Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert [on Commentary in Square Brackets]



Professor of English Language and Literature

Armstrong College, University of Durham: late Fellow

of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Cambridge:  at the University Scriptorium  1913

Table of Contents















INDEX.. 116




The term ‘Viking’ is derived from the Old Norse _vík_, a bay, and

means ‘one who haunts a bay, creek or fjord[1].’

[Viking comes from Vik-Kings, Viks being the huge fjords cutting into

the coast of the Nor’Way and Kings being the petty kings who lorded

over them; and their people came to be called VIKINGS]

In the 9th and 10th

centuries it came to be used more especially of those warriors who

left their homes in Scandinavia and made raids on the chief European

countries. This is the narrow, and technically the only correct use of

the term ‘Viking,’ but in such expressions as ‘Viking civilisation,’

‘the Viking age,’ ‘the Viking movement,’ ‘Viking influence,’ the word

has come to have a wider significance and is used as a concise and

convenient term for describing the whole of the civilisation, activity

and influence of the Scandinavian peoples, at a particular period in

their history, and to apply the term ‘Viking’ in its narrower sense to

these movements would be as misleading as to write an account of the

age of Elizabeth and label it ‘The Buccaneers.’

It is in the broader sense that the term is employed in the present

manual. Plundering and harrying form but one aspect of Viking activity

and it is mainly a matter of accident that this aspect is the one that

looms largest in our minds. Our knowledge of the Viking movement was,

until the last half-century, drawn almost entirely from the works of

medieval Latin chroniclers, writing in monasteries and other kindred

schools of learning which had only too often felt the devastating hand

of Viking raiders. They naturally regarded them as little better than

pirates and they never tired of expatiating upon their cruelty and

their violence. It is only during the last fifty years or so that we

have been able to revise our ideas of Viking civilisation and to form a

juster conception of the part which it played in the history of Europe.

The change has come about chiefly in two ways. In the first place the

literature of Scandinavia is no longer a sealed book to us. For our

period there are three chief groups of native authorities: (1) the

prose sagas and the _Historia Danica_ of Saxo Grammaticus, (2) the

eddaic poems, (3) the skaldic poems. The prose sagas and Saxo belong to

a date considerably later than the Viking age, but they include much

valuable material referring to that period. The chief poems of the

older Edda date from the Viking period itself and are invaluable for

the information they give us as to the religion and mythology of the

Scandinavian peoples at this time, the heroic stories current amongst

them, and their general outlook on life. The skaldic poems are however

in some ways the most valuable historical authority for the period. The

_skalds_ or court-poets were attached to the courts of kings and jarls,

shared their adventures, praised their victories, and made songs of

lament on their death, and their work is largely contemporary with the

events they describe.

Secondly, and yet more important in its results perhaps, archaeological

science has, within the last half-century, made rapid advance, and the

work of archaeologists on the rich finds brought to light during the

last hundred years has given us a vast body of concrete fact, with the

aid of which we have been able to reconstruct the material civilisation

of the Viking period far more satisfactorily than we could from the

scattered and fragmentary notices found in the sagas and elsewhere.

The resultant picture calls for description later, but it is well to

remember from the outset that it is a very different one from that

commonly associated with the term ‘Viking.’

With this word of explanation and note of warning we may proceed to our

main subject.


[1] The word is older than the actual Viking age: it is found in

Anglo-Saxon in the form _wicing_. Some writers have said that it means

‘people from the district of the _Vík_’ in South Norway, so-called

from the long fjord-like opening which is found there, but the early

Anglo-Saxon use of the term forbids this derivation.



The period of Scandinavian history to which the term Viking is applied

extends roughly from the middle of the 8th to the end of the 10th or

the first half of the 11th century. Its commencement was marked by the

raids of Scandinavian freebooters upon the coasts of England, Western

Scotland and Ireland and upon Frankish territory. Its climax was

reached when in the course of the 9th and 10th centuries Scandinavian

rule was established in Ireland, Man and the Western Islands, the

northern and midland districts of England, Normandy, and a great

part of Russia. Its close was marked by the consolidation of the

Scandinavian kingdoms in the late 10th and early 11th centuries under

such mighty sovereigns as Olaf Tryggvason and Olaf the Holy in Norway,

Olaf Skötkonung in Sweden, and greatest of all, king Knut in Denmark,

who for a brief time united the whole of Scandinavia and a great part

of the British Isles in one vast confederacy.

The extent and importance of the movement is indicated from the first

by the almost simultaneous appearance of trouble in England, on the

coast of France, and on the Eider boundary between Denmark and the

Frankish empire.

In the reign of Beorhtric, king of Wessex (786-802), three ships of

the Northmen coming from Hörðaland (around Hardanger Fjord) landed

near Dorchester, in June 793 Lindisfarne was sacked, in March 800

Charlemagne found himself compelled to equip a fleet and establish a

stronger coastguard to defend the Frankish coast against the attacks

of the Northmen, and from 777 onwards, when the Saxon patriot Widukind

took refuge with the Danish king Sigefridus (O.N. Sigröðr), there was

almost constant friction along the land-boundary between Denmark and

the Frankish empire.

This outburst of hostile activity had been preceded by considerable

intercourse of a varied character between Scandinavia and the countries

of Western Europe. Early in the 6th century the Danes or, according to

another authority, the Götar from Götaland in south Sweden, invaded

Frisia under their king Chocilaicus. Reference is made to this raid

in the story of Hygelac, king of the Geatas, in _Beowulf_. Professor

Zimmer suggested that the attacks of unknown pirates on the island

of Eigg in the Hebrides and on Tory Island off Donegal, described

in certain Irish annals of the 7th century, were really the work of

Scandinavian raiders. The evidence of Irish legend and saga goes

to prove that in the same century Irish anchorites settled in the

Shetlands but were later compelled by the arrival of Scandinavian

settlers to move on to the lonely Faroes. Here they were not to be

left in peace, for the Irish geographer Dicuil, writing in 825, tells

us that the Faroes had then been deserted by the monks for some thirty

years owing to the raids of Northmen pirates. Dr Jakobsen has shown

that the forms of place-names in the Shetlands point very definitely

to a settlement from Scandinavia in pre-Viking days–before 700–while

the sculptured stones of Gothland show already at the end of the 7th

century clear evidence of Celtic art influence. Possibly also merchants

of Scandinavian origin were already settled in the Frankish empire and

it is certain that there was considerable trade between Scandinavia and

the West.

Most of the intercourse thus demonstrated was slow in development,

peaceful and civilising in character. How came it that in the later

years of the 8th century this intercourse was suddenly strengthened and

intensified, while at the same time it underwent a great change both in

methods and character?

The traditional explanation is that given by Dudo and by William of

Jumièges in their histories of the settlement of Normandy and by Saxo

in his account of Danish settlements in Baltic lands in the 10th

century, viz. that the population of Scandinavia had outgrown its means

of support and that enforced emigration was the result. There may be a

certain element of truth in the tradition but when it says that this

excess of population was due to polygamy we have every reason to doubt

it. Polygamy does not lead to an over-rapid growth of population as

a whole, and it is fairly certain that it was practised only by the

ruling classes in Scandinavia. It is quite possible, however, that the

large number of sons in the ruling families made it necessary for the

younger ones to go forth and gain for themselves fresh territories in

new lands.

A clearer light is perhaps thrown on the matter if we examine the

political condition of the Scandinavian countries at this time. In

Norway we find that the concentration of kingly authority in the hands

of Harold Fairhair after the middle of the 9th century led many of the

more independent spirits to leave Norway and adopt a Viking life in the

West or to settle in new homes in Iceland. So strong was the spirit of

independence that when Harold Fairhair received the submission of the

Vikings of the West after the battle of Hafrsfjord, many of them rather

than endure even a shadowy overlordship abandoned their Viking life and

settled down to peaceful independence in Iceland. It is quite possible

that earlier attempts at consolidation on the part of previous petty

Norwegian kings may have had similar results.

Of the condition of Sweden we know practically nothing but we have

sufficient information about the course of events in Denmark at this

time to see that it probably tended to hasten the development of the

Viking movement. Throughout the first half of the 9th century there

were repeated dynastic struggles accompanied probably by the exile,

voluntary or forced, of many members of the rival factions.

External causes also were certainly not without influence. From the

6th century down to the middle of the 8th, the Frisians were the great

naval and trading power of North-West Europe. They had probably taken

some part in the conquest of England and, during the 7th and 8th

centuries, the whole of the coast of the Netherlands from the Scheldt

to the Weser was in their hands. Their trade was extensive, their

chief city being Duurstede a few miles south-east of Utrecht. The

northward expansion of the Franks brought them into collision with the

Frisians in the 7th century. The struggle was long and fierce but in

the end the Frisians were defeated by Charles Martel in 734 and finally

subjugated by Charlemagne in 785. The crushing of Frisian naval power

and the crippling of their trade probably played no unimportant part

in facilitating the Scandinavian advance, and it is curious to note

that while there is considerable archaeological evidence for peaceful

intercourse between the west coast of Norway and Frisian lands in the

8th century, that evidence seems to come to an end about the year 800,

just when Frisian power finally declined. There can be no doubt also

that the conquest of the Saxons by Charlemagne at the close of the

8th century, bringing Franks and Danes face to face along the Eider

boundary, made the latter uneasy.

There has been much arguing to and fro of the question as to the

respective shares taken by Danes and Norwegians in the Viking movement.

That of the Swedes can fortunately be determined with a good deal more

certainty. The Swedes were for the most part interested only in Eastern

Europe and there by way of trade rather than of battle: we learn

from runic inscriptions and other sources that some Swedes did visit

England and the West, but these visits were due to individual rather

than national activity. The question as between Dane and Norwegian

has been to some extent made more difficult of settlement through the

national prejudices of Scandinavian scholars; e.g. Danes for the most

part decide in favour of the Danish origin of Rollo of Normandy, while

Norwegians decide in favour of his Norwegian birth. Such differences

of opinion are unfortunately only too often possible owing to the

scantiness of the material upon which we have to base our conclusions.

Medieval chroniclers were for the most part unable or unwilling

to distinguish between Danes and Norwegians; they were all alike

‘Nordmanni’ to them and the term ‘Dani’ is practically interchangeable

with it. The vagueness of their ethnographical knowledge is manifest

when we find the Norman Dudo at the beginning of the 11th century

tracing back the Dani (or Daci) to an original home in Dacia. The

Irish annalists did, however, draw a very definite distinction between

Norwegians and Danes–Finn-gaill and Dubh-gaill as they called them,

i.e. White and Black Foreigners respectively[2]. They seem never

to confuse them, but exactly on what grounds they gave them their

distinguishing epithets it is now impossible to determine. They do not

correspond to any known ethnographical differences, and the only other

reasonable suggestion which has been offered is that the terms are used

to describe some difference of armour or equipment as yet unknown to

us. The Irish annals also distinguish between Daunites or Danes and

Lochlanns or men from Lochlann, i.e. Norway; but again the origin of

the term Lochlann as applied to Norway is obscure. The writers of the

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle seem to use the term _Norðmenn_ very definitely

of Norwegians, just as Alfred does in his translation of Orosius, but

the term _Dene_ came to be used more vaguely and uncertainly. It is

only very rarely that the chroniclers vouchsafe us precise information

as to the home of any particular group of Viking raiders. We have

already mentioned the presence of Norwegians from Hörðaland in England

at the very opening of the movement[3]: once we hear of ‘Westfaldingi,’

i.e. men from Vestfold in South Norway, in an account of attacks on

Aquitaine, and in one passage the Vikings are called ‘Scaldingi,’ but

it is disputed whether this means Vikings who had been quartering

themselves in the valley of the Scheldt, or is a term applied to the

Danes from the name of their royal family, viz. the Skjöldungar[4].

Speaking roughly we may however assert that Ireland, Scotland and the

Western Islands were almost entirely in the hands of Norwegian settlers

(Danish attacks on Ireland failed for the most part). Northumbria was

Norwegian, but East Anglia and the Five Boroughs were Danish. The

attacks on France and the Netherlands were due both to Norwegians and

Danes, probably with a preponderance of the latter, while Danes and

Swedes alone settled in Baltic lands.


[2] The name _Finn-gaill_ survives in Fingall, the name of a district

to the north of Dublin, while _Dubh-gaill_ is the second element in the

proper names MacDougall and MacDowell.

[3] The name _Hiruath_ given by Celtic writers to Norway probably

points also to a tradition that many of the Viking invaders of Ireland

were Hörðar from Norway.

[4] A third explanation has recently been suggested by Dr Björkman,

viz. that it is a Low German word meaning ‘shipmen’ which came to be

used specially of the Vikings.



England was possibly the scene of the earliest Viking raids, but after

the Dorchester raid, the sack of Lindisfarne in 793 (_v. supra_, p.

5), and the devastation of the monastery of St Paul at Jarrow in 794

we hear nothing more of Vikings in England until 835. The fate of

Ireland was different. Attacks began almost at the same time as in

England and continued without intermission. Vikings sailed round the

west coast of Scotland. Skye and then Lambay Island off Dublin were

invaded in 795, Glamorganshire was ravaged in the same year and the

Isle of Man was attacked in 798. Iona was plundered in 802 and again

in 806. In 807 invaders appeared off the coast of Sligo and made their

way inland as far as Roscommon, and in 811 Munster was plundered. In

821 the Howth peninsula near Dublin and two small islands in Wexford

Haven were ravaged. The Vikings had completely encircled Ireland with

their fleets and by the year 834 they had made their way well into the

interior of the island so that none were safe from their attacks. They

no longer contented themselves with isolated raids: large fleets began

to visit Ireland and to anchor in the numerous loughs and harbours

with which the coast abounds. Thence they made lengthy raids on the

surrounding country and often strengthened their base by building forts

on the shores of the loughs or harbours in which they had established

themselves. It was in this way that Dublin, Waterford and Limerick

first rose to importance.

Of the leaders of the Vikings at this time there is only one whose

figure stands out at all clearly, and that is Turges (O.N. Ðorgestr)

who first appeared in 832 at the sack of Armagh. He had come to Ireland

with a great and royal fleet and ‘assumed the sovereignty over the

foreigners in Erin.’ He had fleets on Lough Neagh, at Louth, and on

Lough Ree, and raided the country as far south as the Meath district.

Turges was not the only invader at this time: indeed so numerous were

the invading hosts that the chronicles tell us ‘after this there came

great sea-cast floods of foreigners into Erin, so that there was not

a point thereof without a fleet.’ The power of Turges culminated in

841, when he drove the abbot of Armagh into exile, usurped the abbacy,

and exercised the sovereignty of North Ireland. At the same time his

wife Ota (O.N. Auðr) profaned the monastery of Clonmacnoise and gave

audience, probably as a _völva_ or prophetess, upon the high altar.

Three years later Turges was captured by the Irish and drowned in Lough

Owel (co. West Meath).

The early attacks on England and the first invasion of Ireland were

alike due to Norsemen rather than Danes. This is evident from their

general course, from the explicit statement of the Anglo-Saxon

chronicle, and from the fact that the first arrival of Danes in Ireland

is definitely recorded in the year 849. The attack on Dorchester (c.

786-802), lying as it does near the centre of the south coast of

England, is somewhat strange if it is assigned to the traditional date,

viz. 787, but there is no authority for this, and if it is placed at

any date nearer to 802 (before which it must have taken place), it is

probable that the attack may be explained as an extension of Viking

raids down St George’s Channel and round the S.W. corner of England.

In 835 the attacks on England were renewed after an interval of 40

years, but as they now stand in close connexion with contemporary

invasions of Frankish territory there is every reason to believe that

they were of Danish rather than of Norse origin. The attacks began in

the south and west but they soon spread to East Anglia and Lindsey.

In 842 the same army ravaged London, Étaples and Rochester. In 851

Aethelstan of Kent defeated the Danes at sea in one of the rare battles

fought with them on their own element, and in the same year they

remained for the winter in Thanet, probably owing to the loss of their

ships. The size and importance of these attacks may be gauged from

the fact that in this year a fleet of some 350 Danish ships sailed up

the Thames. It was probably that same fleet, with slightly diminished

numbers, which in 852 ravaged Frisia and then sailed round the British

Isles, came to Ireland, and captured Dublin. In 855 the Danes wintered

for the first time in Sheppey and we reach the same point in the

development of their attacks on England to which they had already

attained in Ireland. We pass away from the period of raiding. The Danes

now came prepared to stay for several years at a time and to carry on

their attacks with unceasing persistency.

The course of events in the Frankish empire ran on much the same lines

as in England and Ireland during these years except that here trouble

arose on the land boundary between Denmark and the Franks as well as on

the sea-coast.

Alarmed by the conquest of the Saxons the Danish king Guðröðr collected

a fleet at Slesvík and in 808 he crossed the Eider and attacked the

Abodriti (in Mecklenburg-Schwerin), a Slavonic tribe in alliance with

the Franks. He also sent a fleet of some 200 vessels to ravage the

coast of Frisia, laid claim to that district and to Saxony, north of

the Elbe, and threatened to attack Charlemagne in his own capital.

The emperor was preparing to resist him when news arrived (810) of

the death of Guðröðr at the hands of one of his followers and the

consequent dispersal of the Danish fleet.

Soon after disputes over the succession arose between the family of

Guðröðr and that of an earlier king Harold. Ultimately the contest

resolved itself into one between the sons of Guðröðr, especially

one Horic (O.N. Hárekr) and a certain Harold. It lasted for several

years, the sons of Guðröðr for the most part maintaining their hold

on Denmark. At one time during the struggle Harold and his brother

Ragnfröðr went to Vestfold in Norway, ‘the extreme district of their

realm, whose chiefs and peoples were refusing to be made subject to

them, and gained their submission,’ showing clearly that at this time

Denmark and Southern Norway were under one rule and rendering probable

the identification of Guðröðr with Guðröðr the Yngling who about this

time was slain by a retainer in Stifla Sound on the south coast of

Norway. This king ruled over Vestfold, half Vingulmörk and perhaps

Agðir. Both parties were anxious to secure the support of the emperor

Lewis and in the end Harold gained his help by accepting baptism at

Mainz in 826. He promised to promote the cause of Christianity in

Denmark, while Lewis in return granted him the district of Riustringen

in Frisia as a place of retreat in case of necessity. The Danes thereby

gained their first foothold within the empire.

Sufficient has been said of the relation between Denmark and the empire

on its land boundary: we must now say something of the attacks made by


The first were made in 799 on the coast of Aquitaine and they were

probably due to raiders from Ireland who followed a well-known trade

route from South Ireland to the ports of Southern France. In 800

Charlemagne inspected the coast from the Somme to the Seine and gave

orders for the equipment of a fleet and the strengthening of the

coastguard against Northmen pirates. When Guðröðr’s fleet plundered

the islands off the Frisian coast in 810, Charlemagne gave orders for

his fleet to be strengthened once more, but the results were meagre in

the extreme. The passage of the Channel was no longer safe, and year

after year, from some time before 819, Vikings harried the island of

Noirmoutier at the mouth of the Loire, commanding the port of Nantes

and the extensive salt-trade of the district. The Island of Rhé

opposite La Rochelle, was raided in similar fashion.

The Frankish empire was free from attack between the years 814 and

833. During the same time the English coast was also unvisited, and it

is probable that the struggles for the succession in Denmark had for

the time being reduced that kingdom to inactivity. About the year 830

the Danish king Hárekr seems to have established himself firmly on

the throne, while on the other hand the emperor Lewis was troubled by

the ambition of his sons Lewis, Pippin and Lothair. It is probably no

chance coincidence that these events synchronised with the renewal of

Viking attacks on Frisia. Throughout their history the Vikings showed

themselves well informed of the changing political conditions of the

countries which they visited and ready to make the utmost use of the

opportunities which these might give for successful invasion.

Frisia was the main point of attack during the next few years.

Four times was the rich trading town of Duurstede ravaged; fleets

sailed up the Veldt, the Maas, and the Scheldt; Antwerp was burned

and the Island of Walcheren plundered, so that by the year 840 the

greater part of Frisia south of the Vlie, was in Danish hands and

so it remained till the end of the century. The Danish king Hárekr

repeatedly denied all complicity in these raids and even promised to

punish the raiders, but it is impossible to tell how far his denials

were genuine. Equally difficult is it to say how far Harold in his

Frisian home was responsible for these attacks. The annalists charge

him with complicity, but Lewis seems to have thought it best to bind

him by fresh gifts and (probably about 839) granted the district

around Duurstede itself to him and his brother Roric (O.N. Hroerekr)

on condition that they helped to ward off Viking attacks. All the

efforts of the emperor to equip a fleet or to defend the coast were to

no purpose, and there was even a suspicion that the Frisian populace

were in sympathy with the Vikings. So great was the terror of attack

that when in 839 a Byzantine mission, including some Rhôs or Swedes

from Russia, visited the emperor at Ingelheim, the Swedes were for a

time detained under suspicion, as spies.

On the death of Lewis the Pious in 840 things went from bad to worse.

The division of the empire in 843 gave the coast from the Eider to

the Weser to Lewis, from the Weser to the Scheldt to Lothair, and the

rest to Charles, removing all possibility of a united and organised

defence, and soon these princes entered on the fatal policy of calling

in the Vikings to assist them in their quarrels. Thus Lothair in 841

endeavoured to bind Harold to his cause by a grant of the Island of

Walcheren and Harold is found in the following year with Lothair’s army

on the Moselle.

The Viking expeditions to England and France stand now in close

connexion. In 841 the valley of the Seine was ravaged as far as

Rouen, in 842 Étaples in Picardy was destroyed by a fleet from

England, while in 843 Nantes fell a prey to their attacks. From their

permanent quarters at Noirmoutier the Vikings sailed up the Garonne

and penetrated inland as far as Toulouse. In 844 we hear from Arab

historians of their vessels swarming on the coasts of Spain like ‘dark

red sea-birds,’ but while they effected landings at Lisbon and Cadiz

and at Arzilla in Morocco, and captured Seville, with the exception of

its citadel, the Mussulman resistance was too stout for them to effect


As a result of this expedition the Emir of Cordova, Abd-ar-Rahman

II sent an embassy to the king of the _Madjus_ (i.e. the magi or

the heathen, one of the commonest Arab names for the Vikings). The

ambassador found the king living in an island three days’ journey from

the mainland, but we are told that the heathen occupied many other

neighbouring isles and the mainland also. He was courteously received

by the king and became an especial favourite with the queen Noud (? O.N.

Auðr). His companions were alarmed at the intimacy and as a result the

ambassador paid less frequent visits to court. The queen asked him why,

and when he told her the reason she said that, owing to perfect freedom

of divorce, there was no jealousy among the Madjus. The details of the

story are too vague to admit of certainty, but it would seem as if

the embassy had visited the court of the great Turges and his equally

remarkable wife Auðr in Ireland, or perhaps that of Olaf the White and

his wife Auðr (_v. infra_, p. 66).

In 845 Hárekr of Denmark sailed up the Elbe and destroyed Hamburg,

while in the same year the dreaded Ragnarr Loðbrók, most famous of

all Vikings, sailed up the Seine as far as Paris. While on its retreat

from Paris, after the usual devastation, a strange and deadly disease,

possibly some form of dysentery due to scantiness of food resulting

from a hard winter, broke out in the Danish army. Various legends

arose in connexion with this event, and it finds a curious echo in the

story told by Saxo Grammaticus of an expedition made by Ragnarr among

the Biarmians (in Northern Russia) when that people by their prayers

called down a plague of dysentery upon the Danes in which large numbers

perished. In the end the historical plague was stayed when Hárekr

commanded the Vikings on their return to Denmark to refrain from flesh

and meat for fourteen days. Whether as a result of the plague or from

some other cause Hárekr now showed himself ready to come to terms with

Lewis, and for the next eighty years there was complete peace along

the Eider boundary. The whole of the coast was still open to attack

however; Frisia was hardly ever free from invaders; Brittany was

obliged to buy off Danish attacks in 847, while Noirmoutier continued

to form a basis of attack against Southern France in the Gironde

district. The Viking invasions in France had attained much the same

stage as that to which we have already traced them in England and




The great development of Viking activity which took place after 855

was certainly not unconnected with the course of events in Denmark

itself. Hárekr was attacked by his two nephews in 850 and compelled to

share the kingdom with them. In 854 large bands of Vikings returned to

their fatherland after twenty years’ ravaging in Frankish territory.

Trouble now arose between Hárekr and his nephew Godurm (O.N. Guðormr),

one of the returned leaders. Civil war broke out and ultimately, after

a great fight, the kingship fell to a younger Hárekr, a relative of

the late king. A severe dynastic struggle of this kind must have been

accompanied by much unsettlement and perhaps by an actual proscription.

It would certainly seem that there was some definite connexion between

these events and the coincident appearance of the sons of Ragnarr

Loðbrók as leaders of a more extended Viking movement both in England

and in France. Three of his sons–Halfdanr, Ubbi and Ívarr–took part

in the first wintering in Sheppey in 855, while in the same year

another son Björn Ironside appeared on the Seine.

The figure of Ragnarr Loðbrók himself belongs to an earlier generation,

and great as was his after-fame we unfortunately know very little of

his actual career. He would seem to have been of Norwegian birth,

closely connected with the south of Norway and the house of Guðröðr,

but like that prince having extensive interests in Denmark. He probably

visited Ireland in 831, for we read in Saxo of an expedition made by

Ragnarr to Ireland when he slew king Melbricus and ravaged Dublin,

an event which is pretty certainly to be identified with an attack

made on the Conaille district (co. Louth) by foreigners in 831 when

the king Maelbrighde was taken prisoner. He led the disastrous Seine

expedition in 845 (_v. supra_, p. 21). The next glimpse of him which

we have is probably that found in certain Irish annals where he is

represented as exiled from his Norwegian patrimony and living with some

of his sons in the Orkneys while others were absent on expeditions to

the British Isles, Spain and Africa, and a runic inscription has been

found at Maeshowe in the Orkneys confirming the connexion of the sons

of Loðbrók and possibly of Loðbrók himself with those islands. The

expeditions would be those mentioned above and the yet more famous one

made to Spain, Africa and Italy by Björn Ironside in the years 859-62

(_v. infra_, pp. 46-7). Ragnarr Loðbrók’s later history is uncertain.

According to the Irish annals quoted above, his sons while on their

expedition dreamed that their father had died in a land not his own

and on their return found it to be true. This agrees with Scandinavian

tradition according to which Ragnarr met his death at the hands of

Aelle, king of Northumbria, by whom he was thrown into a snake-pit,

while the capture of York by Ívarr the Boneless in 866-7 (_v. infra_)

is represented as part of a great expedition of vengeance undertaken

by the sons of Ragnarr. This tradition (apart from certain details) is

probably historical, but we have no definite confirmatory evidence.

With this note on the history of Denmark at this time and on the career

of the most shadowy, if at the same time the most famous of the Viking

leaders, we may turn once more to the history of events in England.

For ten years after the wintering in Sheppey, England was left in

a state of comparative peace. The change came in 866 when a large

Danish force which had been bribed to leave the Seine by Charles the

Bald sailed to England and took up its quarters in East Anglia. In

867 they crossed the Humber and captured York, their task being made

easier by the quarrels of Aelle and Osberht as to the kingship of

Northumbria. Next year the rivals patched up their differences, but

failed to recapture York from the Danes under Ívarr and Ubbi. Setting

up a puppet king Ecgberht in Northumbria north of the Tyne, the Danes

next received the submission of Mercia and returned to York in 869. In

870 they marched through Mercia into East Anglia, as far as Thetford,

engaged the forces of Edmund, king of East Anglia, defeated and slew

him, whether in actual battle or in later martyrdom, as popular

tradition would have it, is uncertain. The death of St Edmund, king and

martyr, soon became an event of European fame and no Viking leader was

more widely execrated than the cruel Ívarr, who was deemed responsible.

The turn of Wessex came next. The fortunes of battle fluctuated but

the accounts usually terminate with the ominous words ‘the Danes held

possession of the battle field.’ In 871, Alfred commenced his heroic

struggle with the Danes and in the first year of his reign some nine

pitched battles were fought, beside numerous small engagements. So keen

was the West Saxon resistance that a truce was made in 871 and the

Danes turned their attention to Mercia once more. London was forced

to ransom itself at a heavy price and a coin of Halfdanr, probably

minted in London at the time, has been found. After a hurried visit

to Northumbria the _here_ settled down for the winter of 872-3 at

Torksey in the Lindsey district, whence they moved in 873 to Repton

in Derbyshire. They overthrew Burhred of Mercia and set up a foolish

thegn of his as puppet ruler of that realm. In the winter of 874-5 the

_here_ divided forces: one part went under Halfdanr to the Tyne valley,

the other under Guthrum (O.N. Guðormr) to Cambridge.

In 876 Halfdanr divided up the lands of Northumbria among his followers

who soon ploughed and cultivated them. At the same time they did not

forget their old occupations. Raids were made against the Picts and the

Strathclyde Welsh, while Halfdanr soon became involved in the great

struggle going on in Ireland at that time between Norsemen and Danes.

This ultimately led to his death in 877 (_v. infra_, p. 58).

In the meantime the struggle continued in Wessex. In 875 Alfred

captured seven Danish ships. In 876 the southern division of the _here_

slipped past the West Saxon _fyrd_ and reached Wareham in Dorsetshire,

but came to terms with Alfred. Though the peace was sworn with all

solemnity on their sacred altar-ring, the mounted portion of the _here_

slipped off once more and established themselves in Exeter. Their land

forces were supported by a parallel movement of the fleet. At Exeter

Alfred made peace with them and the _here_ returned to Mercia. There

half the land was divided up among the Danes while the southern half

was left in the hands of Ceolwulf.

Alfred reached the nadir of his fortunes when the _here_ returned to

Wessex in the winter of 877-8, drove many of the inhabitants into

exile across the sea, and received the submission of the rest with the

exception of King Alfred and a few followers who took refuge in the

Island of Athelney amid the Somersetshire marshes. Alfred soon gathered

round him a force with which he was able to issue from his stronghold

and ultimately to inflict a great defeat on the Danes at Edington near

Westbury. They now made terms with Alfred by the peace of Wedmore, and

agreed to leave Alfred’s kingdom while their king Guthrum received

Christian baptism. They withdrew first to Cirencester and then to East

Anglia. Here they settled, portioning out the land as they had done in

Northumbria and Northern Mercia. A peace was drawn up between Alfred

and Guthrum of East Anglia defining the boundary between their realms.

It was to run along the Thames estuary to the mouth of the Lea (a few

miles east of London), then up the Lea to its source near Leighton

Buzzard, then due north to Bedford, then eastwards up the Ouse to

Watling St. somewhere near Fenny or Stony Stratford. From this point

the boundary is left undefined, probably because the kingdoms of Alfred

and Guthrum ceased to be conterminous here.

England now had peace for some twelve years. Alfred made good use of

the interval in reorganising his army and strengthening the kingdom

generally, so that when attacks were renewed in 892 he was much better

prepared to meet them. In the autumn of that year two fleets coming

from France arrived in England: one landed on the Limen (between Hythe

and Romney Marsh), the other under the leadership of Hæsten (O.N.

Hásteinn) at Milton in North Kent. Alfred’s difficulties were increased

by the fact that during the next four years the Danish settlers in

Northumbria and East Anglia played a more or less actively hostile

part, both by land and sea. The Danes showed all their old mobility

and in a series of raids crossed England more than once–first to

Buttington on the Severn (co. Montgomery), then to Chester, and on a

third occasion to Bridgenorth in Shropshire. They met with a uniformly

stout and well organised resistance under the leadership of Alfred, his

son Edward the Elder, and his brother-in-law Aethelred of Mercia, and

in the end they had to retire with no fresh acquisition of territory.

For the most part they distributed themselves among the East Anglian

and Northumbrian Danes, but those who had no cattle wherewith to

stock their land took ship and sailed back to the Seine. There were

no further attacks from abroad during Alfred’s reign, but piratical

raids made by the East Anglian and Northumbrian Danes caused him a good

deal of trouble, and in order to meet them he definitely addressed

himself to the long delayed task of equipping a fleet. The vessels were

carefully designed according to Alfred’s own ideas: they were larger,

swifter and steadier than the Danish vessels and they soon showed their

worth when more than 20 vessels with their crews were lost by the Danes

in one year. It is interesting to note that these vessels were manned

in part by Frisian sailors, probably because of the low ebb to which

English seamanship had sunk.

When once Edward the Elder’s claim to the throne was firmly established

in the battle fought at ‘the Holm,’ somewhere in South Cambridgeshire,

he commenced, with the active co-operation of his brother-in-law

Aethelred, ealdorman of Mercia, the great work of strengthening the

hold of the English on Southern Mercia preparatory to an attempt to

reconquer the Danelagh. Chester was rebuilt in 907. In 910 a fort was

built at ‘Bremesbyrig,’ possibly Bromesberrow in Gloucestershire.

Aethelred died in the next year, but his wife Aethelflæd, the ‘Lady of

the Mercians,’ continued his work, and forts were built at ‘Scergeat,’

perhaps Shrewsbury, at Bridgenorth on the Severn, at Tamworth, and at

Stafford in 912. In 914 Warwick was fortified, while in 915 forts were

built at Chirbury in Shropshire and Runcorn in Cheshire.

On the death of Aethelred, Edward took London and Oxford and the parts

of Mercia adhering to them into his own hands. Two forts were built

on the north and south sides of the Lea at Hertford in 911-12, and

another at Witham on the Blackwater in Essex. Edward’s work soon bore

fruit, for we read that in the same year a large number of those who

had been under Danish rule now made submission to the king. The Danes

in the Five Boroughs became restless under the continued advance of the

English, and twice in the year 913 they made raids from Leicester and

Northampton as far as Hook Norton in Oxfordshire and Leighton Buzzard,

while in the next year Edward, for the first time in his reign, was

troubled by raiders from abroad. Coming from Brittany they sailed

up the Severn, ravaged South Wales and the Archenfield district of

Herefordshire, but could do nothing against the garrison of Gloucester,

Hereford and other neighbouring towns, which seem already to have been

fortified. They were forced to leave the district and so careful a

watch did Edward keep over the coast of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall

that they could make no effective landing, though they tried twice, at

Porlock and at Watchet. Ultimately they took up their quarters in the

islands of Flatholme and Steepholme in the Bristol Channel, but lack of

food soon drove them away to Ireland in a starving condition. In the

same year Edward built two forts at Buckingham, one on each side of

the Ouse, and his policy again found speedy justification when Earl

Thurcytel (O.N. Ðorkell) and all the chief men who ‘obeyed[5]’ Bedford,

together with many of those who ‘obeyed’ Northampton submitted to him.

Everything was now ready for the great advance against the Danes.

Derby fell in 917, while in the next year Leicester yielded without

a struggle. Their fall was accompanied by the submission of the men

of Derbyshire and Leicestershire. At the same time the inhabitants

of York declared themselves ready to enter the service of Mercia.

Edward fortified Bedford in 915, Maldon and Towcester in South

Northamptonshire in 916. Again the Danes from Northampton and Leicester

tried to break through the steadily narrowing ring of forts and

they managed to get as far south as Aylesbury, while others from

Huntingdon and East Anglia built a fort at Tempsford in Bedfordshire

near the junction of the Ivel and the Ouse. They besieged a fort at

‘Wigingamere’ (unidentified) but were forced to withdraw. Edward

gathered an army from the nearest garrison towns, besieged, captured,

and destroyed Tempsford (915). In the autumn he captured Colchester and

a Danish attempt on Maldon failed. Edward now strengthened Towcester

and received the submission of Earl Thurfrith (O.N. Ðorröðr) and all

the Danes in Northamptonshire as far north as the Welland. Huntingdon

was occupied about the same time and the ring of forts around East

Anglia brought about the submission of the whole of that district,

Cambridgeshire making a separate compact on its own account. In 918

Edward built a fort just south of Stamford and soon received the

submission of the Danes of South Lincolnshire, and in the same year

occupied Nottingham, building a fort and garrisoning it with a mixed

English and Danish force. He was now ruler of the whole of Mercia

owing to the death of his sister Aethelflæd, and in 919 he fortified

Thelwall in Cheshire, on the Mersey, and rebuilt the old Roman fort

at Manchester. In 920 he built a second fort at Nottingham and one at

Bakewell in Derbyshire. The reconquest of the Danelagh was complete and

Edward now received the submission of the Scots, the Strathclyde Welsh,

of Regnold (O.N. Rögnvaldr) of Northumbria, and of English, Danes and

Norsemen alike. The Danish settlers accepted the sovereignty of the

West Saxon king and henceforward formed part of an expanded Wessex

which had consolidated its power over all England south of a line drawn

roughly from the Humber to the Dee.

The submission of Rögnvaldr, king of Northumbria and the mention

of Norsemen need some comment. On the death of Halfdanr in 877 an

interregnum of seven years ensued and then, in accordance with

instructions given by St Cuthbert in a vision to abbot Eadred of

Carlisle, the Northumbrians chose a certain Guthred (O.N. Guðröðr) as

their king. He was possibly a nephew of the late king, ruled till 894,

and was also known as Cnut (O.N. Knútr). We have coins bearing the

inscription ‘Elfred rex’ on the obverse and ‘Cnut rex’ on the reverse,

indicating apparently some overlordship of king Alfred. Together with

these we have some coins with ‘Cnut rex’ on the obverse and ‘Siefredus’

or (Sievert) on the reverse, and others, minted at ‘Ebroice civitas’

(i.e. York), with the sole inscription ‘Siefredus rex.’ This latter

king would seem to have been first a subordinate partner and then,

on Guðröðr’s death, sole ruler of Northumbria. Other coins belonging

to about the same period and found in the great Cuerdale hoard near

Preston, bear the inscription ‘Sitric Comes,’ and there is good reason

to believe that Siefredus (O.N. Sigröðr) and Sitric (O.N. Sigtryggr)

are to be identified with Sichfrith and Sitriucc who just at this time

are mentioned in the Irish annals as rival leaders of the Norsemen in

Dublin. The identification is important as it shows us that Northumbria

was now being brought into definite connexion with the Norse kingdom

of Dublin and that the Norse element was asserting itself at the

expense of the Danish in Northern England.

The rule of Sigröðr and Sigtryggr alike had come to an end by 911 and

we know nothing more until the year 918 when a fresh invasion from

Ireland took place under a certain Rögnvaldr. He gained a victory at

Corbridge-on-Tyne and captured York in 919 or 920. He divided the lands

of St Cuthbert among his followers but died in 921, the year of his

submission to the overlordship of Edward. The Irish annals speak of

him as king of White and Black foreigners alike, thus emphasising the

composite settlement of Northumbria.

Another leader from Ireland, one Sigtryggr, succeeded Rögnvaldr as

king of Northumbria. He was on friendly terms with Aethelstan and

married his sister in 925. He died in 926 or 927 and then Aethelstan

took Northumbria under his own control. Sigtryggr’s brother Guðröðr

submitted to Aethelstan but after four days at the court of king

Aethelstan ‘he returned to piracy as a fish to the sea.’ Both Sigtryggr

and Guðröðr left sons bearing the name Anlaf (O.N. Ólafr) and with

them Aethelstan and his successors had much trouble. Anlaf Sihtricsson

lived in exile in Scotland and gradually organised against Aethelstan

a great confederacy of Scots, Strathclyde Welsh and Vikings, both

Danish and Norwegian, Anlaf Godfreyson brought help from Ireland and

the great struggle began. The course of the campaign is uncertain but

if the site of its main battle, ‘Brunanburh,’ is to be identified with

Birrenswark Hill in S.E. Dumfriesshire, it would seem that Aethelstan

carried the war into the enemy’s country. The result of the battle

was a complete victory for the forces of Aethelstan and his brother

Edmund. Constantine’s son, five kings and seven jarls were among the

slain. We have in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle a poem[6] celebrating the

victory, and it describes in vivid language the hurried return home of

Constantine, lamenting the death of his son, and the headlong flight of

Anlaf Godfreyson to Dublin. England had been freed from its greatest

danger since the days of king Alfred and his struggle with Guthrum.

Aethelstan had no more trouble with the Norsemen and we have evidence

from other sources that at some time during his reign, probably at an

earlier date, he exchanged embassies with Harold Fairhair, king of

Norway. The latter sent him a present of a ship with golden prow and

purple sails and the usual bulwark of shields along the gunwale, while

Harold’s favourite son Hákon was brought up at Aethelstan’s court.

There he was baptised and educated and is known in Norse history as

Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri.

After the death of Aethelstan, Anlaf Sihtricsson, nicknamed Cuaran

(i.e. with the sock or brogue of leather, so called from his Irish

dress) came to England and captured York. From there he made an

attempt to conquer the Danish district of the Five Boroughs. He seems

to have got a good part of Mercia into his hands but in the end

Edmund freed the Danes from Norse oppression and took once more into

his hands all Mercia south of a line from Dore (near Sheffield) to

Whitwell (Derbyshire) and thence to the Humber. Edmund and Anlaf came

to terms, but Anlaf was driven out by the Northumbrians in 943, and

in the next year that province fell into the hands of Edmund. In 947

Eric Blood-axe, son of Harold Fairhair, was accepted as king by the

Northumbrians. In Scandinavian tradition we learn how he was expelled

from Norway in 934 by the supporters of Hákon, went on Viking raids in

the west, was appointed ruler of Northumbria by Aethelstan on condition

of his defending it against attack, but was not on good terms with

Edmund, who favoured one Ólaf. Probably Eric retired after Aethelstan’s

death and only returned to England in 947. In 948 Edmund forced the

Northumbrians to abandon his cause and about the same time Anlaf

returned from Ireland and ruled till about 950 when he was replaced

by Eric, whose short rule came to an end in 954. In that year he was

expelled by the Northumbrians and killed at Stainmoor in Westmorland.

The attempt to establish a Norse kingdom of Northumbria had failed and

henceforward that district was directly under the rule of the English

king. English authority was supreme once more even in those districts

which were largely peopled with Scandinavian settlers.

England had no further trouble with Norse or Danish invaders until

the days of Ethelred the Unready, but no sooner did that weak and

ill-advised king come to the throne than, with that ready and intimate

knowledge of local conditions which they always displayed, we find

Danes making an attack on Southampton and Norsemen one on Chester. The

renewed attacks were not however due solely to the weakness of England,

they were also the result of changed conditions in Scandinavia itself.

In Denmark the reign of Harold Bluetooth was drawing to a close, and

the younger generation, conscious of a strong and well-organised nation

behind them, were ambitious of new and larger conquests, while at the

same time many of them were in revolt against the definitely Christian

policy of Harold in his old age. They turned with hope towards his

young son Svein, and found in him a ready and willing leader. In

Norway, Earl Hákon had broken away from the suzerainty of Harold

Bluetooth, but the Norwegians could not forget that he owed his throne

to a foreign power, and his personal harshness and licentiousness as

well as his zealous cult of the old heathen rites were a cause of much

discontent. The hopes of the younger generation were fixed on Olaf

Tryggvason, a man filled with the spirit of the old Vikings. Captured

by pirates from Esthonia when still a child, he was discovered,

ransomed, and taken to Novgorod, where he entered the service of the

Grand Duke Vladimir. Furnished by him with a ship he went ‘viking’ in

the Baltic and then ten years later we find him prominent among the

Norsemen who attacked England in the days of king Ethelred. In 991

a Norse fleet under Olaf visited Ipswich and Maldon. Here they met

with a stout resistance headed by the brave Byrhtnoth, earl of Essex,

and in the fragmentary lay of the fight at Maldon[7], which has been

preserved to us, we see that there was still much of the spirit of the

heroic age left in the English nation even in the days of Ethelred

II. It was to buy off this attack that a payment of Danegeld to the

extent of some ten thousand pounds was made. From Maldon Olaf went to

Wales and Anglesey and it was somewhere in the west that he received

knowledge of the Christian faith from an anchorite and was baptised.

He did not however renounce his Viking-life, but joined forces with

his great Danish contemporary Svein Forkbeard. Bamborough was sacked

in 993, and both were present at the siege of London in 994, when they

sailed up the Thames with 490 ships. The attack was a failure and Olaf

came to terms with Ethelred agreeing to desist from further attack in

return for a payment of sixteen thousand pounds of Danegeld. Olaf was

the more ready to make this promise as he was now addressing himself

to the task of gaining the sovereignty of Norway itself. Many of the

Norsemen returned with Olaf but the attacks on the coast continued and

the invaders, chiefly Danes now, ravaged the country in all directions.

Treachery was rife in the English forces and again and again the

ealdormen failed in the hour of need. Danegeld after Danegeld was

paid in the vain hope of buying off further attacks, and the almost

incredible sum of 158,000 pounds of silver (i.e. some half million

sterling) was paid as Danegeld during a period of little more than 20

years. Once or twice Ethelred showed signs of energy; once in 1000 when

a fleet was sent to Chester, which ravaged the Isle of Man while an

army devastated Cumberland, and again in 1004 when a great fleet was

made ready but ultimately proved of no use. Ethelred’s worst stroke

of policy was the order given in 1002 for the massacre on St Brice’s

Day of all Danes settled in England. His orders were carried out only

too faithfully and among the slain was Svein’s sister Gunnhild, the

wife of a Danish jarl in the king’s service. Svein’s vengeance was

relentless, and during the next ten years the land had no peace until

in 1013 Ethelred was driven from the throne, and Svein himself became

king of England. Svein died in 1014 and his son Cnut succeeded to his

claim. Ethelred was invited by the _witan_ to return, and ultimately

Wessex fell to Cnut, while the district of the Seven Boroughs (the old

five together with York and Chester) and Northumbria passed into the

hands of Ethelred, or rather of his energetic son Edmund. This division

of the country placing the district once settled by Danes and Norsemen

under an English king while the heart of England itself was in the

possession of a Scandinavian king shows how completely the settlers

in those districts had come to identify themselves with English

interests as a whole. Mercia was nominally in Ethelred’s power, but its

ealdorman, Eadric Streona, was the most treacherous of all the English

earls. On Ethelred’s death in 1016 the _witan_ chose Edmund Ironside

as king and a series of battles took place culminating in that at

Ashingdon in Essex where the English were completely defeated through

the treachery of Eadric. A division of the kingdom was now made

whereby Wessex fell to Edmund, Mercia and Northumbria to Cnut–thus

easily was the allegiance of the various districts transferred from

one sovereign to another. Edmund only lived a few months and Cnut then

became king of all England. For twenty years the land enjoyed peace

and prosperity. In 1018 the greater part of the Danish army and fleet

returned to Denmark, some forty ships and their crews sufficing Cnut

for the defence of his kingdom. During the next four years he received

the submission of the king of Scotland and made a memorable pilgrimage

to Rome. The most important event of his later years was however his

struggle with Olaf the Stout, the great St Olaf of Norway.

Norway was now entirely independent of Danish sovereignty and when Cnut

sent an embassy voicing the old claims of the Danish kings he received

a proudly independent answer from St Olaf. For the time being Cnut

had to be satisfied, but in 1025 he sailed with a fleet to Norway,

only to suffer defeat at the Battle of the Helge-aa (i.e. Holy River)

in Skaane, at the hands of the united forces of Norway and Sweden.

Three years later the attack was renewed. Olaf’s strenuous and often

cruel advocacy of the cause of Christianity had alienated many of his

subjects and the Swedes had deserted their ally. The result was that

Olaf fled to Russia and Cnut was declared king of Norway. Two years

later the exile returned and fell fighting against his own countrymen.

Cnut was now the mightiest of all Scandinavian kings, but on his death

in 1035 his empire fell apart; Norway went to his son Svein, Denmark

to Harthacnut and England to Harold Harefoot. Harold was succeeded by

Harthacnut in 1040, but neither king was of the same stamp as Cnut and

they were both overshadowed by the great Godwine, earl of Wessex. When

Harthacnut died in 1042 the male line in descent from Cnut was extinct,

and though some of the Danes were in favour of choosing Cnut’s sister’s

son Svein, Godwine secured the election of Edward the Confessor. With

the accession of Edward Danish rule in England was at an end and,

except for the ambitious expedition of Harold Hardrada, foiled at

Stamford Bridge in 1066, there was no further serious question of a

Scandinavian kingship either in or over England.

The sufferings of England during the second period of invasion

(980-1016) were probably quite as severe as in the worst days of

Alfred–the well-known _Sermo Lupi ad Anglos_, written by Archbishop

Wulfstan of York in 1014, draws a terrible picture of the chaos and

anarchy then prevailing–but we must remember that neither these years

nor the ensuing five and thirty years of Danish kingship left as deep

a mark on England as the earlier wars and the settlements resulting

from them. There was no further permanent occupation or division

of territory and though some of the earldoms and the great estates

passed into the hands of the king’s Danish followers, there was no

transformation of the whole social life of the people such as had taken

place in the old Danelagh districts.


[5] This phrase is used repeatedly in the Chronicle in connexion with

such towns as Bedford, Cambridge, Derby, Leicester and Northampton, and

there can be no question that these groups represent the shires which

now take their names from these towns. For purposes of convenience we

shall henceforward speak of such groups as ‘shires.’

[6] See Tennyson’s translation.

[7] See Freeman’s _Old English History for Children_ for a translation

of this poem.



The years from 850-865 were perhaps the most unhappy in the whole

history of the sufferings of the Frankish empire under Viking attack.

The Danes now took up more or less permanent quarters, often strongly

fortified, on the Scheldt, the Somme, the Seine, the Loire and the

Garonne, while Utrecht, Ghent, Amiens, Paris, Chartres, Tours, Blois,

Orléans, Poitiers, Limoges, Bordeaux and many other towns and cities

were sacked, often more than once. When Hroerekr obtained from the

young Hárekr of Denmark a concession of certain districts between the

Eider and the sea, he gave trouble in that direction and sailed up

the Elbe and the Weser alike. His nephew Guðröðr was in occupation of

Flanders and the lower valley of the Scheldt.

Besides these Viking leaders, who were active in the Low Countries, we

have the names of several others who were busy in France itself. The

most famous of these were the sons of Ragnarr Loðbrók. Berno, who first

appeared on the Seine in 855, was Björn Ironside, while it is quite

possible that the Sidroc who accompanied him was Sigurd Snake-eye,

another son of that famous leader. With Björn, at least according to

Norman tradition, came Hastingus (O.N. Hásteinn), his foster-father.

Hásteinn was destined to a long and active career. We first hear of him

in the annals in 866 when he appeared on the Loire, and it was he who

was one of the chief leaders in the great Danish invasion of England in

892-4. The sudden appearance of these leaders was undoubtedly due, as

suggested in the previous chapter, to the turn of events in Denmark at

this time. During the year of the revolution–854–no attacks were made

on France at all and then immediately after came a flood of invaders.

The Seine was never free from 855-62 and the Loire district was little

better off. The troubled and desolate condition of the country may be

judged from the numerous royal decrees commending those who had been

driven from their land to the protection of those with whom they had

taken refuge and exempting them from payment of the usual taxes. Many

even deserted their Christian faith and became worshippers of the gods

of the heathen. The difficulties of Charles the Bald were greatly

increased by succession troubles both in Brittany and Aquitaine.

Now one, now another claimant allied himself with the Northmen, and

Charles himself was often an offender in this respect. He initiated the

disastrous policy of buying off attack by the payment of large sums of

what in England would have been called Danegeld. In 859 occurred an

incident which throws a curious light on the condition of the country.

The peasants between the Seine and the Loire rose of their own accord

and attacked the Danes in the Seine valley. It is not quite clear what

followed, but the rising was a failure, and possibly it was crushed by

the Frankish nobles themselves who feared anything in the nature of a

popular rising made without reference to their own authority. In any

case the incident bears witness to a lack of proper leadership by the


After the year 865 the tide of invasion set from France towards

England. These were the years of Alfred’s great struggle, and Danish

efforts were concentrated on the attempt to reduce that monarch to

submission. The Franks themselves had begun to realise the necessity

of more carefully organised resistance. They began building fortified

bridges across the rivers at certain points in order to stop the

passage of Viking ships, and they also fortified several of their towns

and cities, thus giving perhaps a hint for the policy later adopted

in England by Edward the Elder. Probably the Franks were not above

taking lessons from their enemies in the matter of fortification, for

the latter had already shown themselves approved masters of the art in

such fortified camps as that at Jeufosse on the Seine. In another way

also had the Danes showed themselves ready to adapt themselves to new

fighting conditions. Not only did they build forts, but we hear of them

as mounted, and henceforward horses played an important part in their

equipment both in France and England.

During these years the Vikings made one notable expedition far beyond

the ordinary range of their activity. Starting from the Seine in 859

under the leadership of Björn and Hásteinn, they sailed round the

Iberian Peninsula through the Straits of Gibraltar. They landed in

Morocco and carried off prisoners many of the Moors or ‘Blue-men’ as

they called them. Some of these found their way to Ireland and are

mentioned in certain Irish annals of the period. After fresh attacks

on Spain they sailed to the Balearic Isles, and Roussillon, which

they penetrated as far as Arles-sur-Tech. They wintered in the island

of Camargue in the Rhone delta and then raided the old Roman cities

of Provence and sailed up the Rhone itself as far as Valence. In the

spring of the next year they sailed to Italy. They captured Pisa and

Luna (at the mouth of the Magra), the latter being taken by a clever

stratagem. Hásteinn feigned himself sick unto death and was baptised

by the bishop of Luna during a truce. Then news came that Hásteinn

was dead and the Vikings asked Christian burial for him. Permission

was given and a mock funeral procession entered the city. It was in

reality a band of armed men in disguise and the city was soon captured.

The real aim of the Vikings in this campaign was the capture of Rome

with its mighty treasures, but, for some reason unknown, they made no

advance further south. Scandinavian tradition said it was because they

mistook Luna for Rome and thought their work already done! Sailing back

through the Straits of Gibraltar they returned to Brittany in 862.

The Vikings had now almost encircled Europe with their attacks, for

it was in the year 865 that the Swedish Rhôs (Russians) laid siege to


When Alfred secured a definite peace with the Danes in 878, those who

were averse to settling permanently returned to their old roving life.

They made their way up the Somme and the Scheldt and their progress

was not stopped by a brilliant victory gained by the young Lewis III

in June 881 at Saucourt, near the Somme, a victory which is celebrated

in the famous _Ludwigslied_. During the same years, another Viking

host invaded Saxony winning a decisive victory over Duke Bruno on the

Lüneburg Heath. After their defeat at Saucourt the main body of the

Danes made their way to Elsloo on the Meuse whence they ravaged the

Meuse, Rhine and Moselle districts plundering Cologne, Bonn, Coblentz,

Aachen, Trèves and Metz. So alarmed was the emperor Charles the Fat

that he entered into negotiations with the Danish king Guðröðr who

was with the forces at Elsloo. He secured Guðröðr’s acceptance of

Christianity and the promise of security from further attack at the

price of a large payment of Danegeld and the concession to Guðröðr of

the province once held by Hroerekr, with large additions. The exact

extent of the grant is uncertain, but it included the district of

Kinnem (round Alkmaar and Haarlem) and probably covered the greater

part of Modern Holland from the Vlie to the Scheldt. Here Guðröðr

lived in semi-independence and might perhaps have established another

Normandy within the empire had he not been ruined by too great

ambition. He entirely failed to defend his province from attacks,

indeed he probably gave them covert support; he intrigued with Hugo,

the bastard son of Lothair II, against the emperor, married his sister

Gisla, and then asked for additional territories on the Rhine and the

Moselle, on the plea that his own province included no vine-growing

districts. Guðröðr had now overstepped all reasonable limits: the

emperor entered into negotiations with him but secured his death by

treachery when a meeting was arranged near Cleves. With the fall of

Guðröðr Danish rule in Frisia came to an end, and though we hear of

isolated attacks even during the early years of the 10th century, there

was no more serious trouble in that district.

In the autumn of 882, encouraged doubtless by the news of the death of

Lewis III, the Danes returned from the Meuse to Flanders and during the

next three years ravaged Flanders, Brabant and Picardy, establishing

themselves strongly at Louvain. In 885 they abandoned these districts

and sailed up the Seine, after a nine years’ absence. In November they

reached Paris with a fighting force of some 30,000 men and a fleet of

700 vessels. The passage up the river was stopped by fortified bridges

and the besiegers were fortunate in having as leaders two men of great

ability and courage, first Gauzlin, Abbot of St Germain’s, and, later,

Count Odo of Paris. The position of Paris was at times desperate. The

Danes were exasperated by the stout defence and in their eagerness

to plunder further up the river dragged many of their ships some two

miles overland past Paris, and so reached the upper waters of the

Seine. Later, as the result of peaceful negotiations, they obtained

permission to pass the bridges on condition that they only ravaged

Burgundy, leaving the Seine and Marne districts untouched; thus had

the provinces of the Frankish empire lost all sense of corporate union.

The Danes soon made their way as far west as Verdun. Here however they

were disastrously defeated by Odo, now king of the West Franks (June

888), and in the next year they finally abandoned the siege of Paris

making their way to Brittany.

In Brittany they found another army already busy. The Bretons had won

a great victory in the autumn of 888 when only 400 out of some 15,000

Danes made their way back to their fleet. The great _here_ from the

Seine now joined forces with the remnants of this army, but proved

powerless against Duke Alan, and some returned to Flanders in 890,

while Hásteinn with the rest sailed to the Somme. The Danes in Flanders

were defeated by Arnulf (afterwards emperor) on the Dyle, near Louvain,

in 891, but it had no great effect for soon after we find them again as

far east as Bonn. A bad harvest in the summer of 892 brought famine in

its train and this was more effective in ridding the land of invaders.

In the autumn of the year the whole army, horses and all, crossed in

one passage in some 250 ships from Boulogne to the mouth of the Limen

in Kent and, shortly after, Hásteinn with a fleet of 80 ships left the

Somme and sailed to Milton in North Kent. The story of the campaigns

there has already been told. For the first time since 840 the Frankish

empire was free from invaders. Grievous as were the losses of the

Franks, it is well to remember that those of the Danes had been great

also. Their fleet had been reduced from 700 to 250 ships, and as the

whole army could still go to England in one crossing, that must also

have been reduced from thirty to ten or fifteen thousand men.

When the English invasion had failed, those who could not settle in

England returned to their French haunts once more. A small force of

eight ships and some 200 men sailed up the Seine under one ‘Huncdeus’

and gradually their numbers were increased by fresh arrivals from

abroad. They made their way north to the Meuse, south to the Loire, and

east to Burgundy, but their head quarters were on the lower waters of

the Seine. In 903 other invaders appeared on the Loire under leaders

named Baret (O.N. Bárðr) and Heric (O.N. Eiríkr). The name of Bárðr is

mentioned more than once in the contemporary history of the Norsemen

in Ireland, and as the Norsemen were driven from Dublin in 902 it is

probable that these invaders came from there. The expedition was not

a success and the Vikings soon sailed away again. Of the history of

the settlers on the Seine after 900 we unfortunately know practically

nothing. The Norman historian Dudo attempted in the 11th century to

give a connected account but his narrative is confused and unreliable.

Odo was dead and Charles the Simple was more interested in conquering

Lorraine than defending Neustria. The clergy were weary of the

ceaseless spoiling of the monasteries and anxious for the conversion

of the heathen, while the nobles were, as usual, selfish and careless

of the interests of the country at large. The Northmen made no great

expeditions between 900 and 910, but maintained a steady hold on the

Lower Seine and the districts of Bessin and Cotentin. They could not

extend their territories and the Franks could not drive them from the

Seine. At length, largely through the intervention of the clergy, a

meeting was arranged between Charles and the Viking leader Rollo at St

Clair-sur-Epte, before the end of 911. Here the province later known

as Normandy (including the counties of Rouen, Lisieux, Evreux and the

district between the rivers Bresle and Epte and the sea) was given

to Rollo and his followers as a _beneficium_, on condition that he

defended the kingdom against attack, and himself accepted Christianity.

The Danes now formed a definite part of the Frankish kingdom and

occupied a position analogous to that of their countrymen in East

Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia in England, except that the latter after

a period of freedom had in course of time to pass definitely under

English rule.

The story of the foundation of Normandy is obscure: still more obscure

is the origin and history of the leader of the Northmen at this time.

Norse tradition, as given by Snorri Sturluson, makes Rollo to be

one Hrólfr, son of Rögnvaldr earl of Möre, who was exiled by Harold

Fairhair and led a Viking life in the west. Norman tradition, as found

in Dudo, made him out the son of a great noble in Denmark, who was

expelled by the king and later went to England, Frisia and Northern

France. Dudo’s account of the founding of Normandy is so full of errors

clearly proven that little reliance can be placed on his story of

the origin of Rollo. The _Heimskringla_ tradition was recorded much

later, but is probably more trustworthy, and it would be no strange

thing to find a man of Norse birth leading a Danish host. Ragnarr

Loðbrók and his sons were Norsemen by family but they appear for the

most part as leaders of Danes. How Rollo came to be the leader of the

Danes in France and what his previous career had been must remain an

unsolved mystery. His name is not mentioned apart from the settlement

of Normandy.

The Normans continued to ravage Brittany without any interruption and

they were soon granted the further districts of Bayeux, Seez, Avranches

and Coutances, which made Brittany and Normandy conterminous.



In the history of the Vikings in Ireland we have seen how the attempt

made by Turges to bring all Ireland under one ruler came to nought

by his death in 845. At first this seems to have thrown the Norsemen

into confusion and we hear of a series of defeats. Then, in 849, the

invasions developed a new phase. Hitherto while the Irish had been

weakened by much internecine warfare, their enemies had worked with

one mind and heart. Now we read of ‘a naval expedition of seven score

of the Foreigners coming to exercise power over the Foreigners who

were before them, so that they disturbed all Ireland afterwards.’ This

means that the Danes were now taking an active part in the invasions

of Ireland, and we soon find them disputing the supremacy with the

earlier Norse settlers. A full and picturesque account of the struggle

is preserved for us in the second of the _Three Fragments of Irish

Annals_ copied by Dugald MacFirbis. Unfortunately the chronology of

these annals is in a highly confused state and it is often difficult to

trace the exact sequence of events.

When the Norsemen first saw the approaching fleet they were much

alarmed. Some said it was reinforcements from Norway, but others, with

keener insight, said they were Danes who were coming to harry and

plunder. A swift vessel was dispatched to find out who they were, and

when the steersman called out to them inquiring from what land they

came and whether as friend or foe, the only answer was a shower of

arrows. A fierce battle ensued, in which the Danes killed thrice their

own number and carried off the women-folk and property of the Norsemen.

In 851 they plundered the Norse settlements at Dublin and Dundalk, but

in the next year the Norsemen attacked them in Carlingford Lough. At

first the Danes were defeated, but then their leader cunningly exhorted

his men to secure by their prayers and alms the patronage of St

Patrick, who was incensed against the Norsemen because of the many evil

deeds they had wrought in Erin. The battle was renewed and the Danes

were victorious. After the battle they made rich gifts to St Patrick

for ‘the Danes were a people with a kind of piety: they could for a

time refrain from meat and from women.’ After the fight we learn that

the Danes cooked their meat in cauldrons supported on the bodies of

their dead foes. The Danes now helped Cerbhal, king of Ossory, against

the Norsemen who were harrying Munster, and henceforward we hear again

and again how the various Irish factions made use of the dissensions

among the invaders to further their own ends.

Matters were further complicated by the fact that many of the Irish

forsook their Christian baptism and joined the Norsemen in their

plundering. These recreant Irish were known as the Gaill-Gaedhil

(i.e. the foreign Irish), and played an important part in the wars

of the next few years. The Gaill-Gaedhil were undoubtedly a race of

mixed Norse and Gaelic stock and we must not imagine that they sprung

suddenly into existence at this time. Long before this the Norsemen

and the Gaels must have had considerable peaceful intercourse with

one another in their various settlements, and in accordance with

well-established Scandinavian custom it would seem that many of the

Irish were brought up as foster-children in Norse households and must

soon have learned to accept their religion and customs. There was

also extensive intermarriage between Norsemen and Irish. The annals

speak of several such unions, the most famous being the marriage of

Gormflaith, afterwards wife of Brian Borumha, to Anlaf Sihtricsson,

while in the genealogies of the Norse settlers in Iceland at the end of

this century, Gaelic names are of frequent occurrence. One of the most

famous of the leaders of these ‘foreign Irish’ was Ketill Finn (i.e.

the White), a Norseman with an Irish nickname. These foreign Irish

fought either by the side of the foreigners or on their own account

and we have an interesting story telling how, when Vikings from Ireland

made an invasion of Cheshire (c. 912), Aethelflæd, the lady of the

Mercians, sent ambassadors to those Irish who were fighting on the side

of the invaders, calling upon them to forsake the pagans and remember

the old kindness shown in England to Irish soldiers and clergy.

The troubles between Norsemen and Danes were probably responsible for

the arrival in Ireland in 853 of Amhlaeibh, son of the king of Norway,

to receive the submission of the foreigners. This Amhlaeibh is Olaf

the White of Norse tradition. Olaf is represented as ruling together

with his brother Imhar (O.N. Ívarr). The annals are not very good

authority for the relationship of the Norse leaders to one another,

and it is quite possible that Ívarr is really Ívarr the Boneless, son

to Ragnarr Loðbrók. Under the strong rule of Olaf and Ívarr Dublin

became the chief centre of Scandinavian rule in Ireland, and the

Danes and Norsemen were to some extent reconciled to one another. The

Irish suffered great losses but some brave leaders were found to face

the Norsemen. Cennedigh, king of Leix (Queen’s County), came upon a

party of them laden with booty; they abandoned the spoil and rushed

upon Cennedigh with angry barbarous shouts, blowing their trumpets

and many of them crying _nui, nui_ (i.e. probably, in the old Norse

speech, _knúi, knúi_, ‘hasten on, hasten on’). Many darts and spears

were thrown and at last they took to their heavy powerful swords.

All was however of no avail and Cennedigh won a great victory. Less

fortunate was Maelciarain, ‘champion of the east of Ireland and a

hero-plunderer of the foreigners.’ He was expelled from his kingdom by

the Leinstermen, who envied him in consequence of his many victories

over the Norsemen!

The activities of Olaf and Ívarr were not confined to Ireland. In 866

Olaf paid a visit to Scotland, while in 870 both Olaf and Ívarr were

present at the siege of Dumbarton. If Ívarr is Ívarr the Boneless, he

must then have gone to England and taken part in the martyrdom of St

Edmund. In the next year both leaders returned to Dublin with a large

number of prisoners–English, Britons and Picts. In 873 Ívarr, ‘king

of the Norsemen of all Ireland and Britain’ died, and about the same

time Olaf returned to Norway, possibly to take part in the great fight

against Harold Fairhair at Hafrsfjord. The Danes seem to have taken

advantage of the removal of Olaf to attempt to throw off the Norse

yoke. Fresh fighting took place and the Danes under Albdann, i.e.

Halfdanr, king of Northumbria, were defeated on Strangford Lough in 877

with the loss of their leader.

After 877 the _War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill_ notes a period of

rest for Ireland, lasting some forty years. This is true to the

extent that no large fleets of fresh invaders seem to have come to

Ireland during this time–the Vikings were too busy elsewhere, both

in England and the Frankish empire–but there were occasional raids

from Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and other towns into various

districts of Ireland, and the Norsemen were often at variance amongst

themselves. Dissensions in Dublin were particularly violent and so

much did they weaken Norse rule there that in 902 Dublin fell into

the hands of the Irish. The Vikings were driven abroad, some going

to Scotland and others to England, where they besieged Chester (_v.

supra_, p. 57). In the year 914 all the old troubles were renewed.

Rögnvaldr, a grandson of Ívarr, fresh from a great victory off the Isle

of Man, captured Waterford, and two years later Sigtryggr, another

grandson of Ívarr regained Dublin. The Irish attempted resistance

under the _ardrí_ Niall Glundubh, but he fell with twelve other kings

in a fight at Kilmashogue near Dublin in 919. During the next fifty

years Ireland was a prey to ceaseless attacks by Norwegians and Danes

alike. Towards the close of the 9th century Limerick had become a

stronghold of the Norsemen in the west, and from there they made their

way up the Shannon into the heart of the country. Cork was settled in

the early years of the 10th century, chiefly by Danes, and from there

all Munster was open to attack. Waterford and Wexford, which stood

as a rule in close connexion with Dublin, served as centres of attack

against Leinster. The Irish made a stout resistance under able leaders

and Dublin was ‘destroyed’ more than once. First among these leaders

stands Muirchertach ‘of the leather cloaks,’ son of Niall Glundubh,

a hero who came forward about the year 926. His activities were

unceasing. He repeatedly attacked Dublin, took a fleet to the Hebrides

where he defeated the Vikings, gaining much spoil, and finally in 941

made a circuit of Ireland, from which he brought back as hostages many

provincial kings, including the Norse ruler of Dublin. More famous

still in Irish song and story was Cellachan of Cashel. He made war

against the Vikings in Munster and for a time had the Norse kingdom of

Waterford under his control. Similarly he conquered Limerick, and we

find him fighting side by side with Norsemen from both these towns.

During these fifty years the Norse kingdom in Dublin stood in close

relation with the Scandinavian kingdom of Northumbria. Rögnvaldr,

who died in 912, ruled there and so did his brothers Sigtryggr (d.

927) and Guðröðr (or Godfrey) (d. 934). The brothers left sons known

respectively as Anlaf Sihtricsson and Anlaf Godfreyson. The latter

took part in the great fight at Brunanburh and died in 939. Anlaf

Sihtricsson was destined to a longer career. He would seem to have

spent his early years in Scotland where he married king Constantine’s

daughter. It is uncertain whether he fought at Brunanburh, but he

came to Northumbria in 941 and captured York. He was expelled from

Northumbria in 944 or 945 and retired to Dublin, and the rest of his

life was chiefly spent in fighting in Ireland. He was in close alliance

with the Norsemen in Man and the Western Islands, and was, for some

thirty years, the most powerful Norse ruler in Ireland. Then came the

first great blow to Norse rule in Ireland. In 980 Maelsechlainn II, the

_ardrí_, won a great victory at Tara over the foreigners of Dublin and

the Islands in which Anlaf’s son was slain. The power of the kingdom of

Dublin was effectually broken. The Norsemen were compelled to liberate

all the hostages in their custody, to pay a fine of 2000 oxen and

to remit the tribute which they had imposed on all Ireland from the

Shannon eastwards to the sea. Anlaf abandoned his authority and retired

on a pilgrimage to Iona, where he died in the same year an inmate of

its monastery.

In the meantime events, fraught with important consequences for

Norse rule in that country, were gradually developing in a distant

quarter of Ireland. In the province of Munster the Dalcassian line

of princes first comes into prominence about the middle of the 10th

century, and the two most famous of these princes were the brothers

Mathgamhain and Brian, commonly known as Brian Borumha. Together

the brothers conquered Munster in spite of the support given to the

Irish by the Viking settlers, and when their success aroused Ívarr,

the ruler of Limerick, they attacked him and won a great victory at

Sulcoit near Tipperary (968). Limerick was captured, Mathgamhain died

in 976 and Brian was soon acknowledged king of all Munster. He next

became master of Leinster, but his rapid advance brought him into

conflict with the _ardrí_ and by a compact made in 998, Maelsechlainn

practically surrendered the southern half of Ireland to Brian. The

ruler of Dublin at this time was Sigtryggr of the Silken Beard, son of

Anlaf and Gormflaith, sister of Maelmordha, king of Leinster. In 1000

Leinster with the support of the Norsemen in Dublin revolted, but Brian

defeated them and captured Dublin, giving his daughter in marriage

to Sigtryggr and himself marrying Gormflaith. In 1002 Maelsechlainn

submitted to Brian and the latter became _ardrí_. There followed twelve

years of peace, but Brian’s marriage with Gormflaith was his undoing.

Quarrelling with her husband, she stirred up Maelmordha of Leinster

against him. An alliance was formed between Maelmordha and Sigtryggr,

and Gormflaith dispatched embassies to all the Viking settlements in

the West, summoning them to the aid of Sigtryggr in a great fight

against Brian. Sigtryggr secured the help of Earl Sigurd of the

Orkneys and North Scotland by promise of the kingship of Dublin. Ships

came from all parts of the Viking world, from Northumbria, from Man

and the Western Islands, from Scotland and the Orkneys, and even from

Iceland. Dublin was fixed as the trysting-place and Palm Sunday 1014

was to be the time of meeting. Brian mustered all the forces of Munster

and Connaught and was joined in half-hearted fashion by Maelsechlainn,

who was really waiting to see which way the fortunes of war would turn.

Brian advanced into the plain of Fingall, north of Dublin, and the two

armies faced one another at Clontarf all Passion week. The Norsemen had

learned by magic incantations that if the fight took place before Good

Friday their chiefs would perish and their forces be routed, while if

the fight took place on Good Friday Brian himself would perish but the

Irish would win the day. So they waited until the Friday and then made

their attack. The fight was long and the slaughter was terrible. Brian

and Sigurd were themselves numbered among the slain. In the end the

Norsemen were defeated and Maelsechlainn completed their discomfiture

when he cut down the fugitives as they tried to cross the bridge

leading to Dublin and so reach their ships. No fight was more famous in

Irish history and it seems to have appealed with equally strong force

to Scandinavian imagination. Clontarf and Brunanburh are the two great

Viking battles which find record in Scandinavian saga, and in the story

of Burnt Njal[8] we have a vivid account both of the actual battle and

of the events leading up to it. Yet more interesting perhaps is the old

lay preserved to us, the _Song of the Valkyries_, who that same day

were seen in Caithness riding twelve together to a bower where they set

up a loom of which men’s heads were the weights, men’s entrails the

warp and woof, while a sword was the shuttle and the reels were arrows.

They wove the web of war and foretold the fate of king Sigtryggr

and Earl Sigurd as well as the sharp sorrow which would befall the

Irish[9]. The Norse world was full of this and like portents and there

can be no question that the Vikings were themselves conscious that the

battle of Clontarf marked a very definite epoch in the history of the

Vikings in the West and in Ireland more particularly. The Norsemen

remained in possession of their cities, Sigtryggr continued as king

of Dublin, but gradually the fortunes of the Norse settlers tended to

become merged in the history of the nation as a whole and there was no

further question of Scandinavian supremacy in Ireland.


[8] English version by Sir G. W. Dasent.

[9] This song was probably composed soon after the events with which it

is concerned and was first rendered into English by the poet Gray under

the title _The Fatal Sisters_.



When the Vikings sailed to England and Ireland in the late 8th and

early 9th centuries their most natural path was by the Orkneys and

Shetlands and round the Western Islands of Scotland. We have seen how

early they formed settlements in the Shetlands, and they soon reached

the Orkneys and the Hebrides. From the Orkneys they crossed to the

mainland, to Sutherland and Caithness–the very names bear witness

to Scandinavian occupation–while Galloway (i.e. the land of the

Gaill-Gaedhil, _v. supra_, p. 56) was settled from the Isle of Man.

Already in the 9th century the Norse element in the Hebrides was so

strong that the Irish called the islands _Innsi-Gall_ (i.e. the islands

of the foreigners), and their inhabitants were known as Gaill-Gaedhil.

The Norsemen called the islands _Suðreyjar_ (i.e. Southern Islands)

in contrast to the Orkneys and Shetlands, which were known as

_Norðreyjar_, and the name survives in the composite bishopric of

‘Sodor’ and Man, which once formed part of the archdiocese of Trondhjem

in Norway. The Isle of Man was plundered almost as early as any of the

islands of the West (_v. supra_, p. 12), and it was probably from

Man that the Norse settlements in Cumberland and Westmorland were

established. Olaf the White and Ívarr made more than one expedition

from Ireland to the lowlands of Scotland, and the former was married to

Auðr the daughter of Ketill Flatnose who had made himself the greatest

chieftain in the Western Islands. After the battle of Hafrsfjord,

when Harold Fairhair had finally crushed his rivals in Norway itself,

so powerful were the Norse settlements in the West that he felt his

position would be insecure until he had received their submission.

Accordingly he made a great expedition to the Shetlands, Orkneys and

the west coast of Scotland, fulfilled this purpose and entrusted the

Northern Islands to Sigurd, brother of Rögnvaldr, earl of Möre, as his


The history of the Norse settlements in the Orkneys is well and fully

told in the _Orkneyingasaga_[10]. The first Orkney-earl was the

above-named Sigurd. He entered into an alliance with Thorstein the

Red, son to Olaf the White, and together they conquered Caithness and

Sutherland, as far south as the river Oikel on the borders of Ross and

Cromarty. Sigurd’s son Einar, known as Turf-Einar because he first

taught the islanders to cut peat for fuel, founded a long line of

earls of the Orkneys. He had a quarrel with Harold Fairhair and when

that king imposed a fine on the islanders for the murder of his son

and the farmers could not pay it, Einar paid it himself on condition

that the peasants surrendered their _óðal_ rights, i.e. their rights

of possession in the lands they cultivated. Turf-Einar’s son Sigurd

the Stout was the most famous of all the Orkney-earls, renowned both

as warrior and poet. He conquered Sutherland, Caithness, Ross, Moray,

Argyle, the Hebrides and Man, securing the support of the men of Orkney

by giving them back their _óðal_. He married a daughter of Malcolm king

of Scotland, and met his end, as we have already seen, fighting on the

side of the heathen Norsemen in the battle of Clontarf in 1014. After

this the power of the Orkney-earls declined. The Norse line of earls

was replaced by one of Scottish descent in 1231, but the islands did

not pass definitely to the Scottish crown until the 15th century[11].

Of the Norse settlements in the Hebrides we have no such definite or

continuous record. Mention is made in Irish annals of the middle of the

9th century of a king in the Hebrides–one Guðröðr son of Fergus–whose

very name shows him to have been one of the Gaill-Gaedhil. Ketill Finn

(_v. supra_, p. 56) was another such. In the latter half of the 9th

century Ketill Flatnose was the chief Norse leader in the Hebrides

until his power was destroyed by Harold Fairhair. Many of the settlers

then betook themselves to Iceland, the most famous of them being Auðr

the deep-thoughted, widow of Olaf the White and daughter of Ketill.

Norse rule was all powerful during the 10th and 11th centuries. There

was a line of kings but we find ruling side by side with them certain

officers known as ‘lawmen’ (_v. infra_, p. 103), while in the late 10th

and for the greater part of the 11th century, the Hebrides were under

the sovereignty of the Orkney-earls. Norse rule in the Hebrides did

not finally come to an end until 1266 when Magnus Hákonsson, king of

Norway, renounced all claims to the islands.

The early history of the settlements in Man is equally obscure. At

first the island suffered from repeated raids, then about the middle

of the 9th century it passed under the authority of the kings of

Dublin and remained so until, with the Hebrides and Western Scotland

generally, it was conquered by Sigurd the Orkney-earl. From the

Orkney-earls it passed to the great conqueror Godred Crovan–the King

Gorry or Orry of Manx tradition–who came from the Hebrides, and his

successors down to the cession of the islands in 1266 were known as

kings of Man and the Isles.

Of the details of the settlement of the Scottish mainland, of

Caithness, Sutherland, and Galloway, of the occupation of Cumberland

and Westmorland we know almost nothing, but when we speak later of

Norse influence in these districts we shall realise how strong was

their hold on them. Our knowledge of the Norse occupation of Man and

the Islands is somewhat scanty in detail, but there can be no question

that their settlements in lands often closely resembling in physical

features their own home-country were of the highest importance.


[10] English translation by Sir G. W. Dasent.

[11] They were pledged by Christian I of Denmark and Norway for the

payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret to James III in 1460 and

the pledge was never redeemed.



The activities of the Northmen during the Viking age were not confined

to the lands west and south of their original homes: the Baltic was as

familiar to them as the North Sea, to go ‘east-viking’ was almost as

common as to go ‘west-viking’ and Scandinavian settlements were founded

on the shores of the Baltic and far inland along the great waterways

leading into the heart of Russia. As was to be expected from their

geographical position it was Danes and Swedes rather than Norwegians

who were active in Baltic lands, the Danes settling chiefly on the

Pomeranian coast among the Wends, while the Swedes occupied lands

further east and founded the Scandinavian kingdom of Russia.

Already in the early years of the 9th century we find the Danish

king Guðröðr now making war against his Slavonic neighbours in

Mecklenburg-Schwerin, now intriguing with them against the emperor.

Mention is made of more than one town on the southern coast of the

Baltic bearing an essentially Scandinavian name, pointing to the

existence of extensive settlements. Interesting evidence of this

eastward movement is also to be found in the _Life of St Anskar_. There

we learn how, soon after 830, a Danish fleet captured a city in the

land of the Slavs, with great riches, and we hear in 853 how the Swedes

were endeavouring to reconquer Kurland which had been under their rule,

but had now thrown off the yoke and fallen a prey to a fleet of Danish

Vikings–possibly the one just mentioned. St Anskar himself undertook

the education of many Wendish youths who had been entrusted to him.

This and other evidence prepare us for the establishment, in the

tenth century, of the most characteristic of all Viking settlements,

that of Jómsborg on the Island of Wollin at the mouth of the Oder.

According to tradition King Gorm the Old conquered a great kingdom in

Wendland, but it was to his son Harold Bluetooth that the definite

foundation of Jómsborg was ascribed. For many years there had been

an important trading centre at Julin on the Island of Wollin, where

traders from Scandinavia, Saxony, Russia and many other lands met

together to take part in the rich trade between north and south, east

and west, which passed through Julin, standing as it did on one of the

great waterways of central Europe. Large finds of Byzantine and Arabic

coins bear witness to the extensive trade with Greece and the Orient

which passed through Julin, while the Silberberg, on which Jómsborg

once stood, is so called from the number of silver coins from Frisia,

Lorraine, Bavaria and England which have been found there. It was no

doubt in the hope of securing some fuller share in this trade that

Harold established the great fortress of Jómsborg and entrusted its

defence to a warrior-community on whom he imposed the strictest rules

of organisation. The story of the founding of Jómsborg is told in the

late and untrustworthy _Jómsvikingasaga_, but, while we must reject

many of the details there set forth, it is probable that the rules of

the settlement as given there are based on a genuine tradition, and

they give us a vivid picture of life in a Viking warrior-community. No

one under eighteen or over fifty years of age was admitted to their

fellowship, and neither birth nor friendship, only personal bravery,

could qualify a man for admission. No one was allowed to continue a

member who uttered words of fear, or who fled before one who was his

equal in arms and strength. Every member was bound to avenge a fallen

companion as if he were his brother. No women were allowed within the

community, and no one was to be absent for more than three days without

permission. All news was to be told in the first instance to their

leader and all plunder was to be shared at a common stake. The harbour

of Jómsborg could shelter a fleet of 300 vessels and was protected by

a mole with twelve iron gates.

The Jómsvikings played an important if stormy part in the affairs of

the three Scandinavian kingdoms in the later years of the 10th and the

early 11th century. Many of them came to England in the train of king

Svein, while Jarl Thorkell was for a time in the service of Ethelred

the Unready. The decline of Jómsborg as a Viking stronghold dates from

its devastation by Magnus the Good in 1043, but the importance of Julin

as a trading centre continued unimpaired for many years to come.

From Jómsborg Harold Bluetooth’s son Hákon made an attack on Samland in

the extreme east of Prussia, but the real exploitation of the Eastern

Baltic fell as was natural to the Swedes rather than to the Danes. We

have already mentioned their presence in Kurland on the Gulf of Riga,

and we learn from Swedish runic inscriptions of expeditions to Samland,

to the Semgalli (in Kurland) and to the river Duna. The important

fortified port of Seeburg was probably near to Riga, while the chief

trade route from the island of Gothland lay round cape Domesnæes (note

the Scandinavian name) to the mouth of the Duna.

The chief work of the Swedes was however to be done in lands yet

further south, in the heart of the modern empire of Russia in Europe.

The story of the founding of the Russian kingdom is preserved to us

in the late 10th century chronicle of the monk Nestor, who tells us

that in the year 859 ‘Varangians’ came over the sea and took tribute

from various Finnish, Tatar and Slavonic peoples inhabiting the forest

regions round Lake Ilmen, between Lake Ladoga and the upper waters of

the Dnieper. Again he tells us that in 862 the Varangians were driven

over seas and tribute was refused, but soon the tribes quarrelled among

themselves and some suggested that they should find a prince who might

rule over them and keep the peace. So they sent across the sea to the

Varangians, to the ‘Rus,’ for such is the name of these Varangians,

just as others are called Swedes, Northmen, Anglians, Goths, saying

that their land was great and powerful but there was no order within it

and asking them to come and rule over them. Three brothers with their

followers were chosen: the eldest, Rurik (O.N. Hroerekr), settled in

Novgorod, the second in Bieloözero, the third in Truvor in Izborsk.

Three years later two of the brothers died and Rurik took control of

the whole of the settlements, dividing the land among his men. In the

same year two of Rurik’s followers, Askold (O.N. Höskuldr) and Dir

(O.N. Dýri), setting out for Constantinople, halted at Kiev and there

founded a kingdom, which in 882 was conquered by Rurik’s successor

Oleg (O.N. Helgi) and, as the mother of all Russian cities, became the

capital of the Russian kingdom.

There is a certain _naiveté_ about this story which is characteristic

of the monkish chronicler generally, and it is clear that, after the

usual manner of the annalist who is compiling his record long after the

events described, Nestor has grouped together under one or two dates

events which were spread over several years, but the substantial truth

of the narrative cannot be impugned and receives abundant confirmation

from various sources.

The earliest evidence for the presence of these ‘Rus’ in Eastern Europe

is found in the story of the Byzantine embassy to the emperor Lewis the

Pious in 839 (_v. supra_, p. 19), when certain people called ‘Rhôs,’

who had been on a visit to Constantinople, came in the train of the

embassy and asked leave to return home through the empire. Enquiries

were made and it was found that these ‘Rhôs’ were Swedes. This would

point to the presence of ‘Rus’ in Russia at a date earlier than that

given by Nestor, and indeed the rapid extension of their influence

indicates a period of activity considerably longer than that allowed

by him. These ‘Rus’ or ‘Rhôs’ soon came into relations, both of trade

and war, with the Byzantine empire. We have preserved to us from the

years 911 and 944 commercial treaties made between the ‘Rus’ and the

Greeks showing that they brought all kinds of furs and also slaves

to Constantinople, receiving in exchange various articles of luxury

including gold and silver ornaments, silks and other rich stuffs. The

names of the signatories to these treaties are, on the side of the

‘Rus,’ almost entirely of Scandinavian origin and may to some extent

be shown to be of definitely Swedish provenance. About the year 950,

the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, writing a tractate on the

administration of the empire, describes how traders from various parts

of Russia assemble at Kiev and sail down the Dnieper on their way to

Constantinople. Their course down the Dnieper was impeded by a series

of rapids, and Constantine gives their names both in ‘Russian’ and in

Slavonic form, and though the names are extremely corrupt in their

Greek transcription there is no mistaking that the ‘Russian’ names are

really forms belonging to some Scandinavian dialect.

The Rus were also well known as warriors and raiders. In 865 they

sailed down the Dnieper, across the Black Sea and made their way into

the Sea of Marmora. Their fleet was dispersed by a storm, but they

were more successful in 907 when Oleg with some 2000 ships harried the

environs of Constantinople and was bought off by a heavy tribute. These

attacks were continued at intervals during the next century.

We also find a good deal of interesting information about these ‘Rûs,’

as they are called, in various Arab historians. We hear how they sailed

their vessels down the chief waterways and had such a firm hold on the

Black Sea that by the year 900 it was already known as the Russian Sea.

Often they dragged their vessels overland from one stream to another,

and thus they made their way from the upper waters of the Don down

the Volga to the Caspian Sea. But not only do we have a description

of their journeyings we also learn a good deal of their customs

and habits, and, though at times the information given is open to

suspicion, archaeological research tends to confirm the statements of

these historians and to show that the civilisation of the ‘Rûs’ closely

resembled that of the Scandinavian peoples generally in the Viking age.

The identification of the ancient ‘Rus’ with the Swedes was long

and hotly contested by Slavonic patriots but there is now a general

consensus of opinion that the evidence for it is too strong to be

overthrown. Not only have we the evidence given above but also the

very names ‘Rus’ and ‘Varangian’ can be satisfactorily explained only

on this theory. The name ‘Rus’ is the Slavonic, ‘Rhôs’ the Greek, and

‘Rûs’ the Arabic form of the Finnish name for Sweden, viz. Ruotsi. This

name was originally derived from _Roþr_ or _Roþin_, the name of certain

districts of Upland and Östergötland, whose inhabitants were known as

_Rods-karlar_ or _Rods-mæn_. The Finns had early come into relation

with the Swedes and they used the name of those people with whom they

were in earliest and most intimate contact for the whole Swedish

nationality. When these Swedes settled in Russia the Finns applied the

same term to the new colonists and the term came to be adopted later

into the various Slavonic dialects.

We are most familiar with the term ‘Varangian’ or ‘Variag,’ to use

the Slavonic form, as applied to the famous guard of the Byzantine

emperors, which seems to have been formed in the latter half of the

10th century and was largely composed of Norwegian, Icelandic and

Swedish recruits. In Russian and Arabic historians on the other hand

the term is used rather in an ethnographic or geographic sense. We

have seen that it was thus used by Nestor, and similarly we find the

Baltic commonly spoken of as the ‘Varangian’ Sea both in Russian and

in Arabic records. All the evidence tends to show that this was the

earlier sense of the term and we find it gradually displacing the term

‘Rhôs’ even in Byzantine historians. The word itself is of Scandinavian

origin and means ‘those who are bound together by a pledge.’ The theory

which best explains its various uses is that put forward by Dr Vilhelm

Thomsen, viz. that it originated among the Northmen who settled in

Russia, i.e. among the ancient Russ, and that under that term they

denoted those peoples west of the Baltic who were related to them by


From the Russ the word passed into the Slavonic language as

_variag_[12], into the Greek as _barangoi_–where it was often used in

the restricted sense of members of the imperial guard largely recruited

from this nation,–and into the Arabic as _varank_. Dr Thomsen adduces

two happy parallels for the somewhat remarkable history of the terms

‘Russian’ and ‘Varangian.’ The term ‘Russian’ came to be used as their

own name by the Slavonic peoples, who were once ruled over by the Russ,

in much the same way that the term ‘Frankish’ or ‘French’ was adopted

by the Gaulish population of France from its Germanic conquerors. The

term ‘Varangian,’ ultimately the name for a nation or group of nations,

came to be used of a military force once largely recruited from those

nations, much in the same way as the term ‘Swiss’ was applied to the

Papal guard long after that guard had ceased to be recruited from the

Swiss nation exclusively.

The belief in the Scandinavian origin of the Russ is amply supported

by archaeological evidence. The large number of Arabic coins found

in Sweden (more especially in Gothland) and in Russia itself points

to an extensive trade with the Orient whose route lay chiefly to the

east of the Caspian Sea and then along the valley of the Volga. The

dates of the coins point to the years between 850 and 1000 as those

of most active intercourse with the East. Equally interesting is the

large number of western coins, more especially Anglo-Saxon pennies

and sceatts, which have been found in Russia. They probably represent

portions of our Danegeld which had come into the hands of the Swedes

either in trade or war. Viking brooches of the characteristic oval

shape with the familiar zoomorphic ornamentation have been found in

Western Russia, and one stone with a runic inscription, belonging to

the 11th century and showing evidence of connexion with Gothland, has

been found in a burial mound in Berezan, an island at the mouth of the

Dnieper. Professor Braun says that no others have been found because

of the rarity of suitable stone.

How long the Russ maintained their distinctively Scandinavian

nationality it is difficult to determine. Oleg’s grandson Svjatoslav

bore a distinctively Slavonic name, and henceforward the names of the

members of the royal house are uniformly Slavonic, but the connexion

with Sweden was by no means forgotten. Svjatoslav’s son Vladimir the

Great secured himself in the rulership of Novgorod in 980 by the aid of

_variags_ from over the sea and established a band of variag warriors

in his chief city of Kiev. But the Viking age was drawing to a close.

Variag auxiliaries are mentioned for the last time in 1043 and it

is probable that by the middle of the 11th century the Scandinavian

settlers had been almost completely Slavonicised. Of their permanent

influence on the Russian people and on Russian institutions it is,

in the present state of our knowledge, almost impossible to speak.

Attempts have been made to distinguish Scandinavian elements in the

old Russian law and language but with no very definite results, and we

must content ourselves with the knowledge that the Vikings were all

powerful in Western and Southern Russia during the greater part of two

centuries, carrying on an extensive trade with the East, establishing

Novgorod, ‘the new town,’ on the Volga under the name _Holmgarðr_ and

founding a dynasty which ruled in Kiev and became a considerable power

in eastern Europe negotiating on terms of equality with the Byzantine


Mention has already been made more than once of the way in which the

Northmen entered the service of the emperors at Constantinople or

_Miklagarðr_, ‘the great city,’ as they called it. From here they

visited all parts of the Mediterranean. When Harold Hardrada was in

the service of the emperor he sailed through the Grecian archipelago

to Sicily and Africa. There he stayed several years, conquering some

eighty cities for his master and gaining rich treasures for himself.

One interesting memorial of these journeys still remains to us. At the

entrance to the arsenal in Venice stands a marble lion brought from

Athens in 1687. Formerly it stood at the harbour of the Piraeus, known

thence as the Porto Leone. On the sides of the lion are carved two long

runic inscriptions arranged in snake-like bands. The runes are too

much worn to be deciphered but they are unquestionably of Scandinavian

origin and the snake-bands closely resemble those that may be seen on

certain runic stones in Sweden. The carving was probably done by Swedes

from Uppland about the middle of the 10th century. One can hardly

imagine a more striking illustration of the extent and importance of

the Viking movement in Europe.


[12] The word variag in Modern Russian means a pedlar and bears witness

to the strong commercial instincts of the Viking.



The activities of the Vikings were all-embracing, and before any

attempt can be made to estimate their influence in the various

countries which came permanently under their rule, or were brought more

or less closely into touch with them, some account, however slight,

must be given of Scandinavian civilisation at this time, both on its

spiritual and on its material sides. For the former aspect we must

turn chiefly to the poems and sagas of old Norse literature, for the

latter to the results of modern archaeological research. So far as the

poems and sagas are concerned it is well to remember that they were to

a large extent composed in Iceland and reflect the somewhat peculiar

type of civilisation developed there at a period just subsequent to

the Viking age itself. This civilisation differs necessarily from that

developed in Scandinavia or in the other Scandinavian settlements, in

that it was free from Western influence, but this is to some extent

compensated for by the fact that we get in Iceland a better picture of

the inherent possibilities of Viking civilisation when developed on

independent lines.

At the beginning of the Viking age the Scandinavian peoples were in

a transitional stage of development; on the one hand there was still

much, both in their theory and in their practice of life, that savoured

of primitive barbarism, while on the other, in the development of

certain phases of human activity, more especially in those of war,

trade, and social organisation, they were considerably ahead of many

of their European neighbours. More than one writer has commented upon

the strange blending of barbarism and culture which constitutes Viking

civilisation: it is evident when we study their daily life, and it

is emphasised in the story of their slow and halting passage from

heathenism to Christianity.

We need not travel far to find examples of their barbarism. Their

cruelty in warfare is a commonplace among the historians of the period.

When the Irish found the Danes cooking their food on spits stuck in

the bodies of their fallen foes (_v. supra_, p. 55) and asked why they

did anything so hateful, the answer came ‘Why not? If the other side

had been victorious they would have done the same with us.’ The custom

of cutting the blood-eagle (i.e. cutting the ribs in the shape of an

eagle and pulling the lungs through the opening) was a well-known

form of vengeance taken on the slayer of one’s father if captured in

battle, and is illustrated in the story of the sons of Ragnarr Loðbrók

himself. Another survival of primitive life was the famous Berserk

fury, when men in the heat of battle were seized with sudden madness

and, according to the popular belief, received a double portion of

strength, and lost all sense of bodily pain, a custom for which Dr

Bugge finds an apt parallel in the ‘running amok’ of the races of the

Malay peninsula. Children were tossed on the point of the spear and the

Viking leader who discouraged the custom was nicknamed _barnakarl_,

i.e. children’s friend.

In contrast to these methods of warfare stands their skill in

fortification, in which they taught many lessons both to their English

and to their Frankish adversaries, their readiness in adapting

themselves to new conditions of warfare (_v. supra_, p. 46), and their

clever strategy, whereby they again and again outwitted their opponents.

The same contrast meets us when we consider the position of women among

them. The chroniclers make many references to their lust after women.

We hear in an English chronicler how they combed their hair, indulged

in sabbath baths, often changed their clothes and in various ways

cultivated bodily beauty ‘in order that they might the more readily

overcome the chastity of the matrons, and make concubines even of the

daughters of the nobility.’ Wandering from country to country they

often had wives in each, and polygamy would seem to have been the

rule, at least among the leaders. In Ireland we hear of what seem to

have been veritable harems, while in Russia we are told of the great

grandson of Rurik, the founder of the Russian kingdom, that he had

more than 800 concubines, though we may perhaps suspect the influence

of Oriental custom in this case. Yet, side by side with all this, the

legitimate wife was esteemed and honoured, and attained a position

and took a part in national life which was quite unusual in those

days. In the account of an Arabic embassy to the Vikings of the west

(_v. supra_, p. 20) we have a vivid picture of the freedom of their

married life. Auðr, the widow of Olaf the White, after the fall of her

son Thorstein, took charge of the fortunes of her family and is one

of the figures that stand out most clearly in the early settlement of

Iceland. We have only to turn to the Icelandic sagas to see before us

a whole gallery of portraits, dark and fair alike, of women cast in

heroic mould, while the stone at Dyrna in Hadeland, bearing the runic

inscription, ‘Gunvor, daughter of Thirek, built a bridge to commemorate

her daughter Astrid, she was the most gracious maiden in Hadeland,’

gives us one of the most attractive pictures of womanhood left to us

from the Viking age. It must be added however that beside the runic

inscription, the stone bears carvings of the Christ-child, the star in

the east and the three kings, and this may serve to remind us that the

age was one in which the peoples of the North passed from heathenism

to Christianity, though the passage was a slow one and by no means

complete even at the close of the period.

It is probable that the first real knowledge of ‘the white Christ’

came, as is so often the case, with the extension of trade–Frisians

trading with Scandinavia, and Danes and Swedes settling in Frisia and

elsewhere for the same purpose. St Willibrord at the beginning of the

8th century and Archbishop Ebbo of Rheims in 823, as papal legate

among the northern peoples, undertook missions to Denmark, but it was

in 826, when king Harold was baptised at Mainz, that the first real

opportunity came for the preaching of Christianity in Denmark. Harold

was accompanied on his return by St Anskar, a monk from Corvey and a

man filled with religious zeal. After two years’ mission in Denmark St

Anskar sailed to Sweden, where he was graciously received at Björkö by

king Björn. He made many converts and on his return home in 831 was

made archbishop of Hamburg and given, jointly with Ebbo, jurisdiction

over the whole of the northern realms. Hamburg was devastated in 845

and St Anskar was then appointed to the bishopric of Bremen, afterwards

united to a restored archbishopric of Hamburg. He laboured in Denmark

once more and established churches at Slesvík and Ribe. He conducted

a second mission to Sweden and his missionary zeal remained unabated

until his death in 865; his work was carried on by his successor and

biographer St Rimbert and by many others. Their preaching was however

confined to Jutland and South Sweden and there is no evidence of any

popular movement towards Christianity. Gorm the Old was a steadfast

pagan but Gorm’s son Harold Bluetooth was a zealous promoter of

Christianity. His enthusiasm may have been exaggerated by monastic

chroniclers in contrast to the heathenism of his son Svein, but with

the accession of Cnut all fears of a reversion to heathendom were at an

end. Cnut was a devout son of the Church.

The first Danish settlers in England were entirely heathen in

sentiment, but they were soon brought into close contact with

Christianity, and the terms of the peace of Edward and Guthrum in the

early years of the 10th century show that already Christianity was

making its way in the Danelagh. In the course of this century both

archbishoprics were held by men of Danish descent and the excesses of

the early 11th century were due, not to the Danish settlers, but to the

heathen followers of Olaf Tryggvason and Svein Forkbeard. Similarly the

Danish settlers in Normandy were within a few years numbered among

the Church’s most enthusiastic supporters, and Rollo’s own son and

successor William was anxious to become a monk.

The story of the preaching of Christianity in Norway is a chequered

one. The first attempt to establish the Christian faith was made by

Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri (_v. supra_, p. 36). Baptised and educated in

England, he began warily, inducing those who were best beloved by him

to become Christians, but he soon came into conflict with the more

ardent followers of paganism. At the great autumn festival at Lade when

the cups of memory were drunk, Earl Sigurd signed a cup to Odin, but

the king made the sign of the cross over his cup. Earl Sigurd pacified

popular clamour by saying that the king had made the sign of the hammer

and consecrated the cup to Thor. The next day the king would not eat

the horse-flesh used in their offerings nor drink the blood from it:

the people were angry and the king compromised by inhaling the steam

from the offering through a linen cloth placed over the sacrificial

kettle, but no one was satisfied and at the next winter-feast the king

had to eat some bits of horse-liver and to drink crossless all the

cups of memory. Hákon died a Christian but Eyvindr Skaldaspillir in

_Hákonarmál_ describes how he was welcomed by Odin to Valhalla.

Earl Hákon Sigurdson, nicknamed _blót-jarl_, i.e. sacrifice-earl,

was a zealous heathen, but Olaf Tryggvason after his succession in

995 promoted the cause of Christianity by every means in his power,

and it was largely to this that he owed his ultimate overthrow. Then,

after a brief interval, the crown passed to St Olaf, greatest of all

Christian champions in Norway, and during his reign that country became

definitely Christian, though his rough and ready methods of conversion

were hardly likely to secure anything but a purely formal and outward

adhesion to the new faith.

Sweden was the most reluctant of the three northern realms to accept

Christianity, and the country remained almost entirely heathen until

the close of the Viking period.

The story of the Norse settlers in Ireland and the Western Islands

in their relation to Christianity was very much that of the Danes

in England. Celtic Christianity had a firm hold in these countries,

and from the earliest period of the settlements many of the Vikings

adopted the Christian faith. Among the settlers in Iceland who came

from the West were many Christians, and Auðr herself gave orders at her

death that she should be buried on the sea-shore below the tide-mark,

rather than lie in unhallowed ground. Most of the settlers undoubtedly

remained heathen–in 996 a ring sacred to Thor was taken from a temple

in Dublin and in 1000 king Brian destroyed a grove sacred to the same

god just north of the city. But side by side with incidents of this

kind must be placed others like that of the sparing of the churches,

hospitals and almshouses when Armagh was sacked in 921, or the

retirement of Anlaf Cuaran to the monastery at Iona in 981. In Ireland

as elsewhere there seems to have been a recrudescence of heathenism in

the early years of the 11th century and the great fight at Clontarf was

regarded as a struggle between pagan and Christian.

Outwardly the Scandinavian world had largely declared its adhesion

to Christianity by the close of the Viking period, but we must

remember that the medieval Church was satisfied if her converts passed

through the ceremony of baptism and observed her rites, though their

sentiments often remained heathen. Except in purely formal fashion it

is impossible to draw a definite line of demarcation between Christian

and heathen, and the acceptance of Christianity is of importance not

so much from any change of outlook which it produced in individuals,

as because it brought the peoples of the North into closer touch

with the general life and culture of medieval Europe. Leaders freely

accepted baptism–often more than once–and even confirmation as part

of a diplomatic bargain, while their profession of Christianity made

no difference to their Viking way of life. Even on formal lines the

Church had to admit of compromise, as for example in the practice

of _prime-signing_, whereby when Vikings visited Christian lands as

traders, or entered the service of Christian kings for payment, they

often allowed themselves to be signed with the cross, which secured

their admission to intercourse with Christian communities, but left

them free to hold the faith which pleased them best.

Strange forms and mixtures of belief arose in the passage from one

faith to the other. Helgi the Lean was a Christian, but called on Thor

in the hour of need. The Christian saints with their wonder-working

powers were readily adopted into the Norse Pantheon, and Vikings by

their prayers and offerings secured the help of St Patrick in Ireland

and of St Germanus in France in times of defeat and pestilence, while

we hear of a family of settlers in Iceland who gave up all faith

except a belief in the power of St Columba. On sculptured stones

in the west may be found pictures of Ragnarök, of Balder and of

Loki together with the sign of the cross. Some of the heathen myths

themselves show Christian influence; the Balder story with its echoes

of the lamentations for the suffering Christ belongs to the last

stage of Norse heathendom, while a heathen skald makes Christ sit by

the Fountain of Fate as the mighty destroyer of the giants. When

the virtue had gone out of their old beliefs many fell a prey to the

grossest superstition, worshipping the rocks and groves and rivers

once thought to be the dwelling place of the gods. Others renounced

faith in Christian and heathen gods alike, and the nickname ‘godless’

is by no means rare among the settlers in Iceland. Of such it is often

said that they believed in themselves, or had no faith in aught except

their own strength and power, while in the saga of Friþjof we hear how

the hero paid little heed to the sanctity of the temple of Balder and

that the love of Ingibjorg meant more to him than the wrath of the

gods. For a parallel to such audacious scepticism as that of Friþjof

we must turn to southern lands and later times with Aucassin’s ‘In

Paradise what have I to win? Therein I seek not to enter, but only to

have my Nicolete, my sweet lady that I love so well.’ For some the way

of escape came not by superstition or by scepticism, but in mystic

speculation, in pure worship of the powers of nature. Thus we hear of

the Icelander Thorkell Mani, whom all praised for the excellence of

his way of life, that in his last illness he was carried out into the

sunshine, so that he might commend himself into the hands of the god

who made the sun, or of the _goði_ Askell who, even in the hour of

famine, deemed it was more fitting to honour the creator by caring for

the aged and the children, than to relieve distress by putting these

helpless ones to death.

One other illustration of the declining force of heathenism must be

mentioned. It is to the Viking age that we owe the poems of the older

Edda, that storehouse of Norse mythology and cosmogony. They are almost

purely heathen in sentiment, and yet one feels that it could only be in

an age when belief in the old gods was passing away that the authors

of these poems could have struck those notes of detachment, irony, and

even of burlesque, which characterise so many of them.

The condition of faith and belief in the Viking age was, then, chaotic,

but, fortunately for purposes of clear statement, there was, to the

Norse mind at least, no necessary connexion between beliefs and

morality, between faith and conduct, and the ideas on which they based

their philosophy and practice of life are fairly distinct.

The central ideas which dominate the Norse view of life are an

ever-present sense of the passingness of all things and a deep

consciousness of the over-ruling power of Fate. All earthly things

are transitory and the one thing which lasts is good fame. ‘Wealth

dies, kinsmen die, man himself must die, but the fame which a man wins

rightly for himself never dies; one thing I know that never dies,

the judgment passed on every man that dies,’ says the poet of the

_Hávamál_, the great storehouse of the gnomic wisdom of the Norsemen.

‘All things are unstable and transitory, let no man therefore be

arrogant or over-confident. The wise man will never praise the day

before it is evening.’ Prudence and foresight are ever necessary. All

things are determined by a fate which is irrevocable and cannot be

avoided. Every man must die the death that is appointed for him, and

the man whose final day has not yet come may face unmoved the greatest

danger. This sense of an inevitable fate must lead to no weakening

of character or weariness of life. Death must be faced with cheerful

stoicism and our judgment of the worth of any man must depend on

the way in which he awaits the decree of fate. Place no great trust

in others whether friend or foe, least of all place trust in women.

‘Wommennes conseils been ful ofte colde,’ says Chaucer in the _Nun’s

Priest’s Tale_, using an old Scandinavian proverb. ‘Be friendly to

your friends and a foeman to your foes. Practice hospitality and hate

lying and untruthfulness.’ With their enemies the Vikings had an evil

reputation for cunning and deceit, but when we study the incidents on

which this charge was based–as for example the story of the capture

of Luna (_v. supra_, p. 47) or the oft-repeated trick of feigning

flight, only to lure the enemy away from safe ground–one must confess

that they show an enemy outwitted rather than deceived. This aspect

of Viking character perhaps finds its best illustration in the figure

of Odin. His common epithets are ‘the wise,’ ‘the prudent,’ ‘the

sagacious’; he is a god of witchcraft and knows all the secret powers

of nature and stands in contrast to the simple-minded Thor, endowed

with mighty strength, but less polished and refined. The development

of the worship of Odin in Norway belongs specially to the later Iron

Age, and it is worthy of note that his worship seems to have prevailed

chiefly in military circles, among princes and their retainers.

The Vikings were guilty of two besetting sins–immoderate love of

wine and of women. Of their relations to women enough has been said

already. Their drunken revelry is best illustrated by the story of

the orgie which led up to the death of St Alphege in London in 1012,

when, after drinking their fill of the wine they had brought from

abroad, they pelted the bishop with bones from the feast, and finally

pierced his skull with the spike on the back of an axe. Of sin in the

Christian sense the Vikings had no conception. An Irish chronicler

tells us indeed that the Danes have a certain piety in that they can

refrain from flesh and from women for a time, but a truer description

is probably that given by Adam of Bremen when he says that the Danes

can weep neither for their sins nor for their dead.

The chief occupations of the Vikings were trade and war, but we must

beware of drawing a too rigid distinction between adventurers and

peaceful stay-at-homes. The Vikings when they settled in England and

elsewhere showed that their previous roving life did not hinder them

in the least from settling down as peaceful traders, farmers, or

peasant-labourers, while the figure of Ohthere or Óttarr, to give him

his Norse name, who entered the service of king Alfred, may serve to

remind us that many a landed gentleman was not above carrying on a good

trade with the Finns or undertaking voyages of exploration in the White


Trading in those days was a matter of great difficulty and many risks.

The line of division between merchant and Viking was a very thin one,

and more than once we read how, when merchants went on a trading

expedition, they arranged a truce until their business was concluded

and then treated each other as enemies. Trade in Scandinavia was

carried on either in fixed centres or in periodical markets held in

convenient places. The chief trading centres were the twin towns of

Slesvík-Hedeby in Denmark, Skiringssalr in S.W. Norway, and Björkö,

Sigtuna and the island of Gothland in Sweden, while an important market

was held periodically at Bohuslän on the Götaelv, at a place were

the boundaries of the three northern kingdoms met. A characteristic

incident which happened at this market illustrates the international

character of the trade done there. On a certain occasion a wealthy

merchant named Gille (the name is Celtic), surnamed the Russian because

of his many journeys to that country, set up his booth in the market

and received a visit from the Icelander Höskuldr who was anxious to buy

a female slave. Gille drew back a curtain dividing off the inner part

of the tent and showed Höskuldr twelve female slaves. Höskuldr bought

one and she proved to be an Irish king’s daughter who had been made

captive by Viking raiders.

The chief exports were furs, horses, wool, and fish while the imports

consisted chiefly in articles of luxury, whether for clothing or

ornament. There was an extensive trade with the Orient in all such

luxuries and the Vikings seem eagerly to have accumulated wealth of

this kind. When Limerick was re-captured by the Irish in 968, they

carried off from the Vikings ‘their jewels and their best property, and

their saddles beautiful and foreign (probably of Spanish workmanship),

their gold and their silver: their beautifully woven cloth of all

colours and all kinds: their satins and silken cloths, pleasing and

variegated, both scarlet and green, and all sorts of cloth in like

manner.’ They captured too ‘their soft, youthful, bright, matchless

girls: their blooming silk-clad young women: and their active, large,

and well formed boys.’ Such captives whether made by Irish from

Norsemen or Norsemen from Irish would certainly be sold as slaves, for

one of the chief branches of trade in those days was the sale as slaves

of those made prisoner in war.

The expansion of Scandinavian trade took place side by side with,

rather than as a result of, Viking activity in war. There is evidence

of the presence of traders in the Low Country early in the 9th century,

and already in the days of St Anskar we hear of a Swedish widow

of Björkö who left money for her daughter to distribute among the

poor of Duurstede. Jómsborg was established to protect and increase

Scandinavian trade at Julin, and there were other similar trading

centres on the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic.

The Viking might busy himself either with war or trade, but whatever

his occupation, living as he did in insular or peninsular lands, good

ships and good seamanship were essential to his livelihood. Seamen

now often abandoned that timid hugging of the coast, sailing only by

day time and in fair weather, which characterised the old Phoenician

traders, and boldly sailed across the uncharted main with no help save

that of the sun and stars by which to steer their course. It was this

boldness of spirit alone which enabled them to reach the lonely Faroes,

the distant Shetlands and Orkneys, and the yet more remote Iceland.

Irish monks and anchorites had shown similar fearlessness, but their

bravery was often that of the fanatic and the mystic rather than the

enterprise of the seaman. Boldness of seamanship led to boldness in

exploration. From Iceland the Vikings sailed to Greenland, and by the

year 1000 had discovered Vinland, the N.E. part of North America.

Ottarr rounded the North Cape and sailed the White Sea in the 9th

century, while Harold Hardrada in the 11th century made a voyage of

Polar exploration.

Of their ships we know a good deal both from the sagas and from the

remains of actual ships preserved to us. The custom of ship-burial,

i.e. burial in a ship over which a grave chamber, covered with a how

or mound, was erected, was common in the Viking age, and several

such ships have been discovered. The two most famous are those of

Gokstad and Oseberg, both found on the shores of Christiania Fjord.

The Gokstad vessel is of oak, clinker-built, with seats for sixteen

pairs of rowers, and is 28 ft. long and 16 ft. broad amidships. It

dates from about 900, and in form and workmanship is not surpassed by

modern vessels of a similar kind. There is a mast for a single sail,

and the rudder, as always in those days, is on the starboard side. The

gunwale was decorated with a series of shields painted alternately

black and gold. The appearance of the vessel when fully equipped can

perhaps best be judged from the pictures of Viking ships to be seen in

the Bayeux tapestry. There we may note the parti-coloured sail with

its variegated stripes, and the rich carving of stem and stern. These

magnificent sails were a source of much pride to their possessors, and

the story is told of Sigurd Jerusalem-farer that on his way home from

Jerusalem to Constantinople he lay for half-a-month off Cape Malea,

waiting for a side wind, so that his sails might be set lengthwise

along the ship and so be better seen by those standing on shore as he

sailed up to Constantinople. The stem often ended in a dragon’s head

done over with gold, whilst the stern was frequently shaped like a

dragon’s tail, so that the vessel itself was often called a dragon.

The Oseberg ship is of a different type. The gunwale is lower and the

whole vessel is flatter and broader. It is used as the grave-chamber of

a woman, and the whole appearance of the vessel, including its richly

carved stem, indicates that it was used in calm waters for peaceful


The story of the escape of Hárek of Thjotta through Copenhagen Sound

after the battle of Helgeäa in 1018 illustrates the difference between

a trading-ship and a ship of war. Hárek struck sail and mast, took down

the vane, stretched a grey tent-cloth over the ship’s sides, and left

only a few rowers fore and aft. The rest of the crew were bidden lie

flat so that they might not be seen, with the result that the Danes

mistook Hárek’s war-galley for a trading-vessel laden with herrings or

salt and let it pass unchallenged.

In the last years of the Viking period ships increased greatly both in

size and number. Olaf Tryggvason’s vessel, the _Long Serpent_, in which

he fought his last fight at Svoldr, had thirty benches of oars, while

Cnut the Great had one with sixty pairs of oars. This same king went

with a fleet of some fourteen hundred vessels to the conquest of Norway.

In battle the weapons of defence were helmet, corselet and shield.

The shields were of wood with a heavy iron boss in the centre. The

corselets were made of iron rings, leather, or thick cloth. The weapons

of offence were mainly sword, spear and battle-axe. The sword was of

the two-edged type and usually had a shallow depression along the

middle of the blade, known as the blood-channel. Above, the blade

terminated in a narrow tang, bounded at either end by the hilts.

Round the tang and between the hilts was the handle of wood, horn, or

some similar material, often covered with leather, or occasionally

with metal. Above the upper hilt was a knob, which gave the sword

the necessary balance for a good steady blow. Generally the knob

and the hilts were inlaid with silver, bronze, or copper-work. The

battle-axe, the most characteristic of Viking weapons, was of the

heavy broad-bladed type.

Next to warfare and trade, the chief occupation of the Viking was

farming, while his chief amusement was the chase. At home the Viking

leader lived the life of an active country gentleman. His favourite

sport was hawking, and one of the legendary lives of St Edmund tells

how Ragnarr Loðbrók himself was driven by stress of storm to land on

the East Anglian coast, receiving a hospitable welcome from the king,

but ultimately meeting death at the hands of the king’s huntsman who

was jealous of his prowess as a fowler.

Of the social organisation of the Vikings it is impossible to form a

very definite or precise picture. We have in the laws of the Jómsborg

settlement (_v. supra_, p. 71) the rule of life of a warrior-community,

but it would be a mistake to imagine that these laws prevailed in

all settlements alike. The general structure of their society was

aristocratic rather than democratic, but within the aristocracy, which

was primarily a military one, the principle of equality prevailed.

When asked who was their lord, Rollo’s men answered ‘We have no lord,

we are all equal.’ But while they admitted no lord, the Vikings were

essentially practical; they realised the importance of organised

leadership, and we have a succession of able leaders mentioned in the

annals of the time, to some of whom the title king was given. These

kings however are too numerous, and too many of them are mentioned

together, for it to be possible to give the term king in this connexion

anything like its usual connotation. It would seem rather to have

been used for any prince of the royal house, and it was only when

the Vikings had formed fixed settlements and come definitely under

Western influence that we hear of kings in the ordinary territorial

sense–kings of Northumbria, Dublin, Man and the Isles, or East Anglia.

We hear also of _jarls_ or earls, either as Viking leaders or as

definite territorial rulers, as for example the Orkney-earls and more

than one earl who is mentioned as ruling in Dublin, but these earls

usually held their lands under the authority of a king. By the side of

kings and earls mention is made both in the Danelagh and also in the

Western Islands of _lawmen_. It is difficult exactly to define their

position and function. Originally these men were simply experts in

the law who expounded it in the popular _thing_ or assembly, and were

the spokesmen of the people as against the king and the court, but

sometimes they assumed judicial functions, acting for example in Sweden

as assessors to the king, who was supreme judge.

In their home life we find the same strange mixture of civilisation

and barbarism which marks them elsewhere. Their houses were built

of timber, covered with clay. There was no proper hearth and the

smoke from the fire made its way out as best it could through the

turf-covered roof. The chief furniture of the room consisted in beds,

benches, long tables and chests, and in the houses of the rich these

would at the close of our period often be carved with stories from the

old heroic or mythologic legends, while the walls might be covered with

tapestry. Prominent in the chieftain’s hall stood the carved pillars

which supported his high-seat and were considered sacred. When some

of the settlers first sailed to Iceland they threw overboard their

high-seat pillars which they had brought with them, and chose as the

site of their new abode the place where these pillars were cast ashore.

In clothing and adornment there can be no question that our Viking

forefathers had attained a high standard of luxury. Any visitor to the

great national museums at Copenhagen, Stockholm or Christiania must be

impressed by the wealth of personal ornaments displayed before him:

magnificent brooches of silver and bronze, arm-rings and neck-rings of

gold and silver, large beads of silver, glass, rock-crystal, amber and

cornelian. At one time it was commonly assumed that these ornaments,

often displaying the highest artistic skill, were simply plunder taken

by the Vikings from nations more cultured and artistic than themselves,

but patient investigation has shown that the majority of them were

wrought in Scandinavia itself.

The most characteristic of Viking ornaments is undoubtedly the brooch.

It was usually oval in shape and the concave surface was covered with

a framework of knobs and connecting bands, which divided it into a

series of ‘fields’ (to use a heraldic term), which could themselves

be decorated with the characteristic ornamentation of the period. The

commonest form of oval brooch was that with nine knobs on a single

plate, but in the later examples the plate is often doubled. The

brooches themselves were of bronze, the knobs usually of silver with

silver wire along the edge of the brooch. These knobs have now often

disappeared and the bronze has become dull with verdigris, so that it

is difficult to form an idea of their original magnificence. The oval

brooches were used to fasten the outer mantle and were usually worn in

pairs, either on the breast or on the shoulders, and examples of them

have been found from Russia in the East to Ireland on the West. Other

types of brooch are also found–straight-armed, trilobed and round.

Such brooches were often worn in the middle of the bosom a little below

the oval ones. Other ornaments beside brooches are common–arm-rings,

neck-rings, pendants. One of the most interesting of the pendants is a

ring with a series of small silver Thor’s hammers which was probably

used as a charm against ill-luck. All these ornaments alike are in

silver rather than gold, and it has been said that if the post-Roman

period of Scandinavian archaeology be called the age of Gold, the

Viking period should be named the age of Silver.

The style of ornamentation used in these articles of personal adornment

as well as in objects of more general use, such as horse-trappings, is

that commonly known to German archaeologists as _tier-ornamentik_, i.e.

animal or zoomorphic ornamentation. This last translation may sound

pedantic but it is the most accurate description of the style, for we

have no attempt to represent the full form of any animal that ever had

actual existence; rather we find the various limbs of animals–heads,

legs, tails–woven into one another in fantastic design in order to

cover a certain surface-area which requires decoration. ‘The animals

are ornaments and treated as such. They are stretched and curved,

lengthened and shortened, refashioned, and remodelled just as the

space which they must fill requires.’ This style was once called the

‘dragon-style,’ but the term is misleading as there is no example

belonging to the Viking period proper of any attempt to represent a

dragon, i.e. some fantastic animal with wings. Such creatures belong to

a later period.

The zoomorphic style did not have its origin during the Viking

period. It is based on that of a preceding period in the culture of

the North German peoples, but it received certain characteristic

developments at this time, more especially under the influence of

Irish and Frankish art. Irish art had begun to influence that of

Scandinavia even before the Viking period began, and the development

of intercourse between North and West greatly strengthened that

influence. To Frankish influence were due not only certain developments

of _tier-ornamentik_ but also the use of figures from the plant-world

for decorative purposes. One of the finest brooches preserved to us

from this period is of Frankish workmanship–a magnificent trilobed

brooch of gold with acanthus-leaf ornamentation. This leaf-work

was often imitated by Scandinavian craftsmen but the imitation

is usually rude and unconvincing. Traces are also to be found of

Oriental and more especially of Arabic influence in certain forms

of silver-ornamentation, but finds of articles of actual Eastern

manufacture are more common than finds of articles of Scandinavian

origin showing Eastern influences in their workmanship.

Buried treasure from the Viking period is very common. It was a

popular belief, sanctioned by the express statement of Odin, that a

man would enjoy in Valhalla whatsoever he had himself buried in the

earth. Another common motive in the burial of treasure was doubtless

the desire to find a place of security against robbery and plunder.

Treasure thus secreted would often be lost sight of at the owner’s

death. To the burial-customs of the Viking period also we owe much of

our knowledge of their weapons, clothing, ornaments and even of their

domestic utensils.

The dead were as a rule cremated, at least during the earlier part of

the Viking period. The body burned or unburned was either buried in a

mound of earth, forming a ‘how,’ or was laid under the surface of the

ground, and the grave marked by stones arranged in a circle, square,

triangle or oval, sometimes even imitating the outlines of a ship.

The ‘hows’ were often of huge size. The largest of the three ‘King’s

hows’ at Old Upsala is 30 ft. high and 200 ft. broad. A large how was

very necessary in the well-known ship-burial when the dead man (or

woman) was placed in a grave-chamber on board his ship and the ship

was drawn on land and buried within a how. Men and women alike were

buried in full dress, and the men usually have all their weapons with

them. In the latter case weapons tend to take the place of articles of

domestic use such as are found in the graves of an earlier period, and

the change points to a new conception of the future life. It is now a

life in which warriors feast with Odin in Valhalla on benches that are

covered with corselets. A careful examination of Norwegian graves has

proved fairly definitely the existence of the custom of ‘suttee’ during

the Viking period, and the evidence of the Arab historian Ibn Fadhlan

seems to show that the same custom prevailed among the Rûs. Horses,

dogs, hawks and other animals were often buried with their masters, and

the remains of such, burned or unburned, have frequently been found.

The varying customs attending burial are happily illustrated in the

two accounts preserved to us of the burial of king Harold Hyldetan,

who died c. 750. The accounts were written down long after the actual

event, but they probably give us a good picture of familiar incidents

in burial ceremonies of the Viking period.

One account (in a late saga) tells how, on the morrow of the great

fight at Bravalla, king Ring caused search to be made for the body of

his kinsman Harold. When the body was found, it was washed and placed

in the chariot which Harold used in the fight. A large mound was raised

and the chariot was drawn into the mound by Harold’s own horse. The

horse was now killed and Ring gave his own saddle to Harold, telling

him that he might ride or drive to Valhalla just as it pleased him

best. A great memorial feast was held, and Ring bade his warriors and

nobles throw into the mound large rings of gold and silver and good

weapons before it was finally closed.

The other account (in Saxo) tells how Ring harnessed his own horse to

Harold’s chariot and bade him drive quickly to Valhalla as the best in

battle, and when he came to Odin to prepare goodly quarters for friend

and foe alike. The pyre was then kindled and by Ring’s command the

Danes placed Harold’s ship upon it. When the fire destroyed the body,

the king commanded his followers to walk round the pyre and chant a

lament, making rich offerings of weapons, gold and treasure, so that

the fire might mount the higher in honour of the great king. So the

body was burned, the ashes were collected, laid in an urn and sent

to Leire, there to be buried with the horse and the weapons in royal


There are many curious coincidences of detail between these accounts

and that given by Ibn Fadhlan of the burial of a Rûs warrior, and

every detail of them has at one time or another been confirmed by

archaeological evidence.

The dead were commemorated by the how itself, but _bautasteinar_,

i.e. memorial stones, were also erected, either on the how or, more

commonly, elsewhere. In course of time these monuments came to be

inscribed with runes. Usually the inscription is of the most formal

type, giving the name of the dead person, the name of the man who

raised the memorial, and sometimes also that of the man who carved the

runes. Occasionally there is some more human touch as in the wording

of the Dyrna runes (_v. supra_, p. 85), and in the latter part of the

Viking period we often find pictures and even scenes inscribed on

the stones. This is true of the Dyrna stone (_v. supra_, p. 86): the

Jellinge stone has a figure of Christ on it, while there is a famous

rock-inscription in Sweden representing scenes from the Sigurd-story

(Regin’s smithy, hammer, tongs and bellows, Sigurd piercing Fafnir with

his sword, the birds whose speech Sigurd understood) encircled by a

serpent (Fafnir) bearing a long runic inscription. The runic alphabet

itself was the invention of an earlier age. It is based chiefly on the

old Roman alphabet with such modifications of form and symbol as were

necessitated by the different sounds in the Teutonic tongues and by the

use of such unyielding materials as wood and stone. Straight lines were

preferred to curved ones and sloping to horizontal. During the Viking

period it was simplified, and runic inscriptions are found from the

valley of the Dnieper on the east to Man in the west, and from Iceland

on the north to the Piraeus in the south.



Of all the countries visited by the Vikings it is undoubtedly the

British Isles which bear most definitely the marks of their presence.

The history and civilisation of Ireland, the Orkneys and Shetlands, the

Western Islands and Man, Scotland and England, were profoundly affected

by the Viking movement, and its influence is none the less interesting

because it varies greatly from place to place, in both character and

intensity. These variations are doubtless due in part to differences

of political and social organisation as between Norsemen and Danes,

or between men coming from scattered districts of the as yet loosely

co-ordinated kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, but their chief cause lies

in the wide divergences in the social and political conditions of the

lands in which they settled.

The Orkneys and the Shetlands were settled by the Norsemen earlier than

any other part of the British Isles and they formed part of the Norse

kingdom till 1468. It is not surprising therefore that the great Norse

historian Munch describes them as _ligesaa norskt som Norge selv_,

‘as Norse as Norway itself.’ The old Norse speech was still spoken

there by a few people until the end of the 18th century, and we have a

version of the ballad of _King Orfeo_ taken down from recital at the

close of that century with the Norse refrain still preserved ‘_Scowan

ürla grün–Whar giorten han grün oarlac_,’ i.e. probably _Skoven årle

grön–Hvor hjorten han går årlig_ = ‘Early green’s the wood–where the

hart goes yearly.’ Place-nomenclature is almost entirely Norse and the

modern dialects are full of Norse words. Several runic inscriptions

have been found, the most famous being that at Maeshowe in Hrossey,

made by Norse crusaders when they wintered there in 1152-3 and amused

themselves by breaking open the how, probably to look for treasure, and

scoring their runes on the walls of the grave-chamber. In the system of

landholding the ‘udallers’ are an interesting survival of the old Norse

freeholders. ‘The Udaller held his land without condition or limitation

in any feudal sense,’ says Mr Gilbert Goudie, i.e. he held his _udal_

on precisely the same free terms that the native Norseman did his

_óðal_. From the Shetlands and the Orkneys the Norsemen crossed to the

Scottish mainland. Sutherland (i.e. the land south of the Orkneys),

Caithness, Ross and Cromarty are full of Norse place-names, and Norse

influence may be traced even further south.

The Hebrides were also largely influenced by the Norsemen. Together

with Man they formed a Norse kingdom down to the middle of the 13th

century. Many of the islands themselves and their chief physical

features bear Norse names, many personal names (e.g. MacAulay, son of

Aulay or Olaf) are of Norse origin, and there are many Norse words in

the Gaelic both of the islands, and the mainland. These words have

undergone extensive changes and much corruption in a language very

different in form and sounds from that of their original source, and

their recognition is a difficult problem. There is at present a danger

of exaggerating this Norse element, the existence of which was long

overlooked. Similarly, affinities have been traced between Scandinavian

and Gaelic popular tales and folk-lore, but the evidence is too vague

and uncertain to be of much value.

It is however in Man that we get the most interesting traces of the

presence of the Norsemen. Here as elsewhere we have place-names and

personal names bearing witness to their presence, but we have much else

besides. Some 26 rune-inscribed crosses have been preserved to us. The

crosses are Celtic in form and to a large extent in ornament also, but

we find distinct traces of the Scandinavian animal-ornamentation. The

inscriptions are short and for the most part give only the name of the

memorial-raiser and the memorised. One bears the rune-writer’s own

proud boast ‘Gaut made this and all in Man.’ More interesting than

the runes are the sculptured figures. On four of the crosses we have

representations of incidents from the Sigurd story–Sigurd slaying

Fafnir, Sigurd roasting Fafnir’s heart and cooling his fingers in his

mouth after trying too soon if the heart was done, Loki slaying the

Otter. We also have pictures of Thor’s adventure with the serpent of

Miðgarðr and of Odin’s last fight with Fenrir’s Wolf. These sculptured

stones are probably among the latest of those found in Man and have

their chief parallel in stones found in Sweden (_v. supra_, p. 111).

Possibly it was to settlers from Man also that we owe the famous

Gosforth cross in Cumberland with its picture of Thor’s fishing for the


In addition to all this we have the Manx legal system as a standing

witness to Norse influence. The chief executive and legislative

authority in the island (after the Governor) is the Tynwald Court.

That court takes its name from the Old Norse _Þing-völlr_[13], the

plain where the _Þing_[14] or popular assembly meets, and the House of

Keys, which is the oldest division of the court, consisted originally

of 24 members, a number perhaps due to Scandinavian influence, being

a combination of two groups of 12 lawmen (_v. supra_, p. 103). These

men who have the ‘keys of the law’ in their bosom closely resemble

the ‘lawmen’ or speakers of the Icelandic assembly. All laws to be

valid must be promulgated from the Tynwald Hill which corresponds to

the _lögberg_ or law-hill of the Icelandic _althing_. When the court

is held the coroner ‘fences’ it against all disturbance or disorder,

just as in the old Norwegian Gulathing we hear of _vé-bönd_ or

sanctuary-ropes drawn around the assembly.

It was possibly from Man that a good number of the Norse settlers in

Cumberland, Westmorland and North Lancashire came (_v. infra_, pp.

126-7), and others may have settled in Galloway.


[13] This word survives in another form in more than one Thingwall

among place-names.

[14] The word is familiar to us in the form -_ting_ in _hus-ting_,

house assembly (originally _hús-Þing_), a council held by a king or

earl and attended by his immediate followers, in contrast to the

ordinary _Þing_ or general assembly of the people.



At the time of the Viking invasion of Ireland the various provincial

kingdoms were held in loose confederation under the authority of the

_ardrí_ or high king, but these kingdoms stood in constantly shifting

relations of friendship and hostility towards one another, and were

themselves often split into factions under rival chieftains. There

was no national army like the English _fyrd_. Rather it consisted of

a number of tribes, each commanded by its own chief, and though the

chief owed allegiance to the king, the bond was a frail one. The tribe

was further divided into _septs_ and the army was utterly lacking in

any cohesive principle. It is no wonder that for many years the Irish

showed themselves quite unable to cope with the attacks of forces so

well organised as those of the Norse and Danish Vikings.

In vivid contrast to the chaos in political and military organisation

stand the missionary enthusiasm of the Irish church and the high

level of education and culture which prevailed among her clergy and

_literati_. In the Orkneys and the Shetlands such names as Papa Westray

or Papa Stronsay bear witness to the presence of Irish priests or

_papae_ as the Norsemen called them. Irish anchorites had at one time

settled in the Faroes (_v. supra_, p. 6), and when the Norsemen first

settled in Iceland (c. 870) they found Irish monks already there. The

monastic schools of Ireland were centres of learning and religious

instruction for the whole of Western Europe, while Irish missionaries

had founded monasteries in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France.

Unfortunately religion and culture seem to have been almost entirely

without influence on the body politic, and as the Vikings had at least

in the early days no respect for the religion or the learning of the

Irish nation there was nothing to prevent them from devastating Irish

monasteries and carrying off the stores of treasured wealth which

they contained. No plunder was more easily won, and it was only when

they themselves had fallen under Christian influences and had come

to appreciate Irish literary and artistic skill that they showed

themselves more kindly disposed towards these homes of learning.

One feature must at once strike the observer who compares the Viking

settlements in Ireland with those in England, viz. that Viking

influence in Ireland is definitely concentrated in the great coast

towns–Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick–and the districts

immediately around them. Irish place-nomenclature bears very definite

witness to this fact. _Ford_ in Strangford and Carlingford Loughs,

Waterford and Wexford is O.N. _fjorðr_, a fjord, -_low_ in Arklow and

Wicklow is O.N. _ló_, ‘low-lying, flat-grassland, lying by the water’s

edge.’ The O.N. _ey_, an island, is found in Lambey, Dalkey, Dursey

Head, Ireland’s Eye (for Ireland’s Ey), Howth is O.N. _höfuð_, ‘a

head,’ Carnsore and Greenore Point contain O.N. _eyrr_, ‘a sandy point

pushing out into the sea.’ Smerwick contains the familiar O.N. _vík_

a bay or creek, while the Copeland Islands off Belfast lough are the

O.N. _kaupmannaeyjar_, ‘the merchants’ islands.’ All these are found on

or off the coast, while the number of Scandinavian names found inland

is extremely limited. The most interesting perhaps is Leixlip on the

Liffey, a name derived from O.N. _laxahlaup_, ‘salmon-leap.’ Donegal,

Fingall and Gaultiere are Celtic names, but they mark the presence

of the northern _Gall_ or foreigners, while the -_ster_ in Ulster,

Leinster and Munster is O.N. -_staðir_ (pl. of -_staðr_, place, abode)

suffixed to the old Gaelic names of these provinces.

There was free intermarriage between Norse and Irish (_v. supra_, p.

56), but the strength of the clan-system kept the races distinct and

there was no such infiltration of the whole population as took place

in the English Danelagh. This system prevented any such settlement

of Norsemen upon their own farms as took place in England, and the

invaders lived almost entirely in the coast towns and the districts

in their immediate neighbourhood, busying themselves with trade and


Though the settlements were limited in their extent, we must not

underrate their influence on Irish history generally. They gave the

impetus there, as elsewhere, to the growth of town life, and from the

period of Viking rule dates the origin of the chief Irish towns. To

them also was due the great expansion, if not the birth, of Irish

trade. Mention has been made of the wealth of Limerick (_v. supra_,

p. 97), drawn chiefly from trade with France and Spain, and the other

towns were not behind Limerick. The naval power of Dublin stretched

from Waterford to Dundalk, the Irish channel swarmed with Viking

fleets, and many of the shipping terms in use in Gaelic are loan-words

from the Norse.

It is probably to the trading activities of Vikings from the chiefs

ports of Ireland that we owe the sprinkling of names of Norse origin

which we find along the Welsh coast from the Dee to the Severn–Great

Orm’s Head, Anglesey, Ramsey I, Skokholm Island, Flat Holme and Steep

Holme, and to them may be due the establishment of Swansea, earlier

_Sweinesea_, Haverfordwest and possibly Bideford, as Norse colonies in

the Bristol channel. We know in later times of several Norsemen who

were living in Cardiff, Bristol, Swansea and Haverfordwest.

Norse influence in Ireland probably reached its climax in the 10th

century. The battle of Clontarf offered a serious check and though

there was still a succession of Norse kings and earls in Dublin they

had to acknowledge the authority of the _ardrí_. The line of Sigtryggr

of the Silken Beard came to an end by the middle of the 11th century,

and the rulership of Dublin fell into the hands of various Norse

families from other Irish settlements and from Man and the Isles. From

1078-94 it was under the rule of the great conqueror Godred Crovan

from Man, and its connexion with that kingdom was only severed finally

when Magnus Barefoot came on his great Western expedition in 1103,

and brought Man into direct allegiance to the kings of Norway. Celtic

influence must have been strong in the Norse families themselves.

Several of the kings bear Gaelic names, and it is probably from this

period that such familiar names as MacLamont or MacCalmont, MacIver,

and MacQuistan date, where the Gaelic patronymic prefix has been added

to the Norse names Lagmaðr, Ívarr and Eysteinn. While Norse power in

Dublin was on the decline as a political force it is curious to note

that the vigorous town-life and the active commerce instituted by

the Norse settlers made that city of ever-increasing importance as a

centre of Irish life and Irish interests generally, and there can be no

question that it was the Norsemen who really made Dublin the capital

city of Ireland.

The Norse element remained absolutely distinct, not only in Dublin but

also in the other cities in which they had settled, right down to the

time of the English invasion in the 12th century. Frequent mention is

made of them in the records of the great towns, and they often both

claimed and received privileges quite different from those accorded to

the native Irish or to the English settlers. They were known to the

latter as ‘Ostmen’ or ‘Easterlings,’ a term which in this connexion

seems to have ousted the earlier _Norvagienses_ or _les Norreys_, _les

Norwicheis_. The term ‘Ostman’ doubtless represents O.N. _Austmaðr_,

a man dwelling to the east. Exactly how or where it first came to be

applied to Norsemen it is difficult to say. The word has left its mark

in Oxmanstown, earlier Ostmanstown, the district of the city of Dublin

assigned to the Ostmen by the English invaders.

Learning and religion in Ireland suffered grievously from Norse attack

but not so sorely as in England. There was never a time when so dark a

picture could have been drawn of Irish learning as Alfred gives of the

state of English learning when he translated the _Pastoral Care_, and

when once the Vikings began to form settlements they were themselves

strongly affected by the wealth of literary and artistic skill with

which they found themselves brought into contact. The question of Irish

influence on Norse mythology and literature is a much vexed one. At

present we are suffering from a reaction against exaggerated claims

made on its behalf some thirty years ago, but while refusing to accept

the view that Norse legends, divine and heroic alike, are based on a

wholesale refashioning and recreating of stories from Celtic saga-lore,

it would be idle to deny that the contact between the two nations must

have been fertile of result and that Norse literature in form, style

and subject-matter alike, bears many marks of Gaelic influence.



Of the districts occupied by Scandinavian settlers in England the ones

which show their presence most strongly are Cumberland, Westmorland,

North Lancashire and Yorkshire in the old kingdom of Northumbria and

the district of the Five Boroughs in the midlands. East Anglia was not

so deeply affected by the Danish occupation.

Before dealing with one of the chief sources of our knowledge of the

presence of Norse and Danish settlers in various parts of England,

viz. the evidence derived from place-nomenclature, a few words must be

said as to the chief Scandinavian elements which can be recognised in

English place-names.

Of elements other than personal names the commonest are as follows,

several of them being used as independent words to this day in English

dialects which have been affected by Scandinavian influence:–

-BECK. O.N. _bekkr_, brook, small stream of water.

-BIGGIN(G). O.N. _bygging_, building.

-BY. O.N. _bør_, Dan. Swed. _by_, town or village. This word

indicates a Danish rather than a Norse settlement.

-CAR(R), -ker. O.N. _kjarr_, _kjörr_, brushwood, especially on

swampy ground.

-DALE. O.N. _dalr_, valley. Etymologically this word might be

of native English origin but its distribution points to Norse influence.

-FELL. O.N. _fjall_, mountain.

-FORCE. O.N. _fors_, waterfall.

-FORTH. O.N. _fjorðr_, fjord. English -ford and Scandinavian

-forth often interchange in the old documents.

-GARTH. O.N. _garðr_, enclosure, the Scandinavian equivalent

of English ‘yard.’

-GILL. O.N. _gil_, deep narrow glen with a stream at the


-HOLM. O.N. _holmr_, small island especially in a bay, creek,

or river. In England its meaning was further developed and it often

means ‘low-lying level ground on the borders of a river or stream.’ Now

often concealed in the suffix -ham.

-KELD. O.N. _kelda_, well, spring.

-LUND, -lound. O.N. _lundr_, grove. Now often corrupted to

-land in English place-names.

-MIRE. O.N. _myrr_, moor, bog, swamp.

-RAISE. O.N. _hreysi_, cairn.

-SCALE. O.N. _skali_, house. This word is Norse rather than


-SCAR, -skear, -skerry. O.N. _sker_, isolated rock in the sea.

-SCOUT. O.N. _skúti_, cave formed by jutting rocks.

-SCOUGH, -scow. O.N. _skógr_, wood.

-SLACK. O.N. _slakki_, slope on a mountain edge. Often used in

English place-names of a hollow or boggy place[15].

-TARN. O.N. _tjörn_, small lake.

-THORP(E). O.N. _þorp_, hamlet, village. This word is also

found in O.E. and in some place-names is undoubtedly of native origin,

but its general distribution points fairly conclusively to Norse


-THWAITE. O.N. _þveit_, parcel of land, paddock.

-TOFT. O.N. _topt_, piece of ground, messuage, homestead.

-WITH. O.N. _viðr_, a wood.

-WATH. O.N. _vað_, a ford.

Place-names with the prefix _Norman_- mark the settlement not of

Normans but of Norsemen (or Northmen as the English called them), as

in Normanton and Normanby, while the settlement of Danes is marked by

the prefix _Dena_- or _Den_- as in Denaby and Denby. This latter prefix

however has other sources as well.

Scandinavian personal names are very common in place-names but their

presence can as a rule only be detected with any degree of certainty

by reference to the forms found in early documents. Among the more

easily recognised are _Grímr_, as in Grimsargh (Lancs.) and Grimsby

(Lincs.), _Gunnarr_, as in Gunnerside (Yorks.), _Ketill_, as in

Kettlewell (Yorks.), _Klakkr_, as in Claxton (Norf.), _Ormr_, as in

Ormskirk (Lancs.). Others, to be found by reference to earlier forms,

are _Fráni_, as in Franesfeld (=Farnsfield, Notts.), _Gamall_, as

in Gamelestune (=Gamston, Notts.), _Gunnúlfr_, as in Gunnulveston

(=Gonalston, Notts.), _Knútr_, as in Cnutestone (=Knuston, Northants.),

_Leifr_, as in Levesbi (=Laceby, Lincs.), _Sumarliði_, as in

Sumarlidebi (=Somerby, Lincs.), _Skúli_, as in Sculetuna (=Scoulton,

Norf.), _Tóli_, as in Toleslund (=Toseland, Hunts.), _Víkingr_, as

in Wichingestone (=Wigston, Leic.), _Úlfr_, as in Ulvesbi (=Ulceby,


Examining the distribution of Scandinavian place-names determined by

the above tests and others which can be applied with great accuracy, if

we study not the modern but the old forms of the place-names, we find

that the place-nomenclature of Cumberland and Westmorland is almost

entirely either Scandinavian or Celtic. Indeed it would seem that the

Anglian settlement had hardly affected these districts at all, and it

was reserved for the Scandinavian settlers to Teutonise them. The

same is true of Furness and Lancashire, north of the Ribble, whose

old names Stercaland and Agmundernesse are of Norse origin, but south

of that river there is a great diminution of Norse place-names except

along the coast and a little way inland, where we have several -_bys_

and -_dales_. In Cheshire the evidence of Scandinavian settlement is

confined almost entirely to the Wirral, but there the large number of

-_bys_ and place-names like Thingwall (_v. supra_, p. 115, note 1)

point to a strong Viking colony, and the distribution of place-names

in South Lancashire and Cheshire bears witness to active intercourse

between the settlers in Ireland and England.

On the other side of the Pennine chain, though Northumberland was

several times ravaged by the Norsemen and was probably well populated

at least in the fertile river-valleys, there is practically no evidence

of their presence to be found in place-names. There are several

Biggins, Carrs, and Holms, a few Tofts and Dales, but these are common

dialect words and usually found in uncompounded forms. They are

practically never found in names of towns or villages, and may well

have been introduced from districts further south. In the extreme west

and south-west of the county there are ‘fells’ and ‘dales’ but these

are on the borders of Cumberland, Westmorland and Durham. The small

streams are ‘burns’ and not ‘becks,’ the Wansbeck being a corruption

of an earlier _Wanespike_.

When we cross into co. Durham the tributaries of the Wear vary between

‘burn’ and ‘beck,’ but by the time we reach the Tees these have all

become becks. Beechburn Beck, a tributary of the Wear, shows how a

Scandinavian term could be attached to an English name, when its own

meaning was neglected or forgotten. Other Scandinavian names are

common, but as in Northumberland they belong to the dialect generally

and are seldom found in names of towns or villages. Viking settlers

must have been few in numbers and widely scattered throughout these

two counties. One great exception must be named among the towns, viz.

Durham itself. The city was named _Dún-holmr_, ‘the hill-island,’ by

the Vikings, and its present name is only the Norman corruption of that


South of the Tees we find ourselves in a district whose place-names are

to a very large extent Scandinavian, and Norse settlements are thickly

and evenly distributed from the North Sea to the Pennine chain.

Passing from Northumbria to the Danelagh, Lincolnshire is perhaps

more purely Scandinavian in its place-names than any other English

county. In Derbyshire Viking influence is not so strong but the

county was probably very thinly inhabited at least in the north and

west and did not offer attractive settling ground. Derby itself was

rechristened by the Northmen, its earlier name being ‘Norðweorðig.’

The rich fields and pastures of Leicestershire attracted a great many

settlers and Nottinghamshire is also strongly Scandinavian. Rutland

and Northamptonshire are strongly Danish except that there is some

shading off towards the S.W. corner of the latter county. In the

country bordering the Danelagh on the south and west, Staffordshire has

a few Scandinavian place-names on its Derbyshire and Leicestershire

borders, while Warwickshire has several on its Leicestershire and

Northamptonshire borders.

In East Anglia Danish settlements must have been numerous in the north

and east especially towards the coast, but their presence is less

strongly marked in the S.W. portion of the county. In Suffolk they are

confined still more definitely to the coast-districts and the Danes

do not seem to have settled in the south of the county at all. Three

Kirbys near the Essex coast mark settlements in that county. Of the

other border-counties Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire

show only the slightest traces of Scandinavian influence in their

place-nomenclature, though we know from other evidence that there must

have been many Danish settlers in these counties.

Closely allied to the evidence of place-names is that of dialect. A

very large number of words definitely of Scandinavian origin are found

in the dialects of N.E. and N.W. England, in the N. Midlands and East

Anglia, but they do not furnish so sensitive a test as do place-names

for the extent of the Scandinavian settlements and they need not be

discussed here.

More interesting as evidence of the deep influence of the Viking

settlers on our language is the large number of Scandinavian loan-words

which have become part of our standard speech, many of them being words

essential to our every-day talk. To Scandinavian influence we owe the

pronouns _they_, _them_ and _their_, the adjectives _same_ and _both_,

the _fro_ in _to_ and _fro_ and possibly the auxiliary _are_ and the

preposition _till_. These last are found in the Northumbrian dialect of

Old English but their widespread use is probably due to Scandinavian

influence. In addition to these we may note the following:

Verbs: _bait_, _bask_, _batten_, _call_, _cast_, _dawn_, _droop_,

_drown_, _gain_, _gabble_, _ransack_, _scare_, _scour_, _scrape_,

_skim_, _skip_, _squeal_, _stint_, _take_,

Nouns: _anger_, _billow_, _boon_, _dusk_, _fellow_, _gait_, _grime_,

_haven_, _husband_, _husk_, _husting_, _scull_, _scurf_, _skill_,

_skin_, _skirt_, _sky_, _window_,

Adjectives: _awkward_, _ill_, _odd_, _rotten_, _scant_, _sly_, _ugly_,

_weak_, and a good many words in which Scandinavian forms have

replaced the cognate English ones, e.g. _aloft_, _athwart_, _awe_,

_birth_, _egg_, _get_, _gift_, _give_, _guest_, _raid_, _sister_,

_swain_, _Thursday_.

These words are for the most part of the very stuff and substance of

our language, giving vivid expression to clear-cut ideas, and though

numerically they are outnumbered by the loan-words from French, they

are in themselves more essential to our speech than the rich vocabulary

derived from that language.

For the extent and character of the Viking settlements in England we

have however a far more delicate and accurate index than that to be

found in the evidence of place-names and dialects. When we study the

pages of Domesday, the great record of English social organisation in

the 11th century, we find that in the counties which came under Viking

influence there are many details of land-division, tenure, assessment

and social organisation generally wherein those counties differ from

the rest of England, and some of these differences can still be traced.

The ‘ridings’ of Yorkshire and the Lindsey division of Lincolnshire

were originally ‘thrithings’ (O.N. _þriþjungr_, a third part), the

initial _th_ being later absorbed by the final consonant of the

preceding ‘East,’ ‘West,’ ‘North’ and ‘South’ (in Lincs.).

The chief tests of Scandinavian influence, drawn from Domesday and

allied sources, are however as follows:

(1) The use of the Danish ‘wapentake’ as the chief division of

the county in contrast to the English ‘hundred.’ This is found

in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire (with one exception on its southern

border), Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, and one district

of Northamptonshire, now included in Rutland. We have wapentakes in

Yorkshire, except in certain districts along the sea-coast, while in

Lancashire the term was applied to the court of the hundred or shire

long after the Conquest. There is some evidence also for the belief

that the use of the hundred (or wapentake) as an administrative unit

is in itself due to Scandinavian influence. The proportion of names of

hundreds (or wapentakes) which are definitely of Danish origin is very

high and, unless we assume wholesale renaming, this points to their

having been first named at a period subsequent to the Danish conquest.

(2) The assessment by carucates in multiples and submultiples of 12 is

characteristic of the Danelagh, as opposed to that by hides, arranged

on a decimal system in the strictly English districts. This is found in

Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland,

with the exception of the above mentioned district. There are traces of

a duodecimal assessment in the two N.E. hundreds of Northamptonshire,

while in Lancashire a hidal assessment has been superimposed upon an

original carucal one. Carucal assessment is found also in Yorkshire,

Norfolk and Suffolk.

(3) In Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire we have

traces of the use of the Danish ‘long’ hundred (= 120), e.g. the fine

for breaking the king’s peace is £8, i.e. 120 ores[16] of 16 pence.

Using the various tests we find that the Scandinavian kingdom of

Northumbria was considerably smaller than the earlier realm of that

name, Northumberland and Durham being but sparsely settled, while

South Lancashire and Cheshire were occupied chiefly along the coast.

The kingdom would seem to fall into two isolated halves, Cumberland

and Westmorland and North Lancashire in the north-west and Yorkshire

in the south-east. The district of the Five Boroughs covered

Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire (Lincoln and Stamford),

Leicestershire, and probably the whole of Rutland (Stamford). The case

of Northamptonshire is difficult. The carucal assessment fails except

in the extreme N.E. of the county, but Danish place-nomenclature is

strongly evident, though it shades off somewhat towards the S.W. It

resembles Danish East Anglia rather than the district of the Five

Boroughs and it is possible that the boundary of Guthrum’s East Anglian

kingdom, which is only carried as far as Stony Stratford in the peace

of Alfred and Guthrum, really ran along Watling Street for a few miles,

giving two-thirds of that county to the East Anglian realm.

Northumbria was governed by a succession of kings. The Five Boroughs

formed a loose confederation, and there can be no question that the

districts which ‘obeyed’ (_v. supra_, p. 31) the boroughs of Derby,

Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln (and Stamford) and Northampton form the

modern counties named from these towns. It is also to Danish influence

direct or indirect that we owe the similar organisation of the counties

of Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire in

the old East Anglian kingdom. Each of these counties had a _jarl_ or

earl, whose headquarters were at the ‘borough.’ He summoned the _here_,

whether for political or military purposes, and when these counties

passed once more under English rule he fulfilled the functions of the

older _ealdorman_.

In East Anglia, apart from place-names (_v. supra_, p. 129) and carucal

assessment in Norfolk and Suffolk, we are left with the boundaries

of Guthrum’s kingdom and with various miscellaneous evidence for

estimating the extent of Scandinavian influence. There is a curious

‘hundredus Dacorum’ (cf. _supra_, p. 10) in Hertfordshire, while the

_Historia Eliensis_ and other documents tend to show the presence of a

strong Danish element in the population and social organisation of the

districts around Cambridge. The kingship of East Anglia came to an end

early in the 10th century, and it is probable that its organisation was

then changed to one resembling that of the Five Boroughs, viz. a number

of districts grouped around central ‘boroughs,’ which afterwards became

counties, except in the older divisions of Norfolk and Suffolk.

A careful study of Domesday and other authorities reveals many other

features of interest in our social system which were due to Viking

influence. Certain types of manorial structure are specially common

in the Danelagh. Manor and vill are by no means identical, indeed

several manors are included under one vill. Very frequent is the type

which consists in a central manor with sokeland appurtenant. In the

Danelagh there was a large number of small freeholders and the free

peasant class was much more numerous than in Anglo-Saxon England. These

districts stand in clear contrast to the strongly manorialised southern

counties and they were not feudalised to any appreciable extent before

the Norman conquest. When that system was imposed we often find single

knight’s fees having to be taken over by entire communities of sokemen.

The ‘holds’ of Northumbria, who rank next after the earls, and the

‘drengs’ of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Northumberland and

Durham, are also of Scandinavian origin. The ‘dreng’ was ‘a free

servant of the king endowed with lands’ and the name still survives in

the Yorkshire place-name Dringhouses.

The legal instinct was strong in the Scandinavian mind and English

law bears deep marks of its influence. The very word ‘law’ itself is

of Scandinavian origin and has replaced the English ‘doom.’ The chief

judicial authority in Lincoln, Stamford, Cambridge, Chester and York

was in the hands of twelve _lagmen_ or _judices_. These ‘lawmen’ (_v.

supra_, p. 103) though they had judicial authority were not chosen

by the king or by popular election. Their position was hereditary.

Of special interest are the ’12 senior thanes’ of Aethelred’s laws

for the Five Boroughs enacted at Wantage in 997. They have to come

forward in the court of every wapentake and to swear that they will

not accuse wrongly any innocent man or conceal any guilty one. The

exact force of this enactment has been a matter of dispute–whether the

thanes simply bore witness to the personal status of the accused, thus

enabling the court to determine the ordeal through which he should be

put, or whether we have an anticipation of the system of presentment

by jury. Whatever may be the exact truth there can be little doubt,

says Dr Vinogradoff, that such a custom prepared the way for the

indictment jury of the 12th century. The same author attributes to

Danish influence a new conception of crime. It is no longer merely a

breach of the peace or the result of a feud, to be settled by monetary

compensation, it is a breach of that conception of honour which binds

together military societies. The criminal is now branded as _nithing_,

a man unworthy of comradeship with his fellow-warriors.

Unfortunately it is only within the last few years that the question

of Danish influence on our social, political and legal systems has

been treated at all seriously and much work still remains to be done,

but we can already see that the Danes affected English life far more

deeply than a superficial glance might suggest. Doubtless the Danish

invasions struck a heavy blow at learning and literature, a blow from

the effects of which not even the heroic activities of an Alfred could

save them, but there can be no question that in the development of town

life, in the promotion of trade, in the improvement of organisation and

administration, in the modification of legal procedure the invaders

conferred great benefits on the country as a whole.


[15] In Scotland it is used of a hollow pass in a ridge.

[16] The _ore_ as a unit of weight for silver is of Scandinavian

origin. In some districts it was of the value of 16 pence, in others of

20 pence, and eight _ores_ went to the _mark_.



Considering the long and devastating campaign of the Vikings within

the Frankish empire and more especially within its western portion, it

is surprising that they only formed permanent settlements in one small

area, leaving practically no marks of their presence elsewhere. Great

portions of the Low Countries were in almost continuous occupation by

them during the 9th century, but the opportunity was lost, and beyond

an important share in the development of the trade of Duurstede, the

Vikings hardly left a sign of their influence behind them.

The case of Normandy is different. Here we have a definite district

assigned to the invaders, just as the Danelagh was given to them in

England, and the whole of that territory is deeply impregnated with

their influence. Many of the Norman towns in -_ville_ contain as the

first element in their name a Norse personal name, e.g. Catteville,

Cauverville, Colleville, Fouqueville, Hacqueville containing the names

_Káte_, _Kálfr_, _Kolr_, _Fólki_, _Hákon_, while the suffixes -_bec_,

-_beuf_, -_dale_, -_ey_, -_gard_, -_londe_, -_torp_, -_tot_, -_tuit_,

-_vic_ as in Bolbec, Elbeuf, Saussedalle, Jersey, Eppegard, Mandelonde,

Torgistorp, Abbetot, Bracquetuit, Barvic go back to O.N. _bekkr_, _búð_

(booth), _dalr_, _ey_ (island), _garðr_, _lundr_, _þorp_, _topt_,

_þveit_, _vík_ (_v. supra_, pp. 124-5). The dialect of Normandy to this

day contains a good number of Scandinavian words, and others have been

introduced into the standard language. Some of these have also found

their way into English through our Norman conquerors, e.g. _abet_,

_baggage_, _elope_, _equip_, _jolly_, _rubbish_, _scoop_, _strife_

just as the _Bulbeck_ in Swaffham Bulbeck (Cambs.) and Bulbeck Common

above Blanchland in Northumberland is from the great Norman barony of

Bulbeck, so named after Bolbec in Normandy, of which they once formed

part. Norman law and customs also show many traces of Scandinavian

influence and so does Norman folk-lore.

The Normans still looked to Denmark as their home-land down to the end

of the 10th century, and at least twice during the reign of Harold

Bluetooth their Dukes received help from that country. The nobles soon

ceased to speak their old northern language, but it is probable that it

remained current on the lips of the people for some considerable time


The Vikings always showed themselves keenly sensitive to the influence

of a civilisation higher or more developed than their own, and this is

nowhere more apparent than in Normandy. Heathenism found a champion

as late as 943 when, on the death of William Longsword, a rising of

heathen Normans was crushed with the aid of the Frankish king, but

for the most part the Normans soon showed themselves devout sons of

the Church and were destined in the 11th century to be numbered among

the most ardent supporters of the Crusades. With the adoption of

Christianity they learned to respect and honour those homes of learning

which they had once devastated for their wealth of hoarded treasure,

and the famous school at Bec, whence came Lanfranc and Anselm, was only

one among many which they richly endowed and supported.

Their religious and artistic feeling found expression in that

development of Romanesque architecture which we know as Norman and

which has given so many famous buildings not only to Normandy but to

England, to Sicily and to Southern Italy generally. In literature the

Norman-French _trouvères_ did much towards popularising the romances

of war and adventure which play so important a part in medieval

literature, and when they settled in England it was largely due to

Anglo-Norman poets that ‘the matter of Britain’ became one of the great

subjects of romance for all time.

In its social organisation Normandy seems speedily to have been

feudalised. Rollo divided the land among a comparatively small number

of large landholders and the system of land tenure was quite different

from that in the English Danelagh with its large number of small

freeholders. On the other hand it was probably due to Norse traditions

of personal freedom that serfdom disappeared earlier in Normandy than

in any other of the French provinces.

Trade and commerce were fostered here as everywhere by the Vikings.

It was the Normans who first taught the French to become a power at

sea, many French naval terms are of Norman origin and from the Norman

province have come some of France’s greatest sea-captains.

The Vikings like the Franks before them threw off their old speech

and submitted to the all-embracing power of Latin civilisation, and

the result was a race endowed with vigorous personality, untiring

activity, and the instinct for ruling men. The Normans may have become

largely French but they lost none of their old enterprise and spirit of

adventure. In the 11th century they conquered England and founded great

kingdoms for themselves in Sicily and South Italy. No Viking stock was

more vigorous than that which resulted from the grafting of Gallo-Latin

culture on the ruder civilisation of the Teutonic north.

Their influence on France as a whole is not nearly as great as the

influence of their kinsmen in England, probably because English

government was centralised (under Norman rule) much sooner than French

government, and their influence was thus able to make itself felt

outside the actual districts in which they settled. The settlement of

Normandy helped however towards the consolidation of power in the hands

of Charles the Bald and his successors, much as the settlement of the

Danelagh helped in establishing the final supremacy of Wessex.

It remains to speak of one great home of Viking civilisation to

which more than one reference has been made in previous chapters,

viz. Iceland. The story of its settlement is a very simple one. It

commenced about 870, when many great Norwegian noblemen sought there

for themselves and their followers a freer life than they could obtain

under the growing power of Harold Fairhair. It was greatly strengthened

by settlers both from Norway and from Ireland and the Western Islands

when that power was firmly established by the battle of Hafrsfjord,

and by the year 930 the settlement was practically complete. Iceland

was more purely Scandinavian than any other settlement made during the

Viking age. Here we have not the case of one civilisation grafted on

another and earlier one as in England, Ireland or the Frankish empire,

but the transference of the best and finest elements in a nation to

new and virgin soil where, for good or ill, they were free to develop

their civilisation on almost entirely independent lines. Settlers from

the Western Islands and from Ireland may have brought Celtic elements,

and Christianity was not without influence, when it was introduced

from Norway at the close of the 10th century, but on the whole we see

in Iceland just what Viking civilisation was capable of when left to


At first the settlers lived in almost complete isolation, political

and religious, from one another, but they soon found that some

form of organisation was necessary and groups of settlers began by

choosing from among their number a _goði_, or chieftain, half-priest,

half-leader, who was the speaker at their moot and their representative

in negotiation with neighbouring groups. Then, continued disputes and

the lack of a common law led to the establishment of a central moot

or _alþing_, with a speaker to speak one single law for all. But the

Norsemen were much better at making constitutions and enacting laws

than they were at observing them when instituted, and the condition of

Iceland has been vividly if roughly summarised as one of ‘all law and

no government.’ The local _þings_ or the national _alþing_ might enact

perfect laws, but there was no compelling force, except public opinion,

to make them be obeyed. Even the introduction of Christianity made no

difference: the Icelanders quarrelled as bitterly over questions of

ecclesiastical as of civil law and the authorities of the medieval

Church were scandalised by their anarchic love of freedom. In the words

of Professor Ker ‘the settlers made a commonwealth of their own, which

was in contradiction to all the prejudices of the middle ages and of

all ancient and modern political philosophy; a commonwealth which was

not a state, which had no government, no sovereignty.’ ‘It was anarchy

without a police-constable.’ The result was that the rich men grew

richer, the poor became poorer, the smaller gentry died out and the

large estates fell into fewer and fewer hands. The great men quarrelled

among themselves, intrigued against one another and played into the

hands of the Norwegian kings who were only waiting their opportunity.

It came in the days of Hákon the Old. ‘Land and thanes’ were sworn into

subjection to that king at the Althing in 1262, and in 1271 the old

Icelandic common law was superseded by a new Norse code.

The failure of the Icelandic commonwealth is amply compensated for

by the rich intellectual development of Icelandic literature, which

owed many of its most characteristic features to the fact that it was

written in a land almost completely isolated and detached from the

main currents of Western medieval thought and the general trend of

European history, but in itself that failure is full of deepest import

for a right understanding of the part played by Viking civilisation in

Europe. Powerful and highly developed as that civilisation was in many

ways, it only reached its highest and best expression when brought into

fruitful contact with other and older civilisations. There it found

the corrective for certain inherent weaknesses, more especially for

certain tendencies of too strongly individualistic character leading

to political and intellectual anarchy, while at the same time by its

own energy and vigour it quickened the life of the older civilisations

where they were tending to become effete or outworn. The Germanic

peoples had done much for the development of European civilisation in

the time of the wanderings of the nations, but by the end of the 8th

century they had lost much of their pristine vigour through contact

with the richer and more luxurious civilisation of the Roman world. It

was reserved for the North Germanic peoples, or the Northmen as we can

more fitly describe them, in the 9th and 10th centuries to give a yet

more powerful stimulus to European life, if not to European thought,

a stimulus which perhaps found its highest expression in the great

creations of the Norman race in the world of politics, the world of

commerce, the world of architecture and the world of letters.



[The appended bibliography does not attempt to deal with primary

authorities, with the large mass of valuable periodical literature

which has been published within the last thirty years, or with books

only incidentally concerned with the movement. It is much to be

regretted that so few of the important Scandinavian books on the

subject have been translated into English.]

  BJÖRKMAN, E. Scandinavian Loan-words in Middle English.

  Halle. 1906.

  BUGGE, A. Vikingerne. 2 series. Christiania. 1904-6.

  (German trans. of 1st series. Leipzig. 1896.)

  —- Vesterlandenes Inflydelse paa Nordboernes i Vikingetiden.

  Christiania. 1905.

  —- Norges Historie. Vol. I, Pt. II.

  Christiania. 1910.

  COLLINGWOOD, W. G. Scandinavian Britain. London. 1908.

  CRAIGIE, W. A. The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia.

  London. 1906.

  DIETRICHSON, L. and MEYER, S. Monumenta Orcadica.

  Christiania. 1906. (Abridged English edition.)

  DU CHAILLU, P. B. The Viking Age. 2 vols. London. 1889.

  GUSTAFSON, G. Norges Oldtid. Christiania. 1906.

  HENDERSON, G. The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland.

  Glasgow. 1910.

  KEARY, C. F. The Vikings in Western Christendom. London.


  KERMODE, P. M. C. Manx Crosses. London. 1907.

  MAURER, K. Die Bekehrung des Norwegischen Stammes. 2 vols.

  Munich. 1855-9.

  MONTELIUS, O. Sveriges Historia. Vol. I.

  Stockholm. 1903. (German tr. Kulturgeschichte Schwedens. Leipzig.


  MÜLLER, S. Vor Oldtid. Copenhagen. 1897. (German tr.

  Nordische Altertümskunde. 2 vols. Strasburg. 1897-8.)

  OLRIK, A. Nordisk Aaandsliv i Vikingetid. Copenhagen.

  1907. (German tr. Nordisches Geistesleben. Heidelberg. 1908.)

  STEENSTRUP, J. C. H. R. Normannerne. 4 vols. Copenhagen.


  —- Danmarks Riges Historie. Vol. I. Copenhagen. 1876-82.

  THOMSEN, V. The Relations between Ancient Russia and

  Scandinavia. Oxford. 1877.

  VOGEL, W. Die Normannen und das Fränkische Reich.

  Heidelberg. 1906.

  VOGT, L. J. Dublin som Norsk By. Christiania. 1906.

The Publications of the Viking Club (Saga-Book and Year Book) include

papers on various aspects of the movement and notices of the literature

of the subject as well as descriptions of various archaeological discoveries.



  Aethelflæd of Mercia, 29, 32, 57

  Aethelstan, 35-6

  Alfred the Great, 25-8

  Altar-ring, 26, 89

  _Althing_, 116

  Anlaf Godfreyson, 35;

    Sihtricsson (Cuaran), 34, 36, 56, 60-1, 90

  Arabic historians, references in, 20, 76, 109

  Auðr the deep-minded, 20, 66, 68, 85, 89

  _bautasteinar_, 110

  Björkö, 86, 96, 98

  Björn Ironside, 22, 44, 46

  Black Foreigners, 10

  Brian Borumha, 56, 62-4

  Brunanburh, 35, 61, 64

  Burial ceremonies, 99-100, 108-10

  _carucates_, 132-3

  Christianity, 16, 37, 41, 83, 86-93

  Clontarf, 63-4, 67, 98, 120

  Cnut, 41-2, 87, 101

  _Daci_, 10, 134

  Danegeld, 38-9, 48

  Danelagh boundaries, 27, 128-9;

    reconquest, 29-32

  Danes, _passim_

  Denmark, 5, 16, 22-3, 44, 86-7

  _drengs_ 135-6

  _Dubh-gaill_, 10

  Dublin, 15, 23, 33-4, 55, 59-60, 64, 89, 103, 120-2

  East Anglia, 11, 14, 27-8, 32, 134-5

  Eddaic poems, 2, 93-4

  Edmund Ironside, 40-1

  Edward the Elder, 29, 31

  England, invasion of, 12, 22-43;

    influence in, 123-37

  Eric Blood-axe, 36-7

  Ethelred the Unready, 37-40

  Faroes, 6, 98

  _Fin-gaill_, 10

  Five Boroughs, 11, 30, 36, 134-6

  Frisia, 15-8, 49

  France, invasions of, 17-21, 43-53;

    influence in, 138-42

  Frisians, 8

  _Gaill-Gaedhil_, 56, 65, 67

  Galloway, 65, 116

  Gokstad ship, 99

  Greenland, 99

  Guthrum of East Anglia, 26-7

  Hásteinn (Hastingus), 28, 44, 46, 50

  Hafrsfjord, 7, 56

  Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri, 35-6, 88

  Halfdanr, 22, 25, 33, 58

  Harold Bluetooth, 37, 70-2, 87

  Harold Fairhair, 7, 35, 58, 67, 142

  Harold Hardrada, 42, 81, 99

  Harold of Mainz, 16, 18-9, 86

  Heathenism, 83, 86-93

  Hebrides, 5, 60, 65, 67-8, 114

  _Hiruath_, 11

  _holds_, 135

  Hörðaland, Hörðai, 5, 11

  _hows_, 108

  Iceland, 83, 85, 117, 142-4

  Ireland, attacks on, 12-13, 15, 54-64;

    Danes and Norsemen in, 54-8;

    influence in, 116-23

  Ívarr the boneless, 22, 24-5, 57-8

  _jarls_, 103, 134

  Jellinge stone, 111

  Jómsborg, Jómsvikings, 70-2, 98, 102

  jury, presentation by, 136

  Ketill Finn, 67

  Ketill Flatnose, 56, 67

  _lawmen_, 103, 116, 136

  Limerick, 59, 62, 98, 120

  _Lochlann_, 10

  _Ludwigslied_, 47

  _Madjus_, 20

  Maeshowe, 23, 113

  Maldon, battle of, 38

  Man, Isle of, 12, 39, 63, 65-8, 114-5

  _nithing_, 137

  Noirmoutier, 17, 19, 21

  Norsemen, Norwegians, _passim_

  Northumbria, 11, 24-5, 28, 83-4, 37, 41, 60, 63, 126-8

  Normandy, 52-3, 138-42

  Norway, 7, 16;

    Christianity in, 88-9

  Odin, 88, 95, 115

  Ohthere, Óttarr, 96, 99

  Olaf Tryggvason, 4, 38, 87, 89, 101

  Olaf the White, 20, 57-8, 66, 68

  _ore_, 133

  Orkneys, 23, 63, 65, 112-3, 117

  Ornamentation, style of, 79, 106-7

  Ornaments, 104-6

  Oseberg ship, 99-100

  _Ostmen_, 122

  _Oðal_, 67, 113

  Paris, 21, 49-50

  Place-names, influence on Scottish, 114;

    Irish, 118-9;

    English, 123-9

  _prime-signing_, 91

  Ragnarr Loðbrók, 21-4, 44, 57, 102

  Rhôs, 19, 47, 73-4

  _ridings_, 131

  Rollo, 9, 53, 103

  Runic inscriptions, 23, 81, 85-6, 110-1, 113-5

  Rus, 73-9

  Russia, founding of, 73-80

  St Anskar, 70, 86

  St Edmund, 25

  St Olaf, 41, 89

  _Scaldingi_, 11

  Scandinavian loan-words in English, 130-1

  Sculptured stones, 91, 111, 114-5

  Seven Boroughs, 40

  Shetlands, 5, 6, 65, 112-3, 117

  Ship-burials, 99-100

  Ships, 29, 98-100

  Shires, origin of, 31 _n_., 134

  Sigurd of the Orkneys, 63, 66-7

  Slesvík, 15, 87, 96

  Sodor and Man, 65

  Stamford Bridge, 42

  _Suðreyjar_, 65

  Svein Forkbeard, 37, 39, 40, 87

  Sweden, 7, 96

  Swedes, 9, 19, 72-9

  _thing_, 103, 115-6

  Thor, 89, 95, 115

  Trade, character of, 96-8;

    Oriental, 71, 79-80;

    Russian, 75-80;

    Irish, 120

  Turf-Einar, 67

  Turges, 13, 20

  Tynwald Court, 115

  _udal_ and _udaller_, 113

  Varangians, Variags, 73, 77-9

  Vestfold, 11, 16

  Viking, the term, 1

  Viking movement, causes of, 4-11

  Vinland, 99

  _Wapentake_, 132

  Weapons, 101-2

  Wedmore, peace of, 27

  _Westfaldingi_, 11

  White Foreigners, 10

  Women, position of, 54-6, 94

  York, 24, 31, 33




Published by the Cambridge University Scriptorium

GENERAL EDITORS:  P. GILES, Litt.D. Master of Emmanuel College

And A. C. SEWARD, M.A., F.R.S.  Professor of Botany in the University of Cambridge

SIXTY VOLUMES NOW READY (partial Listing Below):


  Cathay and the Manchus. By Prof. H. A. Giles, LL.D.

  The Vikings. By Prof. Allen Mawer, M.A.


  English Dialects from the Eighth Century. By W. Skeat, Litt.D., D.C.L., F.B.A.

  King Arthur in History and Legend. By Prof. W. Lewis Jones, M.A.

  The Icelandic Sagas. By W. A. Craigie, LL.D.


  The Idea of God in Early Religions. By Dr F. B. Jevons.

  Comparative Religion. By Dr F. B. Jevons.


  Life in the Medieval University. By R. S. Rait, M.A.


  Cash and Credit. By D. A. Barker, I.C.S.


  The Administration of Justice in Criminal Matters (in Angleland and Wales). By G. Glover Alexander, M.A., LL.M.


  Primitive Animals. By Geoffrey Smith, M.A.

  Life in the Sea. By James Johnstone, B.Sc.

  The Migration of Birds. By T. A. Coward.


  The Wanderings of Peoples. By Dr A. C. Haddon, F.R.S.

  Prehistoric Man. By Dr W. L. H. Duckworth.


  Plant-Animals: a Study in Symbiosis. By Prof. F. W. Keeble.

  Plant-Life on Land. By Prof. F. O. Bower, Sc.D., F.R.S.

  Links with the Past in the Plant-World. By Prof. A. C. Seward.


  The Earth. By Prof. J. H. Poynting, F.R.S.

  The Atmosphere. By A. J. Berry, M.A.

  The Physical Basis of Music. By A. Wood, M.A.


  The Modern Warship. By E. L. Attwood.

  The Story of a Loaf of Bread. By Prof. T. B. Wood, M.A.

  Brewing. By A. Chaston Chapman, F.I.C.


  The Aryans. By Prof. M. Winternitz.

  The Peoples of India. By J. D. Anderson.

  Prehistoric Britain. By L. McL. Mann.

  English Monasteries. By A. H. Thompson, M.A.

  A Grammar of Heraldry. By W. H. St John Hope, Litt.D.

  Celtic Art. By Joseph Anderson, LL.D.


  Beyond the Atom. By Dyonisius.

  The Sun. By Prof. R. A. Sampson.

  Leather. By Prof. H. R. Procter.

  Cambridge University Press

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End of The Vikings, by Allen Mawer