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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > There Were Knights in Anglo-Saxon England? Reply to topic
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Feb, 2016 6:43 am    Post subject: There Were Knights in Anglo-Saxon England?         Reply with quote

There was, even in small-scale, the knighthood system in England before the Norman Invasion? Why the knighthood system, after the Norman Conquest, wasn't as much as common as it was in France or in Normandy?

Huscarls were, proportionally, less numerous as knights in an eleventh century norman army? Huscarls would be paid on land to be equipped or have their equipment provided by his earl?
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Fri 26 Feb, 2016 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One would have to define "knight" first.

Before the 1100's, the term "cniht" simply meant "servant", so yeah there were many of them. That is probably not what you are after. Let's assume knight to be meaning a low ranked noble with a military function..

Huscarls were probably quite a nice simile, they were professional soldiers, with administrative roles in times of peace, they were paid in coin or land, and had high status under the kings or earls. They had good status with their kings or earls, and were well equipped.

The number seems to be a bit fuzzy, but I do not think there were fewer of them than later knights (as a low ranking noble).

Knights (as portrayed by their german term Ritter and dutch term Ridder, meaning rider) do seem to be on horseback more than huscarls are, but a large part of that may be due to the different timeframes where we look upon them.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Feb, 2016 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My focus here is more on the franco-norman sense, "Chevalier" or even "Miles", the lower-nobility which hold lands to afford war horse and armour

By the way, only Earls had their own Huscarls or thegns - which would be a kind of Baron - also had theirs?
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 26 Feb, 2016 12:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off you should define Knight to make the term more useful for the discussion. Do you mean the late medieval social class or the 12th century squire or perhaps a norman Knight?

I do not have my sources at hand but I believe the levy or fyrd required one armed men per five hides. A hide isn't a set size of land but rather revenue derived from a set piece of land. I believe it was around 1 pound per hide during Anglo-Saxon times with the hide reckoned to hover around 100-120 acres of land. The total acreage of those five hides seems to be relatively inline with demesne land of the high and late medieval manors. Of course all those terms are still quite vague and meaning can differ. Another thing I personally do not know if a village was to provide an armed man for every five hides the village had or that a man with five hides of land was expected to show up when the fyrd was called. If a man personally held five hides of land he would qualify as a landowner or gentry and i'd say that he owns as much land as a high or late medieval gentry/man-at-arms.

So in a way the thegn with five hides of land that showed up for the fyrd is from the same social class as what we commonly define as Knight (or more exact: Man-at-arms). A person who owns a significant share of the land in a single village. Whether the said man chose to fight on foot or on horseback is a rather minor difference and probably comes down to personal or cultural preference rather than cost (though I might be wrong).

I won't have access to my sources until Monday so feel free to correct me wherever you can.


PS, maybe someone who is a bit more knowledgeable on the subject can give us a source that talks about horse use by the fyrd and individual thegns. I vaguely recall reading it was a neccecacity.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Feb, 2016 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
First off you should define Knight to make the term more useful for the discussion. Do you mean the late medieval social class or the 12th century squire or perhaps a norman Knight?


The contemporary French-Norman version of what would be a "chevalier" or "miles" at 10th-11th century prior to norman conquest. By the way, squires only emerged at 12nd century?

Quote:
I do not have my sources at hand but I believe the levy or fyrd required one armed men per five hides. A hide isn't a set size of land but rather revenue derived from a set piece of land. I believe it was around 1 pound per hide during Anglo-Saxon times with the hide reckoned to hover around 100-120 acres of land. The total acreage of those five hides seems to be relatively inline with demesne land of the high and late medieval manors. Of course all those terms are still quite vague and meaning can differ. Another thing I personally do not know if a village was to provide an armed man for every five hides the village had or that a man with five hides of land was expected to show up when the fyrd was called. If a man personally held five hides of land he would qualify as a landowner or gentry and i'd say that he owns as much land as a high or late medieval gentry/man-at-arms.


The likely answer to this question would be: Fyrds were mostly composed of peasants or landowners? If are peasants, then it probably would be case of a landowner which was expected to show up when the fyrd was called with their levies, I guess. Also, someone with 5 hides would not be a thegn or something alike?


By the way, thegns would had their own Huscarls? They usually would show themselves with more armour than a Huscarl?
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 28 Feb, 2016 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:


The contemporary French-Norman version of what would be a "chevalier" or "miles" at 10th-11th century prior to norman conquest. By the way, squires only emerged at 12nd century?


I am not sure when the word squire started to be used. However when they did use the word (e)squire the meaning could vary a lot.


Quote:
The likely answer to this question would be: Fyrds were mostly composed of peasants or landowners? If are peasants, then it probably would be case of a landowner which was expected to show up when the fyrd was called with their levies, I guess. Also, someone with 5 hides would not be a thegn or something alike?


I am not sure I fully understand what you mean. But from what I can gather (and I still do not have my sources or notes) someone who owned 5 hides of land would be called a thegn, and he could indeed be expected to show up when the king summoned an army.

A quick and dirty google search gave me this: "And if a ceorl throve, so that he had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bellhouse and burh-gate-seat, and special duty in the king's hail, then was he thenceforth of thegn-right worthy."

Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward the First. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 65.

Quote:
By the way, thegns would had their own Huscarls? They usually would show themselves with more armour than a Huscarl?


Well if 5 hides of land is the lowest requirement for 'thegnhood' then I doubt he himself would hire another man to guard him. In fact I have a hunch that the Huscarls that were hired by Kings and Earls were drawn from the gentry or thegn class. That said to my knowledge the term huscarl is not something Anglo-Saxon but rather something Norse.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Sat 16 Apr, 2016 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I am not sure I fully understand what you mean. But from what I can gather (and I still do not have my sources or notes) someone who owned 5 hides of land would be called a thegn, and he could indeed be expected to show up when the king summoned an army.


May have to do with the fact that I don't have deep knowledge of military society of Anglo-Saxon England. I'll ask another way: the thegns formed the basis of the anglo-saxon army (as medieval conscripts or levies) ?.
I mean, at least until Charlemagne, peasants / serfs in general weren't required to fight, but there was a warrior class who occupied that post (then Charlemagne imposed conscription on serfs per land revenues), it was something like this at the time?

Quote:
That said to my knowledge the term huscarl is not something Anglo-Saxon but rather something Norse.


There was some military elite in the anglo-saxon society that has not been born from Scandinavian influence? If I'm not mistaken, the Huscarls came to England with Canute the Great ...

Just as a curiosity, when Scandinavia abandoned the more "viking" oriented military with its infantry centered army to more frankish/german style of feudal knights?
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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Sat 16 Apr, 2016 10:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

(superfluous posting given content of thread)

Last edited by Philip Renne on Fri 22 Apr, 2016 10:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Apr, 2016 1:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
May have to do with the fact that I don't have deep knowledge of military society of Anglo-Saxon England. I'll ask another way: the thegns formed the basis of the anglo-saxon army (as medieval conscripts or levies) ?.


Not entirely. Like other early medieval states, Anglo-Saxon England had several different levels of levies/mobilisation. The most extensive (all adult males) was rarely if ever used, while the most restricted was basically just the King or a lord going out with the few full-time warriors of his household. Calling up just the thegns usually meant that the King needed a mobile and relatively professional force -- and not a very large one. But with larger mobilisations of other freemen, the thegns could become a minority in the army.


Quote:
I mean, at least until Charlemagne, peasants / serfs in general weren't required to fight, but there was a warrior class who occupied that post (then Charlemagne imposed conscription on serfs per land revenues)


Not really. Many of the Germanic successor states continued to adapt and make use of preexisting Late Roman urban and rural militia institutions. All free property-owning men were subject to some sort of military obligation throughout the Middle Ages -- what really changed were the property thresholds for the requirement to have certain amounts of equipment, and how likely the militias were to be called to war. If anything, the Carolingian Frankish militia of free propertied farmers was arguably more likely to be called up than the militias of most later medieval states that could resort to hiring or keeping professional warriors!


Quote:
There was some military elite in the anglo-saxon society that has not been born from Scandinavian influence? If I'm not mistaken, the Huscarls came to England with Canute the Great ...


Zero Scandinavian influence is very unlikely. Anglo-Saxon England already had extensive contacts with Scandinavia even before the age of Viking raids.


Quote:
Just as a curiosity, when Scandinavia abandoned the more "viking" oriented military with its infantry centered army to more frankish/german style of feudal knights?


Arguably never. They instituted a knightly class that provided armoured cavalry, but they never entirely abandoned the old infantry-based militia and arguably Scandinavian militias tended to be rather better-equipped and better trained than similar militia forces elsewhere in Europe. Unfortunately this didn't always mean that they were equal to professional warriors -- look at what happened at Visby, or when the Swedes unsuccessfully fought back against the Landsknechts in a Danish invasion at the end of the 15th century (the one chronicled in the Dolnstein diaries).
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Apr, 2016 4:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
May have to do with the fact that I don't have deep knowledge of military society of Anglo-Saxon England. I'll ask another way: the thegns formed the basis of the anglo-saxon army (as medieval conscripts or levies) ?.


Not entirely. Like other early medieval states, Anglo-Saxon England had several different levels of levies/mobilisation. The most extensive (all adult males) was rarely if ever used, while the most restricted was basically just the King or a lord going out with the few full-time warriors of his household. Calling up just the thegns usually meant that the King needed a mobile and relatively professional force -- and not a very large one. But with larger mobilisations of other freemen, the thegns could become a minority in the army.


The Saxon kings, under normal conditions (such as a seasonal raid or a small land conquest) usually preferred small, but professional armies (composed almost entirely of his full-time household's warriors) or preferred larger ones, with his thegns or even unfree serfs in it?

By the way, if I recall, the thegn's equipment used to be very basic: helmet, shield and spear (not sure if swords came to be common). If this is the case, what kind of equipment the more generic and poorer levy had? Slings, clubs and hunting bows with no shield at all?

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Quote:
There was some military elite in the anglo-saxon society that has not been born from Scandinavian influence? If I'm not mistaken, the Huscarls came to England with Canute the Great ...


Zero Scandinavian influence is very unlikely. Anglo-Saxon England already had extensive contacts with Scandinavia even before the age of Viking raids.


I didn't knew that great Britain, technically isolated from the rest of the world (and almost of Rome itself) had contact with the Scandinavians.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Quote:
Just as a curiosity, when Scandinavia abandoned the more "viking" oriented military with its infantry centered army to more frankish/german style of feudal knights?


Arguably never. They instituted a knightly class that provided armoured cavalry, but they never entirely abandoned the old infantry-based militia and arguably Scandinavian militias tended to be rather better-equipped and better trained than similar militia forces elsewhere in Europe. Unfortunately this didn't always mean that they were equal to professional warriors -- look at what happened at visby, or when the Swedes unsuccessfully fought back against the Landsknechts in a Danish invasion at the end of the 15th century (the one chronicled in the Dolnstein diaries).


But the peninsula has come to hold a particular type of foot-soldier who had some kind of professionalization, as Huscarls? In fact I do not even know if they continued to be used after the defeat of Harald Hardrada at Stanford Bridge.

Scandinavian's terrain is too rugged and their horses were smaller than others (but they were strong, indeed). Knights probably never had the same popularity as german and english knights had, though I've heard that german knights usually dismount to fight at times.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Apr, 2016 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

But the peninsula has come to hold a particular type of foot-soldier who had some kind of professionalization, as Huscarls? In fact I do not even know if they continued to be used after the defeat of Harald Hardrada at Stanford Bridge.

Scandinavian's terrain is too rugged and their horses were smaller than others (but they were strong, indeed). Knights probably never had the same popularity as german and english knights had, though I've heard that german knights usually dismount to fight at times.


It seems that in the late viking age, that the traditional germanic "Comitatus" system (as the Romans called it) was changing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comitatus_(classical_meaning)
In former times (described first by Tacitus 98 AD) the Jarl or King would be the leader of a warband - so the best among equals. These retainers were probably young aristocrats or an occasional free-men adventurer, that lived with their Jarl and King and thus feasted with him in halls and constantly travelled around with him. Wives of these warband-members very rarely ever saw their husbands as they were always with their leader.
It was all based on a reciprocal gift exchange. The King was to be lavish in his gifts to his men and thus always seem poor (or he would be branded as a miser and causing all his men to leave him) and in return they would fight for him in battle.
It is important to note that the warband was NOT paid retainers. They would stay so long their leader was a man-of-luck and brought them victory and wealth through gifts and in return their leader would earn undying fame.
The heroic paragon of the perfect generous leader was the legendary Danish King Hrolf Krake. The skjald of Norwegian King Olav II Haraldsson - Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld - actually recited a poem (Bjarkamál) about the Heroes around Hrolf Krake and their last battle; before the battle of Stiklestad in 1030 where Olaf II was killed.
The point is that the skjald says to the men, that Olaf II is a generous and heroic king as Hrolf Krake and since Hrolfs men fought to the death for their generous leader; it is expected that Olaf II's men do the same for him!

In the late viking age it seems that the Kings started to employ actually paid retainers.
Socially that would normally make them servants (a thrall is a servant, not a slave as we understand a slave today being without any rights). "Free men" were free men in the way that they provided for their own subsistence and wasn't dependent on other people. Originally the name for a free man was a Karl.
So that makes the exact meaning of Huskarl pretty hard to deal with.
Etymologically it should mean a "house - free man". So whose house? His own or the house of the Lord he fights for?

Yet if he is "of your house" in the meaning part "of your household", then he is in fact a "servant" and not a "free man" and thus a thrall in the social ranking. It seems that a linguistic glide of meaning happened as the word "karl" ended up becoming to mean a servant (as it still does today in Scandinavia - specifically a hired hand on the farm, that is paid for his work).
So Huscarl at some point would likely designate a paid warrior servant, who receives money instead of gifts.

But it gets worse. In Scandinavia the comitatus retinue around the King seems to have been called a "Hird" and the individual soldier a "Hirdman", which also etymologically means "Household-man"!
Later in middle age Norway a Hirdman apparently means a "men-at-arms".

So at some point the comitatus system of gift-giving changed into a system of paid retainers (but the name housekarl or hirdman was not changed and so gradually changed in meaning) - and very likely with an overlap where you had both types of warriors in the Kings retinue.
If I have to guess Danish/Norwegian/English King Canute the Great probably had both, but his elite force of housecarls probably still had some comitatus aspects as many core and key members were former Jomsvikings.

So actually to pinpoint precise meanings of words are extraordinarily difficult as linguistic glides of meaning happens constantly with changing social circumstances.

Even worse the word "hus" (house) is not really generic, but very specific.
This is a "Hus" and the owner is a "Husmand".

Source: http://www.aargang0.dk/media/8a13ed01-19e5-4c...201910.jpg
This is a "Gård" and the owner is a Gårdmand (also called Bonde).

Source: http://genanvendgaarden.dk/media/36827/web05a.jpg

This is a "Herregård" for a "Herremand".

Source: http://www.bricksite.com/uf/20000_29999/25714...fb1689.JPG

So the size of your farm designated your standing in society.
A Husmand was either a servant if he rented the land from another or a poorer free man.
A Gårdmand owned an enclosed farm and was a more wealthy free man (that's why the world is called "Midgård" and not "Midhus" as a Gård is enclosed and a Hus is not, the cognate English word for gård is "Yard" which is also enclosed)
A Herremand was a super rich person, some were nobles but some weren't; but they had special privileges (not paying tax) and special duties (providing the King with soldiers in war). The Herremand was later in the Middle Ages translated to "Ridder" (cognate with German Ritter - which simply means a "Rider" of horses and for owning a horse you really need to be rich). Compare with the Roman "Equites" (the second highest rank after the Patricii), that also had that rank because they owned enough to have horses when the system was establish in the Republican Period (the Equites became hereditary, so you could apparently retain the title even if you got poorer).

The Danish word "Knægt", which is cognate with English Knight, means actually in Danish a boy (= page?, squire?).
The German cognate "Knecht" even more confusingly means servant! [It does fit that a Landsknecht is a mercenary that receives payment as a soldier, and then is in a "service role" -> for a Scandinavian the German Knecht = Thrall).
It just a bit insane and very confusing, that the same word in three related languages (Knægt, Knecht, Knight) comes to mean Boy; (Adult) Servant and "Noble Warrior".

The old Scandinavian noble title Jarl was by the way translated to Latin Dux (Duke).

If you buy a Danish Herregård today you would be a Herremand, even if you have absolutely no nobility status.

So are huskarls poorer free men (or sons of noblemen with no chance of inheriting anything) and their ambition were to work as warriors to receive gifts of land from his King or Jarl when he retired?
Huskarl is a Danish word (the Anglo-Saxon word for karl is ceorl), but apparently only really used in England.
On Danish runestones they are called "heimþegar" (home-receivers!!!). So rune stone commemorate them as having received land in Denmark as a gift/payment for their services.
In Norway they are called "heiðþegar" (gift/payment-receivers!!!) again showing the titles they had at their death, AFTER they had received their gift/payment.

So would young "Huskarls" (poorer free men) flock to Canute the Greats court in England and work for him winning enough glory to receive gift or payment of land back home in Denmark and Norway and so vastly increase in social standing!!

About small horses because of rugged terrain, that really only applies to West Coastal Norway, Faroese islands, Iceland and Greenland. Some areas of Sweden (fewer in Norway) are very suited for cavalry actions and especially Denmark is very flat (highest natural point only 173 meters) and ideal for cavalry.
Danish warhorses were famous and apparently regarded as among the best warhorses in the crusading period together with Spanish warhorses (Danish ones bigger, but Spanish faster and more nimble). You had a big Danish horse export down into Europe. Sjælland was especially a horse breeding area for big warhorses especially when you started to remove the thick forests in North-Sjælland, and these were beginning to be cut down fast during the high middle age's population boom.
Hence all the North-Sjælland place-names with "Rød" (comes from rydning = clearing)
Rødovre, Hillerød, Allerød, Birkerød etc


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Tue 19 Apr, 2016 2:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Apr, 2016 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels, Thank you so much for the excellent information. That was a succinct, but really informative post. I was unsure about the hierarchy of the system but I'll be able to remember that explanation easily.

I have been trying to find some sort of "genealogy" for the institution of Knighthood, but never found any satisfactory answer that people can agree on.

It seems that everyone agrees that the basis of what we call knights was rooted in the Roman military system. However, beyond the roots of Knighthood and the appearance of a powerful military class operating as Knights at some point, no real solid information exists.

It almost seems to me that the history of the institution is something like: "Rome fell in the 5th Century, and then a few centuries later knights emerged as the new military/equestrian class."

I really hope someone can clear it all up, because I certainly don't know.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2016 1:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Miller wrote:
Niels, Thank you so much for the excellent information. That was a succinct, but really informative post. I was unsure about the hierarchy of the system but I'll be able to remember that explanation easily.

I have been trying to find some sort of "genealogy" for the institution of Knighthood, but never found any satisfactory answer that people can agree on.

It seems that everyone agrees that the basis of what we call knights was rooted in the Roman military system. However, beyond the roots of Knighthood and the appearance of a powerful military class operating as Knights at some point, no real solid information exists.

It almost seems to me that the history of the institution is something like: "Rome fell in the 5th Century, and then a few centuries later knights emerged as the new military/equestrian class."

I really hope someone can clear it all up, because I certainly don't know.


You're welcome Richard.
Rome's influence was off course hugely important, but when it comes to cavalry Sarmartian & Alannic mercenaries and also the influence of the Huns (as an anti-roman lifestyle attracting many people) should not be underestimated and neither should local innovation.
You often loan a basic idea, but then adapt it to your local customs.
The Roman has a class of "Riders" (Equites), but never really a great tradition for cavalry. The auxiliary cavalry troops were most often germanic or iranian. The Iranian speaking people working as mercenaries for both Romans and Persian were Sarmatian and Alans and they certainly had a long tradition of cavalry warfare. The heavy cavalry was probably invented by some Iranian speaking group and then use in the Sassanid Persian Empire and then copied by the Byzantines as Cataphracts.
In my personal opinion the rise of the Knighthood is probably much more based on the long exchange of idea (as both allies and enemies) between germanic and iranian people.
Example: The Vandals and the Alans rode/walked together and crossed the Rhine in 406, moved into Spain and ended up in Tunesia.
So knighthood is in my opinion a fusion of both germanic, roman and iranian elements which creates the idea of the heavy armoured noble warrior. Some terminology for nobility ranks gets to be Latin (Comes & Dux for instance) when people starts to be Christian as it is the "Christian language" of western Europe, but it is telling that Equites is not the word used - but Knight or Ritter instead.

To put it a bit bluntly:
Celtic Scholars think the Celts influenced everything in the Germanic world
Classical scholars thinks Rome influenced everything in the Germanic world.
Almost nobody mentions Eastern Europe (where a lot of Germanic people had settled, before the disappeared with the Slavic expansion) and especially Iranian influence.

The Greek and Roman propaganda about their general superiority is mostly believed because they were literate compared to "Barbarian" oral societies; because all our sources are from them.
So if one area has textual sources, people assume the idea came from there and those without texts received the knowledge from superior literate people.
NB: Lack of evidence is NOT evidence of lack.

It's such a gut-reaction for most people, that they simply cannot accept that it could be the other way around. But it seems the chariot was invented around the base of the Ural mountains deep in Russia by Indo-Iranian steppe nomads in 2000 BC and then the idea arrived to the Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Egyptians. Chariot building was a vastly superior technical skill level compared to normal wagons, so at first these civilizations had to bring in "barbarian" mercenaries at first, before they themselves learned how to do it.

The truth might rather be a constant back-and-forth influence between Indo-European people that fundamentally still shared basic cultural elements (until Christianity which introduced some fundamentally different values) and ideas flowed between celts, germans, nomadic iranians, romans, greeks etc.

Germanic people were also perfectly able to invent things themselves (the viking age showed in many respects technical superiority to most people around the world especially in shipbuilding and that was entirely domestic and created in an oral society).

So knighthood: A shared gradual developing idea between germanic and iranian speaking cavalry mercenaries working in the Roman world, but also both working for the Huns as well. [You had for instance Goths and Alans in both camps].

Attila's name is in fact Gothic and means "Little Father":
Atta + -ila, where -ila is a diminutive ending. This ending can also be seen in the name Wulfila (Wulf + -ila = Little Wolf) - he was the guy that created the Gothic translation of the Bible.
The Gothic warriors around Attila could very well have been dominant as this became his name among his followers and the name known by the Romans.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2016 5:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

It seems that in the late viking age, that the traditional germanic "Comitatus" system (as the Romans called it) was changing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comitatus_(classical_meaning)
In former times (described first by Tacitus 98 AD) the Jarl or King would be the leader of a warband - so the best among equals. These retainers were probably young aristocrats or an occasional free-men adventurer, that lived with their Jarl and King and thus feasted with him in halls and constantly travelled around with him. Wives of these warband-members very rarely ever saw their husbands as they were always with their leader.
It was all based on a reciprocal gift exchange. The King was to be lavish in his gifts to his men and thus always seem poor (or he would be branded as a miser and causing all his men to leave him) and in return they would fight for him in battle.
It is important to note that the warband was NOT paid retainers. They would stay so long their leader was a man-of-luck and brought them victory and wealth through gifts and in return their leader would earn undying fame.


This kind of gift didn't includes any type of income such as lands, right? It would not be dishonorable to abandon your former warband for trivial reasons like little generosity, bad luck or maybe some other Jarl / king whom were willing to pay more? Close relatives also used to be part of a warband? The cases you know, how much large were these warbands? 6 warriors, maybe 20 of them?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
In the late viking age it seems that the Kings started to employ actually paid retainers.
Socially that would normally make them servants (a thrall is a servant, not a slave as we understand a slave today being without any rights). "Free men" were free men in the way that they provided for their own subsistence and wasn't dependent on other people. Originally the name for a free man was a Karl.


Payment like coin and/or lands? I always had a bit of difficulty into understanding what exactly retainers were in the medieval period. It has something to do with household troops? They would be soldiers in "full-time" or something alike?

How do the norse called the slaves? The English expression "to be held in thrall" necessarily refer to the slave or servant status?

Based on this principle: a Thegn was a free man, but huscarl would be a servant, right? The same is true for jarls? I mean, they were archaic-like versions of counts or vassal lords, in some way ...

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
A Herremand was a super rich person, some were nobles but some weren't; but they had special privileges (not paying tax) and special duties (providing the King with soldiers in war). The Herremand was later in the Middle Ages translated to "Ridder" (cognate with German Ritter - which simply means a "Rider" of horses and for owning a horse you really need to be rich).


We could call "Hus" a longhouse?
Rider in the sense of a knight or just a man wealthy enough to rode a horse during marches, but dismounted to fight? If wasn't something linked to knighthood, was it with man-at-arms?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
The Danish word "Knægt", which is cognate with English Knight, means actually in Danish a boy (= page?, squire?).
The German cognate "Knecht" even more confusingly means servant! [It does fit that a Landsknecht is a mercenary that receives payment as a soldier, and then is in a "service role" -> for a Scandinavian the German Knecht = Thrall).
It just a bit insane and very confusing, that the same word in three related languages (Knægt, Knecht, Knight) comes to mean Boy; (Adult) Servant and "Noble Warrior".


Interesting linguistic variety, but in Medieval Germany the Chevalier / knight would be called "Ritter" instead of "Knecht". But I'm not so familiar with the term in the Nordic society (although I'm sure that there was knighthood there, but do not know how popular it was or what was the term they used for this back them)


Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
The old Scandinavian noble title Jarl was by the way translated to Latin Dux (Duke).


A duke? I did not know, I thought it would be a Count, as "Earl" was the english equivalent of the term (and people often interpreted english "earls" as counts). But if Jarls is Duke, then there wasn't any higher titles than Jarl in Medieval Scandinavia (excluding the king, of course)? What would be the duchy of Holstein them?

Quote:
So would young "Huskarls" (poorer free men) flock to Canute the Greats court in England and work for him winning enough glory to receive gift or payment of land back home in Denmark and Norway and so vastly increase in social standing!!


but if they were poorer men, how could they had hauberks and good swords, as we see in references such as the Tapestry of Bayeux? The Jarl / king to give or they previously would have it by their own?

Quote:
Danish warhorses were famous and apparently regarded as among the best warhorses in the crusading period together with Spanish warhorses (Danish ones bigger, but Spanish faster and more nimble). You had a big Danish horse export down into Europe. Sjælland was especially a horse breeding area for big warhorses especially when you started to remove the thick forests in North-Sjælland, and these were beginning to be cut down fast during the high middle age's population boom.


It looks like I learned wrong, then. I had read on a website that the danish horses were strong but smaller (technically adapted to the uneven terrain of Scandinavia), and had a local popularity among Germans.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Apr, 2016 8:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

It seems that in the late viking age, that the traditional germanic "Comitatus" system (as the Romans called it) was changing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comitatus_(classical_meaning)
In former times (described first by Tacitus 98 AD) the Jarl or King would be the leader of a warband - so the best among equals. These retainers were probably young aristocrats or an occasional free-men adventurer, that lived with their Jarl and King and thus feasted with him in halls and constantly travelled around with him. Wives of these warband-members very rarely ever saw their husbands as they were always with their leader.
It was all based on a reciprocal gift exchange. The King was to be lavish in his gifts to his men and thus always seem poor (or he would be branded as a miser and causing all his men to leave him) and in return they would fight for him in battle.
It is important to note that the warband was NOT paid retainers. They would stay so long their leader was a man-of-luck and brought them victory and wealth through gifts and in return their leader would earn undying fame.


This kind of gift didn't includes any type of income such as lands, right? It would not be dishonorable to abandon your former warband for trivial reasons like little generosity, bad luck or maybe some other Jarl / king whom were willing to pay more? Close relatives also used to be part of a warband? The cases you know, how much large were these warbands? 6 warriors, maybe 20 of them?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
In the late viking age it seems that the Kings started to employ actually paid retainers.
Socially that would normally make them servants (a thrall is a servant, not a slave as we understand a slave today being without any rights). "Free men" were free men in the way that they provided for their own subsistence and wasn't dependent on other people. Originally the name for a free man was a Karl.


Payment like coin and/or lands? I always had a bit of difficulty into understanding what exactly retainers were in the medieval period. It has something to do with household troops? They would be soldiers in "full-time" or something alike?

How do the norse called the slaves? The English expression "to be held in thrall" necessarily refer to the slave or servant status?

Based on this principle: a Thegn was a free man, but huscarl would be a servant, right? The same is true for jarls? I mean, they were archaic-like versions of counts or vassal lords, in some way ...

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
A Herremand was a super rich person, some were nobles but some weren't; but they had special privileges (not paying tax) and special duties (providing the King with soldiers in war). The Herremand was later in the Middle Ages translated to "Ridder" (cognate with German Ritter - which simply means a "Rider" of horses and for owning a horse you really need to be rich).


We could call "Hus" a longhouse?
Rider in the sense of a knight or just a man wealthy enough to rode a horse during marches, but dismounted to fight? If wasn't something linked to knighthood, was it with man-at-arms?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
The Danish word "Knægt", which is cognate with English Knight, means actually in Danish a boy (= page?, squire?).
The German cognate "Knecht" even more confusingly means servant! [It does fit that a Landsknecht is a mercenary that receives payment as a soldier, and then is in a "service role" -> for a Scandinavian the German Knecht = Thrall).
It just a bit insane and very confusing, that the same word in three related languages (Knægt, Knecht, Knight) comes to mean Boy; (Adult) Servant and "Noble Warrior".


Interesting linguistic variety, but in Medieval Germany the Chevalier / knight would be called "Ritter" instead of "Knecht". But I'm not so familiar with the term in the Nordic society (although I'm sure that there was knighthood there, but do not know how popular it was or what was the term they used for this back them)


Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
The old Scandinavian noble title Jarl was by the way translated to Latin Dux (Duke).


A duke? I did not know, I thought it would be a Count, as "Earl" was the english equivalent of the term (and people often interpreted english "earls" as counts). But if Jarls is Duke, then there wasn't any higher titles than Jarl in Medieval Scandinavia (excluding the king, of course)? What would be the duchy of Holstein them?

Quote:
So would young "Huskarls" (poorer free men) flock to Canute the Greats court in England and work for him winning enough glory to receive gift or payment of land back home in Denmark and Norway and so vastly increase in social standing!!


but if they were poorer men, how could they had hauberks and good swords, as we see in references such as the Tapestry of Bayeux? The Jarl / king to give or they previously would have it by their own?

Quote:
Danish warhorses were famous and apparently regarded as among the best warhorses in the crusading period together with Spanish warhorses (Danish ones bigger, but Spanish faster and more nimble). You had a big Danish horse export down into Europe. Sjælland was especially a horse breeding area for big warhorses especially when you started to remove the thick forests in North-Sjælland, and these were beginning to be cut down fast during the high middle age's population boom.


It looks like I learned wrong, then. I had read on a website that the danish horses were strong but smaller (technically adapted to the uneven terrain of Scandinavia), and had a local popularity among Germans.


The Germanic "Comitatus" doesn't seem to be a lifelong occupation under one leader.
Each member of the warband could leave the leader of he was unsatisfied with the number of gifts received or just wanting to serve under an even more famous leader.
There is some indication that the "comitatus" was negotiated once every year (perhaps New Year) and so the oath of protecting the leader only ran until the next negotiation.
That is why if a leader got a reputation of being a miser he would very soon find himself without any men. A leader known for generosity would have warriors flocking to him.
But to have gifts to give you had to have booty. The more popular a leader, the more booty he had to acquire to make his retainers satisfied with gifts. So a leader had to be aggressive against competition and to win fame with victories.
One could say that among these comitatus leaders warfare was a lifestyle. Burning of an enemy's hall a symbol of victory.

The men around Hrolf Krake are VERY unusual in that they fight to the death for their leader AFTER he is slain on the battlefield (as Bøddvar Bjarke and Hjalte do). The reason is that Hrolf Krake was the perfect leader and to abandon him you would always have to settle for second-best. More normally a battle would end immediately with the leader's death. Nothing more to fight over and you could begin re-negotations with the "comitatus" survivors - especially those who had fought heroically you would want into your comitatus, thus boosting your fighting strength when confronting the next challenge.
So the Swedish King naturally think he can negotiate and get the last survivor of Hrolf Krake's men (Vøgg) to be one of his men. Vøgg then kills the Swedish King during the oath taking ritual (again highly unusual), with the important statement that no one could replace Hrolf Krake.

So the number of men in your warband depended on your ability to provide them with gifts, so it would fluctuate.
Attila would have had A LOT!! Then Roman diplomat Priscus describes Attila is being dressed quite drably, whereas his men just shins with costly armour and weapons. Attila plays the role of a generous (thus poor) Germanic comitatus leader, who gives all he has, to makes him men dazzle in wealth. So his men are probably mostly goths (and likely also Alans and Scandinavians?) and he is known as their "little father" in gothic.

But even warriors grow old, so some kind of retirement plan had to exist:
As warriors they own only the clothes they stand in and the weapons and armour they wear (they were always with their King and he provided everything for them as gifts). The leader could after conquest of a territory (or be declared King at the "Ting") reward his men with land, which would increase their status - perhaps to "Herremænd" if the land-gift was big enough. The King would then have a loyal group of lesser nobility to run the local territory where they were placed.
Few leaders would achieve a position where they could give land to their men and so those men who managed to get a retirement of Land are mentioned on Rune-stones (it was a something of note).

So in the late viking age early/ middle age period (?) you see the change from the comitatus system into paid retainers and even later into hired mercenaries soldiers (like Landsknechts).
Danish King Niels (1104-1134) was apparently the last Danish King that had a "Hird" constantly traveling with him, but he had cut it down to quite few men and instead placed most of them as administrators for tax collection around his Kingdom. When he was attacked in Slesvig, he thus had way to few men around him and was killed. Yet later Kings continued his system and the "hird" ended being abolished and you get administration instead to increase tax-wealth for the King.
That is a dramatic shift from the old Germanic viewpoint, where a good King should be poor because of generosity!

Again it is important to state that Thralls are not slaves, but servants.
Thralls have their own money and when they have earned enough money from work, they can buy their freedom and become Freed Men (between Thralls and Free Men in the social ranking). So a thrall is simply a "wage worker" and thus doing service to a free man a jarl or a king. The King had paid men, that took care of his great farms around the country. These "Bryti" are what you could call seneschals and they are socially Thralls as they do not own the great farm they run, but is doing service for the king. Still these Bryti could probably end up earning lots of money and be very rich.
Thralls are by definition without kin (not member of a clan) and they neither have any honour as such they are not part of bloodfeuding. They can ignore any insult since they are not forced by honour to take revenge, but if they are killed nobody will start revenging them either. [Killing another man's slave would demand a monetary settlement or you could retaliate by killing some of the offenders thrall's in return].
Children of thralls are also thralls, since they by definition have no kin (no matter if they actually have a big family in the area).

Probably most thralls in Denmark were Danes. They had to work on Danish farms so they needed to know what you do at a Danish farm. Who wants to waste time with a person that doesn't know the work or even speak the language? Who wants to hire a person for a shop today if the person can't even speak the language?

What we mean by "slaves" in a modern sense (having no rights) are probably "prisoners of war", that at least in the Iron Age were sacrificed, so you didn't have any living slaves running around for long [the original roman gladiator games was the same - where prisoners of war were killed].
Here war between people seems to be very different than infighting between comitatus groups. If you had warfare, then the enemy was sacrificed after the battle (as the surviving romans were after losing to the Germans in 9 AD).

We know that vikings in Ireland probably bought "slaves" in Ireland and them sailed them to England/Wales and sold them and vice versa or selling Leinster captives to Ulster men etc. But keeping slaves alive is really a Christian thing and so a marked that could be exploited for financial gain.

A viking longhouse is a "salr" in Old Norse (Danish sal) and is much bigger than a "hus". The anglo-saxon word heall (hall) is probably loaned to Scandinavia during the Danelaw period, so in modern Danish "Sal" is a hall you find in fine homes and castles and a "hal" is where you do sport. Laughing Out Loud

In Scandinavia the Jarls was the highest social group and Kings were elected at Ting-places among these families that often traced their families back to aesir, vanir or jötnar (giants). The Scandinavian monarchy was an election monarchy (in Denmark election monarchy first ended in 1660). Jarls, Herremænd and Free-men could vote, but of course it was a vote by showing martial strength. The winner was the loudest banging of shield among the people present of the Ting (= greatest number of supporting soldiers present). As Denmark has 4 different Lands-Ting you could in theory have 4 different King elected in Denmark forcing them to share (or actually as everyone could guess fight for being last man standing).

So Jarls are Dukes in Scandinavia; but the (Danish, Anglish and Saxon) Earls in England are probably "degraded" by the Normans to Count status, so to have the Dux titles in Norman hands).
The German title "Graf" will later be introduced in Denmark as "Greve" (around 1300?) and that is comparable as "Count".
So you had a Dux of Sønderjylland (Slesvig/Holsten) and the first one with the official latin title Dux of that territory is Knud Lavard in 1115, the father of later King Valdemar I the Great.

About people starting poor. You had to work yourself up slowly in the comitatus system. You started as a teenager sitting at the bench most distantly away from the leader, probably being constantly mocked and bullied (think of Sumo stables with their traditions). Then you could slowly work your way forward by showing bravery in battle and thus receiving gifts (armour and weapons) and get better and better seated.
Every dinner the seating must have been an intense event. If you slided down the benches and away from the leader it was a huge blow to your honour - the "upstart" that moved past you should maybe be taught a final lesson with a dual?!
Or you could work yourself up the ranking to calling for a dual with higher seated people if you dared!

Hjalte starts with absolutely nothing (being a fearful boy named "Hat" that Bødvar Bjarke has to carry to his initiation because he is petrified in fear). After his initiation Hrolf Krake gives him a magnificent sword called Guldhjalte (he is the perfect generous King after all) and Hat changes his name to Hjalte after the gift from the King [Guld-hjalte = Gold-hilt] and he ends up being the second most important hero around Hrolf Krake after Bødvar Bjarke.

Danish horses seems to have been smaller during the Iron ages and viking ages, but from the latest viking age & middle ages selective horse breeding to make "warhorses" was going on. Danish terrain is mostly flat after all and well suited for cavalry action. The Normans were mostly Danish vikings that settled in Normandy who were also got famous for their cavalry. The vikings has even made special contraption on their ships that could transport horses over sea (from Denmark to England or Normandy to England) and avoiding the horses getting to seasick (which is a big problem if you want to make an amphibious landing as a seasick horse will be out of action for quite a long time). In the Viking Age it seems that Scandinavian elites were mostly mobile infantry - you rode on horses to manoeuvre fast and for scouting, but generally dismounted in battle. Rest of the army would be "normal" infantry.
Warhorses were not big as we understand big horses today, but very stocky and powerful. You had to get mount them fast in full armour if need be, so they shouldn't be to "high". At least by 1134 AD (Battle of Fotevik) you have classic medieval armoured cavalry in Denmark (likely the bulk was hired Germans).
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Apr, 2016 4:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
The Saxon kings, under normal conditions (such as a seasonal raid or a small land conquest) usually preferred small, but professional armies (composed almost entirely of his full-time household's warriors) or preferred larger ones, with his thegns or even unfree serfs in it?


Neither. The whole point of having multiple levels of mobilisation was to be able to tailor one's responses to the incoming threat.


Quote:
By the way, if I recall, the thegn's equipment used to be very basic: helmet, shield and spear (not sure if swords came to be common). If this is the case, what kind of equipment the more generic and poorer levy had? Slings, clubs and hunting bows with no shield at all?


The part of the "poorer levy" that was likely to get called up to war at all probably had roughly the same standard of equipment as the poorest thanes, so nothing less than spear, shield, and helmet. Anyone who couldn't afford that basic equipment simply wasn't regarded as an effective warrior and was rarely (if ever) called up. So why did such people still have the theoretical obligation to serve if called? We don't know. Maybe because that legal obligation symbolically affirmed the king's authority over them, even though there was no realistic expectation that they would ever be called up (since they'd just add logistical burden without meaningfully increasing the army's fighting power).

If you don't have time time (or patience) to trawl through the primary sources yourself, Regia Anglorum has a much better-written and historically accountable overview than most other sources available on the Web:

http://regia.org/research/warfare/saxons2.htm
http://regia.org/research/warfare/fyrd1.htm
http://regia.org/research/warfare/fyrd2.htm


Quote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Quote:
There was some military elite in the anglo-saxon society that has not been born from Scandinavian influence? If I'm not mistaken, the Huscarls came to England with Canute the Great ...


Zero Scandinavian influence is very unlikely. Anglo-Saxon England already had extensive contacts with Scandinavia even before the age of Viking raids.


I didn't knew that great Britain, technically isolated from the rest of the world (and almost of Rome itself) had contact with the Scandinavians.


Britain was not technically isolated. Trading and warfare with the mainland continued throughout the post-Roman period, although the focus of interactions gradually shifted from France and Flanders to Scandinavia (before swinging back to France with the Roman invasion). The arrival of the Vikings was nothing new -- what was new was the violence of ferocity of their raids, which shocked Britons who were used to seeing Scandinavian immigrants and visitors as relatively peaceful traders (and it's worth noting that peaceful trade with Scandinavia continued in-between Viking raids).

And of course, don't forget that the Angles and Jutes of the Anglo-Saxon invasion came from Scandinavia too.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Apr, 2016 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

The arrival of the Vikings was nothing new -- what was new was the violence of ferocity of their raids, which shocked Britons who were used to seeing Scandinavian immigrants and visitors as relatively peaceful traders (and it's worth noting that peaceful trade with Scandinavia continued in-between Viking raids).


I'm actually amazed with the restraint showed by pagans that the first recorded attack on a church/monastery first happened in 793 AD after 200-300 years or so of Christians destroying pagan temples and pagan groves (lots of examples in Anglo-Saxon England as well).

Charlemagne started an incredible brutal conquest and force conversion of the Saxons (772-804 AD), including a massacre of 4500 saxons at Verden in 782 AD and the burning of Irminsul in 772 AD the most holy pagan place for the Saxons with their world pillar.
Later followed by an "ethnic cleansing" by force-removing lots of Saxons away from their lands to other parts of the empire.
Then you had some Saxon's fleeing to refuge in Denmark. With both pagan North Frisia and pagan Old Saxony conquered, Charlemagne then turned his eye on pagan Denmark.

No wonder a (rogue?) group of Saxons+Danes(+Frisians?) might have finally thought that after they burn our holy places and slaughter our people, that it was time for a payback?
Danish King Godfred certainly campaigned against the Franks and conquered North Frisia in 810 with 200 ships, but was then assassinated. This is warfare between the Danish King and the Emperor and on a whole other scale than the rogue? viking raid on Lindisfarne. We will probably never know if the raid was sanctioned by the Danish King or just some independent raiders.

I mean how surprising is it really that when you burn other people's pagan holy places for hundreds of years, you might eventually get some kind of retaliation?
I find it remarkable that it took that long before it actually happened, but the catalyst must be Charlemagne's conduct against the Saxons, that took on an uncompromising fanatic strain not seen in the North before (according to Augustin of Canterbury, died 604 AD, missionaries should gradually change people from pagans to good Christians).

NB: Irmin is actually cognate with Old Norse Jörmun (or Jǫrmun).
Both Saxon "sul" and Old Norse "gandr" means "pole/staff".
So Jörmun-gandr and Irmin-sul means the Mighty/Great+Pole/Staff.
Jörmungandr is another name for the Midgard Serpent in Norse religion.

So probably according to Saxon religion this "pole" kept all of the cosmos bound together (and tied the Midgard Serpent, so it would NOT come lose?). When the holy place was destroyed by Christians, maybe the whole cosmos would be "unbound" and something like Ragnarökr would begin?
Christians would then really have started the "end of the world" according to Saxon belief. Christians looked positively forward to the "end of days", whereas pagan people and their gods did everything they could to prevent it as long as possible.
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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Apr, 2016 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's an interesting hypothesis.

However, I think it supposes that both Christians and Pagans are significantly more unified than we have evidence for.

Charlemagne is a Frankish king, persecuting the Saxons in northern continental Europe.

Lindisfarne, meanwhile, is on the Northumbrian coast (and this is before Anglo-Saxon England has unified, so it's at least two or three major kingdoms away from the Franks). The most likely source of raiders here is Norway, based on the later patterns of invasion.

So there is a major geographic and political separation between both the raiders and the persecuted saxons, and the monks and the Frankish oppressors.

Distinctly more evidence would need to be produced to suggest a direct connection between these sorts of events. As it stands there's not even anything to suggest that the Pagan world was unified in a way that would make that sort of collective response possible at this point (and, to be fair, neither is the Christian part of northwestern Europe).

To my mind, the ideas which focus on population growth and land shortage as the main driving force for the western Viking activity are much more plausible. In particular, this fits nicely with the multiple waves of colonisation, along with the later shift to a larger scale campaign of invasion and conquest, as well as explaining smaller raids for booty such as Lindisfarne.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Apr, 2016 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
It's an interesting hypothesis.

However, I think it supposes that both Christians and Pagans are significantly more unified than we have evidence for.

Charlemagne is a Frankish king, persecuting the Saxons in northern continental Europe.

Lindisfarne, meanwhile, is on the Northumbrian coast (and this is before Anglo-Saxon England has unified, so it's at least two or three major kingdoms away from the Franks). The most likely source of raiders here is Norway, based on the later patterns of invasion.

So there is a major geographic and political separation between both the raiders and the persecuted saxons, and the monks and the Frankish oppressors.

Distinctly more evidence would need to be produced to suggest a direct connection between these sorts of events. As it stands there's not even anything to suggest that the Pagan world was unified in a way that would make that sort of collective response possible at this point (and, to be fair, neither is the Christian part of northwestern Europe).

To my mind, the ideas which focus on population growth and land shortage as the main driving force for the western Viking activity are much more plausible. In particular, this fits nicely with the multiple waves of colonisation, along with the later shift to a larger scale campaign of invasion and conquest, as well as explaining smaller raids for booty such as Lindisfarne.


The distance to Lindisfarne is as close to Jutland Denmark as most of South-Western Norway if you see a map.
Angles and Jutes settled "England" from Jutland in the 400-500 AD, so it absolutely no problem to sail from Denmark to Lindisfarne.
Sailing at 10 knots pr. hour (18,5 km/h) is average for viking ships and speed is around 15 knots (28 km/h) when the wind is good.
Distance from the west coast at mid-Jutland is around 620-630 km (from Stavanger in Norway to Lindisfarne is 582 km so very little difference).
So it takes 34 hours to sail the distance with average winds and 22,5 hours in good winds from mid-west Jutland.
That is not even a challenge, but something you do as routine and something merchants did back and forth constantly.
Viking ships are not slow cumbersome ships. Even with no wind you can row and rowing with wind it increases speed even more.

I'm not suggesting that the pagan world was unified in any way, but when saxon refugees fled to Denmark and at this time Denmark was unified under very strong Kings, the Danish King could wield considerable power (200 ships attacking and "liberating" North Frisia from the Franks in 810).
The increasing pressure on the Danes and the Danish King and with Saxons nobles likely as warriors talking about this massacre might have let to an overall Danish strategy of harassing its enemies to take pressure off at the land border (the so called Danish "Mark"). I don't think any pagan King outside the Danish King's influence participated.

As for "proof" the source closest to the event actually doesn't say the Viking attackers killed anyone!
What is important to note is that Alcuin worked at the court of Charlemagne (arriving in 782 AD and remained there in the 780's and 790's), so a leading Anglo-Saxon Christian was very much involved when Charlemagne was eradicating the Saxons.

If you read Alcuin's letter to Bishop Higbald from 793 AD and the whole community of Lindisfarne, they are still there!
Source: https://classesv2.yale.edu/access/content/user/haw6/Vikings/higbald.html

So what did the attackers do?
"since the pagans have desecrated God's sanctuary, shed the blood of saints around the altar, laid waste the house of our hope and trampled the bodies of the saints like dung in the street"
So a very deliberate destruction of what was religiously important for the Christians....hmmm interesting.
If this was raiding for financial gain, they would steal it and sail to other places to sell the items, not destroy it.
It's blood of saints and bodies of saints (not blood or bodies of living people - otherwise they would have been stated as martyrs) being shed and trampled.

Then later: "When our lord King Charles returns from defeating his enemies, by God's mercy, I plan to go to him, and if I can then do anything for you about the boys who have been carried off by the pagans as prisoners or about any other of your needs, I shall make every effort to see that it is done".

Oh so your Lord - Alcuin AND the community of Lindisfarne - is Charlemagne! hmmmm interesting and you also plan to go to him (returning to his court).
Charlemagne is also busy defeating his enemies (Saxons). So if Denmark and the Franks are at war Lindisfarne is a totally legitimate target. If the attackers were Saxon noble refugees using Denmark as a base, even more so.

So the attackers took some boys as prisoners of war. Could be for many reason - hostages in negotiations of releasing own captured people (which there must be many captured by the Franks), hostages for ransom or for selling as slaves at a slave marked somewhere else?

Nothing stated explicitly about anyone actually being killed - though later text and people today seems to have this idea, that it was a total slaughter of the entire community.
What can Alcuin say other that next time behave differently:
"You who survive, stand like men, fight bravely and defend the camp of God. Remember how Judas Maccabaeus cleansed the Temple and freed the people from a foreign yoke. If anything needs correction in your way of gentleness, correct it quickly."

This can be interpreted differently, but it does seem that stand your ground (stand like men, fight bravely) and don't run meekly away, but "defend the camp of God" in martial ways.
Act as Judas Maccabaeus is basically what is says (and he was a Jewish rebellious war-leader against the Seleucids).
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Apr, 2016 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
The men around Hrolf Krake are VERY unusual in that they fight to the death for their leader AFTER he is slain on the battlefield (as Bøddvar Bjarke and Hjalte do). The reason is that Hrolf Krake was the perfect leader and to abandon him you would always have to settle for second-best. More normally a battle would end immediately with the leader's death. Nothing more to fight over and you could begin re-negotations with the "comitatus" survivors - especially those who had fought heroically you would want into your comitatus, thus boosting your fighting strength when confronting the next challenge.
So the Swedish King naturally think he can negotiate and get the last survivor of Hrolf Krake's men (Vøgg) to be one of his men. Vøgg then kills the Swedish King during the oath taking ritual (again highly unusual), with the important statement that no one could replace Hrolf Krake.


All that you showed me appear to be the result of literary fiction. Is this the case or it really happened?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
As warriors they own only the clothes they stand in and the weapons and armour they wear (they were always with their King and he provided everything for them as gifts). The leader could after conquest of a territory (or be declared King at the "Ting") reward his men with land, which would increase their status - perhaps to "Herremænd" if the land-gift was big enough. The King would then have a loyal group of lesser nobility to run the local territory where they were placed.
Few leaders would achieve a position where they could give land to their men and so those men who managed to get a retirement of Land are mentioned on Rune-stones (it was a something of note).


So we could assume that a land nobleman would usually be richer than a warband warrior? (Maybe it was too obvious, but just noticed it now)

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
What we mean by "slaves" in a modern sense (having no rights) are probably "prisoners of war", that at least in the Iron Age were sacrificed, so you didn't have any living slaves running around for long [the original roman gladiator games was the same - where prisoners of war were killed].


Really? Because I had read a NatGeo's text that explored a very cruel side of what could be called "slavery" in the Viking Age:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/15...chaeology/

Quote:
In Scandinavia the Jarls was the highest social group and Kings were elected at Ting-places among these families that often traced their families back to aesir, vanir or jötnar (giants). The Scandinavian monarchy was an election monarchy (in Denmark election monarchy first ended in 1660). Jarls, Herremænd and Free-men could vote, but of course it was a vote by showing martial strength. The winner was the loudest banging of shield among the people present of the Ting (= greatest number of supporting soldiers present). As Denmark has 4 different Lands-Ting you could in theory have 4 different King elected in Denmark forcing them to share (or actually as everyone could guess fight for being last man standing).


I do not know if I trully understand what you said: there would be a great battle between voters of opposite parties and whoever won would elect their candidate? It seems a great blood bath for a royal election.


Quote:
So Jarls are Dukes in Scandinavia; but the (Danish, Anglish and Saxon) Earls in England are probably "degraded" by the Normans to Count status, so to have the Dux titles in Norman hands).


It is an observation that makes sense. But if Jarls were the dukes, there would be something like a Count, like the german "graf"? Or title only came to be imported from around 1300, as you mentioned?

By the way, as you seem to dominate the military history of Scandinavia more than the others, you may be able to do much in this discussion, since scandinavia has a very important role in the use and popularization of this type of armor:
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=33438&highlight=
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Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
The part of the "poorer levy" that was likely to get called up to war at all probably had roughly the same standard of equipment as the poorest thanes, so nothing less than spear, shield, and helmet. Anyone who couldn't afford that basic equipment simply wasn't regarded as an effective warrior and was rarely (if ever) called up.


But the Anglo-Saxons (and probably the Nordic too), didn't had archers between their armies? I suspect that they would be the poorest, armed with a bow, a bunch of arrows and a knife. Warriors like these don't need shield and helmet, as they would do mostly skirmishing.

Quote:
If you don't have time time (or patience) to trawl through the primary sources yourself, Regia Anglorum has a much better-written and historically accountable overview than most other sources available on the Web:

http://regia.org/research/warfare/saxons2.htm
http://regia.org/research/warfare/fyrd1.htm
http://regia.org/research/warfare/fyrd2.htm


Thank you, will help me a lot
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