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Håvard Kongsrud




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2016 3:24 pm    Post subject: Interpreting Norse arms in Giraldus' Conquest of Ireland         Reply with quote

Hi. I'm in need of some help with Gerard of Wales' description of Norwegians and men of [Norwegian controlled] northern isles attacking Dublin in 1171 armed in the Danish fashion. I know the question has been raised before, but I need help to untangle the interpretations.

Not having my hand on Scott & Martin's 1978-translation from Latin, I'm starting with Forester's from 1905. I'm not sure if it is based on the National Library of Ireland, MS 700 or other extant manuscripts.

Quote:
chapter XXI: "[...] sailed into the Liffy with sixty ships full of Norwegians and men of the isles [...] Landing from their ships, in all haste, they sat down before the east gate of the city, prepared to assault it. [...] and were all warriors, armed in the Danish fashion, some having long breastplates, and other shirts of mail; their shields were round, and coloured red, and were bound about with iron. They were iron-hearted as well as iron-armed men."


The text is slightly different in Furniwall's Middle English edition based on the early 15th century MS. Trin. Coll., Dublin, E. 2. 31:

Quote:
chapter XIX: "come wyt men of northwey & of þe north ylondes, with ful grett folk, yn furty grett shyppes, [...] Thay wenten out of har̛ shyppes, men well I-wepned, sum with longe swerdes, some with Iren pletes & round sheldes well I-bound about with Iren, swerdes & speres & axys ynowe, & comen̛ well ordeynly for̛ to assaylle the toun on the eest half. "


and in the early 15th century MS. Rawl. B. 490, Bodl. Libr.:
Quote:
Chapter XIX "[...] come wyth men of North-Wey and of the North ylondys, wyth many pepil, in fourty grete shippys, and londyd in the hauyn of Amlyffy, [...]] Thay wentyn out of har shippis, men wel wepenyd, Some with longe Swerdys, Some with Iryñ Platys and roune sheldys, wel bound aboute with Iryñ, Swerdys and Speres and axes ynow, and comyn wel ordeynly forto assayle the toun on the Eeste halue."


Blair (1959: 37) interpret this as the first reference to plate armour, laminis ferreis arte consutis, i.e. lamellar, scale or some kind of coat of plates, with Dan Howard leaning towards scale. Direct translation is "iron plates skillfully sewn together", or more genrally "artfully made plates of iron". The distinction is lost in the two Middle English versions, citing only iren plates.

More interesting for my part, but less discussed, is the reference to round shields bound about with iron. How common is the reference to their colour red in the latin manuscripts?

And why on earth does not Forester have any reference to sword, spear or axe like the Middle English translations?

Are these differences between the Latin and Middle English versions only, or can they be explained by differences between Latin versions themselves?

[Ed: Adding text from the Nat. Lib. of Ireland, MS 700, in 1832 said to be from "a very fine MS, of the time of John, in the possesion of Sir Thomas Phillipps." See also the 1603 edition.
Quote:
"[...] cum Norwagiensibus & Insulanis iu sexaginta naubius vrbem expugnaturus, Auenliphense littus obtinuit. A nauibus igitur certatim erumpentes, [...] viri belhcosi Danico more, vndique ferro vestiti, alii loricis longis, alii laminis ferreis arte consutis, clypeis quoque rotundis et rubris, cirvulariter ferro munitis, homines tam animis ferrei quàm armis, ordinatis turmis, ad portam orientalem muros invadunt."


Last edited by Håvard Kongsrud on Fri 04 Nov, 2016 12:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 8:56 am    Post subject: Re: Interpreting Norse arms in Giraldus' Conquest of Ireland         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
Hi. I'm in need of some help with Gerard of Wales' description of Norwegians and men of [Norwegian controlled] northern isles attacking Dublin in 1171 armed in the Danish fashion. I know the question has been raised before, but I need help to untangle the interpretations.

Not having my hand on Scott & Martin's 1978-translation from Latin, I'm starting with Forester's from 1905. I'm not sure if it is based on the National Library of Ireland, MS 700 or other extant manuscripts.

Quote:
chapter XXI: "[...] sailed into the Liffy with sixty ships full of Norwegians and men of the isles [...] Landing from their ships, in all haste, they sat down before the east gate of the city, prepared to assault it. [...] and were all warriors, armed in the Danish fashion, some having long breastplates, and other shirts of mail; their shields were round, and coloured red, and were bound about with iron. They were iron-hearted as well as iron-armed men."


The text is slightly different in Furniwall's Middle English edition based on MS. Trin. Coll., Dublin, E. 2. 31:

Quote:
chapter XIX: "come wyt men of northwey & of þe north ylondes, with ful grett folk, yn furty grett shyppes, [...] Thay wenten out of har̛ shyppes, men well I-wepned, sum with longe swerdes, some with Iren pletes & round sheldes well I-bound about with Iren, swerdes & speres & axys ynowe, & comen̛ well ordeynly for̛ to assaylle the toun on the eest half. "


and in the early 15th century MS. Rawl. B. 490, Bodl. Libr.:
Quote:
Chapter XIX "[...] come wyth men of North-Wey and of the North ylondys, wyth many pepil, in fourty grete shippys, and londyd in the hauyn of Amlyffy, [...]] Thay wentyn out of har shippis, men wel wepenyd, Some with longe Swerdys, Some with Iryñ Platys and roune sheldys, wel bound aboute with Iryñ, Swerdys and Speres and axes ynow, and comyn wel ordeynly forto assayle the toun on the Eeste halue."


Blair (1959: 37) interpret this as the first reference to plate armour, laminis ferreis arte consutis, i.e. lamellar, scale or some kind of coat of plates, with Dan Howard leaning towards scale. Direct translation is "iron plates skillfully sewn together", or more genrally "artfully made plates of iron". The distinction is lost in the two Middle English versions, citing only iren plates.

More interesting for my part, but less discussed, is the reference to round shields bound about with iron. How common is the reference to their colour red in the latin manuscripts?

And why on earth does not Forester have any reference to sword, spear or axe like the Middle English translations?

Are these differences between the Latin and Middle English versions only, or can they be explained by differences between Latin versions themselves?

[Ed: Adding text from the Nat. Lib. of Ireland, MS 700, in 1832 said to be from "a very fine MS, of the time of John, in the possesion of Sir Thomas Phillipps." See also the 1603 edition.
Quote:
"[...] cum Norwagiensibus & Insulanis iu sexaginta naubius vrbem expugnaturus, Auenliphense littus obtinuit. A nauibus igitur certatim erumpentes, [...] viri belhcosi Danico more, vndique ferro vestiti, alii loricis longis, alii laminis ferreis arte consutis, clypeis quoque rotundis et rubris, cirvulariter ferro munitis, homines tam animis ferrei quàm armis, ordinatis turmis, ad portam orientalem muros invadunt."


I'm not in any way qualified to say whether lamellar or scale armour is meant (or even some early type of plate mail?), since it would take a great work of comparison with other texts with more detailed descriptions.

About the Forester translation perhaps the translation was meant to be "artistic" first and only not a truly literal translation (you often see that in older translations), so the swords, axes and spears was omitted.

What is really interesting is that the Norwegians are armed in the Danish fashion (in the Forester translation).
We know from the law codes that Scandinavian warrior would have these three weapons (spear, axe and sword) with 100% certainty. As the text say that the Norwegians body armour varies it can't be that either, and the shields are still round and red.

The oldest preserved leding laws are from Norway, whereas the oldest Danish are Skånske and Jydske Lov both from the first half of the 1200's.
So what is different from the earlier Norwegians to the Danes in 1170.

So unless the chronicler have only seen Danish vikings and thus had to comment that Norwegian vikings look the same; I have to take the remark as indicating that the Norwegians have changed something, that makes them more like Danes.

I see really only two things - with the first most likely in my opinion:
1) Use of the kettlehat instead of the traditional helmet? Kettlehat is specified for each Danish soldier as a requirement in early 1200's!
2) Use of crossbows instead of longbows? It is only the styrisman of each ship that has to be armed with a crossbow from the Danish laws in the early 1200 (whereas later laws in Sweden says all men), so 60 ships would give 60 crossbowmen. Perhaps to few to be the source of a comment on how the Norwegians were armed?

The change of helmet to a "Danish one" would certainly be noticeable, so that would be my guess.
So is it possible that Norwegians changed to kettlehats before 1171?
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 10:29 am    Post subject: Re: Interpreting Norse arms in Giraldus' Conquest of Ireland         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

What is really interesting is that the Norwegians are armed in the Danish fashion (in the Forester translation)...

So unless the chronicler have only seen Danish vikings and thus had to comment that Norwegian vikings look the same; I have to take the remark as indicating that the Norwegians have changed something, that makes them more like Danes.

I would suggest that "armed in the Danish fashion" at this time could mostly likely be a reference to the use of two-handed axes, ie. "Dane axes". Two-handed axes are singled out for depiction on the Bayeux tapestry as characteristic Anglo-Saxon weapons, and were in use by earlier Anglo-Danish huscarls and Vikings. They continued to be used by the Norse-Gaels for a long period of time, and would likely be the most memorably distinct feature to Norman observers.

The term "Dane" is used fairly indiscriminately in earlier chronicles (like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) and may not accurately indicate any real ethnic distinction in Viking forces (which could be multi-national anyway). The term might have been retained until Gerald's time as describing something that was viewed as characteristically "Viking"... much like how we still discuss "Viking swords" today.


Last edited by Mark Lewis on Fri 04 Nov, 2016 7:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Håvard Kongsrud




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the input, Niels. The reference to the Danish fashion might just be the Welchman explaining their apearance to a latin speaking world more familiar with Danes. (You'll find more references to Danish arms in Giraldus' other work)

Unfortunately Forester 1905 is not the kind of work to state its sources. It is somewhat funny that the term "long" is present on virtually the same spot in all versions, describing either the mail, a sword or breastplates.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 11:42 am    Post subject: Re: Interpreting Norse arms in Giraldus' Conquest of Ireland         Reply with quote

[quote="Mark Lewis"]
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Håvard Kongsrud wrote:

What is really interesting is that the Norwegians are armed in the Danish fashion (in the Forester translation)...

So unless the chronicler have only seen Danish vikings and thus had to comment that Norwegian vikings look the same; I have to take the remark as indicating that the Norwegians have changed something, that makes them more like Danes.

I would suggest that "armed in the Danish fashion" at this time could mostly likely be a reference to the use of two-handed axes, ie. "Dane axes". Two-handed axes are singled out for depiction on the Bayeux tapestry as characteristic Anglo-Saxon weapons, and were in use by earlier Anglo-Danish huscarls and Vikings. They continued to be used by the Norse-Gaels for a long period of time, and would likely be the most memorably distinct feature to Norman observers.

The term "Dane" is used fairly indiscriminately in earlier chronicles (like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) and may not accurately indicate any real ethnic distinction in Viking forces (which could be multi-national anyway). The term might have been retained until Gerald's time as describing something that was viewed as characteristically "Viking"... much like how we still discuss "Viking swords" today.


Hi Mark
Good guess.

Yet, as far as I know the use of two-handed axes it seems to be mostly a "hird" weapon (especially under Canute the Great) - the comitatus elite around Kings and Earls and not part of a normal leding army. So the number would be fairly restricted on the battlefield like the crossbows in 1200's Danish leding armies.
If the Dane Axe name comes from the use of the "Hird"/huscarls around Canute the Great, it could explain they were "armed like Danes"; but Norwegians would certainly have "Dane axes" way before 1171, so then the remark shouldn't hint to any recent change in Norwegian weaponry.

Also important to state that a viking (as profession) army would often be multi-ethnic, whereas a leding army would be national (in the ethnic sense).
In that regard the "sea-kings" of merchant raiders who became rulers in the west, but weren't originally of "kingly" blood, were real "vikings"; whereas the army of Svend Forkbeard attacking England was a drafted Danish national army for an offensive campaign of war (later in latin expeditio) which was only legal to be called once every 4 years (as we a least see in the later land-laws) and so not at all "viking" as profession, but comprised of free farmers called by duty by the King's call and then going home to farm.

Whether the Norse armies at Dublin are true "viking" volunteer brotherhoods (ship-crew merchant/raiding mafia) or "leding" armies - or both - would be interesting to investigate further.
These "sea-kings" could with time after conquering territory in the west have incorporated the leding system into their holdings; but it is possible that they continued to attract volunteers to join a ship-crew from all over the Northern World and so remain "viking" in profession.
If the army is described as "Danish" it should technically be a leding army if the writer is well informed and consistent; but that its true that for some writers "Danish" and "Viking" could become synonymous as it it still misunderstood in the English world today. Sadly our knowledge to what extent the "Danish" raids in England in the 800-900 AD's are done by free-booting viking attacks (pirate raids), privateers (see below) or military leding campaigns (warfare) is obscure because of the lack of sources.

Later in time English Privateer captains (like Francis Drake) were hired to conduct piracy by the English monarchy against the Spanish.
A system of privateering could have been used by Danish Kings against the Franks and English as part of the warfare strategy. Some of the more successful could have gone solo (Rollo in Normandy?) and established their own holdings no longer controlled by Scandinavian Kings of the "right" bloodlines - but being New Sea Kings paving their way to power through might alone (and acknowledgement by their crews as leader) and so not being elected at a Ting by their people(s) as Scandinavian Kings were.

In the Baltic the Jomsborg viking brotherhood (originally Danish under Thorkell the Tall and with time Danish/Slavic) were originally (somewhat) loyal to the Jelling Dynasty, but later became a viking scourge on the Danish shores. So an example of Danish King's loosing control of likely an original privateering viking group.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Sat 05 Nov, 2016 5:30 am; edited 3 times in total
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
Thanks for the input, Niels. The reference to the Danish fashion might just be the Welchman explaining their apearance to a latin speaking world more familiar with Danes. (You'll find more references to Danish arms in Giraldus' other work)

Unfortunately Forester 1905 is not the kind of work to state its sources. It is somewhat funny that the term "long" is present on virtually the same spot in all versions, describing either the mail, a sword or breastplates.


Hej Håvard.
That could also be a likely explanation & thanks for the link!

The recurring term "long" associated with "Northmen" certainly shows an inferiority complex of the writers Laughing Out Loud - or all the vikings were really very tall with longer weapons compared to the Irish. Both explanations could be true.
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Håvard Kongsrud




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2016 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just missed your post, Mark. Good point about the axe.

This is degenerating into a rant on my part, but here goes. Going back to Furnivall 1896, and his reading of Dimock 1867 gave some answers but a few remain. They identified three editions of the text, the last probably made after Gerhard's death. Copies of the first edition is found in
- Lambeth Palace Library MS 371, 13th century and
- Bodleian, Rawlinson MS B. 188, dated to the first half of 13th century.
- British Library, Royal MS 13 B VIII, dated to c 1196-1223 - is based on the first edititon, with marginal additions constituting the second edition, also found in
- Cambridge University Library, MS Ff I. 27. A third edition of the latin text is probably made after Gerards death. It is shortened quite a bit by omitting rather than by condensing, but with a more "advanced" text:
- British Library, Harley MS 177, no earlier than the second half of the 13th century. It is this third edition that is the closest fit with the Middle English translations cited in my first post, allthough the Middle English version is elaborated somewhat. Furniwall supposed the first translation, now represented by the early 15th century Dublin MS, was made in the 14th century.

To answer a couple of my own questions: 1) Yes, most differences are between latin versions rather than between latin on one hand and Middle Englis hon the other. 2) The description of the Norwegians' shields as round, red and iron bound are from the first edition. While the colour seem to be skipped by the mid 13th century third edition, their round shape and iron bonds are remarked in all editions. 3) The desciption of the iron plates as "skillfully sewn together", is skipped by the mid 13th century, because it is no longer considered special?

But a few remain: 1) I'm still not sure what Forester based his strange 1905 translation on. Could it be the third edition? 2) And I still cannot place the National Library of Ireland, MS 700 among the editions cited above. I guess both answers lie in Scott & Martin's 1978-translation? Here's text from the first (and second) edition as in Royal MS 13 B VIII:
Quote:
"[...] cum Norwagiensibus et insulanis in sexaginta navibus urbem expugnaturus [...] viri bellicosi, Danico more undique ferro vestiti, alii loricis longis, alii laminis ferreis arte consutis, clipeis quoque rotundis et rubris circulariter ferro munitis, homonies tam animis ferrei quam armis, ordinatis turmis ad portam orientalem muros invadunt."


Finally, could i have some translation help with a detail? In book II, cap I, there seem to be a second reference to some kind of plate armour:
Quote:
"Prælio itaque navali consert, dum isti lapidibus et securibus acriter impetunt, illi vero tam sagittis, quam laminis ferreis quibus abundabant, promptissime resistunt."
something about 'his iron plates resisted arrows etc'?
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Sat 05 Nov, 2016 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:

Finally, could i have some translation help with a detail? In book II, cap I, there seem to be a second reference to some kind of plate armour:
Quote:
"Prælio itaque navali consert, dum isti lapidibus et securibus acriter impetunt, illi vero tam sagittis, quam laminis ferreis quibus abundabant, promptissime resistunt."
something about 'his iron plates resisted arrows etc'?

It is difficult to parse precisely, but it is definitely referring to armour... it may indeed mean that the armour was protection against arrows, or instead that the armoured defenders were ready to resist their attackers who used stones, axes, and "even arrows".
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 3:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
3) The desciption of the iron plates as "skillfully sewn together", is skipped by the mid 13th century, because it is no longer considered special?

It is good to know that in the 14th and 15th century, Middle English (and British French and British Latin) plates (plural) could mean the same as 21st century English "coat of plates, pair of plates, corrazina, brigandine, cuirass: armour for the body made of plates (contrasted with cloth armour and with mail)." But its always hard to know why different versions of a text are different.

If you want to get into the details of the original text and the different versions, you will need to find a Latin edition with an apparatus criticus (notes in the margins telling you what the individual manuscripts actually say) and a discussion of what the different Middle English translations are based on (it might be a surviving manuscript, it might be several, it might be a text which does not survive in Latin). Your quote from Nat. Lib. of Ireland, MS 700 says that the invaders were "warlike men in the Danish style, dressed all over in iron, some with long loricae <the "normal" kind of mail body armour in the author's world, which is different in Wales in 1171 than in Cologne in 1271 or Naples in 1371>, some with iron lames artfully sewn together, and also with round red shields, reinforced all about with iron, men just as iron in their hearts as in their arms, in ordered battalions."
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
Thanks for the input, Niels. The reference to the Danish fashion might just be the Welchman explaining their apearance to a latin speaking world more familiar with Danes. (You'll find more references to Danish arms in Giraldus' other work)

Unfortunately Forester 1905 is not the kind of work to state its sources. It is somewhat funny that the term "long" is present on virtually the same spot in all versions, describing either the mail, a sword or breastplates.


After some research I have discovered that the Northhumberland and Irish sources generally have very good knowledge of Scandinavian peoples and are very precise with the distinctions between Danes and Norwegians.

It could then very well be necessary for a Welsh writer to give further explanations to readers, who are not so familiar with Norwegians and thus need to compare them to Danes.
Just basically saying they are identical in how they are armed on the battlefield.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 4:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
3) The desciption of the iron plates as "skillfully sewn together", is skipped by the mid 13th century, because it is no longer considered special?

It is good to know that in the 14th and 15th century, Middle English (and British French and British Latin) plates (plural) could mean the same as 21st century English "coat of plates, pair of plates, corrazina, brigandine, cuirass: armour for the body made of plates (contrasted with cloth armour and with mail)." But its always hard to know why different versions of a text are different.

If you want to get into the details of the original text and the different versions, you will need to find a Latin edition with an apparatus criticus (notes in the margins telling you what the individual manuscripts actually say) and a discussion of what the different Middle English translations are based on (it might be a surviving manuscript, it might be several, it might be a text which does not survive in Latin). Your quote from Nat. Lib. of Ireland, MS 700 says that the invaders were "warlike men in the Danish style, dressed all over in iron, some with long loricae <the "normal" kind of mail body armour in the author's world, which is different in Wales in 1171 than in Cologne in 1271 or Naples in 1371>, some with iron lames artfully sewn together, and also with round red shields, reinforced all about with iron, men just as iron in their hearts as in their arms, in ordered battalions."


Hi Sean.
Good points on the problems of "Textual Criticism", when the oldest manuscripts are gone and you are left with copies and translations.
You have to be quite rigorous in weeding out the exact development of textual passages and specific words and that is a huge job. This branch of research "stemmatics" is actual closer to palaeontology than humanist studies as you really create a cladogram of the textual evolution through time and which texts have ("genetic") relationship to each other or not. A scribal error is a "mutation" that can be inherited to later manuscripts. Omission are loss of traits (like horses with times loosing the numbers of toes).

For the more specific words concerning armour I think it is a general problem that writers in these days had the tendency to equip historical people and armies either with up to date equipment or what was old in their view; but they might have had no idea of what armour and weaponry precisely were used several generations before. You see that in the Icelandic sagas as well.
The reason is really just that armour were not preserved (we still have so little armour from that time period found archaeologically), so the writers had no way of knowing. If you supported your work on older texts then you had to explain/interpret short lines of armour descriptions to a contemporary audience.
Also a factor that technical terms can significantly change meaning ever time (from specific to general, from general to specific, or from one specific general thing to another).
[As example the Weapons and Armour Museum in Copenhagen is called Tøjhusmuseet -> in modern Danish that literally means "Clothes-House-Museum", so probably some uneducated Danes would think it means the museum of fashion clothes or perhaps a collection of clothes for doll-houses.]

The texts with the red round-shields of the older texts are significant in my view. It shows you know (or have been told that the Norwegians had red shields) that red shield were the colour of the Norwegians (the red shield was so you showed on arrival that you had hostile intentions). When it is removed from later texts, its because the writers no longer knows this, as it is no longer a cultural tradition and thus likely omitted as irrelevant.
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
After some research I have discovered that the Northhumberland and Irish sources generally have very good knowledge of Scandinavian peoples and are very precise with the distinctions between Danes and Norwegians.

Hey Niels, I'm very curious, can you share what specific sources you found that are reliable in this regard, and in what time period in particular?

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles uses the term "Dane" very widely, with "heathen" as the second most common descriptor of Vikings - in particular, both are used to describe the "Great Heathen Army" which conquered Northumbria and East Anglia in the 860s and 870s.

9th century Irish chronicles distinguish between dubgaill and finngaill - "dark foreigners" and "fair foreigners" (and later gaillgoidil, "foreign Irish"). These terms were first interpreted as meaning Danes and Norwegians respectively in the 11th century Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, but this may already be a reintrepretation of the older sources, stemming from the later political reality of Norway and Denmark as distinct and independant nations. A modern hypothesis is that instead dubgaill is a label for newly arrived Vikings, possibly the followers of King Ímar (Ivarr) of Dublin and his descendants specifically, and the finngaill are the "old Vikings" who were already established in Ireland.

The "dark foreigners" are mentioned in Welsh chronicles between 853 and 989, named as gentilibus nigris in Latin, Dub gint in Welsh, and other terms, but "fair foreigners" do not appear at all. This seems more consistent with the term dubgaill being borrowed from Ireland to describe the "new Vikings" who were active in the area of the Irish Sea at the time, rather than the alternative implication that there were no Norwegian Vikings in Wales.

Danair - Danes - are named specifically in Irish and Welsh chronicles, but not until the 980s, by which time Denmark was united. A case can be made either way that these sources indicate that the Danes and dubgaill are one and the same, or that the Danes are newly arrived allies of the now long established dubgaill.

Ímar/Ivarr of Dublin is identified in the Fragmentary Annals and by Gerald of Wales as being a son of a Norwegian king: Gofraid/Guthred/Guðrøðr. Ivarr is generally thought to be the one and the same as Ingvar/Ivarr (the Boneless) who led the Great Heathen Army in England... however the latter is identified as a son of the (possibly legendary) Ragnar Lodbrok in later sagas. In the entry for year 871 (or 872 in some copies), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle specifically identifies Ivarr's brother Halfdan as a "heathen king", but elsewhere uses "Dane" to describe the Viking army.

Halfdan died in battle against the finngaill in Ireland in 877; the Annals of Ulster call him king of the dubgaill. The 12th century Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib identifies the leader of the finngaill (and king of Dublin at the time) as Barith/Bárðr, the son of Ímar and theoretically Halfdan's nephew...

Other famous Vikings also have similar inconsistent histories - Rollo of Normandy is described as Norwegian in the Orkneyinga Saga and 12th century English and Welsh sources, but as Danish in the Historia Normannorum (commissioned by Rollo's grandson, Richard I of Normandy).
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Concerning the round shields with iron rims. My theory is that this is an early literary example of a kind of buckler, particular to Scandinavia, which was popular in the 13th century. Here's an image of a reproduction of one of these bucklers.


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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
After some research I have discovered that the Northhumberland and Irish sources generally have very good knowledge of Scandinavian peoples and are very precise with the distinctions between Danes and Norwegians.

Hey Niels, I'm very curious, can you share what specific sources you found that are reliable in this regard, and in what time period in particular?

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles uses the term "Dane" very widely, with "heathen" as the second most common descriptor of Vikings - in particular, both are used to describe the "Great Heathen Army" which conquered Northumbria and East Anglia in the 860s and 870s.

9th century Irish chronicles distinguish between dubgaill and finngaill - "dark foreigners" and "fair foreigners" (and later gaillgoidil, "foreign Irish"). These terms were first interpreted as meaning Danes and Norwegians respectively in the 11th century Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, but this may already be a reintrepretation of the older sources, stemming from the later political reality of Norway and Denmark as distinct and independant nations. A modern hypothesis is that instead dubgaill is a label for newly arrived Vikings, possibly the followers of King Ímar (Ivarr) of Dublin and his descendants specifically, and the finngaill are the "old Vikings" who were already established in Ireland.

The "dark foreigners" are mentioned in Welsh chronicles between 853 and 989, named as gentilibus nigris in Latin, Dub gint in Welsh, and other terms, but "fair foreigners" do not appear at all. This seems more consistent with the term dubgaill being borrowed from Ireland to describe the "new Vikings" who were active in the area of the Irish Sea at the time, rather than the alternative implication that there were no Norwegian Vikings in Wales.

Danair - Danes - are named specifically in Irish and Welsh chronicles, but not until the 980s, by which time Denmark was united. A case can be made either way that these sources indicate that the Danes and dubgaill are one and the same, or that the Danes are newly arrived allies of the now long established dubgaill.

Ímar/Ivarr of Dublin is identified in the Fragmentary Annals and by Gerald of Wales as being a son of a Norwegian king: Gofraid/Guthred/Guðrøðr. Ivarr is generally thought to be the one and the same as Ingvar/Ivarr (the Boneless) who led the Great Heathen Army in England... however the latter is identified as a son of the (possibly legendary) Ragnar Lodbrok in later sagas. In the entry for year 871 (or 872 in some copies), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle specifically identifies Ivarr's brother Halfdan as a "heathen king", but elsewhere uses "Dane" to describe the Viking army.

Halfdan died in battle against the finngaill in Ireland in 877; the Annals of Ulster call him king of the dubgaill. The 12th century Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib identifies the leader of the finngaill (and king of Dublin at the time) as Barith/Bárðr, the son of Ímar and theoretically Halfdan's nephew...

Other famous Vikings also have similar inconsistent histories - Rollo of Normandy is described as Norwegian in the Orkneyinga Saga and 12th century English and Welsh sources, but as Danish in the Historia Normannorum (commissioned by Rollo's grandson, Richard I of Normandy).


Hi Mark.
These question are extremely complicated but very interesting.

Just to say that when it comes to what happened in 800's especially there is a huge confusion in the sources (also the Scandinavian) since people in the viking age could change names during their lifetime after achieving some feat, could have different nicknames especially if you were friend of foe, and the later sources will often be used to spin their version of history into current political advantage. So the oldest sources should be taken very seriously, unless it is obvious that the writer doesn't really know about the people who arrived.

Denmark has since possibly ~550 AD been lead by the Skjoldunge dynasty (The Scyldingas in Beowulf) with their center of Lejre (near modern Roskilde). Ragner Lodbrok and his sons are of that house at least according to legend.
Whether a Danish Kingdom existed before ~550 is unknown (but likely) as the Danes seems to expand from somewhere (most likely originally from Scania/Halland?) in all directions. You could have many different Jarls and Kings at the same time from within the family and also fighting with the Swedish Yngling dynasty (The Scylfingas in Beowulf).

During the Iron Ages and Viking Ages these two major royal houses are slowly gobbling up other smaller Kingdoms and Jarldoms. You would have strong kings with petty kings and jarls under him, then civil war between pretenders, then eventually another high king and so on and on. So Denmark goes from "unified" to un-unified again and again - and so also even in the Middle ages. The kingdom could be inherited by several brothers or kinsmen working together (or turning to war against each other).
That Denmark is first "unified" under Gorm the Old in the 900's is simply not believable in my opinion.

The traces of the original Scandinavian tribes are quite obvious when you see the position of Iron Age forts around Denmark and the later land-division into administrative units.

For instance the Iron Age fort "Virket" on Falster, which were in use until 1200's.
This map shows three fortified centers at the center of each tribal unit very likely going back to the Iron Age before the Danish expansion who also had their own Ting (on Falster the village of Tingsted).
Source: https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsters_Virke#/media/File:Folkeborge.jpg

Danish areas were at some point by the Skjoldunge Kings divided into administrative units called "Herreder".
Interestingly enough Jutland are divided into Sysler! [So not Danish in Origin]
The Norwegian coastline - the "Northway" - divided into Fylker.
In Sweden originally called Hundare.

So the most major expansions seems to be the quite early Danish expansion into Jutland during the 500's (possibly the reason for some Jutes moving to Britannia; or in the case of the Angles the Danes move into areas depopulated by the emigration). The bog from Jutland finds could be many failed Danish attempts to conquer Jutland, that ended with their armies sacrificed.
Scania and Halland are very likely the originally core Danish area (if the ousted the Heruli - Eorle in Beowulf? - from Sjælland at some early date 200's AD making them flee to become vikings in the Black Sea instead), but they also expand up the coast, so the Danish territory included modern Bohuslen (certain from a dialectical point of view) and also the Oslo area and even into Oppland, since Bohuslen, Viken and Oppland (all three now in modern Norway) had Herred division "originally" and not Fylke division.

Ottar (anglosaxon Othere) was a merchant from Hålagoland (uppermost part of the Northway), who told of his travels around the viking world to King Alfred in 890 AD. So this gives us a view of how the territory was at that time.

Sailing south he had the Norðvegr (the Northway = Norway) on his backboard (= port, right side, AS: Bæcbord) side until he reached Skiringsalr (Sciringes heal) at Vestfold in Viken (Oslo area). Then he sets out towards Hedeby and he has Denmark (Denemearc) on his backboard side. So Østfold in Viken, Bohuslen, Halland and Skåne is part of Denmark.
On his Starboard side (left, AS Steorbord) he has Gotland (which here is Jutland, showing that G -> J sound like in modern Swedish Götaland - pronounced /Jötaland/ - and that the Jutes were regarded as part of the Gothic people - makes it murky whether the "Geat" Beowulf is a Jute or a Gøter).

Then Ottar pass through either Lillebælt or Storebælt after 3 days of sailing from Skiringssalr and says all the Islands at Backboard belong to Denmark (Sjælland, Lolland, Falster, Møn, or possibly also Fyn if he went through the Little Belt).
On the starboard side he has Sillende (Southern Jutland/Slesvig-Holsten) - where its unknown if Fyn is included or not depending on which belt he passes through - and after two days of travels he reaches Hedeby.

With the Anglosaxon merchant Wulfstan we can continue on the Austrvegr - the Eastway eventually to Constantinople - where Wulfstan has 7 days of sailing until he reaches Truso at the Vistula river.

To his starboard he has Vendland (slavs) and to his backboard he has Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania all belonging to Denmark.
Further to the backboard side Bornholm [ON: Burgundaholmr] which have their own King - the people are Burgunds!
Blekinge, Møre, Øland and Gotland belongs to the Swedes. [Interesting that Blekinge here is Swedish, when in the middle ages it is Danish and stays so until 1658, but local language shows it to be originally Swedish].

Alfred's Orisius translation shows that the Danes are divided in two separate groups.
1) South Danes -> in Jutland.
2) North Danes -> on the Danish Islands and on the Scandinavian mainland (so probably means Viken, Bohuslen, Halland, Scania).
Presumingly the means the "North Danes" are the older group and the "South Danes" the newer group?

It seems that the Swedes (!) control the area east of the Norwegian coastline, except Oppland in the south that is Danish and the area in the north that are in the hands of Kvæner and Finner (here both Sami speaking people), whereas the Norwegians are only the coastal way north along the sea from Hålagoland until the Danish controlled Viken.

All "Scandinavians" speak the "Danish tongue" - so a linguistic unity - whereas the Kvæner, Skrid-Finner (both Sami) & Bjarmer (Sami?) and Estonians (Modern Finns + Estonians?) speak finno-ugrian languages.
Old Norse is first a distinct dialect (trouble to understand for east nordic speaking Danes & Swedes) from around 1200 AD.

So when we have Irish annals from the 800's - Denmark is a powerful Kingdom often in war with the Frankish Empire, whereas the Northway are a whole series of small Kingdoms and Jarldoms most likely acknowledging an eventual Danish (or Swedish) High King and other times ruling themselves wholly independently.

So when we come into the late viking ages with Norway as a powerful Kingdom in its own right, it becomes a political battle to acquire former heroes as either Norwegian, Danish or Swedish. In modern times it is overwhelmingly the Icelandic (Norwegian) material that has survived, so a clear Norwegian bias to make Norway greater than Danes and Swedes.
Especially the Swedes are often ridiculed (since many of them are still heathen at the time of the sagas, which are written by Christians).

The difference between white and dark foreigners for Irish sources:
1) Most likely: That it means earlier (Norwegians from the Northway) and later (Danish) foreigners.
2) It certainly doesn't have anything to do with colour of hair or skin or anything like that. [then it would even more likely be reversed as Norwegians intermixed with Sami people can have dark hair].

For Welsh sources the early foreigners would probably be Anglo-Saxons and the later foreigners Danes.

The Imar/Ivarr in the Irish annals has to be the mighty Ivar Boneless, son of Ragner Lodbrok of the Danish Skoldunge dynasty meaning he is Danish and also a heathen. [Actually these families are intermarried with each other - so he is of Danish royal blood by birth, but of course his ancestors would have Scandinavians from all places in the family tree - like modern monarch from all over Europe].

Norwegian "theft" of heroes is obvious when the Orkney saga makes Rollo Norwegian, whereas the Normans themselves call their ancestry Danish and place name research in Normandy shows the vast dominance of Scandinavian names are clearly Danish type place names.
To complicate things Rolf (Rollo) could have been Dane (Freebooting viking or local chief) from areas that later in time became Norwegian (Viken for instance)!
If the first vikings come from the place Viken (as one hypothesis says) the early vikings from there would be Danish, though in the later viking age the area is part of Norway (and also today).
In the early Viking Age Norway is a route and ONLY the coastal North-way! So not a kingdom, but a cultural unit of people along that coastline.
So Telemark & Agder in the south and North to Hålagoland.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Mon 07 Nov, 2016 7:06 am; edited 3 times in total
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Håvard Kongsrud




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Concerning the round shields with iron rims. My theory is that this is an early literary example of a kind of buckler, particular to Scandinavia, which was popular in the 13th century. Here's an image of a reproduction of one of these bucklers.
With that interesting hypothesis, Stephen, you're onto my motivation to post the question in the first place: How do the description fit into the history of round shields (as opposed to bucklers) in scandinavia from the 12th and into the 14th century. (More on that in a separate thread.) And a very nice reconstruction of the 14'' Valle-buckler C1568 too. It's date is less than exact, though, only one of the handfuld of bucklers of this kind can be dated with any degree of accuracy by a runic inscription. And is it a buckler or is it a proper shield? In his use of the word 'clipeo' for shield, Gerard clearly demonstrates that to him it was a generic term that might as well imply buckler, targe or any other type of shield. As long as he do not stress its smallness, why should we?

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
It could then very well be necessary for a Welsh writer to give further explanations to readers, who are not so familiar with Norwegians and thus need to compare them to Danes.
Just basically saying they are identical in how they are armed on the battlefield.
yup. I'm stressing here that Gerard is describing events of his own time.


Sean Manning wrote:
If you want to get into the details of the original text and the different versions, you will need to find a Latin edition with an apparatus criticus (notes in the margins telling you what the individual manuscripts actually say) and a discussion of what the different Middle English translations are based on (it might be a surviving manuscript, it might be several, it might be a text which does not survive in Latin).

Your quote from Nat. Lib. of Ireland, MS 700 says that the invaders were "warlike men in the Danish style, dressed all over in iron, some with long loricae <the "normal" kind of mail body armour in the author's world, which is different in Wales in 1171 than in Cologne in 1271 or Naples in 1371>, some with iron lames artfully sewn together, and also with round red shields, reinforced all about with iron, men just as iron in their hearts as in their arms, in ordered battalions."
Thank you for your translation, Sean! Nat. Lib. MS 700 seem to be first or second edition. Furnivall 1896, and Dimock 1867 are to an extent such texts for the middle english and two first latin editions respectively. I was hoping Scott & Martin's 1978-translation could give some clues to more recent works, but alass. I'm unable to get my hands on it.

Mark Lewis wrote:
Håvard Kongsrud wrote:

Finally, could i have some translation help with a detail? In book II, cap I, there seem to be a second reference to some kind of plate armour:
Quote:
"Prælio itaque navali consert, dum isti lapidibus et securibus acriter impetunt, illi vero tam sagittis, quam laminis ferreis quibus abundabant, promptissime resistunt."
something about 'his iron plates resisted arrows etc'?

It is difficult to parse precisely, but it is definitely referring to armour... it may indeed mean that the armour was protection against arrows, or instead that the armoured defenders were ready to resist their attackers who used stones, axes, and "even arrows".
Thanks for the translate, Mark
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Concerning the round shields with iron rims. My theory is that this is an early literary example of a kind of buckler, particular to Scandinavia, which was popular in the 13th century. Here's an image of a reproduction of one of these bucklers.


Very possibly when we talk about material from the 1170's!
In reality the viking shield is just a great buckler (?) and perhaps smaller and smaller versions were created so when we reach the I.33 manuscripts we have the real "bucklers"?
These kind of shields seems to me more fitting for duels than mass combat as they protect you less against missiles; unless you are to a higher degree trusting the protection of your armour against missiles?!
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 3:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe it was fellow forum member Elling Polden who once said that that the use of bucklers by Scandinavians of the 13th, weren't typically not used in battle, but were more used by bodyguards and the like. If I'm misremembering what you said Elling, my apologies. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that even in the 13th Norwegian infantry stil fought in a shieldwall formation. This is mentioned in The King's Mirror written in about 1250. Now by this time the kite/heater shield had taken the place of the large round shields of the Viking Period. I believe that kite shields were introduced into the Scandinavian lands some time in the 11th century, and for a time were used alongside the old large round shields. As far as I know kite had completely replaced large round shields by the time of Giraldus' writings. So why does Giraldus mention round shields? As I said I believe these to be bucklers, like the one I attached to my last post. So why would the Norsemen in Ireland be using bucklers instead of the larger kite/heater shields which were typically used at this time? Well I believe that this might have been a response to the conditions in Ireland. In Ireland skirmishes and raids were far more common than pitched battles. The Irish themselves used shields very much like a "viking shield" only smaller, essentially bucklers. My thought is that the Norsemen in Ireland preferred bucklers to larger kite shields as this better suited the combat style that was most useful in that country.
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 9:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How is a regular viking shield any different to a buckler? How small does it have to be to be called a "buckler" and not a "round shield"? Does it really matter? Gerald wouldn't have cared less.
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 10:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan. I'm just using the words "viking shield" and buckler here for the sake of convenience, as apart from the obvious size difference there isn't much else to distinguish between the two. Also I believe that these Scandinavian bucklers were larger than was typical. If I remember correctly they were often between 16" and 18" in diameter. As far as I know the only shields used by Scandinavians that had an iron rim was the kind of buckler that I referred to above. I think that there is little doubt that a larger shield is a better choice when fighting in a shieldwall, but my speculation is that a buckler might have been better suited to fighting in Ireland.
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Nov, 2016 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
As far as I know the only shields used by Scandinavians that had an iron rim was the kind of buckler that I referred to above.

The Gokstad shields have a series of small holes all around the perimeter. Obviously they had some kind of rim. There are at least two mentions of iron-rimmed shields in the sagas: Grettis saga and Kormáks saga.

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