Friday, May 14, 2021

Born in Blood

 From Law and Liberty:

Village life on the coast of Scotland could change in the blink of an eye. Set upon by Vikings, in a matter of moments, everyone you knew could be killed, raped, or enslaved. Vikings would trade the enslaved as far away as Russia or on the Silk Road. Archeology shows no evidence of slave markets as the trade was more akin to the business model of door-to-door sales. No household, apparently, was uninterested in the slaves brought back by Viking raids. Slaving was the “central pillar” of Viking culture and at its core was sex trafficking. A typical village raid ended with all the men slaughtered and the women enslaved.

Children of Ash and Elm is chock full of arresting images and details. It is not a rip-roaring tale of Viking adventure but more an encyclopedia, a blow-by-blow of the findings of archeologists sieved from soils across Europe, and beyond. Especially arresting is the evidence that shows long before the Vikings started raiding, they had been trading along the coasts of the British Isles, Northern France, and the Baltics. The age of raiding was inaugurated notoriously at Lindisfarne, a monastery island off the east coast of Northern England in June 793. The event is chronicled as monks fallen upon by slaughter-wolves, as the Vikings are termed. The event resonated because it marked a new, almost impossible to control menace that would reshape not only the British Isles but European civilization. Perhaps it is marked out, also, because of a sense of betrayal. The Vikings had come to trade first, they were believed a known quantity, then came the violence. As Price grimly imagines it, at some point, a Viking must have uttered aloud that these very rich, unprotected monasteries dotting the coasts, offered easy pickings: Why pay, why not just take? After Lindisfarne, great fleets of Vikings started to amass and raiding from Ireland through the Baltic States, to Italy, and even Egypt, accelerated dramatically.

What explains the appetite for raiding where once trade had seemingly been sufficient? At something of a loss, scholars conjecture that since Vikings practiced polygyny, with rich and famous warriors having many wives, concubines, as well as free run of the slaves, younger men needed to raise their status and prevail in wealth and battle fame. Raiding became the obvious strategy.

Raiding ships were confederacies, based on oaths of loyalty to the ships’ captains and valid for the duration of the raids, with plunder divided per skill or duty. Kitting out ships was expensive: the whole venture took massive resources. Behind the violence of the raids was pastoral sheep farming. One sail for an ocean-going ship required 4 person-years to make, and no boat sailed with only one sail aboard. It is estimated that the maritime life of the Vikings in the eleventh century required the annual production of two million sheep. This does not include the other cloth manufacturing needed by the wider society and especially the industry required to satisfy Viking appetite for decorative clothing. (Read more.)


From Heritage Daily:

The Great Heathen Army was a coalition of Viking warriors that invaded England in AD 865, which according to lore was in response to the death of the legendary figure Ragnar Lodbrok, at the hands of King Ælla of Northumberland.

The tales of Ragnar and his sons in Norse poetry, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and the Icelandic sagas depict Ragnar leading an expedition of only two knarrs to ravage and burn England. His forces were overwhelmed by Ælla, and Ragnar is captured and thrown into a snake pit to die.

His sons Inwaer (Ivar the Boneless), Halfdan Ragnarsson, and Hubba (Ubbe) lead a Viking army that captures Ælla and supposedly performs the blood eagle (a ritualistic method of execution in which the ribs are severed from the spine with a sharp tool, and the lungs are pulled through the opening to create a pair of “wings”) in revenge. (Read more.)

No comments: