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The wild life of the Vikings..........

Jelling   Denmark

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photos

runic stones in Jelling

The Jelling Church

The Jelling Mounds

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The Viking Massacres

845 was a fateful year. The area around the Seine was pillaged. Paris and even the fortified core at the Cité island were conquered and plundered on Easter Sunday the 28th of March, and Charles the Bald paid a ransom of 700 pounds of silver to get the Vikings to draw back. That was the first of his many payments. However, they did not get much pleasure of the heavily loaded ships. Ragnar, the chief, who took a toll-bar from the Parisian city gate as a souvenir, and almost all the others died on their way home or at home because of an epidemic that was supposed to be “God’s judgment leading to blindness, darkness, and lunacy.” King Horik I of Denmark, who had laid waste Hamburg the very same year, understood that divine powers had been at work and offered to liberate all Christian war prisoners, and possibly also to return all the robbed treasures. Perhaps he had a share in the responsibility for the great attack in France.

The epidemic, however, was no obstacle to their future behaviour. Nor did in 847  a joint  mission of the kings of all  three Frankish realms to King Horik help  although they threatened war. In the 880s the monk Armentarius from Noirmoutier described very vividly the damages the Vikings were now causing.

The number of ships is growing, the endless stream of Vikings never ceasing. Everywhere the Christians are the victims of massacres, fires, and looting. The Vikings conquer everything on their way, and nobody can resist them. They take Bordeaux, Périgueux, Limoges, Angoulême, and Toulouse. Angers, Tours, and Orleans are wiped out. An innumerable fleet sails up the Seine, and malice is growing. Rouen is laid waste, pillaged, and burnt down. Paris, Beauvais, and Meaux are taken. The strong fortress of Melun is razed to the ground, Chartres occupied, Évreux and Bayeux plundered, and all the towns besieged.

It was not only towns, churches, monasteries, and their inhabitants that were victimized.  To some extent the civilian population in the countryside also suffered. They were taxed heavily in order to provide the official ransom money demanded by the Vikings, who furthermore took many slaves. They also settled in some areas, but the extent and the duration of their settlements is unknown. In 845 they settled peacefully in the countryside of Aquitaine. And in 850 they were assigned land after having plundered from the Seine. The reason was that Lothar was on his way, and then Charles the Bald allied himself with the robbers.

At this time several Viking armies were at it, and in 861 King Charles promised a large sum to an army led by Weyland to drive out another army that had consolidated their position on an island in the Seine. The beleaguered army, plagued by hunger and misery, now also presented Weyland with much gold and silver, and then they dispersed and wintered in various places along the Seine. The following year Weyland joined ranks with Charles and was christened, and the large fleet sailed away. But in 863 Weyland was killed by another Viking. For a time Charles the Bald’s method of setting Viking against Viking failed.

At a national assembly in Pîtres in 864 the issue of royal ordinances highlighted the problems of the kingdom. They forbade the royal counts to appropriate the horses and property of free men so that they would not be prevented from affording their services to the king against the Vikings, and under threat of capital punishment sales of horses and weapons to the Vikings were prohibited. The most effective measures against them, however, were fortified bridges across the rivers plus reinforcements of town walls and new castles which Charles and his successors had let build. This became evident at the long lasting Viking  siege of Paris in 885-86 described so vividly by Abbo. Despite huge efforts they had to give up. But Charles could not protect the estuaries and the coastal regions. And the bases of the armies were to be found there.  

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