Post-classical history


Introduction – Britannia Deserta

1 Myres, The English Settlements, pp.119–20.

2 Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, p.211.

3 Haywood, Dark Age Naval Power, pp.5–6.

4 Ibid., pp.9–10.

5 Ibid., p.35.

6 Gribbin and Gribbin, ‘Climate and History: The Westvikings’ Saga.’ This geologically brief time in the sun came to an end in the sixteenth century, with the onset of a mini-ice age and a drop in temperature of two degrees, one of the results of which was the abandonment of the Greenland colony. See Chapter 10.

7 Myres, The English Settlements, p.16.

8 Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Arthur’ notes that Arthur first appears in the writings of Nennius, who appears to have confused and conflated earlier accounts that explicitly refer to Ambrosius.

9 Julian, Works of, Loeb Classical Library, 1, XXXIV, pp.89–91.

10 Brønsted, The Vikings, pp.36–7.

11 Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians, p.3.

12 McEvedy and Jones, Atlas of World Population History, p.52, adds that of that number: ‘. . . perhaps half lived long enough to tell their children how they sailed with Ragnar Lothbrok, Rollo, or Sveyn Forkbeard.’

13 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.261 and 267.

14 Griffith, The Viking Art of War, p.48.

15 Kennedy, The Court of the Caliphs, p.173.

16 Ibn Battúta, Travels, p.292 and 371n.

17 These incidents are respectively from Gisli Sursson’s Saga, CSI II, p.31; Grettir’s Saga, CSI II, p.66 and Valla-Ljot’s Saga, CSI IV, p.133.

18 Haywood, Historical Atlas of the Vikings, p.45, notes that women played a much larger role in the settlement of Iceland and Greenland, as these were relatively peaceful ventures.

19 McEvedy and Jones, Atlas of World Population History, p.52.

Chapter 1 – Songs of the Valkyries

1 In summer 2003, I swam in the evening Baltic with a Dane and a Swede, listening as they argued over which of the lights above us was Thor’s Hammer – one was convinced it was the bright one, Venus, the other the red one, Mars; a nearby Finn then unhelpfully suggested it might be the other one, Sirius. See Ogier, ‘Eddie Constellations’ for an excellent appraisal of the work undertaken so far in the field. The most promising answer currently lies in the possibility of finding cognate constellations among the Sámi. See Sommarström, ‘Ethnoastronomical Perspectives on Saami Religion.’

2 Heimskringla, p.6.

3 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.323; Sawyer, Kings and Vikings, p.131.

4 Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Sampo’.

5 Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.97.

6 Jones, History of the Vikings, pp.36–8. There is much more on these lines, and I have ignored several controversies within modern Viking studies, most notably the precise identity of the Geats, and whether or not they may have instead been the Jutes, a people of Jutland, north Denmark.

7 Saxo Grammaticus, History of the Danes, II, p.2.

8 Price, The Viking Way, pp.106–7.

9 Or so claims Orchard, Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, p.188.

10 Griffith, Viking Art of War, p.135. Saga of Grettir the Strong, CSI II, p.76. Duelling was eventually banned to prevent thugs from stealing whatever they wanted and using trial-by-combat as their get-out clause.

11 Price, The Viking Way, pp.338–9.

12 Heimskringla, p.12. It has been pointed out to me that the wealth found in the tombs of young Vikings may have been regarded as a type of compensation for dying too young, rather than a celebration of dying at the right time. Although this may be the case, it is not the spin put on it by the skalds. Edward James, personal communication.

13 This possibility is all the more obvious in those places where Christmas is still called Yule in local languages – e.g. Sweden (Jul) and Finland (Joulu).

14 A cursed sword, however, would only bring tragedy, as in the case of Legbiter, in the Saga of the People of Laxardal, CSI V, p.41; or Greysides, in Gisli Sursson’s Saga, CSI II, p.2.

15 Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.49.

16 Nesheim, ‘Eastern and Western Elements in Culture,’ p.108.

17 Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.56. As with the Viking Age itself, we must also bear in mind that Strabo was referring explicitly to a comitatus or war-band – a sector of barbarian ‘society’ more likely to have a war-god as its patron.

18 Ibid., pp.174–6.

19 Ibid., p.169.

20 The Jotunheim range was officially named as late as the twentieth century, after being called Jotunfjell (Giants’ Fells) since 1822. It is, however, mentioned in the sagas under that appellation. The prevalence of goat-herding in the region helps explain many of the Thorstories about goat husbandry and his quarrels with ‘giants’.

21 Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.76.

22 Ibid., p.83.

23 Price, The Viking Way, p.57.

24 For example, even though such parallels have been discussed in some scholarly circles since 1877, it was not until 1999 that DuBois published Nordic Religions in the Viking Age, a landmark work on the previously under-researched areas of connection between the Vikings and the Finnish/Sámi peoples to their immediate east.

25 Mundal, ‘The Perception of the Saamis,’ p.112.

26 Heimskringla, p.173.

27 Compare this to the gods of Finland, who are often physically weaker than the heroes.

28 Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.189.

29 Ibid., p.184.

30 See also Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, p.166, for the tale of another guardian with a similar name, Mimir, this time shielding wisdom itself from unwelcome thieves.

31 Saxo Grammaticus, History of the Danes, p.75.

Chapter 2 – Fury of the Northmen

1 Swanton, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.57n regards the original manuscript’s ‘Jan’ as a transcription error for ‘Jun’. Haywood’s Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age prefers 7 June as the date of the sack of Lindisfarne, p.122.

2 This omen was reported sometime later by Alcuin, a native of Yorkshire who feared that the Viking raids were the punishments of an angry God. Brønsted, The Vikings, p.32.

3 Simeon of Durham, A History of the Kings of England, p.43. Danger of further raids eventually caused Lindisfarne to be abandoned, and the last monks moved to Durham in 875.

4 Melvinger, Les Premières Incursions des Vikings en Occident d’après les sources arabes, p.90. Bregowine: ‘de crebris infestationibus improborum hominum in provinciis Anglorum seu Galliae regionis,’ and Dicuil ‘causa latronum Nortmannorum.’ Galliae could be a reference to Wales, rather than France.

5 Ibid., p.91.

6 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp.54–55n.

7 O’Donoghue, Old Norse-Icelandic Literature, p.8. The apparent disparity between the written forms is because most extant works in Anglo-Saxon are in the Late West-Saxon dialect, and not in the northern variants that were closer to Norse.

8 Alliott, Alcuin of York, p.19.

9 Brønsted, The Vikings, p.141.

10 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.38.

11 Complete Sagas of Icelanders, vol. V, p.398.

12 Erik the Red’s Saga, CSI I, p.2; for the etymology, see Magnusson, Vikings!, p.189. Technically, knorr applies to any ship in Old Norse, but the term has come to be used by modern marine archaeologists to refer specifically to the merchant class of vessel. Other translations for this most charming of terms include CSI’s ‘Shipbreast’, and ‘prow-tits’, from an adviser who would doubtless prefer to remain anonymous.

13 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.132.

14 Tale of Hromund the Lame, CSI V, p.351.

15 Saga of Grettir the Strong, CSI II, p.76.

16 Saga of the People of Laxardal, CSI V, p.47.

17 Olkofri’s Saga, CSI V, p.237. See also Price, The Viking Way, p.395.

18 Brønsted, The Vikings, pp.143–6.

19 Heimskringla, p.49; Magnusson, Vikings!, p.52.

20 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.99.

21 Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Denmark’.

22 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.109.

23 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.193. Note that books on the Vikings published before the 1990s tend to assume that the Trelleborg forts were constructed by Svein Forkbeard to train his British invasion force, but that recent dendrochronological analysis of the timbers has now proved otherwise.

Chapter 3 – Great Heathen Hosts

1 Saga of the People of Laxardal, CSI II, p.2.

2 Richards, Blood of the Vikings, p.72.

3 Ibid., p.88.

4 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.159.

5 Ibid., p.160.

6 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.194. It would be entertaining to believe that this devilish woman would find God and become Aud the Deep-Minded in old age – the dates do almost match but it seems unlikely.

7 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.194. The story is suspiciously similar to that of the retaking of the Theban acropolis by the Sacred Band under Pelopidas in 379 BC.

8 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.207.1 have heavily simplified events here, as whole books have been written about the confused Olafs and Ivars of rival accounts.

9 Supposedly they were the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, who may have been the same Ragnar who attacked Paris in 845. But the stories of Ragnar Lothbrok are so confusing that entire books have written about them. See Smyth, Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850–880.

10 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.130; Griffith, The Viking Art of War, pp35–36.

11 Abels, Alfred the Great, p.113.

12 Ibid., p.149.

13 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.143.

14 Abels, Alfred the Great, p.176.

Chapter 4 – Brother Shall Fight Brother

1 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.89n.

2 Heimskringla, p.61.

3 Ibid. However, some of the Icelanders’ claims may have been rooted more in their dismay at their loss of independence to Norway in the thirteenth century when the sagas were composed, rather than actual origins in dissent against Harald.

4 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.91.

5 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.59.

6 For example, Egil’s Saga, CSI I, p.38.

7 Ibid.

8 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.231.

9 Heimskringla, p.80.

10 Orkneyinga Saga, translated by Palsson and Edwards, p.28. The same story is told in Heimskringla, p.83.

11 Orkneyinga Saga, p.31.

12 Notably, Harald Bluetooth’s wife was also called Gunnhild; see Adam of Bremen, p.56.

13 Heimskringla, pp.88–90.

14 Ibid., p.93.

15 For a detailed account of the historical sources for the reign of Hakon, see Jones, History of the Vikings, pp.191, 121–122n. Perhaps the most important is the Bersöglivísur or Plain Speaking Verses of the eleventh century Sighvat Thordarson, which echo (and may have in fact informed) Heimskringla’s claims of Hakon’s good reputation.

16 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.119.

17 Heimskringla, p.110.

18 His funeral lay, Hákonarmål, survives, and praises its subject as a defender of the old ways; see Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.89.

Chapter 5 – The Road East

1 Heimskringla, p.250. Viking swords have been found as far east as Kiviniemi, in Karelia. See Huurre, 9000 Vuotta Suomen Esihistoria, p.134, for likely distribution of communities during the Viking Age as shown by the locations of burials and cremations.

2 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.247n.

3 Jutikkala and Pirinen, History of Finland, p.35.

4 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.25. It was even discussed as such in the court of King Alfred the Great. People were helped in making this assumption by the earlier writings of Tacitus, who had claimed that the region was ruled by women.

5 Duczko, Viking Rus, p.66. To the Vikings, Ladoga was probably Lake Nevo, cognate with the river that led from it, the Neva, which would later be the site of a famous battle, and in turn lend its name to the prince Alexander Nevsky.

6 Ibid., p.69.

7 Russian Primary Chronicle, quoted in Brønsted, The Vikings, pp.67–68.

8 Duczko, Viking Rus, p.78 and 81. Volkoff, Vladimir the Russian Viking, p.40, goes further, equating the legendary Rurik with a historical Rorik who raided France and England, and eventually signed a treaty with Charlemagne’s grandson, Lothaire I. Duczko, Viking Rus, p.235, also dismisses a nineteenth-century suggestion that Rurik was a composite character based on a group of Swedes who used the wings and beak of a falcon (Slav: rarog as their insignia.

9 For the cataracts and the rune stone, see Jones, History of the Vikings, pp.257–8; Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.85.

10 Jones, History of the Vikings, pp.249–50. These additional etymologies for Rus are from Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.59, and from Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.162. Duczko, Viking Rus, p.210, adds still another possible origin, noting that Rhosia may have been the ‘Area of the Rod’, an old term for kinfolk. If this is true, then the Rus may simply have referred to their people as The Kin.

11 Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, p.66; Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, p.228; Duczko, Viking Rus, pp.83–5.

12 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.116 and Haywood, Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, p.107, both believe that Oleg himself only ‘negotiated’ with Constantinople after threatening the city with his own army around 907, but Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, p.150 regards this story as ‘almost certainly apocryphal’. However, in parts of Scandinavia, 11 June is the traditional day for the renegotiation of contracts – perhaps in some ironic way the fleet was indeed intended as a bargaining tool.

13 From the Arabic sharq, ‘orient/sunrise’ or possibly corrupted from ‘silk’.

14 These are, of course, the Muslim profession of faith, along with passages CXII and IX:33 from the Quran. For the dirham inscriptions in full, see Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Islamic Coins of the West and of Western and Central Asia.’

15 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.52. Muslim dirhams form 35 per cent of the silver in Gotland graves. Of the remainder, 45 per cent are German and around 17 per cent are English, dating from the period after the tenth century. See Malmer, ‘What does coinage tell us . . .?’, p.157.

16 Griffith, Viking Art of War, p.48.

17 By accident or design, bereza is modern Russian for birch. Jones, History of the Vikings, p.258.

18 Abu-Chacra, Vikings Through Arab Eyes, p.8.

19 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.255.

20 Abu-Chacra, Vikings Through Arab Eyes, pp.35–36. There has been a long debate among scholars as to whether the Rus met by Ibn Fadlan were Vikings or Slavs. They appear to be both, with an allegiance to a king in Kiev (Igor) but offering religious observances at wooden poles, which is more in keeping with Slav traditions.

21 Ibid., p.38; also Duczko, Viking Rus, pp.l37ff.

22 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.261. Duczko, Viking Rus, p.121, notes that German silver mines became productive in the 950s, and tempted European traders with cheaper silver closer to home that was easier to obtain.

23 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, pp.280–1, even presents the intriguing argument that the tale of Beowulf’s final battle with the fire-breathing dragon may be a confused reference to a battle between Scandinavians and dragon-headed ships that spit Greek fire.

24 The recipe for Greek fire remains unknown to this day, though it presumed to be a petroleum-based mixture.

25 Volkoff, Vladimir the Russian Viking, p.13.

26 Ibid., pp.17–19.

27 Ibid., pp.25–26.

28 Svyatoslav to Emperor John Tzimisces, 970, quoted in Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, p.211. Constantinople was an ultimate Russian objective thereafter, even as late as 1915, when it was promised to the last Czar in the secret Allied Istanbul Agreements.

29 See Volkoff, Vladimir the Russian Viking, pp.69–72.

30 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.247n. The idea of a double wave of Viking expansion in Russia would certainly help explain the differing nomenclatures. If it is correct, then the meanings of Rus and Varangian are not the same at all, but refer to different eras of arrival for Swedish settlers.

31 Some years earlier, Rogned had supposedly turned down the offer of Vladimir’s hand in marriage, calling him a slave’s son. She had insulted Vladimir even more by claiming that she would happily consider his brother Jaropolk. Volkoff, Vladimir the Russian Viking, pp.88–94.

32 Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, p.245.

33 Ibid., p.245.

Chapter 6 – Advent of the White Christ

1 So called because he had a grey cloak, and caused a brief fad for such clothing among his men. Heimskringla, p.137.

2 See Jones, History of the Vikings, p.124.

3 Heimskringla, p.142.

4 By this time, only two sons were surviving, Ragnfroth, who failed in an attempt to attack Trondheim, and another, Guthroth, who was only defeated much later, during the reign of Olaf Tryggvason.

5 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.51. Payments began in 978, but were not regarded as tribute until 991, and not referred to as danegeld until retrospectively, after the Norman conquest. Although payment of danegeld officially ceased in 1016, kings would continue to levy heregeld until 1162.

6 Adam of Bremen, pp.75–6.

7 Heimskringla, p.147, uses the term ‘viking’ here, even though the captors are later revealed to be Estonian, not Scandinavian.

8 Ibid., p.171.

9 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.125.

10 Ibid., p.126.

11 Tale of Thorvald the Far-Travelled, CSI V, p.358. For Forkbeard’s mother, see Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, p.25.

12 Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue, CSI I, p.315.

13 Stafford, Queen Emma & Queen Edith, p.214. Upon her arrival in England, Emma took the local name Aelfgifu, but I have not used it here, since it only serves to confuse her with a later Aelfgifu, concubine of King Canute.

14 Heimskringla, p.185.

15 Ibid., p.204

16 The Tale of Svadi and Arnor Crone’s-Nose, CSI V, p.355, recounts an incident where a Viking assembly votes to allow the old and infirm to starve to death in a time of famine, only to be told by dissenters that such behaviour is abominable. Christianity was already taking root.

17 Byock, Viking Age Iceland, p.299.

18 Njal’s Saga, CSI III, p.123.

19 Ibid., CSI III, p.125.

20 Byock, Viking Age Iceland, p.300.

Chapter 7 – Beyond the Edge of the World

1 Some Roman coins have been discovered in Iceland, but it is thought that they were brought there by much later travellers, not Romans; Marcus, Conquest of the North Atlantic, p.24–7. It does not help that the chronicler Dicuil persisted in retroactively referring to Iceland as ‘Thile’ [sic], thereby leading later geographers to believe that Pytheas had visited it. Some authorities, e.g. Magnusson,Vikings!, p.182, suggest that some Romans may indeed have reached Iceland, if only to be wrecked on its shores.

2 Compare, for example, to the much later assumption that Australia belonged to Britain because a Briton had been the first to sail around it: Fleming, Barrow’s Boys, p.277.

3 Compare to the similar double-crossing that accompanied the Frey-dis mission to Vinland, in Greenlander Saga 8, Magnsson and Palsson, The Vinland Sagas, pp.67–9.

4 O’Donoghue, Old Norse-Icelandic Literature, pp.55–7.

5 If Olaf the White can be matched with Amlaíb, King of Dublin, then Aud might even have been the daughter of Cerball mac Dúnlainge, and hence Irish herself. See Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.138.

6 Davidson, The Viking Road to Byzantium, p.102.

7 Ibid., p.298.

8 Ibid., p.300.

9 Marcus, The Conquest of the North Atlantic, p.55.

10 Eirik’s Saga, 2, in Magnusson and Palsson, The Vinland Sagas, p.76.

11 Eirik the Red’s Saga, CSI I, p.2.

12 Íslendingabók 6, in Magnusson, Vikings!, p.215.

13 Marcus, Conquest of the North Atlantic, p.57.

14 Greenlander Saga, 2, in Magnusson and Palsson, The Vinland Sagas, p.52.

15 Ibid., p.53.

16 Many authorities assume it was Labrador, but I have followed Haywood’s Historical Atlas of the Vikings, p.99, chiefly for its consideration of climatic change. The land described in Greenlander Saga may resemble modern Labrador, but Canadian forests extended considerably further to the north in the year 1000 than they do today.

17 Greenlander Saga, 4, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, p.57.

18 Greenlander Saga, 4 and 6, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, p.59 and 62.

19 Nesheim, however, in ‘Eastern and Western Elements in Culture’ p.156, suggests that skrit simply means ‘on skis’, and that it is (a) not pejorative at all, and (b) bears no cognate relationship with the Skraelings.

20 Greenlander Saga, 6, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, pp.62–3, particularly the strange phrases that accompany Gudrid being ‘comforted’ by yet another man (confusingly also called Thorsteinn) before meeting Thorfinn.

21 Greenlander Saga, 7, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, pp.65–6.

22 Erik’s Saga, 9, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, pp.96–7.

23 Greenlander Saga, 7, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, p.66.

24 Freydis supposedly charged a group of attacking Skraelings while pregnant at this point. A variant manuscript of Erik’s Saga mixes occurrences of the name Freydis and Gudrid. See Erik’s Saga, 11, in Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, pp.100–1.

Chapter 8 – London Bridge is Falling Down

1 Adam of Bremen, p.80; see also Jones, History of the Vikings, p.137.

2 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.131.

3 Ibid., p.133.

4 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.l35n.

5 Williams, Aethelred the Unready, p.54 disputes the date of Gunnhild’s death, and suggests it may have been considerably later. Since she probably didn’t exist, this doesn’t really make much difference!

6 Williams, Aethelred the Unready, p.52.

7 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.135.

8 Magnusson, Vikings!, p.276–7. The entry from Pepys’ diary is from 10 April 1661.

9 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.139.

10 Barlow, The Godwins, p.26.

11 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.365.

12 Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, p.23. Thorkell the Tall is the ‘Thurcytel Thorgils Havi’ in Weir’s account, who may have married Aethelred’s daughter Edith. Edith’s sister Wulfhilda had been the wife of Ulfkell Snilling.

13 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.141. Aelfheah, later Saint Aelfheah, was also known as Godwine, perhaps suggesting a connection with the Godwin family who were so prominent in Aethelred’s England.

14 Ibid., p.144.

15 Since no source refers to Sigrid the Haughty as the ‘Queen of England’, we must assume that she was dead by this time.

16 Williams, Aethelred the Unready, p.132.

17 Stafford, Queen Emma and Queen Edith, p.12. A Norman Latin poem of the eleventh century suggested that Emma was like Semiramis, an Asiatic queen raped by Zeus in animal form.

18 Mills, London Place Names, p.199.

19 Heimskringla, p.264.

20 Ibid., p.400.

21 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.382.

Chapter 9 – The Thunderbolt of the North

1 DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, p.49, quoting Adam of Bremen.

2 Heimskringla, p.501.

3 Ibid., p.514.

4 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, quoting Skjaldedigtning, p.209.

5 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.210, outlines several alternate sources to confirm Harald’s location in these years.

6 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.191.

7 The inscription on the Piraeus lion (now in Venice) is illegible, and Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, discounts speculation that it contains reference to its carver as ‘Harald the Tall’, p.190.

8 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.211; DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066, p.29; but compare to Turville-Petrie, Haraldr the Hard-ruler and his Poets, p.13, who regards his glorious career advancement with significantly more critical eyes.

9 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.405.

10 Ibid., p.208.

11 Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, p.288; for Harald’s involvement see Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.220.

12 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.223.

13 Heimskringla, p.587.

14 DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066, p.35, includes yet more possible explanations, one from William of Malmesbury, who claimed that Harald had raped a noblewoman (could this be the Maria of the sagas?), and Saxo Grammaticus, who gives the reason for his imprisonment as homicide.

15 Heimskringla, p.588.

16 Davidson, Viking Road to Byzantium, p.227, DeVries, Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066, p.37.

17 Heimskringla, p.590.

18 Magnusson and Palsson translate the term as ‘golden lady in Russia’ in King Harald’s Saga, p.63; Hollander, Heimskringla has the more exacting ‘gold-ring-Gerth from Garthar’ – Gerth being a goddess’s name, and Garda referring to Gardariki or Holmgard, both terms for Jaroslav’s domain.

19 Also known as Svein Ulfsson. As his mother’s pedigree was of greater value to Svein in Norway, Svein used her name in the place of the traditional patronymic.

20 Heimskringla, pp.593–4; DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, p.45, sees this as an attempt by Snorri to retroactively justify Harald’s changing sides, but the incident is presented without editorial comment, and after Snorri has already revealed the initiation of secret negotiations. While Harald may have used the incident to justify such behaviour, Snorri does not allow him to get away with it.

21 This is, of course, Harald’s version of events. Svein himself would describe an equally self-interested account of wrongs done against him to Adam of Bremen, whose history of Scandinavia becomes decidedly less reliable on some occasions in which he leans on his kingly informant.

22 Heimskringla, p.598.

23 Ibid., p.601.

24 King Harald’s Saga, Magnusson and Palsson, p.80; compare to the translation in Hollander, Heimskringla, p.602. The former implies that Harald raped the girls before returning them, the latter is more ambiguous.

25 King Harald’s Saga, Magnusson and Palsson, p.92. Once again, I have elected to go with the freer translation of this version; more exacting scholars may prefer Hollander, Heimskringla, p.611.

26 Ibid., Magnusson and Palsson, p.93.

27 The match may have been born of politics or passion, or perhaps from dynastic concerns – Ellisif gave Harald only daughters, while Thora provided him with two sons.

28 Ibid., Magnusson and Palsson, p.102.

29 Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, p.38.

30 Tostig’s argument was so persuasive that several contemporary accounts mistakenly believed that he was Godwin’s oldest son. To confuse matters further, Godwin’s first-born was actually another Svein, who infamously claimed to be the bastard son of King Canute. Luckily, that Svein was already dead by the time of the succession crisis, otherwise it would have been even more hard-fought.

31 Heimskringla, p.643.

32 I mean, of course, by William Shakespeare although those in search of more historical sources can look to DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, pp.173–4.

33 Heimskringla, p.644.

34 Ibid.

35 Heimskringla, pp.646–7.

36 DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, p.242ff., mounts a series of convincing arguments concerning Tostig’s double-dealings with the Normans. He may have even been hoping to play Harald the Ruthless against William the Bastard, and emerge as the ultimate victor. But such discussions belong to a study of English history, and we must concern ourselves specifically with the Vikings.

37 DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, p.255. The town has grown to such an extent that there are now streets and houses all over the original site of the battle.

38 DeVries, Norwegian Invasion, p.269–70. The exact site of the final showdown is unknown today, as the river has changed course, but Battle Flats, where many skeletons were unearthed during the Victorian age, would appear to be a rather obvious contender.

39 Heimskringla, p.653.

40 Ibid., p.655. There are elements here of the Balder legend (or that of Achilles), since Harald’s long coat of mail, incongruously named ‘Emma’, was said to be impervious.

41 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p.199.

Chapter 10 – Children of Thor

1 The last battle between the English and the Normans was fought in Albania, where Anglo-Saxon Varangians took great pleasure in attacking invaders from Norman Italy in the name of the Byzantine Emperor. They were, however, defeated.

2 Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.45.

3 Ultimately, the falling sea levels would cut off several of the greatest Viking ports – the waters around Hedeby were too shallow for deep-draft ships by 1071, and the famous entrepot was replaced by nearby Schleswig. Haywood, Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age, p.95.

4 Marcus, Conquest of the North Atlantic, p.155.

5 Haywood, Historical Atlas of the Vikings, p.97.

6 Jones, History of the Vikings, p.309.

7 Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p.323.

8 Ibid., p.313.

9 Marcus, Conquest of the North Atlantic, p.162.

10 Ibid.

11 Wawn, Vikings and the Victorians, p.16.

12 Niitema et al. Old Friends Strong Ties, pp.14–18.

13 Ibid, p.72.

14 Wahlgren, The Kensington Stone, p.3.

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