle ages and the ancient world and the
Starting point is 02:43:41 use of things like flame throwers or nap the weapons is going to be intriguing to me regardless. But it's also interesting because in this story of the Russ, right, these Vikings from the Eastern European sphere, this is the encounter that gives us multiple different sources that you can then use to sort of play off against each other and comparing contrast. Sfevere Jacobson in the Variangians and God's Holy Fire lists no less than five separate accounts of this affair, all of which have key differences. So what this says is, well, two major things. One, it actually happened.
Starting point is 02:44:19 Two, that the Byzantine victory was clearly gained through fire because all the sources mentioned the fire. But something else has involved, too, and you can tell when you compare these different sources and see that there are major differences between them. So something's not right. How about this major difference? You don't know who's in charge of the roostering this period and the differences in the sources point that out. If you just believe the Russian primary chronicle it's clear, right? They go from Rurek, clearly then you have Oleg, right? The guy who stomps on the horse's skull and gets bitten by the snake. And then clearly after that you have Igor, I mean, you know, who's married to Olga. I mean, it's a very clear succession. But maybe the best source, according to Jacobson,
Starting point is 02:45:06 for this entire 941 attack is a Hebrew letter. And the Hebrew letter, which is considered to be relatively contemporary, says that the leader of the 941 attack on Constantinople is Oleg. The guy who stomped on the horses skull and got bitten by the snake on the foot, he's, according to the Russian primary chron chronicle clearly dead and buried by this time. So you start to see that that
Starting point is 02:45:30 history before this Constantinople attack in 941 is hard to pin down. And these figures are less flesh and blood than some compilation of legendary accounts that's hard to, you know, peel the layers back from and get your mind around. In fact, the first couple of figures that seem unequivocally real are Olga that we just mentioned, right? She of the retribution of violence against the Drevlians, although that story may be legendary, and her son, the first of the Rus rulers to clearly have, from birth, a Slavic name, if you've taken Russian history, you know it because he's famous, his Svia to Slav. We've mentioned earlier that most of these earlier Rus rulers almost certainly had Nordic names that were reimagined through a Slavic lens, right? So Olga was Helga. Igor was Ingvar, that kind of thing. But Sviyatislav was Sviyatislav
Starting point is 02:46:36 from birth apparently, and this is telling Spevriar Jacobson writes about that, quote, Spebrier Jacobson writes about that, quote, It is noteworthy that the son of Ingvar, Igor, has a Slavonic name rather than a Scandinavian one, which suggests the Rus were rapidly becoming assimilated into the surrounding Slavonic population. End quote. In fact, it's really hard to try to figure out what percentage of these people that the
Starting point is 02:47:07 Byzantines were incinerating with their flame throwers were actually Scandinavians and what percentage of them were Slavic tribes or step peoples or other groups of linguistic or ethnic elements from that region. It's a, as we said, a cultural and ethnic estuary in that part of the world. And a lot of times it's not that hard to get a whole bunch of different peoples to join you on an endeavor.
Starting point is 02:47:33 Like, let's go attack Constantinople and get rich. My favorite story about the attack on Constantinople is also, I believe, from one of these letters to the Cazars that suggests, because they were trying to figure out why the Russo-Attack Constantinople, if the trade with the Byzantines was going so well, and that story is that the Byzantines encouraged the Russo to go attack the Cazars, which they did, but then they were defeated by the Cazars, and the Cazars made sort of an extortion blackmail
Starting point is 02:48:06 demand on the Rus and said, well, you know, now that you attacked us, because the Byzantines go to you into it, we're demanding that you attack the Byzantines or else. And so the Hebrew letter to the Kazaars paints the entire attack of 941 as being done reluctantly by the Russ, and that maybe the Russ knew darn well what their chances of success were and felt like they had to do it anyway. Ancient and medieval history is wonderful that way, isn't it? You just don't know what really happened. It is with Olga and Svianoslav, though, that you start to see things that you can actually grasp and hold and look at and say, okay, that you start to see things that you can actually grasp and hold and look at
Starting point is 02:48:45 and say, okay, this is real. With Olga, it's less the story about her treatment of the de Revolians than her conversion to Christianity. And her conversion to Christianity is one of those things you see over and over again. Well, I was going to say in all history, but especially in the story of, and I'm using air quotes here, Christianizing the barbarians in Thor's Angels. We talked about it extensively. How often it was that it was the wives of barbarian and air quotes rulers who managed to either convert their husbands or their peoples or start the process of transitioning from the pagan religious to Christianity. My mother was always fond of saying that,
Starting point is 02:49:28 you know, the women get the shodend of the stick in the historical accounts, because the historical accounts up until recent times really followed the, if it bleeds, it leads sort of approach. And so often it's about generals and these great kings and figures. And the women are there, though, they're 50% of the population.
Starting point is 02:49:45 They're not slaves. They're influencing the population all the time in ways that aren't always clear in the historical accounts. They're more like a gravitational force acting on these figures that get all the publicity, but you can see in the Christianization process over hundreds and hundreds of years how important their role was. And Olga does this again.
Starting point is 02:50:06 She doesn't manage to convert the roast to Christianity, but it's hard to see them doing so, you know, with her grandson as they will, you know, spoiler alert, as they will do without her sort of laying the groundwork for it. Sometime after the attack of Constantinople in 941, within about 15 years, she goes to the Byzantine emperor. He converts her and baptizes her into the faith.
Starting point is 02:50:31 She goes back. She tries to convert her son's fiatus off who says that he can't adopt the Christian religion because his entourage will laugh at him. But you can see that she has replanted the seeds because we said in 860, the first time that the Rus ever appeared in Constantinople as this sort of unknown people, the sources say, that after that encounter that the Byzantines sent out their evangelists to go convert them right. The formula of cooking the barbarians, the same one that they were doing in the west, you know, the Frankish Empire was sending out their evangelist to go convert
Starting point is 02:51:05 the heathen, right? St. Lebwin and all those guys. This is the way. What do we call it in part one? The long term anti-terror strategy here is turn these heathen pagan people who worship bloody warrior gods into fellow Christians. Now, that doesn't mean you're not going to have problems with them. It just means that they're going to have societies more like your own. They're
Starting point is 02:51:31 going to be more hierarchical. That's easier for you to deal with. You're going to incorporate them into what we would today call the family of respectable nations. And then they also become subject to the kinds of military and economic pressures that one organized state can impose upon another one. There's another aspect of this that is sometimes overlooked unless you are a fan of the history of the Middle Ages in Europe, because it's a huge problem over the course of the history of the Middle Ages in Europe. And that is who gets to decide who the bishops and archbishops are in all these areas? And you'll see German emperors fighting with Pope, you'll see English kings fighting with archbishops.
Starting point is 02:52:17 I mean, it's a huge thing because all you have to realize, and we said this in the first part of this discussion, which is what it means to have Christianity introduced into a pagan realm. It's a lot more than religion. It's a lot more than saving souls. It's things like an instant bureaucracy just add Jesus, I think, as the way we put it. Well, if you think about it that way, try to imagine how that would work in the modern
Starting point is 02:52:42 world. I mean, can you imagine the Chinese or the Russians being able to decide, for example, who the United States Secretary of State might be? That's why so many of these rulers will try to create some sort of self-sufficiency over time so that they don't have a foreign power deciding who some of their most important officials are going to be. I mean, it's explained very well in German historian Christian Raphensberger's book, Reimagining Europe, Keven Russe in the Medieval World, when he says, quote, it must be noted that the conversions discussed in this chapter are what are referred to as ecclesiastical
Starting point is 02:53:22 conversions, which are, and he's quoting someone else now, quote, often the consequence of socio-political strategies, power, economics, intellectual or psychological issues, and other motives or expediencies that have, in fact, very little to do with religious feelings." Raffensberger continues, quote, and though conversion due to true religious feeling and religious motives can be found throughout medieval history, including at the royal level, it is the more geopolitical reasoning behind conversion that will be examined here. Because of these social, political, and economic reasons behind medieval royal conversion, historians
Starting point is 02:54:01 for years have practically assumed that whoever Christianized the kingdom gained tacit control over that kingdom. That control was enforced by the appointment of bishops by the Christianizing power. Bishops who were loyal to those who appointed them, rather than to those they ministered to. This created a strong foreign power center in a kingdom that could potentially have strong political consequences for the orientation of the kingdom's foreign policy interests." End quote. So while the Byzantine emperor might be thinking he's getting some extra value points that
Starting point is 02:54:38 would help and get to heaven if he gets a lot of souls converted amongst the roasts for Jesus, there are some more real world political things on his mind also. And once Olga gives way to her son, Spiatuslav, a man the Byzantines refer to as Svenda Slavos, all of a sudden every trick that the Byzantine emperor has, every tool in his toolbox has to be employed because Fiatus Love is a handful. He is a warrior. He is one of these rulers that the minute he takes control, he starts attacking the people around him and turning the Russ into a major power in the region.
Starting point is 02:55:24 It's interesting to watch Byzantine diplomacy at work because they will often use money and diplomatic agreements to try to play off potential troublemakers to their foreign policy against each other and they try to use Sviyatislaw of this way too, but it backfires when they get him to attack some of their other enemies, and he defeats them and becomes stronger with every victory. Now the Byzantines have created their own kind of monster. The Russian primary chronicle, the tale of Bygon years, describes Sveta Sloth this way when he takes over from his mom Olga.
Starting point is 02:56:00 Remember, he's the one that when Olga tries to tell him to become a Christian, says, if I do that, my retinue will laugh at me. He's also, by the way, the physical living embodiment of the sort of linguistic and ethnic fusion that you're seeing amongst the roostering this period, where they're not just Scandinavian and Slavic anymore, they're bald, they're step tribes. And remember, the step tribes are themselves a interesting mix of Turkic and Iranian, finilongrian and Asian. So this is a blending of all sorts of different people.
Starting point is 02:56:37 And Sviyatislav, the first of these rulers with a Slavic name, when you see what he looks like, he looks the physical part of that blending. We know this because a guy who was probably an eyewitness to what he looked like, a guy named Leo the Deacon, describes this whole period. We have something as a counterpoint to the Russian primary chronicle. By the way, my history of Leo the Deacon, who's written, is translated by Alice Mary Talbot and Dennis
Starting point is 02:57:05 F. Sullivan. And they describe a figure here who looks like he's something between a 12th century Russian and a 9th century Viking. The Russian primary chronicle describes him in a way that would fit very nicely for a till of the Hun. Also, one of these people who is a warrior in the field who doesn't need all these wonderful luxuries, but sleeps with a blanket and a saddle for a pillow, the Russian primary chronicle says, quote. When Prince Viyatislav had grown up and matured, he began to collect a numerous and valiant
Starting point is 02:57:37 army. Stepping light is a leopard. He undertook many campaigns. Upon his expeditions, he carried with him neither wagons nor kettles, and boiled no meat, but cut off small strips of horse-flash, game or beef, and aided after roasting it on the coals. Nor did he have a tent, but he spread out a horse blanket under him and set his saddle under his head, and all his retinue did likewise. He sent messengers to the other lands announcing his intention to attack them."
Starting point is 02:58:14 And the Russian primary chronicle has this guy attacking a new opponent every year. He becomes the one who breaks the backs of the Kazaars, which was probably a shock. If this was a sporting event, you would have favored the Kazaars in any Las Vegas bets. And yet he destroys their power very soon afterwards. He starts destroying the power of the Bulgarians. Some of this may have been done at the instigation of the Byzantines, but they didn't expect them to be so successful. They kind of created a geopolitical monster here, and then they have to deal with him. All of these victories
Starting point is 02:58:51 we should point out are done less for the expansion of one's borders than they are for essentially doing what organized crime would do. So, Y had us law is going into other mob bosses territory, like the Kazaars and the Bulgarians, and taking over their rackets, going in and shifting the protection money paid to one group of overlords to the Rus and a lot of the Rus income during this time period. And Olga was doing the same thing, by the way, before Svianoslaw is designed to have the people that they protect or rule or strong arm pay them a portion of, you know, they're living wages, right? They're the ones doing the farming.
Starting point is 02:59:35 They're the ones doing the trapping. They're the ones doing the resource extraction and then providing it to the Russ. At a certain point, the Byzantines will essentially tell Sv'atislaw in the Russ, okay, you're taking over lands now, that even though the Bulgarians were occupying them belong to us traditionally, so give them back. And Sv'atislaw said, why don't you just get out of Europe? You don't even belong here. And it's going to cost you a lot if you want me to leave this territory. I just took Leo the Deacon says when he took one of these Bulgarian towns, he impaled 20,000 people on a bunch of forked poles, whether that happened or not is
Starting point is 03:00:18 debatable. We talk a lot on the show about the actual physical challenges of things like this, killing 20,000 people is about a mid-size American university's student population. It's not easy, although there are ingenious ways that have been suggested over the eras for this to be done. The Mongols, for example, are supposed to have made this something that was the responsibility of every individual soldier. So if you have 30 or 40,000 Mongol warriors and you say every one of you gets five captives
Starting point is 03:00:52 and you have to execute those five captives, bring me the ears when you're done. So I know you did it. Well, you could kill a lot of people pretty quickly. Couldn't you? It's a pretty efficient way to destroy a ton of human lives and Sv'ataslaw is supposed to have done that. Eventually, Sv'atislav and the Byzantine army will come to blows.
Starting point is 03:01:13 And this account is recorded in Leo the Deacons' work. And he talks about this arrogant barbarian getting very puffed up after beating the Bulgarians, a people the Byzantines call the messians, and Leo the Deacon writes, quote, Spendo Slavos, Sv'Atislav, was very puffed up by his victories over the messians, and swaggered insolently with barbarian arrogance, for he already held the land securely. And since he had reduced the maceans to terror and stuns submission with his innate cruelty, for they say that when he took philopolis by force, he cruelly and inhumanely affixed to a stake, twenty thousand of the men captured in the town, thus terrifying all his enemies and making them come to terms.
Starting point is 03:02:03 He delivered arrogant and insolent responses to the Roman envoys. That he would not renounce his claim to this fertile land, except in return for the payment of vast sums of money, and the ransom of the cities and prisoners that he had taken in warfare. If the Romans were not willing to pay this, then they should quickly withdraw from Europe, which did not belong to them and move to Asia." End quote.
Starting point is 03:02:29 Leo the Deacon says that the response from the Romans was essentially something like, remember what happened to your father when he tangled with us? Remember what those flame-throers ships did to him? Remember how he ended his days being torn in two by the drevelians tying his limbs to trees and then letting them snap back? Leo the Deacon says that Spendoslavos, Fiatoslavos was enraged by that answer. Quote, Spendoslavos became furious at this response, and carried away by barbarian frenzy and rage, made the following reply.
Starting point is 03:03:09 I see no need for the emperor of the Romans to come to us, therefore let him not tire himself out by coming to this land. For we will soon pitch our tents before the gates of Byzantium. We'll surround this city with a mighty palisade, and will meet him bravely when he sallies forth, if he should dare to undertake such a great struggle. We will teach him, with very deeds, that we are not mere manual laborers who live by the work of our hands, but bloodthirsty warriors who fight our foes with weapons, although the emperor believes in ignorance that rare soldiers are like pampered women, and tries to frighten us with these
Starting point is 03:03:51 threats as if we were suckling infants to be frightened by hobgoblins." After that, clearly it's on. There will be several fights between Sv'atislaw and the Byzantines, and the Byzantines doing typical Byzantine things will offer enemies of the Rus' incentives to attack them, which is how they created this big problem with Sv'atislaw. In the first place, they used him as a puppet to attack other enemies of theirs, sometimes Byzantine diplomacy, come backfire, eventually a meeting happens. And Leo the Deacon may have been there. This may be an eyewitness account, but it's the best eyewitness type account that we have since Ibn Fadlan described the, you know, Talas, date palms, roasts that he personally
Starting point is 03:04:42 saw in the nine twenties. And Leo the Deacon says that Sv'atislaw says he wants to have a meeting with the emperor, the emperor with his gold encrusted bodyguard shows up to meet this living embodiment of the fusion going on in the rust people during this time period. to Leo the Deacon, as I said, very good chance he saw this first hand describes it and says quote, After the treaties were arranged, meaning treaties between the Russ and the Byzantines, Sven doslavos, Sfiadoslav asked to come and speak with the emperor,
Starting point is 03:05:20 and the latter came without delay the emperor emperor, on horseback, to the bank of the Yistros River, clad in armor, ornamented with gold, accompanied by a vast squadron of armed horsemen adorned with gold. Sven de Slavos arrived sailing along the river, in a schithian light boat, grasping an ore, and rowing with his companions as if he were one of them. His appearance was us follows. He was of moderate height, neither taller than average, nor particularly short. His eyebrows were thick.
Starting point is 03:05:54 He had gray eyes and a snub nose. His beard was clean, shaven, but he let the hair grow abundantly on his upper lip, where it was bushy and long. And he shaved his head completely, except for a lock of hair that hung down on one side, as a mark of the nobility of his ancestry. He was solid in the neck, broad in the chest, and very well articulated in the rest of his body. He had a rather angry and savage appearance. On one ear was fastened to gold earring, adorned with two pearls and with a red gemstone. Between them his clothing was white, no different from that of his companions except in cleanliness. After talking briefly
Starting point is 03:06:41 with the emperor about their reconciliation, he departed, sitting on a Helmsman's seat of the boat, thus the war of the Romans with the Skithians, he means the Rus, came to an end. End quote. But forgiving and forgetting was not really the style of the time period. On either side, the Byzantines almost certainly encouraged the pension eggs to ambush Sviattislaw and his men, which they did. What did we say? The Byzantine sources had said that the pension eggs waited until the Rus had to take their boats overland to transfer from one river system
Starting point is 03:07:26 to another. That's where they caught Sviattislaw. They killed him and a bunch of his men and the patching eggs in a very step warrior sort of traditional thing. Cut his head off, poured gold into the skull and used it as a drinking cup, which I've always thought was a kind of an interesting thing. I mean, imagine being able to look into the face, the actual face of one of your enemies as you drank your wine. Do you talk to it? I mean, it's a little like the real version of Dan Acroids, Crystal Skolvodka,
Starting point is 03:08:06 which comes in that wonderful glass skull-shaped bottle. But this isn't a reasonable facsimile of a skull-shaped container. This is the real deal. And so Sviyatislav ends his days, and so Sviyatislav ends his days, not a whole lot better than his father did. When you look at Leo the Deacon's description, physical description of Sviyatislav, as we said, he seems like the physical embodiment of the fusion that's been going on now in the east between all the different peoples where the Scandinavians are just one of the groups that are coalescing into a new ethno-linguistic group. I mean, he doesn't sound like the Vikings in Ireland or England or the Frankish Empire when the description of his clothing and hairstyles and all that is put forward by Leo. He sounds like a 16th or 17th century Eastern European
Starting point is 03:09:06 Cossack, doesn't he? Go look at an artist rendering of those guys or go watch a modern-day recreation of Cossack, you know, writing and you'll see the people dressed in the traditional Cossack outfits with hairstyles and everything. That's almost a dead ringer for Leo the Deacon's description of Sv'Ada's love. So right there, you can see that he represents this blending of cultures and ethno-linguistic elements. You can see that, by the way, also in the Treaty of 944 between the Byzantines and the Rus, the one that ended the war that involved the ships and the Flamethrower and all that
Starting point is 03:09:43 that we talked about. Because as the treaty is being signed, the Rus have to swear to the various, you know, deities and religious elements that they hold dear. Some of the leading Rus are already swearing to the Christian God. So you can see Christianity making in roads already. But the ones that swear to pagan deities aren't swearing to Thor and Odin. They're swearing to Slavic pagan deities, you know, rulers and gods like Perron and people like that. Now a case can be made that those Slavic pagan deities have counter parts. You know, a parent could be Thor in terms of the way one might view him. But this entire series we've been doing is called Twilight of the Iser. And the Iser, of course, represents the pantheon of Germanic gods that dates way back in
Starting point is 03:10:42 history, right? When the Romans first encountered Germanic peoples, they're worshiping those gods. And ever since then, it's been sort of a struggle to try to maintain that pagan belief system in the face of the overwhelming power and growing power of Christianity, right? Essentially a religion from the near east that's continually expanding outward, pushing back the traditional pagan beliefs of a bunch of different peoples, the Germanic peoples just being one of those. But what the 944 treaty shows is that already in the east by the middle 900s, the Isir, the Odins and the Thores and those gods, may have already been supplanted by another pagan group of gods before they're all overwhelmed
Starting point is 03:11:34 by Christianity. It will be one of Sv'atuslav's sons, who will take the Rus into the long-term direction that Sv'atislaw's sainted mother, Olga, wanted them to go. In his book Northmen, the Viking saga, Viking expert John Haywood puts it this way, quote, Sv'atislaw's empire was ephemeral. Soon after his death, Civil War broke out between his teenage sons, Yarapulk, Oleg, and Vladimir. After Yarapulk killed Oleg, Vladimir fled to Sweden. In 980, Vladimir returned with an army of 6,000 Varengians and drove Yarapulk out of Kiev. Vladimir lured his brother into a peace conference,
Starting point is 03:12:26 where two Verangians murdered him. Vladimir's reign, from 980 to 1015, was one of the most important in Russian history, marking the end of Kiev and Rus as a Viking state. In his early years, Vladimir was a devotee of the Thunder God, Peron, the Slavic deity. But in 988, he made the momentous decision to convert to Orthodox Christianity. End quote. The truth is when you read the Civil War between Vladimir and his two brothers, it sounds like a lot of Russian history. And Russian history is wild, weird, wonderful.
Starting point is 03:13:05 I mean, if you've never taken a Russian history course, other than the names always reoccurring or variations of the names reoccurring, it will blow your mind. This sort of infighting and whatnot is not unusual at all. When Vladimir ends up being the one who comes out on top in this sort of civil war between brothers or half brothers, he ends up looking initially a lot like his dad. So he had a slough. He's got tons of concubines, something like 800 is the amount normally given multiple wives. He ends up sounding very much like a Viking warlord. But over time, the publicity, shall we call it, and the historical
Starting point is 03:13:48 sources get somewhat more positive, which is what will happen if you convert to Christianity and some of the sources. Writing about your Christian, Vladimir goes through a very famous and almost certainly legendary weighing of the various other religions that are out there supposedly has a bunch of the different peoples of the book send representatives to him so he can hear about all these different religions and how they believe and what they do. So supposedly Islamic representatives come to him and he says, tell me about your religion and they tell him all the things about it, but point out he can't eat pork and he can't drink alcohol. And he has that wonderful line where he says that drink is the love of the
Starting point is 03:14:34 Russes and that they can't exist without it. So Islam's out. Jews come to the court and explain to him their view of their religion. And he asked them where their homeland is. And they say it's in Jerusalem. And he basically says, well, why aren't you there now? And they explain how they've been exiled and scattered all over the world. Well, this sounds of Latami are like, God must not be, you know, thinking too highly of you if you'll let you get scattered all over the world. So they're out. Then the Latin Christian, the Western European Christian representatives
Starting point is 03:15:06 visit him. And they look a little poor and like they're not that grand because he also gets representatives from the Byzantines. And of course, they look like, well, Rome. And his representatives go to Byzantium, the legends say, and they see the amazing, ostentatiousness of the churches and the rituals and all this stuff. And they come back and say something to the effect of, we couldn't tell whether we were on earth or in heaven anymore. So he's going to the legends say adopt Orthodox Christianity, but there's a more real world diplomatic side of this too.
Starting point is 03:15:44 And that's that Byzantium falls into civil war during this time period and they need some help. And guess what? Vladimir and the Rus can provide it. Vladimir says he wants a Byzantine princess to marry, and that's a problem. Because they're not going to allow one of their princesses to marry a pagan. He'll have to convert to Christianity. He does.
Starting point is 03:16:07 He gets a Byzantine princess. It's immense the ties between Byzantium and the Rus. And then he sends help to one of the, you know, sides in this civil war. Supposedly 6,000 varangians. It sounds a little high. But we're told that these Scandinavian Viking types that have been imported from Scandinavia as mercenaries goes down fights amazingly for the Byzantine emperor crushes his opponent. And from about this moment on, you're going to see a unit created that will fight in the rest of Byzantium's major wars until late in the 13th century. Their fame is they're called the Varyngian Guard. Vladimir, when he converts by the way, will order his subjects to show up
Starting point is 03:16:55 by the water or else he says, become my enemies so that they're all baptized. That's the sort of mass baptisms that were not uncommon when you convert a ruler and expect him to convert everyone he rules. The bottom line though is that in this story of, you know, the twilight of the Iser and the rearguard action of the Germanic deities against the creeping power of Christendom, If Vladimir hadn't already ditched Germanic paganism by worshiping these Slavic pagan gods, he does ditch it around 988. And the story in the east from this moment on from these Scandinavian Slavic step people, Finn, Baltic, Finna, Hungry, and Turk, Asian,
Starting point is 03:17:48 Iranian, fusion of peoples goes off on a permanent side tangent never to return to Thor and Odin again. And from here, our story shifts back to the West. Now, I've been enthralled with the way the new or breed of Viking historians treat the entire Viking world for lack of a better term for it all. East, West, the places where the Viking settled, all that kind of stuff, because it explains and helps us to understand so much of what's going on better back when I was a kid and they treated things like the Scandinavians and what's now Ukraine or Russia as an entirely hermetically sealed different theater from Iceland and France and Ireland
Starting point is 03:18:41 and Britain. Certain questions kept rising. When you start to realize as a Neoprice or a cat-jarmine or a cigarette center, any of those people keeps pointing out that the same people are traveling from one of these parts of the Viking world to the others, intermixing. So imagine, for example, a person born in Sweden in say 950 maybe. And they travel down the river systems in Eastern Europe when they're a teenager to a place
Starting point is 03:19:11 like modern day Ukraine maybe, and they stay a while. Then they go a little farther south to Byzantium and join the Varengian Guard for a decade. And by the way, I'm not making this up, this sort of thing happened all the time. And then they go back to the homeland after that. Think about all that they've experienced while they were gone.
Starting point is 03:19:29 First of all, the exposure to things like Christianity to name only one thing. So then they go back to the home country and they're influencing people there. Those people then may go to the West or the same individual who'd been to Byzantium might then go to the West to what's now France'd been to Byzantium might then go to the west to what's now France or Freesia, the coast of modern day the Netherlands or Britain or Ireland.
Starting point is 03:19:51 In other words, it's the very same people traveling from one part of the Viking world to another. It's a giant intermixing, it's like a Scandinavian cultural estuary where all of the influences in all the parts of the world, the Vikings are touching and they're one of them more well-traveled people in the Middle Ages is intermixing and influencing Scandinavian affairs. When we last dealt with the West, we had to roll the chronology back a little bit from where we were with the Rousse. We were in like the nine Tans, right? We were talking about, you know, Harold, fair, hair, Harold, fine hair, Harold, hair, fair, being involved in the political consolidation allegedly, legendarily, maybe of Norway. This is a trend
Starting point is 03:20:37 that's going on in the entire Viking world. If you were taking a college course on this, they would, you know, for the test have, you know, three major themes that you had to pay attention to state building, political consolidation and the conversion, especially of the Scandinavian elite to Christianity. Okay. That's all well and good. But when a guy like Harold dies, like so many of these Scandinavian leaders involved in political unification, his sons will tear it all up and fight amongst themselves. There's a very, a very bunny hop sort of rhythm to this state building in Scandinavia, you know, two steps forward, one step back. But even if Harold Feinher did live, and even if
Starting point is 03:21:18 Harold Feinher did, what he was supposed to do, and even if Harold Feinher's kids screwed the pooch and screwed up the whole thing, it never goes back to the level of fragmentation that existed before the unifiers. So when the unification process gets started again, they don't have to start from ground zero. Right. So you begin to see progress towards the creation of what Norway will turn into. And Denmark will turn into and Sweden will turn into by the time you get to the middle ages or the later middle ages. We had last spoken about what was going on in Normandy, right? With Rallo, the Viking warlord, who gets defeated by the West-Frankian king, so he settles for being given control of the area that will become Normandy, which means land of the Northmen.
Starting point is 03:22:08 And he's told to guard it against people like himself, right? What did we say if you gave a terrorist, the territory they were operating in and said, you know, oh, your allegiance to me, but defended from other terrorists like yourself. I think I said it was like putting one of the foxes in charge of the chicken coop security. Another historian I read said it was like promoting the lead poacher to the post of gamekeeper, but it kind of worked. The Normans are going to be a thorn in everybody's side, especially the king of France's side and a whole bunch of other problems. But basically, they do what Charles the simple of West Francia hoped they would and keep the area from being
Starting point is 03:22:46 overrun with new Vikings. And perhaps the most important aspect of this entire affair is that the people that are being granted these lands in what's now modern day France, these pagan, heathen, Viking conquerors are being forced to convert to Christianity as an element of the deal. And even if a Viking-pagan warlord like Rallo is providing more lip service than reality to his conversion, and that's debatable, his children aren't, and his grandchildren aren't. They're going to be real Christians, and that undercuts the entire culture that led to the Scandinavian Viking pirate age to begin with. And it should be pointed out that the very people who are doing the converting here, whether
Starting point is 03:23:45 we're talking about the Franks in what's now modern-day France, or the Germans in Germany, or the Anglo-Saxons in England, all three of those people used to be the worshipers of the old Germanic pantheon of gods, basically worshipping Odin, basically worshipping Thor. They might have had suddenly different names for them. But now they're converting the people who still believe what they used to believe.
Starting point is 03:24:17 And it's worth noticing, if you're a military history fan, as I know many of you are, that in this centuries-long religious war between Christians and Germanic pagans, only one side is really playing offense. For centuries, really, since Rome, you've seen these evangelists go out to convert these Germanic peoples. That's how the Germans got converted. That's how the Franks got converted.
Starting point is 03:24:43 That's how the Anglo-Saxons got converted. The other side's not playing offense at all. You don't see Scandinavian or Germanic evangelists going to Christian areas and converting Christians to the worship of Thor or Odin. And so even if progress slows or even if people backslide, it's an inevitable slowly and sometimes not so slowly movement towards a specific outcome. And when you're able to get people like Rolo to convert, when you're able to make deals with Viking warlords and as part of the deal require that they convert to Christianity, you are creating a long-term solution to a long-term problem. And let's recall, it's easy to say that by 910, 911, 912, the European world has been dealing with the Viking problem for 110, 120 years. But if you put it in terms relating to our own time, I mean imagine we had a problem like that that had been going on since 1900 or 1910.
Starting point is 03:25:57 Well, even in a world that changed more slowly than our current world, one would expect us to have created countermeasures. One would expect that our long-term policies designed to change the circumstances would finally be bearing fruit, and the 900s is an example of that, because they're going to be very different than the 800s, especially on the continent. The different areas will have different circumstances, of course, in a place like modern-day Germany. It's going to be based on strong leadership, really. I mean, they're going to get, as we've mentioned earlier, several important kings, Henry the
Starting point is 03:26:34 Fowler, out of the great. And they're going to have knights, mounted knights, which we spoke about earlier, which are very dangerous to the Vikings. And most good Viking pirate raiders want nothing to do with mounted knights, not because they couldn't best them in a one-on-one encounter, but because it changes the odds of a pirate expedition. You're hoping for an easy score. You don't want to life and death struggle every time you go out there to try to take what you hope, want to life and death struggle every time you go out there to try to take what you hope is a bunch of peasants goods or a bunch of monasteries, you know, relics, and you will
Starting point is 03:27:11 still see some Viking attacks in what's now Germany in the 900s. But oftentimes on the way home after striking, you know, targets that were ready for them, the Viking raiders will find themselves encountering Germanic knights and often lose, and sometimes badly. And it will be all that the rulers of the Scandinavians in Denmark, in Viking-era Denmark, can do sometimes to keep the Germanic people from turning the tables on them, and invading Denmark from Germany. The sorts of scenes that we saw in the 800s where Scandinavian raiders were stabling their horses, almost incomprehensibly in the former Royal Palace at Ochen, where Charlemagne
Starting point is 03:27:58 ruled, you're not going to see that in the 900s. In what's now modern-day France, the results are similar, but the methods a bit different. In northern France, you're going to see maybe the most famous example of feudalism, early medieval feudalism anywhere. You have to be careful with the term feudal, because when I was a kid, that's my famous phrase, isn't it? When I was a kid back in the old days, feudalism was considered to be mostly a early medieval thing. Now it's considered to be a sort of a political system
Starting point is 03:28:33 and it's applied to all sorts of other systems. I mean, you'll hear the early achaemenid Persians, the ones who fought the Greeks and the Greek and Persian Wars, the society that was overthrown by Alexander the Great. You'll often hear them described as a feudal society. But the poster child for that system was in northern France during this era where it's not going to just be Rallo in Normandy, but a bunch of Frankish and later French, Counts
Starting point is 03:29:00 and Dukes and Lords and Barons who are all going to have their own little piece of the king's territory. They're going to put up their own little castles. They're going to have their own little group of knights and retinue and all that sort of stuff. And it'll be their job to defend this territory, ostensibly for their ruler. But sometimes they'll fight amongst themselves. Sometimes they'll be rebellious against the king. That's what early medieval feudalisms known for also.
Starting point is 03:29:29 But they'll also have mounted knights with all of the same advantages that that gives the German mounted knights and they'll also have castles just like in Germany. And the castles have a couple of different aspects. We talked about them in part one a little bit, and early in this discussion, it's not just that you have a couple of different aspects. We talked about them in part one a little bit, and early in this discussion, it's not just that you have a place where you have defenses so that if the Viking show up on the horizon unexpectedly, there's a
Starting point is 03:29:55 place that can defend the territory because there'll be a garrison of soldiers there as well. But I was reading something that brought up an aspect I hadn't thought about, which is that when the Viking sales appear over the horizon and you have a tiny little bit of warning that they're coming if you're the peasants and the farmers living in that area that's about to be Assalted by these Viking pirates you grab any valuables you have any grab any valuables you have, any livestock that you own, anything you want to keep, and you put it in a wagon, and you cart it up to the walls of the castle, and you go inside. So not only do the Viking pirates now have to deal with the garrison and walls and all that sort of stuff, but whatever they were coming to steal might now be behind the walls of that very protective bastion, making the
Starting point is 03:30:47 entire affair not just more dangerous for them if they want to try to take stuff, but maybe not even all that valuable, which leads us to the Viking age in the 900s in Britain and Ireland. in the 900s in Britain and Ireland. Britain and Ireland do not have mounted knights, and I was reading a book by author Ian Howard called Simon Forkbeard's Invasions and the Danish Conquest of England. And he said, and I hadn't read it elsewhere, but I'm sure it's mentioned elsewhere, that that's a very specific reason that explains why Viking attacks shifted so strongly away from Germany and France, what will be Germany and France in this era in the 900s, and over to Ireland and Britain. If you don't want to deal with heavily armed mounted knights, go to a place where they don't have that.
Starting point is 03:31:46 And the English, for example, won't have mounted knights until after the Norman Conquest in 1066. It's an army that is mostly infantry. Some would suggest all infantry, that's debatable. They do use horses, but they use them the same way the Vikings do, as mounted infantry, right? So you use them to get from place to place, but when you want to fight you dismount and So in the early 900s you see the story shifting more towards what's going on in Britain, but if you are a fan of the Vikings you can't help but notice that not only are the fortunes of the Scandinavians being challenged in Germany and France, even without mounted knights, they're not having things their way in Ireland or Britain either. Winston
Starting point is 03:32:40 Churchill, we had quoted him earlier from his history of the English speaking peoples. And he's so wonderful because he supposedly dictated all of the works that he wrote. And so they have a real sort of a oral feel about them. It sounds a little like a hardcore history conversation. And when he talks about Britain, for example, during Alfred the Great, who died in 899, we spoke of Alfred. He almost sounds like he's narrating his own story from the darkest years of 1940 in the Second World War. But then the story after Alfred also parallels the story in the Second World War where Britain survives the darkest times and begins to crawl out of it and issue payback the reconquest if you will." And Churchill writes, quote,
Starting point is 03:33:31 Alfred, meaning Alfred the Great, died in 899, but the struggle with the Vikings had yet to pass through strangely contrasted phases. Alfred's blood gave the English a series of great rulers, and while his inspiration held, victory did not quit the Christian ranks. In his son Edward, who was immediately acclaimed king, the armies had already found a redoubtable leader." If you look at the first 50 years of the 900s, you see the equivalent of a British or English or Anglo-Saxons, the more proper way to put it, reconquest of territory that the Vikings had taken from them during the 800s. But it's a bit of an ebb and flow
Starting point is 03:34:21 sort of an affair. By and large, the Anglo-Saxons are winning. Think about a boxing match where they're getting the rounds handed to them by the judges score cards, but they're still taking damage. They're still getting punched. They're still getting knocked to the canvas from time to time. And that often happens when new reinforcements arrive from either Scandinavia or from the Vikings in Ireland. We turn the tide sometimes temporarily, but eventually the several rulers after Alfred the Great and they're blessed with several good ones in a row. See, rulership matters. Look at the German kings we mentioned earlier. They will slowly grind things back towards a reconquest.
Starting point is 03:35:05 Churchill talks about another battle that eventually the English gained the victory, the Danes are just like Rolo and Normandy required to convert to Christianity. And then he talks about this treaty being broken and says, quote, in 910, this treaty was broken by the Danes, and the war was renewed in Mercia. The main forces of Westix and Kent had already been sent by Edward, who was with the fleet to the aid of the Mercians, and in heavy fighting at Teton Hall in Staffordshire,
Starting point is 03:35:40 the Danes were decisively defeated. End quote. Now, reminder, places like Westix and Essex and Northumbria and East Anglia, these are all the places that had been separate independent kingdoms when the Viking Age started. And one of the reasons that Anglo-Saxon territory was so vulnerable to the Vikings, was this fragmentation. And why so many historians suggest that the Viking era helped create the modern day Britain and created England out of Anglo-Saxon territories was because the Viking swept away a lot of those independent territories, clearing the way for unification. But those places still maintained some semblance of a self-image and an independence, places
Starting point is 03:36:31 like Mercy, for example. Churchill continues, quote, This English victory was a milestone in the long conflict. The Danish armies in Northumbria never recovered from the battle, and the Danish midlands, and East Anglia thus lay open to English conquest. Up to this point, Mercia and Wessex had been the defenders, often reduced to the most grievous straits, but now the tide had turned, fear camped with the Danes." End quote.
Starting point is 03:37:01 There's a lot of reasons for this. One is that all of a sudden, the Danish settlers in Britain, who lived in the north and the east and this area, we talked about earlier, the Dane Law, the land where the Danish laws predominated, they had settled, they had farms, they had families, and this made them vulnerable. We had talked earlier about how much of an advantage it was to be a pirate raider from far over the seas, where you could hit your opponents, take their stuff, and then run away to a place where they
Starting point is 03:37:39 couldn't get you. But if you settle, right next to the people you're raiding, they can get you. And as Charles Oman, the military historian for more than 100 years ago, pointed out, by this time, if the Danes in Britain raided their neighbors, the English, the English hit them right back. What's more, whereas once before when these raiding parties arrived in Britain, they were unified groups of people. The Danes in the British Isles during this period were composed of a bunch of different groups of people, not united, who could be picked off bit by bit. And during the early 900s, that's what happens. And it doesn't just happen with these
Starting point is 03:38:25 male Anglo-Saxon kings uniquely enough, and in an event that is sometimes called one of the most unique in all of early medieval history, they also are subject to attacks by female military rulers. This reconquest of territory from Danish settlers in the British Isles creates a different sort of dynamic than the Viking attacks from the 800s. My encyclopedia of military history from Ernest and Trevor to Puy puts it this way and it's a good way to look at it, it says, quote, during the 10th century, the Anglo-Saxon struggle with the Danes was no longer a matter of Viking raiders against local inhabitants, but rather a more or less constant war between Southern and Northern England. End quote,
Starting point is 03:39:19 Southern England being the part occupied by the Anglo-Saxon rulers and people, the northern part mostly by Danish settlers or people who had some affinity for the Scandinavians and often sided with new Vikings that showed up on the shores. They're sort of a fifth columnist group in Britain. And during the 900s after Alfred the Great dies, two of his children take the lead in starting to push back with the eye towards eventually eliminating entirely that group of fifth columnists. One of them is the king that Churchill mentioned, Edward, but the other is his sister, Ethel fled.
Starting point is 03:40:08 Now, Ethel fled's an interesting lady, because if you watch the Hollywood movies, there's always this bending over backwards to include female characters where perhaps they didn't actually exist, or female warriors where perhaps the evidence for them is very scanty. But that means that when you actually encounter real historical figures that live up to all the hype, they deserve a little bit more attention, and Ethel fled as one of those people. If you look at statues of her, she's often shown bearing a weapon. And if this were the Hollywood movie version of her, she would certainly be a swashbuckling Robin Hood type character cutting the heads off enemies dressed in armor and performing all sorts
Starting point is 03:40:53 of acrobatic military feats. But that's not the way we should probably see her. She is instead a somewhat, you know, Anglo-Saxon version of an apologonic figure, maybe, an inspiring leader of men, a tactician, a strategist. There is what some historians have referred to as a conspiracy of silence around her, and our modern temptation would be to suggest that this conspiracy exists because she was a woman, and there may be some truth to that. But an actual better reason, something that is lost in sort of the years that have passed since then, but would have been very apparent, and a lot of historians pointed out,
Starting point is 03:41:37 it might have more to do with the fact that she was known as the Lady of the Merceans. The Merceans, as we just mentioned, mercy is one of these places that used to be an independent kingdom before the Viking swept all that away. The people that wrote the Chronicles that have come down to us like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Starting point is 03:41:55 were working for the kings of Wessex and the last thing that they wanted was to do anything that inspired what today we would call patriotism amongst these formerly, you know, independent areas like Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, or separatist tendencies. And a figure that a place like Mercia could rally around to sort of bolster their credentials as an independent kingdom is someone like Ethel fled.
Starting point is 03:42:26 But along with her brother, from about 9-11, the time that Rolo takes over Normandy, when her husband dies, she takes over in Mercia, she and her brother start a two-pronged approach, retaking territory from the Danes in Anglo-Saxon England. And they do it in an interesting way. We had mentioned that with her father, Alfred, that one of the things he did was to set up these fortified towns known as Burrs. Sometimes very rudimentarily fortified, it must be said, just a ditch around them sometimes or a palisade or an earthen wall, but it's
Starting point is 03:43:05 enough to do the job. And what you do is you fortify these towns, you stash a garrison in them, so some defenders, and all of a sudden you make life difficult for Viking Raiders. Will she and her brothers start using these fortified towns in an offensive way? It's a little like taking a place and then fortifying what you just won in concrete. Because once you dig the ditch around it, put up the palisade wall, put a garrison in there. It becomes very hard for anyone on the Danish side to retake it. And over a period of about a decade, they will fight battles. She and her brother
Starting point is 03:43:47 retake towns that used to be Anglo-Saxon towns, fortify them with the burr, and very soon, you know, maybe by their standards, by our standards, their wars look like they take place in a very sort of slow motion way. But she and her brother begin to reconquer the territory and you will have this interesting sort of scene where she will have all of these, again, Hollywood, I'll say that a million times because they've warped our view of these scans and aviants. But you will have this amazing scene where you will have these alpha male, hairy barbarian types pledging their submission to a woman, the Lady of the Mercions, Ethel fled. And she'll kill a bunch of them, a bunch of Viking yarrals and kings and lords in these
Starting point is 03:44:38 battles, not personally, but her army's will. And historian Kat Jarman points out that this is a huge rarity. There's only one other woman and Kat Jarman mentions her during the early medieval period where you can see them commanding troops. Kat Jarman talks about her and the other one who's related to auto the grade of Germany and she says quote. If we look elsewhere in northern Europe, there are contemporary examples of women wielding military power, the best known being Athos led, Lady of the Mercines, who was the daughter of Alfred the great, possibly the only woman from Anglo-Saxon England known to have led military forces. Meanwhile, on the continent, another woman was in charge of a fight against Vikings
Starting point is 03:45:29 too. Gerberga, of Saxony, the sister of Otto I of Germany, organized the defense of Leone in Northern France in 945-946, when her husband, Louis IV, was captured. With both Athol fled and Gerberga, having common, is that they independently led forces and attacks and organized defenses in a 10th century environment, which is typically thought of as a time when only men could hold power. In both cases, these women owed their political position to a family connection, but at the same time, both are described as
Starting point is 03:46:05 well-educated, intelligent, and possessing the ability to lead military strategy with the support of their contemporaries." End quote. Now, there are not a lot of sources, as we said, talking very much about Ethyl fled from the era. The Irish chronicles refer to her as an Anglo-Sax, the renowned Anglo-Saxon queen, but she wasn't a queen. But in the 12th century,
Starting point is 03:46:32 the early English historian William of Malmiseray makes sure that we don't forget about Ethyl fled. And by the way, he uses an interesting term when he describes her, he calls her a Virago. And I had to look it up, and apparently the meaning of the term has changed over time. But in the era he was writing it sort of means a great soul or a formidable person or maybe a woman who has tendencies you normally associate with a man like a war leader. And William of Melm's Barry writes quote.
Starting point is 03:47:02 At the same time, we must not overlook the king's sister, Ethel fled, Ethel Red's widow, the Momsbury writes, quote, of her first, or rather her only child, abhorred her husband's embraces ever after, declaring that it was beneath the dignity of a king's daughter to involve herself in pleasures which would be followed in time by such ill-effects. End quote, he's talking about childbirth, by the way. Remember that could easily be fatal in this period, and he also praises her as a builder of cities, but rather than a builder of cities, what he's really talking about is a fortifier of cities. As we said, taking these cities
Starting point is 03:47:51 and then creating these fortified towns out of them. So he continues, quote, she was a Virago, a very powerful influence in health in her brother's policy, and no less effective as a builder of cities. It would be hard to say whether it was luck or character that made a woman such a tower of strength for the men of her own side and such a terror to the rest."
Starting point is 03:48:16 Ethel fled dies in 918 ADCE and her brother will continue what's been going on the reconquest of the Dane Law until he dies about six years later. Their successor, a guy named Ethel Stan, will continue with even more. He'll include, you know, fighting the Scots and the Welsh. I mean, this is all part of carving out England and Ethel Stan will be by many considered the first truly English king if not him then his successor This is all important stuff for British history obviously, but also for the history of peoples who can trace there at least Political DNA back to England and that's anyone who was a part of the British Empire You think of the Canadians the Americas the Australians etc etc I mean this is all part of the British Empire, you think of the Canadians, the Americas, the Australians, et cetera, et cetera.
Starting point is 03:49:05 I mean, this is all part of their history, which has often made me think that this is partly why the Vikings have such a prominent place in the past. I mean, why do we pay more attention to them than the Visigoths, as we said, or the Austro-Goths, you know, or the Lombards, or any of these other Germanic barbarian peoples, well, because they play a huge role in the creation of places like England and England
Starting point is 03:49:28 Well has a political strand of DNA that goes through a lot of modern day countries The interesting thing though is that what's going on in places like England during this era is not hugely important in 99% of the respects to life in Scandinavia, to the average pig farmer, as Neil Price historian who wrote the Children of Ash and Elm puts it. I mean, the average pig farmer in Scandinavia isn't concerned to wit with these colonial possessions or these, you know, settlements or these diasporas going on in the edges of the Viking world, right? They're in the lands that encompass modern day Denmark, Norway, Sweden, just living their lives, right?
Starting point is 03:50:13 Believing the old ways, the old gods, and all these kinds of things. But as we said, there is cultural transmission going on through all these areas. And if you are, let's just say a very conservative traditionalist living in Scandinavia, a standard pig farmer who believes in the old ways, the old gods, the traditional culture of your ancestors, all of a sudden you can't help but notice by the middle 900s that there's a whole lot of new stuff infecting your community. I Love the term and I use it all the time and I'm sorry if I overuse the same term But it's just so wonderful intellectual contagion Seeing ideas and beliefs the same way one would see a pathogen that can spread like a disease
Starting point is 03:51:04 would see a pathogen that can spread like a disease. Well, it's hard not to notice that at the exact same time you see Olga in the eastern Scandinavian areas of the Rus, really beginning to explore Christianity in that neck of the woods. You see the same thing happening on the opposite side of the Viking world in places like England. More and more of these warlords converting as parts of arrangements and deals and treaties and settlements, more and more Scandinavians living away from the home countries in places like the Dane Law converting due to exposure to Christianity. If you actually zoom out and look at how long evangelists have been traveling to Scandinavia, trying to convert the people there, by the time you reach the middle 900s, it's been
Starting point is 03:51:50 like 240, 250 years. Right? It's far back from where we are today as the American Revolution. Now, it's hard to say how much fruit that has borne by this time period, but when you add all the conversions in the far-flung territories to the few people who maybe these evangelists have converted, to the few rebel rulers like Harold Klack that we mentioned from the 820s, 830s who converted and then converted some of his followers to all the slaves that the Vikings took who were Christian, who couldn't help but share their intellectual pathogens
Starting point is 03:52:30 with their slave masters and whatnot, it's not hard to see that you're gonna have pockets of Christianity beginning to pop up in Scandinavia also. Denmark may be more than Norway, Norway may be more than Sweden, but it's a thing. And then you look at the political pressure. You know, we had talked about how in the 900s, the German Danish relationship flips from what it was in the 800s, and all of a sudden the Germans are very dangerous to the Danes, and one of the things that the Danes kind of do to maybe lessen the danger of Germanic attacks on them is treat Christianity a little
Starting point is 03:53:09 bit more positively. All these things together are beginning to sort of reach a critical mass by the middle 900s. Now, we should point out that there's something that's often overlooked when we talk about religion, and that's that even when nations or rulers decide that they're going to change their faith overnight, that's not how people really behave, right? People don't change the gods that they believe
Starting point is 03:53:34 in, the religious practices that they take part in, the ancestors, faith and traditional narratives that they grew up with, those things don't change overnight. So anytime we talk about a huge, relatively quick change in a religious belief, let's not pretend that that means the people on the ground of all of a sudden shifted their faith 180 degrees, but it should also be mentioned that the traditional faith of the Scandinavians is not some orthodox by the book, kind of belief system. In fact, it's fair to say, and this is a little surprising, that experts aren't really all that sure what it was. And partly the reason this is strange is because
Starting point is 03:54:21 there's a neo-paganist movement today that is trying to resurrect a lot of these ideas and reestablish worship of the ancient Norse gods, for example. But who these ancient Norse gods and how they were worshipped and what this all meant to the practitioners of this faith is up in the air. There's a wonderful history book written by Scandinavian historian called The Wolfage, The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, and the battle for the North Sea Empire. And I hope I don't murder this guy's name. I looked it up. Torasaya is, I think, close to the pronunciation. And he says with all these other histories that I've been reading, say, and it's a little bit shocking when you think about how much we pretend we know about the Nordic religious beliefs, and he says, quote,
Starting point is 03:55:09 like all Germanic religions, pre-Christian Nordic worship centered around war, fertility, and the making of sacrifices to powerful spirits, along with an entire pantheon of gods. Above all, it was Odin, Thor, and Freyr, who were worshiped across Scandinavia. The people who practiced the ancient religion left behind no proclamation, no tablet inscribed with commandments, no religious book. The depictions of their faith and rituals were written down by Christian and Muslim observers, who regarded
Starting point is 03:55:45 them as lost souls in need of saving, or as frightening and exotic barbarians. The lavish and intricate universe of gods and monsters, born of fire and frost in the resounding deaths of Gananganap, which goes up in flames in the war in Fernow of Ragnarok, has primarily been handed down to us through the Eddas, poems that were first written down in the 1200s, in the anonymous poetic Edda, and in Snory Stirlisons Edda, his tribute to Scaldic poetry and inherited knowledge of the ancient forefathers mythological narratives, and despite both works, he says, strikingly detailed accounts, both snorey and the author of the poetic edda viewed their ancestors' stories from a great distance, from their own thoroughly Christianized
Starting point is 03:56:38 age, with a stranger's wonderment and fascination, just as we do today." In addition to that, the Christian evangelist framings of Christianity are often done in an extremely clever fashion. And this is something we discussed at length in Thor's Angels. When we were talking about how early Christian evangelists tailored the traditional Christian beliefs to mesh the views of a bunch of Germanic warriors like Franks and Lombards and Visigoths and all those people who might not be all that positively disposed to a prince of peace from a Middle Eastern-based religion when they came from dark, deep forests filled with spirits who were involved in human sacrifice of captive war prisoners. Maybe you have to modify the message a bit for the audience.
Starting point is 03:57:38 And historian Neil Price in The Children of Ashenelm says that's exactly what these same evangelist centuries later did for the Scandinavian audience that they were trying to interest, shall we say, in this religion, when he writes, quote, there is a remarkable glimpse of how this worked in practice through a document known as Helianned, the Savior, written in old Saxon during the first half of the 9th century, it is a paraphrase of the gospel for a Germanic audience, tweaked for their sensibilities, and pitched almost as a Norse saga, though with biblical heroes. Thus we read of Jesus's birth in Galilee land. His later travels to Jerusalemburg, and how the
Starting point is 03:58:27 Lord lives in a great hall in the sky, clearly Valhalla. The Lord's prayer he writes is in, quote, end, quote, secret runes. Peter is given commands over the gates of hell, or heel, with one hell, and so on. Satan's temptation of Christ, he writes, takes place in a northern wilderness filled with vague forces, powerful beings that seem to live among the trees, and one wonders what this implies of the traditional northern beliefs that were once known by the Christian clerics. He continues, and think about how this tweaks the traditional religion of peace for a warrior people. Quote, by the same token, Jesus' disciples were warrior companions, in quotes, framed in the language of a warlord's retinue, and the last supper
Starting point is 03:59:19 is the quote-and-quote, final mead-haul feast. Even God, he writes, is called by the Odinic epithets such as Victory Chieftain, and all ruler. This is the kind of message that was taken in Dascandinavia by the first missionaries. A doctrine meshed with the ancestral stories of the north, and following a model found in many other conversion histories." As we said, the conversion histories of the Germanic people to the south of the Scandinavians who converted before they did. It's interesting to note that this tool of blending this new religion that evangelists and Christian states are trying to spread to the far north isn't just used by those evangelists. It may have been used by the rulers of the far north as
Starting point is 04:00:15 a way to make this transition between the old belief system and a new belief system more palatable or more seamless Take for example the famous yelling stones put up by one of the first Scandinavian rulers that you really have clear evidence for and how weird is that this far Into the so-called Viking age and you're just now getting to the point where you get the Scandinavian side of this story. Stuff from the indigenous peoples themselves as opposed to the people who wrote about them, who hated, feared, reviled, and looked down on them, on them, the literary peoples of Britain, or the continent, or Byzantium, King Harold Bluetooth, and yes, that's what the term Bluetooth was named after, arises in the mid-900s.
Starting point is 04:01:19 There are all sorts of theories as to why he was called Blue Tooth, including potentially having a blue or black-rotted tooth. But I've also read that he may be one of those Scandinavians who have the horizontal grooves cut into his teeth and then died. So lots of reasons one might be called Blue Tooth, but Harold is famous. And he writes down in stone carved into this heavy, well, it would have been seen at the time as a near permanent monument, why he should be thought of as famous and why he should be remembered. The Yellowingstone, which is actually pictured, the artwork is pictured on the Danish passports to this day, carried
Starting point is 04:02:11 by Danish citizens," says Quote. King Harold ordered this monument made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Tyra, his mother, that Harold, who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway, and made the Danes Christian." End quote. That's quite a claim to fame, and it is actually arguable, but I mean, he's the one to put up the monument that survived. So he got first crack at how he was going to be remembered. But Harold Bluetooth is one of the most famous Scandinavian rulers and not just because
Starting point is 04:02:53 he supposedly brought Christianity to Denmark, but because he is, as we said, one of the first really well-known attested to Scandinavian kings. Right? This isn't a legendary rule. This is a real guy. On this yelling stone is a piece of artwork, which used to be painted and now is weathered to stone color, although there are recreations of what it looked like painted, and on the yelling stone, you can see a figure of Christ being crucified. But the way that the figure is shown makes it look arguably quite a bit like Odin, being hung in the tree that he hung himself in so that he could gain wisdom. And so you have a potential meshing of the old tradition with the new and maybe Christ being portrayed as a kind of Odin-like figure.
Starting point is 04:03:53 It's arguable, experts debate it, and people who know a lot more than I do about it go back and forth. But you can see how fascinating it is to see the early Scandinavian Christian artwork infused with some of the old flavor of the pre-Christian times. And this is not unusual. You see it in many societies. Go to Ireland and look at the way the Celtic forms are overlaid with later Christian artwork. So it's normal for there to be regional variations on this stuff. And maybe some of that is intended to, you know, as we said, make it easier for the locals to sort of latch on to a new religion and connect it to the old.
Starting point is 04:04:39 I find it interesting also that the way this is sometimes portrayed the conversion process is that the people in Scandinavia are shown sometimes as having no problem believing in the Christian God at all. Their issue sometimes is not quite understanding the exclusivity of monotheism, the idea that you can't just believe in Christ and all those gods you used to believe in, right? When you come from a religion that believes in a lot of gods, seems like you should just be able to add another one, but it doesn't work that way with monotheism. Does it? There's a wonderful account, maybe, as a good way to put it by a near contemporary named Vidukund, who wrote a famous book translated into the English, it's called Deeds of the Saxons.
Starting point is 04:05:34 And in it, he describes supposedly how Harold Bluetooth is converted. And if you know about the history of the Middle Ages in Europe, you know that there's all these different things that they used to do to sort of give God a chance to weigh in on things. So you'd have things like trial by combat where two people who disagreed about something could be sentenced to fight it out. And the winner was perceived to be the one God favored. In other words, the one telling the truth will win the trial by combat. Therefore God has weighed in and shown people. It's like a giant pro-Christian weegee board type thing. And by the way, I'm using the Bernard Esbach Rock and David Esbach Rock translation of the work. And indeed, of the Saxons, Viducan portrays the conversion of Harold Bluetooth the same way.
Starting point is 04:06:29 Harold Bluetooth gives God a chance to weigh in on whether or not he's the real God, and Vidukin tells the story, thusly written in the 900s and says, quote, In times past, the Danes were Christians, but nevertheless continued to worship idols hundreds and says, quote, was a God, but they claimed that there were other gods, greater gods, who manifested themselves to people through even more powerful signs and prodigies. Against this, a certain cleric named Papo, who is now a bishop and leads a religious life, proclaimed that there is one true God, the Father, along with his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The images, meaning the images of the Norse gods, he proclaimed, were of demons and not gods. King Harold, who it was said was quick to listen but slow to speak, asked if Papa wished to demonstrate his faith
Starting point is 04:07:41 through his own person. Papa responded without hesitation that he wished to do so. The King then ordered that the priest be placed under guard until the next day. When morning came, the King ordered that a very heavy piece of iron be heated in the fire. He then ordered the cleric to carry this glowing iron for his Catholic faith. The confessor of Christ sees the iron without any fear at all, and carried it as far as the king had ordered. The priest then showed everyone his unharmed hand, and gave proof to everyone there of his Catholic faith. As a result, the king became a Christian and decreed that God alone was to be worshiped. He ordered all his subjects to reject idols and gave all due honor to the priest and servants of God.
Starting point is 04:08:32 By these events, also, he writes, are to be ascribed to the virtues and merit of your father by whose efforts the churches and order of priests shined forth in these regions." It's interesting to note that if you zoom out and you look at the history of Scandinavia from about 950 to about 1010 or 1020, really a single person's lifetime, they go from basically being pagan countries to basically being Christian countries. It is shocking the speed at which this occurs, and it wouldn't have happened if the rulers themselves didn't convert and then proclaim that everyone else had to convert to. That's what the yelling stone talks about. Made the Danes Christian. Didn't
Starting point is 04:09:27 ask them to become Christian. Didn't encourage them to become Christian. Made them Christian. But as Viking historian from the University of Nottingham, due to the end, she points out, there is a difference between conversion, which can be done overnight by decree, and Christianization, which can take centuries. Judith Yench makes another distinction that's very interesting, a distinction between religion and myth, and where one ends and the other begins. I mean, for example, if a people like the Scandinavians convert to Christianity, does that mean they can't believe in things like dwarves and elves and trolls anymore? Can they
Starting point is 04:10:11 still believe in the female spirit that supposedly inhabits all of us? I mean, how much of the old folklore do they give up also? Another thing worth pointing out is that even if the rulers and the rulers retinues and the people that are vassals to the rulers convert to Christianity, so as we said by about the ten hundreds, mid-ten hundreds, certainly, officially, those kinds of people have in all the Scandinavian countries. Doesn't mean there still aren't temples and out of the way places, still having the old blood sacrifices, they're going to have those in the out of the
Starting point is 04:10:45 way, uh, territories of Sweden into the 1100s. So it's a process. In addition, it's not necessarily being treated the same way that, for example, Charlemagne treated conversion 150 years before this time period, where if you recall, as we said in part one of this story, he was cutting the heads off Saxons who had the audacity to eat during a fast day. I mean, it was draconian when Iceland converts by democratic decision, by the way, in 10 hundred, they agreed to keep some of the heathen practices going for a while and sort of let them wither on the vine rather than get rid of them overnight. For example, they decree that you can still have the practice of infanticide, right?
Starting point is 04:11:30 Exposing unwanted children continue just do it in private, right? They also say you can continue to eat horse flesh. Just do it in private. Let that die out. I didn't even know, shows you what I know. I didn't even know that eating horse flesh was against the Christian religion at this time period, but it was a big deal. And you can see it was a big deal
Starting point is 04:11:50 when you look at how Norway gets into the conversion process during this same time period. Now, let's zoom out for a minute and realize that one of the things we get from being able to finally see some history in Scandinavia that you can sort of rely upon during Harold Bluetooth's time, is that you get a window into what it must have been like before history sort of pulls the veil off what's going on. Archaeology has always hinted at this, so have the old sagas and whatnot. But the fighting amongst peoples within Sweden, Denmark,
Starting point is 04:12:24 and Norway, and between Sweden, Denmark and Norway, we should also include Finland in this to some degree, has been going on from time immemorial probably. And when the Herald Bluetooth era sort of shines the light on what's going on in Scandinavia, we see it's still going on. So when the yelling stone says that Harold, you know, unites Denmark and Norway, well, you might ask yourself, what the heck unites Denmark and Norway, well, you might ask yourself What the heck is Harold doing in Norway, right? What does he have to do with Norway?
Starting point is 04:12:50 Now we should say and we have already, but let's remind ourselves that the borders of the modern Scandinavian countries are not the borders back in this time. Denmark in air quotes controls parts of southern Sweden. They have the rulers of parts of Norway, which is not a unified country as vassal. So it's hard to get your mind around what's more. We had talked about the great legendary leader Harold Fein, Harold, Fer, Harold, Harold Hair, Fer, who supposedly legendarily united Norway. Well, when he dies, as we said, his kids begin to tear things apart and fight each other. I mean, I'm looking at you, Eric Bloodaxe, one of the most vicious
Starting point is 04:13:30 Vikings of all time, supposedly. They're killing each other. They're setting their meat halls on fire and burning them and they're retinues up. I mean, it's, it's horrible stuff. But there's one of Harold Fairhairs' kids who is safely in sconce away from all this violence. He's in England. And I say allegedly because once again, we have to rely on the Saugas for this to a degree. So hard to parse how much of this is real and how much of it isn't. But there's one of Harold Fine Hare's sons in the court of Ethel Stan king of, well, let's call it England at this time period in his book on the saga is the Himes Cringlay.
Starting point is 04:14:15 Snory sterless and has the story of this guy. And I must say right off the bat, it's wonderfully refreshing that he doesn't have the same name as everyone else because by the time we get to where we are in this story You must feel like I do that the Norse needed a bigger book of potential baby names to choose from because there's far too many Harolds and erics and Olaf's and it becomes very confusing so whenever you run into a Hrulf or an IVAR or anything like that, it's a pleasant surprise. In this case, the son of Harold Feinherr, who is in England during this time period's name, is Hacon. HAAKON
Starting point is 04:14:55 is the way it's usually written. And if you believe Snory Stirlis and Saga's, he is the foster son of Ethelstan because Ethelstan was tricked into accepting him. But that doesn't mean he wasn't happy with the result. Snory Stirlisons comments on the young life of Hakkan who will eventually be known as Hakkan the Good. Say this quote. King Ethelstan had Hakkan christened and taught him the right faith and good habits and all kind of learning and manners.
Starting point is 04:15:27 He loved him much, more than he did his own kin, and so did everyone who knew the boy. He was afterwards called Atholstan's foster son. He was the greatest in sports, bigger and stronger and more handsome than any other. He was wise, of fair speech, and a good Christian. King Ethelstan gave Hakon a sword, of which the Hilton grip were of gold, but the blade was even better, and with it, Hakon cleaved a millstone to the eye, and it was afterwards called the Kfern bit, or millstone, bider. It was the best sword that ever came to Norway. Hakkan had it till his death day." There are a couple of things that pop into my mind when I read that. The first is that current bit is like
Starting point is 04:16:15 sort of a Norwegian version of ex-caliber in my mind and I'm fascinated by how swords acquire these sorts of lineages or almost like magic qualities. By the way, if you don't know what a millstone is, it's like a wagon wheel size stone used to grind grain and it's basically when he says it cleaves it to the eye, this is a guy who then took a sword
Starting point is 04:16:39 and cut a piece of stone, the size of maybe a wagon wheel to the midsection. Current bit, very interesting, right? It is interesting to me too that swords can acquire this sort of soul, if you will, or personality in a way that things like firearms never quite did. And it's not a Scandinavian thing. Look at the way the Japanese, for example, do the same thing with their swords, hand them down from generation to generation, have ancient lineages, and all I can figure is because of the speed at which technology changes in the firearms era, you wouldn't want an ancient gun, right?
Starting point is 04:17:15 You wouldn't want to try to fight your enemies with a, you know, musket from the Daniel Boone era in the 1950s or the 1960s, right, using an M16 instead, whereas good old current bit would have been useful 200, 300 years after the time period where, you know, Apple Stan gave it to him, just like it would have been useful 200 or 300 years before that period. The other thing that comes to mind, and when you read Snory Stirlisson, and you get any of his works that have illustrations in it, you can't help but notice it. It's the extreme contrast between those illustrations and the Hollywood trope of the Vikings. Now, I had to look up when the illustrations were penned, but they were penned in 1899,
Starting point is 04:18:05 right? So very modern, but not quite Hollywood modern. And they portray all of these figures as far less barbaric than the way the Hollywood trope has a seat. There's fire breathing berserkers who look like they belong, heavy metal rock concert. I mean, there's a whole bunch of tropes involved in the Hollywood view of these things that make the Viking seem almost like you couldn't live next to them.
Starting point is 04:18:31 And the monks didn't help, right? The monks always portray these heathen pagan types as one step above animals sometimes. But the snorries, sterless, and illustrations make them look very much like, say, the English in Ethel Stans court might have looked. In other words, normal people, clean, well dressed when they're not going to war in their
Starting point is 04:18:53 armor and stuff. They were nice clothes. They look like typical early Middle Ages type people, right? Respectable types. And in fact, if Ethel Stans can raise on Harold Feinhaer's son in his court as a Christian, basically being indistinguishable from an English Anglo-Saxon person, and then send him back to Norway, well, he's got to be enough like those people if they're to accept him as a king.
Starting point is 04:19:22 Doesn't he have to be that way? Because that's what Ethel Stan does. Because after Harold Fine Hair dies and his kids start going to war with each other basically and tearing things apart, Eric Bloodac supposedly takes control for a couple of years, but so angers everybody that he causes problems and they want a new king and well, lo and behold, there's one sort of exiled in England just ready to return the return of the king at the right time. Atholstan supposedly gives him boats and followers and monks and sins. Hakan over to the land of his birth that he did not grow up in so that he can become the king there. And oh yeah, when he arrives, he's a Christian. Now, hack on the good and Harold Bluetooth
Starting point is 04:20:05 are contemporaries, basically, and in fact, they're gonna fight each other. So what you see is all of this Christianity coming to Norway and Denmark, especially, all in a very short period of time and all in a very strong way, right amongst rulers. But whereas Harold Bluetooth is so powerful and so scary and has the support of so many nobles that he can sort of enforce his will when it comes to Christianity,
Starting point is 04:20:33 Hakkan has a harder time. And this is where you can see that you have to kind of be careful how you impose a new religion on people, not necessarily because they are opposed to changing their beliefs if they believe in the new God, but they're worried about pissing off the old gods. This is the part we often forget. What happens if you believe that the God's control things like the harvest and the health of your family members and everything like that? And then things go bad with that. Right? If you have a bad harvest, all of a sudden, and you just threw out the old gods and your king is trying to push into new God, well, what do you think that might be from? In other
Starting point is 04:21:16 words, these have two people. What do we say earlier when we were talking about if magic is real or if you think magic is real, if the tinkerbell effect is real, well, if you think that God's control, things like the harvest and a new God is brought in and all of a sudden, you have a lot of bad harvests, what then? I love the way. Gwyn Jones in his famous late 1960s work, a history of the Vikings. So to portrays this time period, not as a struggle between Scandinavian who want to be Christians and Scandinavians who want to be pagans, but against the Christian God and the Norse pantheon themselves. And at one point, he's talking about how in order to forestall the Christian conversion in a place like Norway, the Iser, the Norse pantheon, has
Starting point is 04:22:06 tools to fight back, and Jones writes, quote, Men could do little except grumble and hope for a change, but the Iser defended themselves with bad harvests, bad fishing, bad weather, the snow lay through midsummer, and cows stayed in stall as north among the laps, which may be a poetic way of saying that the all-important farmer class felt itself pinched and alienated." This is the other problem, trying to disentangle Christian conversion from an actual belief level from the power politics of the day and everything else going on is very difficult.
Starting point is 04:22:47 And in fact, when you read the saga, as you can see how often the kings here, whether it's Harold Bluetooth or others, will see people's reticence to convert to Christianity as a personal attack on their authority, right? Because partly they're converting to Christianity, because it enhances their authority, right? The Christian hierarchy, the power hierarchy has them at the tip of the pyramid, and if people don't want to convert to Christianity,
Starting point is 04:23:12 maybe it's because they want to keep their petty king or petty chieftain power for themselves. So all of these things weave into a kind of a tangled rope, and it's tough to disentangle true belief from geopolitical realities, from power politics and all this other stuff. There's a real transactional nature to a lot of the ancient and medieval beliefs with gods that you don't see as much anymore. I mean, of course, you still do, but not like in the days when you almost have people sort of weighing the different deities against each other and basically saying, you know, what have you done for me lately, right? This is a question of, you know, who's been on my side most recently. I mean, take, for example, the famous story of how Constantine, the Roman
Starting point is 04:23:57 Emperor, converts to Christianity, it's a very sort of a transactional deal. He's about to fight a battle in a civil war and he has a dream. This is the legend. He has a dream where it says, if you paint your shields with the Christian symbol, you will triumph tomorrow. So he gets up from the dream, he has all his soldiers paint the chiro on their shields,
Starting point is 04:24:16 which was the symbol before the cross became. So viewed as the symbol of Christianity, and of course, lo and behold, he wins the battle. Boom. So he's going to become a Christian. And he's, lo and behold, he wins the battle. Boom. So he's going to become a Christian. He's Christian. He's going to start to become an established religion in Rome. And if that dream really happened,
Starting point is 04:24:32 think about what an effect on future history that had. But there's a lot of this in this world too, where it's all about, you know, what God has done something for me lately. And when a guy like Harold Bluetooth watches a guy like Popo supposedly lift a glowing iron piece of metal and carry it around and not have blisters, he's not converting to Christianity
Starting point is 04:24:56 so he can get into heaven. He's converting to Christianity because who wants to not have the God on their side? Right, he really want to be going into battle and trying to conquer things and have God mad at you? I love the way the Mongols supposedly handled all this. We talked about it in the Mongols show where they left all of the religions of the people
Starting point is 04:25:16 they conquered intact, but supposedly just required them to pray for the cons' health, figuring that they were hedging their bets. They didn't know which religion was true and which God was real. But if everybody was praying for the cons health and the real God was getting the message somehow, but you will even see after this period attempts to almost woo the Scandinavians who convert to Christianity back to the old ways. And it's all transaction right. Come back and believe in me. And I'll save you from this problem or come back and believe in me. And I'll help you out with this thing you're having to deal with. I mean,
Starting point is 04:25:55 it's very like we said, transaction, they're not thinking about getting into heaven when they die as much as they're thinking about who can help me the most while I'm alive. University of Oslo historian John Vidal, Sigurdson in his book, Scandinavia in the age of the Vikings, points out that this transactional attitude applies when it comes to Scandinavian nobles and, to other kings and other chiefdans, so why not to the gods? They have unstable relationships with all of these entities, and then he says, quote, to their way of thinking, if another more powerful god existed, who could offer better protection and help, then the Norse gods had failed, and it was therefore necessary to change sides and begin worshipping the New God, in this case the Christian God." Now it's possible that this was a foreign concept
Starting point is 04:26:56 to a guy like Hakkahn the Good, right, viewing religion in a transactional sense, because after all, Hakkahn the Good was, as far as Norway was concerned for and himself, right? Allegedly raised in England, allegedly the foster son of the king of England. So he may have viewed religion in a much more Anglo-Saxon or English way than the way of Viking Scandinavian might have viewed it. When he returns to rule Norway, he lacks the traditional alliances with power, the nexus of authority, the personal partnerships and relationships your average Scandinavian would have developed over a lifetime that allows them to rule effectively. So he's like an American president who's from one political party that has to somehow rule with a Congress dominated by the other political party. Right. So he's
Starting point is 04:27:50 from the Christian political party. His Congress are a bunch of Odin worshipers, and he'll have to make religious concessions during his reign. So there might be some compromises with paganism, or if you believe some of the sources may be even a full-blown relapse into paganism, but he's doing something right because Hek on the Good is going to rule in Norway for almost 30 years, which is an amazing feat. He will win a bunch of battles during this time. The last one that he will fight will be in either 960 or 961. It's called the Battle of Fittjar, and it will be against his own nephews, or probably half nephews. Of course, this is not unusual, right?
Starting point is 04:28:32 When you are involved in kingship and blue blood matters, the only people that have blue blood are likely to be related to you. And that's why when you watch the Carolingian descend into fratricidal madness, it's always brother against brother or uncle against nephew. And it's the same in the Scandinavian royal situation. The battle of fit jar between hack on the good and his half nephews ends with hack on the good winning the battle, but losing the war. And he will be famously hit by an arrow and either the arm or the shoulder and medicine, being what it is in the early middle ages. This is often a mortal wound. And in hack on's case, it is. And it kills him. He bleeds out.
Starting point is 04:29:17 And the people to take over from him are these half nephews. Now a little on their background, just because it's not confusing enough yet. They are allegedly the sons of Eric Bloodaxe. Eric Bloodaxe is allegedly the son of our friend Harold Fair, Harold Find Hare, Harold Hare, Farah Fair, Lufa, Mophead, whatever you want to call him, who is quickly becoming the equivalent of the fountain head of blue bloodedness in Norwegian royal history. So if you want to rule Norway, you kind of have to tie yourself to him, just to confuse everyone one more degree. They're also the full nephews apparently of our friend in Denmark, Harold Bluetooth. So all these
Starting point is 04:29:58 people are related. The guy who gets the lion's share of Norway after winning the battle of Fitjar or really losing the battle of Fitjar, but killing Hack on the Good is also named Harold. His name is Harold Gray-Cloke. And Harold Gray-Cloke is, well, he's notable because he's going to take the conversion process in a little bit of a different direction than Hack on the Good. He's not going to settle for sort of a compromise with paganism, he's going to try to dominate the pagans and take an almost Charlaminian armed evangelistic approach to converting the heathen. He's going to do so at the point of a sword,
Starting point is 04:30:39 you're going to convert or you're going to die. During his reign, he will kill a bunch of minor chieftains and absorb their territories. He will have a falling out with his uncle, Harold Bluetooth, and in 970, Harold Bluetooth somehow lures Harold Gray cloak to Denmark and has him whacked. He's either killed by Harold Bluetooth himself. He's either killed by an assassin of Harold Bluetooth, or he's killed by an ally of Harold Bluetooth, but Harold Bluetooth will then put a compliant yarl on the throne that had been formally occupied by the guy he just whacked. And he will rule through him, which probably accounts for how a Harold Bluetooth can say on the yelling stone that he ruled Denmark and Norway, even if it's a bit of an exaggeration.
Starting point is 04:31:29 Hopefully, herald Bluetooth is enjoying his time on the throne because the next generation that is by 970, totalling around on the long house floor, is going to be the ones that take him out and a bunch of other people too. It's an amazing generation of Scandinavian leaders, one of whom will be called the most spectacular Viking of his age by historian Gwen Jones, another who will be the guy who topples herald Bluetooth. That'll be his own son, a guy named Spine, Sven, Swain, take your pick, Forkbeard. And the other one, the most spectacular Viking of his age is a guy known as Olaf Trigvison.
Starting point is 04:32:14 This is all part of, let's call it the class of nine sixties. The people born in the nine sixties, who by the nine seventies are starting to grow up and by the nine eighties are making their presence known. Olaf is famous for his youth. He's running for his life before he can even probably speak. His mother moving him around in various places to keep him alive. He gets sold into slavery. He ends up fighting in the retinue of, you know, King or Prince Vladimir in the territory of the Rus, he'll end up in Iceland for a while, and then he'll famously end up in England when the second, so-called second Viking age, hits in England. So we need to switch over there for a minute to show where all of the
Starting point is 04:33:00 money's going to come from that allows guys like Olaf Trigvason and Svane Forkbeard to do what they're going to do back in Scandinavia. Because by about the nine eighties, England is had a nice respite from Viking attacks for almost 30 years. It's the longest break they've had since the Viking attacks for a started. In fact, one of their kings is going to be called Edgar the Peaceful because there's no Viking attacks during his reign at all. Sounds great. Maybe if you were in England, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Viking
Starting point is 04:33:35 age is over until it starts again. And what's interesting is when I was growing up reading mid-20th century history, they did not blame the second Viking age in England on the Viking rulers. They blamed it on the English ruler. They're going to famously have what a guy like Winston Churchill probably would have described as a loser getting the throne of England. And he's a guy who gets blamed by people like Churchill for everything bad that happens afterwards. But remember, a guy like Churchill is firmly in the camp of those people who believe in what's known as the great man theory of history, right? Doesn't take trends and forces into account, doesn't take geography, doesn't take
Starting point is 04:34:19 environment. He blames rulers. And Churchill amongst many other people. Look at the people from Alfred the Great's time on and see a bunch of really strong rulers. Right. The reason there's no Viking attacks is because you have these August figures, you know, leading Britain into prosperity and peacefulness and the era of greatness. and then all of a sudden the lottery of monarchy comes up snake eyes with a guy like Ethel Reddy and Reddy. And listen to how Churchill describes this poor figure who takes control of Britain in the late nine seventies. This is from Winston Churchill's history of the English-speaking peoples, quote. It must have seemed contemporaries that with the magnificent coronation at Bath in 973, on which all coronation orders since have been based, the seal was set on the unity of the realm.
Starting point is 04:35:16 Everywhere the courts are sitting regularly, in Shire, and Burrow, and Hundred, there is one coinage, and one system of weights and measures. The arts of building and decoration are reviving. Learning begins to flourish again in the church. There is a literary language at King's English, which all educated men write. Civilization has been restored to the island. But now, he writes, the political fabric which nurtured it was about to be overthrown. Hither too, strong men, armed, had kept the house.
Starting point is 04:35:50 Now a child, a weakling, a vacillator, a faithless, feckless creature, succeeded to the warrior throne. Twenty-five years of peace lapped the island, and the English so magnificent and stress and danger, so invincible under valiant leadership, relaxed under its softening influences. We have reached the days of Ethel Red, the Unready." End quote. Now, poor Ethel Red, the Unready, may be getting a bad rap here, and anytime you see such a vociferous denunciation of someone's reputation, you're
Starting point is 04:36:27 just inviting later historians to sort of play devil's advocate. And 21st century historians have been quite a bit more gentle with Ethel Reddy and Reddy than mid 20th century historians were. A guy like Churchill and his ilk would suggest that the reason the Viking raids begin again during Ethel Red's reign is because they can smell fear and they can sense disorder and poor leadership, which is not untrue. But there's a lot of other reasons why the raids could start up again in the nine eighties, partly because the English have become rich. Fabulously wealthy. They may be the richest kingdom in all of Western Europe
Starting point is 04:37:08 during this time period. For all those reasons, church will just mention. First of all, they're a unified realm. They've got a new coinage and minting. They're exporting lots of raw materials and getting gold and silver in return. They've reorganized the structure of the realm. It's a fabulously wealthy place,
Starting point is 04:37:26 and that's going to attract criminal pirates all by itself, isn't it? An ether red comes to the throne in the nine seventies. He's a young guy, 13, 14 years old, by about the nine eighties, the Viking sales start appearing on the horizon again. And it's been 30 years or so since the last attacks, but historian Mark Morris pointed out something I didn't realize.
Starting point is 04:37:48 He said that the attacks that had happened previously, you know, 40, 50, 60 years ago, had all come from relatively nearby, Ireland, the Orkney Islands, places where Vikings were sort of based near the British Isles. He says that in the 90s, these are the first attacks that come directly from Scandinavia in like a hundred years. It starts off with seven ships here, three ships there, although according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, those small numbers of ships managed to do quite a bit of damage.
Starting point is 04:38:19 There may be something larger in the late 980s, but then in 991 there's an exponential explosion in the number of ships that show up. 991, almost a hundred long ships appear off the eastern coast of Britain. Led according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by a guy named Olaf. Now, as we've talked about, Olaf's pretty common name during this period, and the best historians in the business are split over whether this is some Olaf we're not aware of, or whether it's Olaf Trigvison, right? The guy who will become Olaf the first of Norway, the guy that Gwen Jones referred to
Starting point is 04:38:58 as the most spectacular Viking of his age. It's really hard though, if you want to try to connect the dots on, you know, where any of these great Viking figures are at any given time. You know, nail down their location really difficult to do. I mean, Spain forkbeer is a perfect example. Overthrows his father, Harold Bluetooth in the late 1980s and Bluetooth dies. Is he in Denmark after that? Some people think so. Others say that the king of Sweden comes over rules. Denmark for a while and Spain goes elsewhere where we don't know. So is this Olaf Triggerson in 991? Could be. But the Viking fleet of almost a hundred long ships raids a little bit along the eastern coast of the Anglo-Saxon realm before putting into an island off the coast, which
Starting point is 04:39:45 is what they normally did. Right. You drag your long ships up on the sand. You muster your troops. You fortify the little island and then you use that as a jumping off point for raids. And in 991, they take this little island over and they're looking to attack a town called Maulden when the Anglo-Saxons confront them on the coast. A force of locally raised troops to fight the Scandinavian Raiders. And this will result in one of the most famous battles of the period, the 991 Battle of Maulden, it's called, and the guy who confronts these Scandinavian raiders this
Starting point is 04:40:25 large fleet, and no one knows the numbers. I've read from 2000 to 4000 Vikings, which is, of course, a huge discrepancy, and 4000 troops would have meant nothing to the Chinese in this period, or the Indians, or the Byzantines, or the Arabs, but 4,000 Vikings in early medieval Western Europe as a lot of Vikings. They are confronted by a nobleman. He's sometimes referred to as an Earl who was certainly an Alderman. He's got the wonderful Anglo-Saxon old Germanic-style name of Bretonoth. Maybe 60 years old shows up with his personal retinue of things. As we had talked about earlier,
Starting point is 04:41:05 in part one, we dealt extensively with the military situation. And in Anglo-Saxon thane is in some ways nearly indistinguishable from a high ranking Viking warrior. We called them first string players, like a sporting analogy. And the first stringers on both sides are comparable. It's the second stringers where the Viking warriors have a real advantage over the British, well, English is the more proper term. Obviously during this time period, Anglo-Saxon maybe even is the proper term, but Brutonoth has raised what the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to as the people, the fear, is the other word that you'll see used. And historians sometimes divide the feared into what's called the select feared, which
Starting point is 04:41:48 is the better equipped, more formidable version of the people and the great feared, which is the guys who harvest the weed in the field. But this is a second string that is nowhere near as good as the Viking warrior second string because the Viking warrior second string has shown up here to fight. They expect to fight, they plan to fight, they've probably fought before and they probably have better equipment and they adhere to a religious belief, at least those ones who are not yet Christian and come from a culture that exalts the idea of fighting and they're going to have combat with a bunch of people
Starting point is 04:42:26 from a culture that amongst the farmer class doesn't. I mean, the fangs, exalt fighting, that's their job, but the feared, these are the guys who harvest, you know, the wheat, right? So it's a different group of people. The numbers, again, are unknown. Some suggest that they're equal to the Viking numbers. Some suggest that they are less than the Viking numbers. No one suggests that I've read that the Anglo-Saxons here outnumber the Viking force. But what that means is, breath-noth's best troops are as good as the ones he's facing, but his other troops are far inferior. There is a poem that's famous and that's helped make this battle famous that was composed historians think not that long after the event.
Starting point is 04:43:09 It's also called, usually, the Battle of Maldon. It is not written as a historical document. There's lots of things in it that are trying to send messages or evoke certain feelings that have nothing to do with facts, but there are historical elements you can probably tease out of it and that historians have to help get a sense of things. One thing is that, and if you believe it, this breath-noth has to sort of explain to some of these militia troops, would be a good way to describe them, how to do the most basic sorts of things, how
Starting point is 04:43:45 to hold your shield, how to stand next to the guy next to you. I mean, if you're about to fight a bunch of Viking warriors who know how to fight, with a bunch of guys that you have to show how to hold their shield, an hour before they're going to fight these guys, well, you can see how that might be a problem. There's an interesting aspect to militia troops. And we had mentioned in part one of this show that you could probably classify most armies in human history as militia armies, right? With the people who are armed, right? You just arm the locals and they go out there and fight.
Starting point is 04:44:20 militia armies tend to get better over time. The early Roman Republican legions were Malisha armies and they famously would start wars not doing very well and then the longer the war went on, they got better and better. But these are people this feared who fight only when needed and they have to get back to the fields before too long because otherwise you face a famine if they're not there to harvest the wheat. So they never have time to get really good. There's also a difference between
Starting point is 04:44:49 militia armies fighting in the age of missile weapons being the dominant sort of weapon versus the kind of fighting that they're gonna do at the Battle of Maldon. Many countries, the United States, as a perfect example, celebrate our early malicious, right? We had a group of people known as the Minutemen in Revolutionary War American history. Guys who would keep a musket over the fireplace.
Starting point is 04:45:12 And if a guy like Paul Revere and he probably didn't do this quite the way it was suggested, but if he sits up there in the North Church tower and says, the British are coming, the British are coming. Everybody grabs the musket off the mantle of the fireplace, runs out into the field, lines up next to your neighbor, and shoots at the red coats 50 or 100 yards away with a musket. That is a very different thing
Starting point is 04:45:35 to what the fear it has to do against the Vikings. There is no countering a musket ball in the air. I mean, one of the reasons that people used crossbows in an era where a longbow was a much better weapon is it takes a long time to learn how to use a longbow well. You can teach a person how to use a crossbow in an afternoon. And there's no defense, right? You can't, these aren't like movies with Shaolin priests who are knocking away arrows and quarrels with their hands. you shoot them there in trouble. But this is like fighting somebody in an MMA fight.
Starting point is 04:46:08 If you have to walk up as a member of the fjord and, you know, launch your spear at a Viking from close range, well, they can counter that, can't they? They can parry it. They can duck. There's acrobatics. There's moves. There's counter moves. It's a very different sort of situation
Starting point is 04:46:26 You're going into your first MMA fight and you're fighting people who are experienced in the octagon It's a whole different story and it is very scary and very intimidating and The historian I was reading Torasaya in his book The Wolf Age points out that, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, before some of these battles that the Anglo-Saxons fought with the Vikings, some of the leaders were vomiting, and the implication is they're vomiting because they're scared. And in The Wolf Age, Taurus Shia writes, quote,
Starting point is 04:47:04 The nervous tension during the preparations could be unbearable. This is something never disclosed in the heroic Scaldic poems, but which shines through in the more down-to-earth Anglo-Saxon sources. In the tense and oppressive atmosphere before battle, the men found an outlet for their anxiety through aggressive and obscene shouting. Wild battle cries, he writes, and primitive howling could be heard across the plain as the men of both sides shook their quivers and raised their spears to the sky. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle tells of an alderman who had led an army in a previous fight against
Starting point is 04:47:40 the Danes, who were so nervous before the battle that he began to vomit in front of his men. His people consequently refused to fight, and the army then disbanded." End quote. I actually went up and looked up that entry in my copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle makes it sound like that guy was faking it, because he was working with the Viking, so you never know. But the thing to remember when these two sides come to grips at the Battle of Maldon is that they're basically very similar armies in terms of how they fight. They're armed basically the
Starting point is 04:48:15 same. They're armored basically the same. Their numbers are probably close. There is no cavalry on either side. There is no complicated tactical maneuvers involved, and we had said in part one that when all of those factors are equal, whatever factors that differentiate between the two forces are left are exalted. So if one side is much more experienced than the other, or has much higher morale, these become determining factors. And if Bret North commanding the Anglo-Saxons literally has to tell his people how to hold their shields in the hour before they're expected to do so, that's not a good sign. In addition,
Starting point is 04:48:59 there is, as we said earlier, this tendency in this time period as we said earlier, this tendency in this time period for the people who win these battles to be the side that doesn't run away. If you look at Runic inscriptions on a lot of runes stones in Scandinavia during this period, when they're trying to exalt the reputation of a warrior, they will say he fled not. He didn't run away. And if one side runs away before the other side does, that becomes the determining reason the battle's lost. And the reason it matters in these battles is because that's what's going to happen so often in these battles. And the people that run away first are usually going to be the second stringers on the Anglo-Saxon side.
Starting point is 04:49:53 According to the poem, the Battle of Maldon, things start off with a Viking herald showing up, and basically saying to the English or the Anglo-Saxons, whichever term is more proper during this time period, we're in sort of a transition period, he basically says to them, listen, I bring the message from the Viking guys, and this is what they need to let you live. And from the Battle of Maldon, the poem written soon after the affair, I'm using a translation I found online that I really liked from Dr. Aaron Kay Haasdetter. And from the middle of the piece, he talks about the herald showing up and says, quote, then one stood on the shore, sternly calling out a Viking herald, conversing in many words. He delivered in a vaunt, the message of the brim sailors to that nobleman where he stood on the riverbank. End quote.
Starting point is 04:50:39 And he's talking about breath, not the commander of the Anglo Saxons. The herald says, quote, they have sent me to you the hardy see men. They bid you to be informed that you must quickly send rings in exchange for protection rings, by the way, means wealth. And it would be better for you to buy off with tribute this storm of spears. Otherwise, we should deal in such a hard battle. We needn't destroy ourselves. If you are sufficiently rich.
Starting point is 04:51:06 We wish to establish a safeguard in exchange for gold. If you decide this, you who are most powerful here, and you wish to ransom your people and give to the sea men, according to their own discretion, money in exchange for peace, and take a truce at our hands, we will go back to our ships with our payment, and sail away, holding the peace with you." That's not why this breath-noth is here, though, his job is to confront these people, and the poem has him saying, quote, Breath-noth spoke back, raising up his shield, waving his slender spear, speaking in words angry and resolute, giving the Manser.
Starting point is 04:51:50 Now he's speaking. Quote, have you heard, sailor, what these people say? They wish to give you spears as tribute.