Archives

Book review: A Year of Ravens

I need to break from our Viking adventures for a few moments to share some thoughts on an excellent book! Before the Normans conquered, before the Vikings invaded, before the legends of Arthur, before someone invited Saxons to settle, the island of Britannia was already home to numerous separate native Celtic tribes that together would be knows as the Britons. These tribes were the original kingdoms of the island and just as any other kingdoms would, they fought with each other for domination and control of the land… until one outside force arrived and began to take control. In AD 43 the Roman Empire began its conquest of the island, establishing a province they called Britannia, which came to encompass the parts of the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland).  This Roman invasion and domination would last until some time in the 5th century. 

The Celtic tribes were varied in their reactions and acceptances of the Roman conquest. The Roman conquest was a gradual one that actually could be seen as a somewhat peaceful and benefitial  alliance between the tribes and the Roman Empire. In common with other regions on the edge of the empire, Britain had enjoyed diplomatic and trading links with the Romans in the century since Julius Caesar‘s expeditions in 55 and 54 BC, and Roman economic and cultural influence was a significant part of the British late pre-Roman Iron Age, especially in the south.

Between 55 BC and the 40s AD, the status quo of tribute, hostages, and client states without direct military occupation, begun by Caesar’s invasions of Britain, largely remained intact. Augustus prepared invasions in 34 BC, 27 BC and 25 BC. The first and third were called off due to revolts elsewhere in the empire, the second because the Britons seemed ready to come to terms. According to Augustus’s Res Gestae, two British kings, Dubnovellaunus and Tincomarus, fled to Rome as suppliants during his reign, and Strabo‘s Geography, written during this period, says that Britain paid more in customs and duties than could be raised by taxation if the island were conquered. 

During this early time of Roman involvement, many of the tribes were fighting between themselves and in some cases they sought the assistance and intervention of Rome to strengthen their sides. By the 40s AD, the political situation within Britain was apparently in ferment. The Catuvellauni had displaced the Trinovantes as the most powerful kingdom in south-eastern Britain, taking over the former Trinovantian capital of Camulodunum (Colchester), and were pressing their neighbours the Atrebates, ruled by the descendants of Julius Caesar’s former ally Commius.  In fact, when Claudius eventually mounted his invasion and takeover, it’s intent was to force a reinstatement of client King Verica, who was an exiled king of the Atrebates.

England_Celtic_tribes_-_South

map showing locations of Celtic tribes in southern part of Britain during Roman occupation.

Map_of_the_Territory_of_the_Brigantes.svg

Map showing the Brigantes tribe region during Roman occupation

 

I am only sharing this very basic pre-history of the Roman involvement to point out that during the lengthy process of their conquest, there were tribes that willingly chose to ally themselves with Rome, either for economic benefit, political advantage or in some cases, perhaps they saw a larger picture and felt that resistance was not in their best interests.  Because the tribes looked at themselves as separate entities rather than a unified force against one opposing force, they were unable to come together in the beginning stages to prevent a take over that many of of them did not see coming in the first place.  In a way it directly relates to future invasions of their land by the Saxons and then by the Vikings. It could be said that Rome’s occupation of the island destroyed their unity and ability to fight as a that one united force… but, realistically it might better be said that their unity was not there in the first place and it allowed for a situation in which Rome could conquer them. Had they been able to come together from the beginnings of the rebellions, there are times when they could have defeated the Roman forces.  Boudicca’s rebellion was one of those times and events. 

Her rebellion was enough of a crisis to cause Emperor Nero at the time to seriously consider pulling all Roman troops and involvement out of Britain at this early time in their occupation. Unfortunately, despite earlier victories, her army made crucial mistakes that led to their final defeat. Her forces vastly outnumbered the Romans in the battle of Watling Street and had they chosen a different strategy that what they did, they should have been able to win that last battle. For what ever reasons, they chose to meet the Romans head on in a battle of open ground. Previous victories and successes by Briton forces and others against the Romans and each other were won not by head on battles but by more surprise attacks. It also did not help matters that the army brought with them their entire villages and placed them at the edges of the battle location thereby allowing for the slaughter of everyone, not just the army involved in the battle. 

 

With that bit of pre-history and thought in mind, we can move on to the main focus of this post! The book, A year of Ravens is an excellent historical fiction look at one event where the Britons could have managed that defeat and been successful at their attempt to drive the Romans out of their land. It looks at the event of Boudica’s rebellion from all perspectives- the Romans, the Client Kingdoms, the ones who were intent on rebellion against the massive strength of Rome, and from the standpoint of those who had little say in the event. 

The book is a unique collaborative project by seven authors with seven separate yet connected stories of the events leading up to the final battle and aftermath. It addresses the issues that I touched on in the pre-history discussion including reasons for a Client Ruler’s acceptance and alliance of Roman governance. It also gives us an understanding of various Roman perspectives. Not every Roman was stereotypical bad nor did they all agree with what was taking place. In that same line, not every Briton was good or a true believer in the rebellion. 

A year of Ravens

by Ruth Downie, Kate Quinn,Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney , Russell Whitfield, E. Knight

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

These separate stories come together so well to tell a larger story of Briton and of Rome, of  mistakes on both sides that brought about the rebellion. In telling their separate stories of one particular point in time and one event that had such an impact on the history of Britain, these seven authors have created a vivid and realistic picture to show us all of the sides. It is grim, harsh and gritty, and fault is laid on all of those sides for the decisions and actions that led to the battles of Boudica. Yet, despite all of the fault and harsh reality, there is an underlying message of  understanding, forgiveness and hope amid such a dark future that lies ahead for so many. Boudicca’s rebellion has failed but her legend will live on to inspire others in the future. 

One of the most interesting and compelling stories for me was not that of Boudicca herself, but of another Queen for the most part forgotten in history. The story of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes in northern Britain at the time. Cartimandua or Cartismandua (reigned c. ad 43 – c. 69) was a 1st-century queen of the Brigantes, a Celtic people living in what is now northern England. She came to power around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, and formed a large tribal agglomeration that became loyal to Rome. Our only knowledge of her is through the Roman historian Tacitus, though she appears to have been widely influential in early Roman Britain.

Perhaps we know little about her because her story is one of loyalty to Rome. Author Stephanie Dray’s interpretation of this little known Queen provided such a detailed look at this woman who would have been considered a traitor to the Briton’s cause. It presented an understanding of some of those reasons why a ruler would choose alliance and loyalty to Rome to ensure the future of their people- even if the people did not appreciate it, resented the decision and would choose to spit on said ruler’s grave… As Cartimandua points out in this story, “At least my people will be left alive to spit upon my grave!”  She may have been hated by her people but she was able to look beyond that hatred and be at peace with the decisions she made in order to buy her people time and life in an uncertain future.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartimandua

Another of the stories that caught me up was the story of Duro the Iceni warrior and Valeria the Roman wife turned slave. Both of these characters were fictional but came truly alive and believable through Kate Quinn’s story telling. This is the story of an aging battle hardened and weary warrior who is Boudicca’s most ardent supporter and leader of her army- second only to her and the council… Duro is the old warrior set in his ways and beliefs, struggling with changes that he can not accept. Valeria at first appears as the stereotypical Roman wife also set in her Roman ways and beliefs. On the surface their relationship is one of detest for each other and the other’s ways. They are on opposite sides in every way possible but underneath all of the opposition and hatred, there is a level of understanding between them. They both know that should the other side win, their own personal life and future will cease or change forever. Duro continues to look to the past he remembers before the Romans but Valeria reminds him that it is wishful thinking and that past will never be again. Valeria reaches within herself to find a person, a warrior that she never knew existed… she will fight for life and survival no matter what, and she can appreciate that Duro has taught her that. Valeria is young enough and strong enough to change her ways of thinking in some ways and to understand that her world has changed. She is on the verge of some new life while Duro is at the end of his and know it. He can not change as his world is changing but Valeria gives him the one thing that matters most to him in the end… a renewed relationship with a son that he spent years pushing away. This story leaves an open ending with Valeria embarking on a new journey, a renewed life forever changed by her experience and her relationship with Duro.  This is about as close to a romance as any of the stories get and it is one that left me wondering about the what ifs… and the future for Valeria on her return to husband. My personal what if was this… what if Boudicca’s army had listened to advice and won the battle? Where would that have left Duro and Valeria?  I could actually see some of that version that Duro dreamed of!

All of the stories were excellent. I have only chosen to highlight the two that touched me the most!

This overall story is balanced with more than enough historical research to enrich the fiction that is woven around the often limited facts. I found myself completely swept up in the individual stories and not wanting them to end. I was left with an overwhelming appreciation of the writing and the history, an almost obsessive need to know more about all of the people whether real or fictional and the events that were taking place during this time. While it began as an effort by the various authors to tell Boudicca’s story, what it did was tell the story of so many others involved in the history taking place during her life time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More good news for Bernard Cornwell fans and fans of history!

Just wanted to share this recent news.  A recent Variety article revealed that Bad Wolf productions is developing an small screen adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s series, The Warlord Chronicles!

Variety can also exclusively reveal that the company is developing an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy “The Warlord Chronicles,” which is a revisionist take on the King Arthur legend. “He is a great storyteller as we know from everything from ‘Sharpe’ to ‘The Last Kingdom,’” Gardner said. “He has a very innovative way into the Arthurian stories, which is to take an ordinary man who by work, chance and life is an observer and an intimate in the relationships of Arthur, Lancelot and the key characters that we know.”

This information was included in Variety’s announcement of  HBO partnering with Bad Wolf Productions. You can read the entire article here:

http://variety.com/2015/tv/global/hbo-partners-with-production-company-bad-wolf-1201632217/

If you follow this blog on any regular basis, you will probably be well aware and familiar with my interest in the early Saxon period in Britain as well as the Roman involvement there. I’ve read the Warlord Chronicles and discussed them previously.  If you have not read this series, you should!

Bernard Cornwell takes a more realistic approach and perspective in his telling of the legend of Arthur. For the most part, he avoids the myth, magic and fantasy realm and tries to create the more real world that Arthur might have lived in. The only exception is his inclusion of Merlin, but even with Merlin, Cornwell attempts to give us a more realistic presentation of Merlin as one of the few remaining Druid Preists in that time period. He does an excellent job for the most part, of debunking much of the magic, mystery and myth but does leave some mystery and question surrounding Merlin.  I say for the most part, because I will admit that I did struggle a bit with the character of Merlin, and at times I felt like Bernard struggled a bit with him as well. Aside from that minor issue, the books were an excellent interpretation of the legend and the more real history that surrounds that myth and legend.

I’ve already written reviews on the book series as well as a number of articles pertaining to early Saxon and Roman history in Britain. I have also previously discussed the legends of Arthur. I will provide links here to some of those previous articles!

Saxons, Romans and Arthur:

king-arthur-tapestry

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/saxons-romans-and-arthur/

From Odin and Woden to Anglo-Saxons in Britain:

wodin and his followers

wodin and his followers

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/from-odin-and-woden-to-anglo-saxons-in-britain/

 

Ancient history connects Norse with Romans and Arthur:

Roman era map of Britain

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

From Treveri to Trier, From Celts to Vikings!

In my previous family history post, I took you on a very brief tour of Trier’s history. I originally planned to leave it at that but I was so intrigued with it’s long history that I decided to find out more. I am going to share it here in a more in depth post because the story of Trier is so interesting and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves when people think about great cities of history! I also think that Vikings fans may be interested in one of the visits that a group of Northmen paid to the city in 881. We will look at that visit and it’s result later.  Before you begin reading, I will warn and advise you that this has become a lengthy post! It is a more detailed and extensive history than some of you might like but it is also is not nearly as long and in depth as it could have been! I have tried to edit as much as possible but given the massive history surrounding Trier, I find myself thinking it unfair to leave out certain parts or deem some portion unimportant. If you simply can not bring yourself to read through all of it, I have broken it up into sections with subtitles which you can scroll down through in search of what might interest you the most.  I really do hope you will take the time to read the entire article though.

Index of Subsections:

Pre-history and Celtic origins

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

The Constantine Connection

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Saint Helena’s connection

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

 

 

Pre-history and Celtic origins

First let’s look at the rich history of this city that was at one time thought of as one of the most important cities of the Roman and then the Frankish Empire. The following Roman era map shows Trier by it’s Roman name of Augusta Treverorum and lists it as a Roman city. In red, you will find the Celtic tribe of Treveri in that area.

800px-Germania_70_svg

The Celtic Treveri tribe inhabited the lower valley of the Moselle from around 150 BCE, if not earlier,  until their eventual absorption into the Franks. Their domain lay within the southern fringes of the Silva Arduenna (Ardennes Forest), a part of the vast Silva Carbonaria, in what are now Luxembourg, southeastern Belgium and western Germany;  its centre was the city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum), to which the Treveri give their name. Celtic in language, according to Tacitus they claimed Germanic descent. 

Although they quickly adapted to  Roman material culture,  the Treveri had a tenuous  relationship with Roman power. Their leader Indutiomarus led them in revolt against Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars;  much later, they played a key role in the Gaulish revolt during the Year of the Four Emperors.  On the other hand, the Treveri supplied the Roman army with some of its most famous cavalry,  and the city of Augusta Treverorum was home for a time to the family of Germanicus, including the future emperor Gaius (Caligula).  During the Crisis of the Third Century, the territory of the Treveri was overrun by Germanic Alamanni and Franks and later formed part of the Gallic Empire.

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altbburg

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altburg

The name Treveri   has been interpreted as referring to a “flowing river” or to “crossing the river”. Rudolf Thurneysen proposes to interpret it as a Celtic trē-uer-o, followed by Xavier Delamarre with the element trē < *trei ‘through’, ‘across’ (cf. Latin trans) and uer-o ‘to cross a river’, so the name Treveri could mean ‘the ferrymen’, because these people helped to cross the Mosel river. They had a special goddess of the ford called Ritona and a temple dedicated to Uorioni Deo. treuer- can be compared with the Old Irish treóir ‘guiding, passage through a ford’, ‘place to cross a river’. The word uer- / uar- can be related to an indo-European word meaning ‘stream’, ‘river’ (Sanskrit vār, Old Norse vari ‘water’), that can be found in many river-names, especially in France : Var, Vire, Vière or in place-names like Louviers or Verviers. The city of Trier (French: Trèves) derives its name from the later Latin locative in Trēverīs for earlier Augusta Treverorum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treveri

The Treveri tribe was described by early Romans as the most renowned of the Belgae tribes who were referred to as being part of the Gauls.

Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgae

According to the Roman consul Aulus Hirtius in the 1st century BCE, the Treveri differed little from Germanic peoples in their manner of life and savage behaviour.  The Treveri boasted of their Germanic origin, according to Tacitus, in order to distance themselves from “Gallic laziness” (inertia Gallorum). But Tacitus does not include them with the Vangiones, Triboci or Nemetes as “tribes unquestionably German”.  The presence of hall villas of the same type as found in indisputably Germanic territory in northern Germany, alongside Celtic types of villas, corroborates the idea that they had both Celtic and Germanic affinities.  The Germanic element among the Treveri probably arrived there in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.   Strabo says that their Nervian and Tribocan neighbours were Germanic peoples who by that point had settled on the left bank of the Rhine, while the Treveri are implied to be Gaulish.

Jerome states that as of the 4th century their language was similar to that of the Celts of Asia Minor (the Galatians). Jerome probably had first-hand knowledge of these Celtic languages, as he had visited both Augusta Treverorum and Galatia.  Very few personal names among the Treveri are of Germanic origin; instead, they are generally Celtic or Latin. Certain distinctively Treveran names are apparently none of the three and may represent a pre-Celtic stratum, according to Wightman (she gives Ibliomarus, Cletussto and Argaippo as examples).

Before Ceasar’s invasion, the central city of the Treveri was at a place named  Titelberg.  Titelberg  is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people. The site thus provides telling evidence of urban civilization in what is now Luxembourg long before the Roman conquest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titelberg

800px-Titelberg_01 800px-Titelberg003 800px-Titelberg018

 

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

 The Treveri had a strong cavalry and infantry, and during the Gallic Wars would provide Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. Under their leader Cingetorix, the Treveri served as Roman auxiliaries. However, their loyalties began to change in 54 BCE under the influence of Cingetorix’ rival Indutiomarus. According to Caesar, Indutiomarus instigated the revolt of the Eburones under Ambiorix that year and led the Treveri in joining the revolt and enticing Germanic tribes to attack the Romans. The Romans under Titus Labienus killed Indutiomarus and then put down the Treveran revolt; afterwards, Indutiomarus’ relatives crossed the Rhine to settle among the Germanic tribes.  The Treveri remained neutral during the revolt of Vercingetorix, and were attacked again by Labienus after it. On the whole, the Treveri were more successful than most Gallic tribes in cooperating with the Romans. They probably emerged from the Gallic Wars with the status of a free civitas exempt from tribute.

In 30 BCE, a revolt of the Treveri was suppressed by Marcus Nonius Gallus, and the Titelberg was occupied by a garrison of the Roman army. Agrippa and Augustus undertook the organization of Roman administration in Gaul, laying out an extensive series of roads beginning with Agrippa’s governorship of Gaul in 39 BCE, and imposing a census in 27 BCE for purposes of taxation. The Romans built a new road from Trier to Reims via Mamer, to the north, and Arlon, thus by-passing by 25 kilometres the Titelberg and the older Celtic route, and the capital was displaced to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) with no signs of conflict. The vicinity of Trier had been inhabited by isolated farms and hamlets before the Romans, but there had been no urban settlement here.

Following the reorganisation of the Roman provinces in Germany in 16 BCE, Augustus decided that the Treveri should become part of the province of Belgica. At an unknown date, the capital of Belgica was moved from Reims to Augusta Treverorum. A significant layer of the Treveran élite seems to have been granted Roman citizenship under Caesar and/or Augustus, by whom they were given the nomenJulius.

During the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, and particularly when Drusus and Germanicus were active in Gaul, Augusta Treverorum rose to considerable importance as a base and supply centre for campaigns in Germany. The city was endowed with an amphitheatre, baths, and other amenities,  and for a while Germanicus’ family lived in the city.  Pliny the Elder reports that Germanicus’ son, the future emperor Gaius (Caligula), was born “among the Treveri, at the village of Ambiatinus, above Koblenz“, but Suetonius notes that this birthplace was disputed by other sources.

Towards the end of the first century ad, the Treveran elite noblemen made the mistake of joining in a revolt against Rome. The revolt was quickly put down  and more than a hundred rebel Treveran noblemen fled across the Rhine to join their Germanic allies; in the assessment of Jeannot Metzler, this event marks the end of aristocratic Treveran cavalry service in the Roman army, the rise of the local bourgeoisie, and the beginnings of “a second thrust of Romanization”.  Camille Jullian attributes to this rebellion the promotion of Reims, capital of the perennially loyal Remi, at the expense of the Treveri.  By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, representatives of the old élite bearing the nomen Julius had practically disappeared, and a new élite arose to take their place; these would have originated mainly from the indigenous middle class, according to Wightman. This would have been a Roman way of eliminating feelings of loyalty or heritage to the ancient Treveri tribe and replacing it with loyalty to Rome.   The Treveri tribes also suffered from their proximity to  the Rhine frontier during the Crisis of the Third Century. Frankish and Alamannic invasions during the 250s led to significant destruction, particularly in rural areas; given the failure of the Roman military to defend effectively against Germanic invasion, country dwellers improvised their own fortifications, often using the stones from tombs and mausoleums.  While these smaller rural concentrations of Treveri were being decimated by that Germanic invasion, the city of Augusta Treverorum was becoming an urban centre of the first importance, overtaking even Lugdunum (Lyon). During the Crisis of the Third Century, the city served as the capital of the Gallic Empire under the emperors Tetricus I and II from 271 to 274. The Treveri suffered further devastation from the Alamanni in 275, following which, according to Jeannot Metzler, “The great majority of agricultural domains lay waste and would never be rebuilt”. It is unclear whether Augusta Treverorum itself fell victim to the Alamannic invasion.  Other  historical sources state that the city was destroyed during that time and that Emperor Diocletian recognized the urgency of maintaining an imperial presence in the Gauls, and established first Maximian, then Constantius Chlorus as caesars at Trier; from 293 to 395, Trier was one of the residences of the Western Roman Emperor in Late Antiquity. It’s position required the monumental settings that betokened imperial government.

 Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

My personal thought on these events is to wonder if Rome’s failure to protect those outlying Treveri was actually part of some plan to better eliminate those more distant and possibly less loyal groups. In a way, these events led to a more complete demise of the original Treveri tribes and people who would look at themselves as Treveri first and Roman citizen second.  As for the city of Augusta Treverorum falling victim to the invasions,  it seems to have recovered quickly. Those residents that survived the attack would from that point on  be Roman and Christian in their loyalties and beliefs.  From 285 to 395, Augusta Treverorum was one of the residences of the western Roman Emperor, including Maximian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II, Valentinian I, Magnus Maximus, and Theodosius I;  from 318 to 407, it served as the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the mid-4th century, the city was counted in a Roman manuscript as one of the four capitals of the world, alongside Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.   New defensive structures, including fortresses at Neumagen, Bitburg and Arlon, were constructed to defend against Germanic invasion. After a Vandal invasion in 406, however, the imperial residence was moved to Mediolanum (Milan) while the praetorian guard was withdrawn to Arelate (Arles).

 

A mint was immediately established by Constantius, which came to be the principal mint of the Roman West.  A new stadium was added to the amphitheater, to stage chariot races. Under the rule of Constantine the Great (306–337), the city was rebuilt and buildings such as the Palastaula (known today as the Constantine Basilica) and the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen), the largest surviving Roman baths outside Rome, were begun under Constantius and completed c 314 constructed.  by his son Constantine, who left Trier in the hands of his son Crispus. In 326, sections of the imperial family’s private residential palaces were extended and converted to a large double basilica, the remains of which are still partly recognisable in the area of the Trier Cathedral (Trierer Dom) and the church “Liebfrauenkirche“.  A demolished imperial palace has left shattered sections of painted ceiling, which scholars believe once belonged to Constantine’s young wife, Fausta, whom he later put to death.

450850501_81dffdc34e_zkapitel1_01kapitel3_05

Basilica of Constantine

Basilica of Constantine

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

trier basilica

trier basilica

03-23 Trier Cathedral Ceiling

Trier Cathedral ceiling

03-23 Trier Cathedral Interior

Trier Cathedral Interior

The Constantine Connection

From Constantine’s time in Trier onward, the city was the seat of the Gallic prefecture (the Praefectus Praetorio Galliarium), one of the two highest authorities in the Western Roman Empire, which governed the western Roman provinces from Morocco to Britain. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397. It became a city of great importance and occasionally, great scandal- as in the events surrounding it’s Royal household.  I am not going to go into Constantine’s early life or his climb to the level of Emperor… this is long enough as it is!

Constantine’s share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured his control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father’s rule, and ordered the repair of the region’s roadways.  He soon left for Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in Gaul, the Tetrarchic capital of the northwestern Roman Empire.  The Franks, after learning of Constantine’s acclamation, invaded Gaul across the lower Rhine over the winter of 306–307 AD.  Constantine drove them back beyond the Rhine and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and Merogaisus. The kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of Trier’s amphitheater in the adventus (arrival) celebrations that followed.

2661-Trier-Roman-Amphitheatre-26
old roman baths in trier

Public baths (thermae) were built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were built to rival those of Rome.   Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city. To the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. Constantine sponsored many building projects across Gaul during his tenure as emperor of the West, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles).  According to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution,  and a way to distinguish himself from the “great persecutor”, Galerius. Constantine decreed a formal end to persecution, and returned to Christians all they had lost during the persecutions.

Because Constantine was still largely untried and had a hint of illegitimacy about him, he relied on his father’s reputation in his early propaganda: the earliest panegyrics to Constantine give as much coverage to his father’s deeds as to those of Constantine himself.  Constantine’s military skill and building projects soon gave the panegyrist the opportunity to comment favorably on the similarities between father and son, and Eusebius remarked that Constantine was a “renewal, as it were, in his own person, of his father’s life and reign”. Constantinian coinage, sculpture and oratory also shows a new tendency for disdain towards the “barbarians” beyond the frontiers. After Constantine’s victory over the Alemanni, he minted a coin issue depicting weeping and begging Alemannic tribesmen—”The Alemanni conquered”—beneath the phrase “Romans’ rejoicing”. There was little sympathy for these enemies. As his panegyrist declared: “It is a stupid clemency that spares the conquered foe!”

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Let’s set aside the rest of Constantine’s achievements and accomplishments and look at his personal life a bit. His personal residence became the city of Augusta Treverorum so naturally much of his personal life took place there. In the year 303 he married his first wife, Minervina and had one son, Crispus by her. In 307, he set her aside as part of a treaty or alliance with  Roman Emperor Maximianus and agreed to marry Maximianus’s daughter, Fausta.   In 310 Maximian died as a consequence of an assassination plot against Constantine. Maximian decided to involve his daughter Fausta, but she revealed the plot to her husband, and the assassination was disrupted. Maximian died, by suicide or by assassination, in July of that same year.

sculpture/bust of Fausta

sculpture/bust of Fausta

Empress Fausta was held in high esteem by Constantine, and proof of his favour was that in 323 she was proclaimed Augusta; previously she held the title of Nobilissima Femina. However three years later Fausta was put to death by Constantine, following the execution of Crispus, his eldest son by Minervina, in 326. The two deaths have been inter-related in various ways; in one, Fausta is set jealously against Crispus, as in the anonymous Epitome de Caesaribus, or conversely her adultery, perhaps with the stepson who was close to her in age, is suggested. Fausta was executed by suffocation in an over-heated bath, a mode of assassination not otherwise attested in the Roman world. David Woods offers the connection of overheated bathing with contemporaneous techniques of abortion,  a suggestion that implies an unwanted, adulterous pregnancy according to Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson.

The Emperor ordered the damnatio memoriae of his wife with the result that no contemporary source records details of her fate: “Eusebius, ever the sycophant, mentions neither Crispus nor Fausta in his Life of Constantine, and even wrote Crispus out of the final version of his Ecclesiastical History (HE X.9.4)”, Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson observes.   Significantly, her sons, once in power, never revoked this order.  Her sons became Roman Emperors: Constantine II, reigned 337 – 340, Constantius II reigned 337 – 361, and Constans reigned 337 – 350. She also bore three daughters Constantina, Helena and Fausta. Of these, Constantina married her cousins, firstly Hannibalianus and secondly Constantius Gallus, and Helena married Emperor Julian.

 

The reason for this act remains unclear and historians have long debated Constantine’s motivation. Zosimus in the 5th century and Joannes Zonaras in the 12th century both reported that Fausta, stepmother of Crispus, was extremely jealous of him. She was reportedly afraid that Constantine would put aside the sons she bore him. So, in order to get rid of Crispus, Fausta set him up. She reportedly told the young Caesar that she was in love with him and suggested an illegitimate love affair. Crispus denied the immoral wishes of Fausta and left the palace in a state of a shock. Then Fausta said to Constantine that Crispus had no respect for his father, since the Caesar was in love with his father’s own wife. She reported to Constantine that she dismissed him after his attempt to rape her. Constantine believed her and, true to his strong personality and short temper, executed his beloved son. A few months later, Constantine reportedly found out the whole truth and then killed Fausta.

This version of events has become the most widely accepted, since all other reports are even less satisfactory. That Fausta and Crispus would have together  plotted treason against Constantine is rejected by most historians, as they would have nothing to gain considering their positions as favourites of Constantine. In any case, such a case would not have been tried by a local court as Crispus’ case clearly was. Another view suggests that Constantine killed Crispus because as a supposedly illegitimate son, he would cause a crisis in the order of succession to the throne. However, Constantine had kept him at his side for twenty years without any such decision. Constantine also had the authority to appoint his younger, legitimate sons as his heirs. Some reports claimed that Constantine was envious of the success of his son and afraid of him. This seems improbable, given that Constantine had twenty years of experience as emperor while Crispus was still a young Caesar. Similarly, there seems to be no evidence that Crispus had any ambitions to harm or displace his father. So while the story of Zosimus and Zonaras seems the most believable one, there are also problems relating to their version of events. Constantine’s reaction suggests that he suspected Crispus of a crime so terrible that death was not enough. Crispus, his wife Helena and their son, also suffered damnatio memoriae, meaning their names were never mentioned again and deleted from all official documents and monuments. The eventual fate of Helena and her son is a mystery. Constantine did not restore his son’s innocence and name, as he probably would have on learning of his son’s innocence. Perhaps Constantine’s pride, or shame at having executed his son, prevented him from publicly admitting having made a mistake.

It is beyond doubt that there was a connection between the deaths of Crispus and Fausta. Such agreement among different sources connecting two deaths is extremely rare in itself. A number of modern historians have suggested that Crispus and Fausta really did have an affair. When Constantine found out, his reaction was to have both of them killed. What delayed the death of Fausta may have been a pregnancy. Since the years of birth for the two known daughters of Constantine and Fausta remain unknown, one of their births may have delayed their mother’s execution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fausta

 Constantine eventually removed himself from the city of  Augusta Treverorum  in later years and spent his later years in Constantinople, which he considered his capital and permanent residence. He died there in 337.  Constantine had known death would soon come. Within the Church of the Holy Apostles, Constantine had secretly prepared a final resting-place for himself.  It came sooner than he had expected. Soon after the Feast of Easter 337, Constantine fell seriously ill.   He left Constantinople for the hot baths near his mother’s city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern shores of the Gulf of İzmit. There, in a church his mother built in honor of Lucian the Apostle, he prayed, and there he realized that he was dying. Seeking purification, he became a catechumen, and attempted a return to Constantinople, making it only as far as a suburb of Nicomedia.  He summoned the bishops, and told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, “performed the sacred ceremonies according to custom”.  He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Pascha (or Easter), on 22 May 337.

Saint Helena’s connection

After Constanine’s death, the city of  Augusta Treverorum  once more became a royal or imperial residence. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397.  From 367, under Valentinian I, Trier once more became an imperial residence (lasting until the death of Theodosius I in 395) and remained the largest city north of the Alps. It was for a few years (383 – 388) the capital of Magnus Maximus, who ruled most of the western Empire.   Besides Constantine’s heirs and successors retaining close ties to the city of Trier, one other person of his family did as well. That would be his Mother, Helena! No discussion of Rome’s connection and tie to Trier would be complete without a mention of Helena and her gifts to the city.  Apparently, she was  so fond of the city that in later years, her head would return to reside there?

CaputSHelenae_0578a

Helena’s head relic in the crypt of Trier cathedral

Saint Helena ( c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperorConstantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great. She is an important figure in the history of Christianity and the world due to her major influence on her son and her own contributions in placing Christianity at the heart of Western Civilization. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross

Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder_-_Saint_Helena_with_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project

Helena’s birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city “Helenopolis” after her death around 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.  The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace.  There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine  and a Helenopolis in Lydia.  These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine’s mother.  G. K. Chesterton in his book ‘A Short History of England’ writes that she was considered a Briton by the British, a tradition noted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae reports that Helena was a daughter of the British King Coel.

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine.  Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.  Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius‘ “Breviarium,” record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as “stable-maid” or “inn-keeper”. He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a “good stable-maid”.   Other sources, especially those written after Constantine’s proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.   There is great debate over her actual marital status with Constantine’s father, Constantius.  Some would assert that she was his legitimate wife, others assume that she was most likely his concubine or common law wife. What ever the case, she gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February around 272.  At the time, she was in Naissus (Niš, Serbia).   In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian’s daughter under his command. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married).  Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.

Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the Roman Empire in 306 by Constantius’ troops after the latter had died, and following his elevation his mother was brought back to the public life in 312, returning to the imperial court. She appears in the Eagle Cameo portraying Constantine’s family, probably commemorating the birth of Constantine’s son Constantine II in the summer of 316.  She received the title of Augusta in 325 and died around 330 with her son at her side. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Helena, outside Rome on the Via Labicana. Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned, next to her is the sarcophagus of her granddaughter Saint Constantina (Saint Constance). Her skull is displayed in the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany.

Helena's sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Helena’s sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.   Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace’s private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This has been maintained by Cistercian monks in the monastery which has been attached to the church for centuries.   According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

Early British and Anglo-Saxon history claimed that Helena was Briton.  In Great Britain, later legend, mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon but made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, claimed that Helena was a daughter of the King of Britain, Cole of Colchester, who allied with Constantius to avoid more war between the Britons and Rome.  Geoffrey further states that she was brought up in the manner of a queen, as she had no brothers to inherit the throne of Britain. The source for this may have been Sozomen’s Historia Ecclesiastica, which however does not claim Helena was British but only that her son Constantine picked up his Christianity there.  Constantine was with his father when he died in York, but neither had spent much time in Britain.

The statement made by English chroniclers of the Middle Ages, according to which Helena was supposed to have been the daughter of a British prince, is entirely without historical foundation. It may arise from the similarly-named Welsh princess Saint Elen (alleged to have married Magnus Maximus and to have borne a son named Constantine) or from the misinterpretation of a term used in the fourth chapter of the panegyric on Constantine’s marriage with Fausta. The description of Constantine honoring Britain oriendo (lit. “from the outset”, “from the beginning”) may have been taken as an allusion to his birth (“from his beginning”) although it was actually discussing the beginning of his reign.

 

Before we leave the “blessed” St. Helena and her contributions to Trier, I have some last blasphemous thoughts on the woman… First of all, there are a few theories and speculations that she may have been involved or partially responsible for the death of daughter in law, Fausta.  It has been said by some that it Helena who suggested the means of death for Fausta. From all accounts, Constantine was quite close, possibly overly attached to his Mother and would have listened to her advice. Add to Fausta’s immoral actions, the fact that she may have lied about Crispus and thereby been responsible for his fate. Prior to this event, there had never been any hint of ill feelings, disloyalty or mistrust between Constantine and Crispus. From all accounts, he seemed to be a much beloved and trusted son, and most likely- grandson. All I am suggesting is that the most saintly Helena may not have been so saintly in some of her own actions and feelings! That supposed Saintliness of this woman brings me to my last thought on her and Constantine. Interestingly and conveniently, it is also around this time that Helena is sent off on her tour of Christian lands.

Constantine and his Mother were, for much of their lives, pagans who did not discover or convert to Christianity until their later years.  Constantine was one who, for the most part used the religion to his benefit or advantage. In his earlier years he promoted tolerance towards them mainly in order to keep the peace in his lands. That persecution business was a bloody, messy and expensive affair- best to avoid it if at possible. When it came to the point where Christianity was becoming quite popular and hard to control, he decided to take matters into his own hands… he chose to embrace it and thereby gain some control over it.  One evidence of his using it to his own advantage and not necessarily being quite so firm in his inner beliefs was his refusal to be baptized until the end of his life.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. In this way, what ever he had done prior to his baptism and acceptance of the one true God could not be used or held against him- either by God or by the earthly Christian Church!  He spent many of his years as ruler trying to convince the Christians that he was on their side in order to gain control of the situation and the church. Constantine was an ultimate power broker and would have used any means within his personal arsenal, including his family… which his previous actions in dealing with wife and son proved.

 

Imagine if you will, this scenario… Constantine as Augustus of Rome is dealing with this whole Christianity situation and has to come up with some plan to really seal the deal in convincing the world of his sincerity. His Mother, Helena is residing at the family home with not a whole lot to do… She’s a highly devoted Mother- possibly overly devoted as Constantine is her only child. Besides all of his headaches of running the empire, he has a much younger wife and family to contend with as well. Helena is most likely not one to just sit idle, content or peaceful in her retirement years. She may be bored, and possibly a bit of an interfering Mother in law? Helena meddles in the family affairs one too many times and the result is disaster for the entire family- especially daughter in law Fausta and grandson Crispus. Shortly after all of this mess, Helena sent off on an extended vacation of sorts. Now, this whole sordid affair would have not put the family in such a good light with the Christians whom Constantine was trying to impress. He needs to make some serious amends and do something of such a great and grand level that the Christians are going to forget all about his messy little family scandal.

What he does is actually quite genius in terms of Public Relations repair.  Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.  His act of sending his Mother off on this extended vacation/shopping trip was beyond successful in a variety of ways.  First, it got Helena out of his hair for awhile so he could focus on immediate damage control. It showed and promoted the idea that Helena was a pious Christian woman and that if  there was any doubt about her involvement in the scandal, she was willing to do pilgrimage to atone for her possible sins. Everyone completely forgot about that mess with Fausta and Crispus when Helena returned home a few years later laden with truly spectacular gifts for the Church.  Those gifts included everything from parts of the “True Cross”, pieces of Jesus’ tunic, to nails of crucifixion, earth from the holy land and rope that held Jesus to the cross.  Helena’s public relations tour proved even more successful than Constantine could ever have imagined or hoped for. Her gifts are viewed by some scholars as the introduction of idol worship and the beginnings of the mass marketing scheme of Relics! All of Constantine’s and Helena’s past indiscretions were quickly swept under the rug as the Church began to realize just how much wealth these gifts could bring if promoted in the right way.

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end and Trier’s end could easily have come with the demise of the Roman Empire at the end of the fifth century. Roman Trier had been subjected to attacks by Germanic tribes from 350 onwards, but these had been repulsed by Emperor Julian. After the invasions of 407 the Romans were able to reestablish the Rhine frontier and hold northern Gaul tenuously until the end of the 450s, when control was finally lost to the Franks and local military commanders who claimed to represent central Roman authority. During this period Trier was captured by the Franks (possibly in 413 and 421), as well as by the Huns under Attila in 451. The city became definitively part of Frankish territory  in 475. It is important to note here too that upon the city becoming a Frankish one, the name would have changed from Augusta Treverorum to Treves- the French or Frankish name for the city.  As a result of the conflicts of this period, Trier’s population decreased from an estimated 80,000 in the 4th century to 5,000 at the beginning of the 6th century. This change of rulers and decrease in population did not reduce Trier’s importance or value and it did not bring about the end of Trier.

map with Treves marked

By the end of the 5th century, Trier was under Frankish rule, first controlled by the Merovingian dynasty, then by the Carolingians  As a result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which the grandsons of Charlemagne divided his empire into three parts, Trier was incorporated into the Kingdom of Lorraine (Lotharingia). After the death of Lothair II, ruler of Lorraine, Trier in 870 became part of the East Frankish Empire, later called Germany, under Henry .  Because of it’s connection to Helena and the early church, Trier was a valued and important Christian city for the devoutly Christian empires over the next centuries.  When Constantine promoted tolerance and allowed for Christianity’s acceptance, he in some ways laid the foundation for Trier’s survival and revival in the later Frankish empire years.  The Frankish empires would eventually found a great many more  abbeys and monasteries within the city. And, the Frankish would add to the relics kept there as well.  Benedictine abbey St. Matthias in the south of Trier. Here, the first three bishops of Trier, Eucharius, Valerius and Maternus are buried alongside the apostle Saint Matthias.  This is the only tomb of an apostle to be located in Europe north of the Alps, thus making Trier together with Rome in Italy (burial place of St. Peter the apostle) and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (tomb of St. James) one of three major places of pilgrimage in Europe.   By early in the 10th century, Trier would become somewhat of a Papal city in that it was under the direct control and guardianship of  the Archbishops. In 902,  The Archbishop of Trier was, as chancellor of Burgundy, one of the seven Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a right which originated before the 12th century, and continued until the French Revolution. From the 10th century and throughout the Middle Ages, Trier made several attempts to achieve autonomy from the Archbishopric of Trier, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1212, the city received a charter from Emperor Otto IV, which was confirmed by Conrad IV. In 1309, however, it was forced to once again recognise the authority of the Archbishop, who was at that time the imposing Baldwin of Luxembourg, son of the Count of Luxemburg.   The Church deemed Trier as a highly valued commodity and would go to great lengths to keep it under their jurisdiction and control.

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

881 vikings set sights on Treves

Of course, we now already know of Trier’s importance and value to the church due to it’s connections to Constantine and Helena, but what might cause the Church to take such steps as to putting the city under it’s direct control, authority and protection? Ahhhh for that, you would have to know the events taking place during the years leading up to that control, those years that spelled disaster for so many cities. Those years would of course be the years of Viking raids, which so many of you are most interested in. I do want to take a moment here to note my appreciation for those of you have stuck through all of this extensive ancient history just to get to the part about the Vikings!

During the mid 800s, the Danes and Northmen offered Frankish residents some reprieve from raids as they were busy in their attempts to conquer England.  Around 880, Alfred the Great was successful in brokering a treaty with Guthrum and peace was temporarily achieved in England. This event sent many of the Danes back across the sea to areas of Frankish domain. Where previously, they were content with quick grab and go ship raids, this time they returned as landsoldiers and were equipped with horses.   Flanders took heavy blows  (Gent, Terwaan, Atrecht, Kamerijk).  Louis III  defeated the Vikings in 881  near Saucourt at the river Somme. This battle was described in the Song of Ludwig (Ludwigslied). According to the Fulda Annals Louis’ army killed 9.000 Danes. Consequence of this was that the Vikings returned to Flanders and Dutch Limburg. From Asselt (north of Roermond) they raided towns in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and Limburg (Liége, Tongeren). In their attack on  Trier they were resisted by the bishops Wala and Bertulf of Trier and by count Adelhard of Metz.  Following the Trier example other cities began to defend themselves effectively. While Trier did survive  the attack in 881, much of the city (including most of the churches and abbeys) was destroyed. Because Trier’s Bishops were so instrumental in the city’s resistance and defense, they were probably looked on with much favor by the Pope and by one  Carolingian Emperor who may be familiar to us as Vikings fans and followers. That would be Charles the Fat, not be confused with Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple… all of whom in combination probably make up the character of Charles in Hirst’s version of Viking history!

Charles the Fat (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles III, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne and was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire.  Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876 following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.  Usually considered lethargic and inept – he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy – he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the famous siege of Paris in 885. Nevertheless, contemporary opinion of him was not nearly so negative as modern historiographical opinion. Purchasing peace back then was a fairly common and acceptable means of dealing with the Vikings and avoiding all out war with them.

The 885 siege of Paris referred to here would have been the siege that involved Rollo in history along with the leader of the attack, a man named Sigfred. According to historical accounts, In 885, a huge fleet led by Sigfred sailed up the Seine, for the first time in years, and besieged Paris. Sigfred demanded a bribe again, but this time Charles refused. He was in Italy at the time and Odo, Count of Paris, sneaked some men through enemy lines to seek his aid. Charles sent Henry of Saxony to Paris. In 886, as disease began to spread through Paris, Odo himself went to Charles to seek support. Charles brought a large army and encircled the army of Rollo and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the attackers up the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of promised silver. Charles’ prestige in France was greatly diminished.  What is important in this above account is the mention that Sigfred demands a bribe again. This would suggest or imply that Charles was already familiar with Sigfred and had dealt with him previously.  It is that previous involvement that leads us  back to the lowlands and Trier.

We need to go to back to the Viking attacks of 881 which included the attack on Trier in order to find that previous connection to Sigfred and perhaps even Rollo as well if Rollo was traveling with Sigfred’s raiding parties for any length of time. Reminder here- this is the Rollo of history, not Hirst’s version of Rollo!

In the early 880s, the remnants of the Great Heathen Army, defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun in 878, began to settle in the Low Countries.  Charles held an assembly at Worms with the purpose of dealing with the Vikings. The army of the whole of East Francia was assembled in the summer under Arnulf, Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Count of Saxony. The chief Viking camp was besieged at Asselt. Not long after Charles opened negotiations with the Viking chiefs, Godfrey and Sigfred. Godfrey accepted Christian baptism and agreed to become Charles’s vassal. He was married to Gisela, daughter of Lothair II. Sigfred was bribed off. Despite the insinuations of some modern chroniclers, no contemporary account criticises Charle’s actions during this campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Fat

Godfried choose to stay. He became a vassal of the emperor and, after being baptized, married Gisela, daughter of Lothar II, the first king of Lorraine. Siegfried was paid off with 2.000 punds silver and gold and took off to the north with 200 ships. The emperor Charles felt threatened by Godfried and his (Godfried’s) brother in law Hugo (who was Gisela’s brother). In June 885 Godfried was invited for talks in Spijk, near Lobith. This turned out to be a conspiracy and Godfried was murdered. Hugo was made blind and transferred for the rest of his life to the monastery of Prüm. Here the monk Regino wrote the story of his downfall.

http://www.viking.no/e/netherland/index.html

In looking at these two events, we can now see the connection between Sigfred and Charles. We can also see a reason why Sigfred may have chosen to attack Paris in 885… possibly partially for revenge on what had happened to his partner, Godfried, and perhaps with the assumption that Charles would again pay him off to leave. In that assumption, Sigfred was partially correct- it just took longer than expected.  The attack began in November of 885 and dragged on until around May of 886. Both sides suffered great losses- more from illness than actual fighting. Morale was low on both sides.   Sigfred decided to cut his losses. He asked for 60 lbs of silver and left the siege in April. Rollo and his men remained and continued the battle through the summer when Charles finally returned, not to fight but to encourage Rollo and his army to move on to Burgundy which was in revolt at the time and would provide much easier conquest. When Rollo finally decided to leave France the next spring, Charles paid him 700 lbs of silver which he had promised the earlier summer. I would assume or guess that Charles just needed additional time to come up with the payment so he sent Rollo off to greener pastures while he set about collecting the money to get rid of him.  It was shortly after these events that Charles and the Carolingian dynasty began to fall apart! Odo would eventually get his chance at ruling (it would not last long!) Another Charles would take the throne, and Rollo would return for another more successful campaign… as far as we know, Sigfred retired somewhere to enjoy his shares of plunder and riches.

Trier survives and prospers under protection of the Church whether they want to or not!

 

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Trier cathedral

Trier Cathedral

 

 

Trier survived the Viking attacks and the fall of the Carolingian Dynasty as well by remaining attached to the church and the Holy Roman Empire though it made numerous attempts to disentangle itself and gain independent autonomy. In retrospect looking back at all of the turmoil of the medieval years, they were probably better off being under that protection of the Church and Papal authorities. It allowed the city to prosper well into the middle ages and beyond.  In 1309, Archbishop Baldwin of Luxemburg was given control of the city and although he was extremely young at the time, only 22, he was the most important Archbishop and Prince-Elector of Trier in the Middle Ages. He was the brother of the German King and Emperor Henry VII and his grandnephew Charles would later become German King and Emperor as Charles IV. He used his family connections to add considerable territories to the Electorate of Trier and is also known to have built many castles in the region. When he died in 1354, Trier was a prospering city.

The city would remain prosperous and under  control of the church and Holy Roman Empire until the 1600s when the  Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648),set in motion more than two centuries of warfare for Trier as well as other parts of what is now Germany. From that point on, Trier would find itself besieged and battled over. During the thirty years war it was occupied several times by French troops. They besieged and occupied Trier in 1632, 1645, 1673 (the French Army stayed until 1675 and destroyed all churches, abbeys and settlements in front of the city walls for military reasons; the city itself was heavily fortified).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Trier

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the visit to ancient Trier and learned something more about it’s many connections to history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Kingdom, Time travel in Scotland, plus Hail to Arthur Pendragon and Helen Hollick!

A quick update this morning to share some of the most recent preview pics released for The Last Kingdom! I know that many of us are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Uthred to our small screens. Thankfully BBC is finally letting us see some of the previews of it! The Last Kingdom premieres Saturday, October 10 at 10/9c. The Last Kingdom is a contemporary story of redemption, vengeance and self-discovery set against the birth of England.

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview

Last Kingdom preview young Uhtred and Brida?

 

Last Kingdom preview- OMG It's Ubba!!!

Last Kingdom preview- Ubba

from vikings to last kingdom

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

For more info on the series and the cast list so far, you can read my previous article:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/last-kingdom-update/

The official website has been updated, You need to go check it out now!

http://www.bbcamerica.com/the-last-kingdom/

 

For fans of Outlander and other assorted time travel stories, I  want to share and suggest another series. I’ve mentioned it before and reviewed it on my books and reviews page but just wanted to give it a quick blurb here as a reminder or refresher for those looking for books to fill the time travel and Scotland craving. Laura Vosika has a great time travel series that combines her musical background with time travel and early Scottish history. I’ve enjoyed the Bluebells trilogy so far and I think a lot of others will enjoy it as well! Her series is a mix of past and present, some alternative “what if” theories, some great history along with mysteries and suspense! It deals with the history of Scotland during the 1300s.

Blue Bells of Scotland

The Minstrel Boy is now available on Kindle!

The Trilogy Begins….

Blue Bells of ScotlandShawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants– until the night Amy has enough and leaves him  stranded in a Scottish castle tower.He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior.  Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee.  They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn.  Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life– pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts— seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene.  His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.

http://www.bluebellstrilogy.com/

You can find my reviews for the series on my books and reviews page. Laura Vosika is currently working on the next book in the series, called Westering Home. She is in Scotland right now doing some additional research and if you check out her facebook page, she is posting some fantastic photos of her trip and her research!

https://www.facebook.com/laura.vosika.author/timeline

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/books-and-reviews/

 

One last update! While we’re on the subject of books… In a previous article, https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/saxons-romans-and-arthur/  I mentioned a series on Arthur by Helen Hollick. At the time, I had just started reading it, was only through book one and didn’t give a complete review of it. The series is called the Pendragon’s  Banner and in it, Helen gives a more realistic presentation of the legend of Arthur.  There are three books in the series that takes us from Arthur’s early childhood to his death. I have now finished reading all three books and can honestly say that I am just as impressed with the ending as I was with the beginning of it! In the series, Helen presents her  version of  many of the different stories connected with the legend. The only parts she omitted in her version were Lancelot and Merlin. She omitted these characters for a good reason! Helen chose to focus on the fragments of history and legend that made a more historical connection to events during that time period. Rather than present the mythology and symbolism of Merlin and magic or Lancelot and knights on white horses, she instead had us follow Arthur on a  journey to Gaul, to parts of ancient France where the Romans were fighting a losing battle against the Franks at the time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon

There in a place called Avignon, he face betrayal and failure, along with inner demons to haunt him and cause him to not want to return to his home in Britain.  While Helen insists that she is no historian, I was thoroughly impressed with  her attention to historical details and those tiny fragments of documented evidence. As the series went on, I found myself immersed in those small details and spent considerable time switching from the story google those little references. Now, for some that might not be considered a plus to the story telling, but for me, it was an awesome adventure into both the story and the actual historical theories about that time period!

When I chose her series, it was for the references to actual history and she did not let me down. Her way of weaving much of that history together made a great deal of sense to me. I especially like the turn she took in weaving Cerdic the Saxon into the story. That was the part I was most interested in from the beginning anyway! Historically, Cerdic’s genealogy and lineage were sketchy and there are theories that he may have been connected to the Romano Britons in some way… Helen went with that theory and it worked!

I highly suggest you read the series, and coincidentally, if you go to Helen’s web page, you will find the trilogy as this month’s feature!

Quote of the Month 

‘Arthur said, “Happy endings are only for lovers in Harpers’ tales.” ‘
from The Kingmaking

The kingmaking Helen hollick The Pendragon Banner 2 by helen hollickShadow of the king by helen hollick

http://www.helenhollick.net/index.html

In Helen’s journal, she has proclaimed August as Arthurian month and is offering a give away prize! So, all hail Arthur and Helen!!!

http://www.helenhollick.net/journal.html

 

 

 

 

From Odin and Woden to Anglo-Saxons in Britain

wodin and his followers

woden and his followers

 

 

saxon right to rule2

In my previous article on kings and dynasties, I stated that I would look at each group separately in more depth.  In order to better understand the Anglo-Saxon rule in England, we need to have some history on who the Angles, the Saxons and Jutes were, and how they came to England in the first place.  This article is a brief look at that history.

You can view the previous article here: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/i-am-king-really-why-and-how/

I am King

Before we get into the rulers and their divine right to rule, we need to look briefly at the history of the kingdoms, the people and how they came to be in Britain. We will look at the Angles, the Saxons, and yes even the Jutes who seem to get overlooked and forgotten in the discussions of early Britain, I am also going to include a segment on one other group that gets mixed in with the rest but does have it’s own separate identity… that would be a group of Geats from the area of Sweden who made their contribution via the Wulfinga tribe who would settle in part of Britain.  I am including this group for two reasons. They did play an important part in the history of  Britain, and one of our past rulers was presumably a part of this group. The unfortunate Jarl Borg  belonged  to a distinctive Norse tribe known as the Gautar, a people referred to in English works such as Beowulf and Widsith as the ‘Geats’, and related to the Germanic Goth tribes which invaded the western Roman Empire. The Gautar have since been assimilated by the Swedes in the Medieval period.  Jarl Borg, as a powerful Geatish lord of near-kingly powers, may have been a member of the royal clan of the Wulfings (descendents of the wolf) who traditionally ruled over the Gautar of Ostergotland.

Sam Newton and others (including Rupert Bruce-Mitford), have proposed that the East Anglian Wuffing dynasty was derived from the Wulfings, and it was at their court that Beowulf was first composed.  

The Wuffingas, Uffingas or Wuffings were the ruling dynasty of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Wuffingas took their name from Wuffa, an early East Anglian king. Nothing is known of the members of the dynasty before Rædwald, who ruled from about 599 to circa 624. The Viking invasions of the ninth century destroyed the monasteries in East Anglia where many documents relating to the rule of the Wuffingas would have been kept.

The last of the Wuffingas kings was Ælfwald, who died in 749 and who was succeeded by kings whose lineage is unknown.  The kingdom of East Anglia was settled by peoples from northern Europe during the 5th and 6th centuries. Historical sources relating to the genealogy of the East Anglian kings include the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History, both compiled many years after the kingdom was formed, as well as lists produced by medieval historians, such as the 12th century Textus Roffensis, who may have had access to other sources that are now lost. Several of the Wuffingas kings are included in a pedigree of Ælfwald, contained in the Anglian collection that dates from the 9th century. In the pedigree, Ælfwald is claimed to descend from the god Wōden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wulfing

jarl borg caressing his wife's skull

jarl borg caressing his wife’s skull

jarl borg planning revenge

jarl borg planning revenge

In my previous article about Horik and Ragnar, I did touch on the beginnings of the Angles and Saxons in Britain with their migration from their homelands as the Danish or Dani began to take over those areas.  This migration  included Jutes and Geats from the southern area of what is now Sweden. Keep in mind that this migration took place centuries prior to the Viking arrivals in late 700s and 800s. These earliest migrations began as the Romans were fighting to maintain control of this outpost known as Britannia. Another important fact to remember for our purposes here is that we are not looking at the areas of Wales, Cornwall, Scotland or Ireland in this discussion.

Little is really known about the Jutes, their migration to Britain or their eventual demise in that land. They most likely joined with their neighbors, the Angles and Saxons in the relocation to Britain when the Danes and Franks became more powerful and took over the home lands.  It is possible that the Jutes are a related people to the Geats and a Gothic people as it is mentioned in the Gutasaga that some inhabitants of Gotland left for mainland Europe. Large grave sites were found at Willenberg, Prussia (now Wielbark, Poland). The finds were attributed to the ancient Gutones, who may speculatively belinked to the much later Goths.

They settled in smaller  southern areas of England,  kent and Isle of  Whight.  If you look at this map of Anglo-Saxon England, you can see that Kent is fairly close to east Anglia where the Geats (Wulfings) settled. If the two groups were related or connected to each other, it would stand to reason that they re-settle in some close proximity.

The Jutes were a smaller group than the others and they seem to have rather quickly been assimilated into those larger groups, losing most of their previous individual history or identity. While it is commonplace to detect their influences in Kent (for example, the practice of partible inheritance known as gavelkind), the Jutes in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vanished, probably assimilated to the surrounding Saxons, leaving only the slightest of traces.  The culture of the Jutes of Kent shows more signs of Roman, Frankish, and Christian influence than that of the Angles or Saxons. Funerary evidence indicates that the pagan practice of cremation ceased relatively early and jewellery recovered from graves has affinities with Rhenish styles from the Continent, perhaps suggesting close commercial connections with Francia. It is possible that being such a small group that they were more quickly assimilated into the Christian beliefs and culture as well. Some early historians speculated that they were victims of Ethnic cleansing by the West Saxons but later theories suggest that it was more a case of them assimilating themselves into the larger groups. What ever the reason, they disappeared as a group early on and played no role in the later settlements of  England by the Anglo-Saxons.

East-Anglia-11

 

 

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia   map

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia map

For our discussion, we are only going to focus on those areas that the Jutes, Angles and Saxons would conquer and settle in.  The following is an early map of  the home lands that the Jutes, Saxons and Angles occupied prior to the Danes took them over.

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland  map

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland map

This map gives a breakdown of where they originally settled in Roman era Brittania.

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

By the early 600s, this is what the kingdoms and settlements were beginning to look like with this, Angles and Saxons controlling much of the area and Jutes holding on to a few small portions. The native Britons were relegated to the areas of Whales and Scotland at that time. This is a precursor to the four main kingdoms that would remain and become vital power players in the future. By the  800s it would become Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria, with East Anglia remaining a small separate entity.

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600  map

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600 map

This is what the land looked like by late 700s, early 800s in the time of Ecbert.

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

 

 

The Romans left Britannia in the early 400s as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes began their migration to the area.  They left behind their buildings, their roadways, some of their culture and they left behind  their religion as well. By the time the Romans left Brittania, they were Christians. Some of their citizens and their priests would have chosen to stay in this land that they now considered home. As they became assimilated into the new cultures taking over the land, they would most likely have begun the process of  slowly merging and weaving together the two separate belief systems into a form of Christianity that those North people would understand and accept. By the 800s when the second wave of Northmen arrived, these earlier invaders and settlers had become  fully immersed in the Christian belief system with their previous Nordic beliefs long forgotten, set aside or kept secret. There would have been remaining sects and pockets of those who followed the old ways but this would have been in the more isolated, rural areas and even then, they would have kept it at a low profile so as not to draw attention or recrimination from the Church, which was becoming so much more powerful and controlling.

 

First we should look at the original migration of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes from their homeland to the areas that they each ultimately settled in Britain. They all came from the same general area, probably spoke the same language and most importantly, held the same beliefs. All of these early tribes followed Odin or Woden and they took their belief system with them to Brittania. The only difference in the belief system is that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain  followed this God as Woden while those who remained in the homeland used the word Odin..  Woden would eventually play an important part in determining the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

The ancestor of the South Saxon kings, Woden was born at the beginning of time, his parents being the giant, Bor, and the giantess, Bestia, who came from chaos.

Woden was the Father God, the god of battle and death, the god of inspiration and wit, and, far from least, he was the god of learning. Woden was also the psychopomp of slain warriors, taking them back to Valhalla, his hall of the brave. Valhalla was situated in a joyous land called Gladheim, where Woden also had another hall with twelve thrones upon which were seated his councillors.

Woden was the great chief of the Aesir, a race of war gods who lived in Asgarth, the world of divinities. The god-chief had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who told him all that had happened in Milgard, the world of mortals.

Woden was in wedlock with Frigg, the goddess of fertility, conjugal love and motherhood.

Their eldest son, Balder, was the favourite of all the other gods and known for his matchless beauty and sweetness of character. He was the god of plants and good forces. He lived in a hall called Breithablik with his wife, the daughter of the god Nepr, and her name was Nanna. Forseti, their son, was the god of justice, peace and truth. He had a throne in his hall. This residence was called Glitnir, a palace which was embellished with silver and gold.

Balder was killed unintentionally by his blind brother, the god Hoder, with a bough of mistletoe, having been misled by the malicious Loki, the god of mischief, destruction and fire.

Woden and Frigg had another son who was killed in combat at the battle of Ragnasok. His name was Hermod. Since he had no children and nor did Hoder, presumably Aelle and Mealla (if they were royal) would have claimed descent from Woden through his grandson, Forseti. Woden also had a natural son called Vithar, by his concubine Grithir, who was a giantess.

Norway_Fjords woden

According to Norwegian myth the mountain caves in this land of fjords are peopled by supernatural giants called trolls, although they sometimes appear as dwarfs. Tradition also says that they read the Old Testament. Perhaps trolls derive their ancestry from a distant memory of neanderthals, as might the giants who are said to have existed in the chaos before the birth of Woden.

The traditional view has always been presented that the Anglo-Saxons made a great invasion of the land, destroyed everything in their path and took it over completely, wiping out all of the previous inhabitants or causing them to flee to the wilds and desolation of the west and northern portions. We have been told that, much like the second wave of Vikings, they were marauding, murderous heathenish Barbarians. This traditional view is slanted and biased in favor of the Romans, and the Christians who were able to write down their versions of what happened during that era. As with any history, there are two sides to every event and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Were there great battles, burnings, pillaging and death? Yes, of course there were- on all sides.  If you were a villager or farmer of that time, you may not have even been sure quite who was destroying your life. You might have imagined that it was that group of Barbarians, those Saxons that your overlord mentioned… but you may not have been aware of what your overlord had previously done to incur that wrath? You may not even have completely understood all of the groups waging war against each other, or that those Saxons were aiding some neighboring kingdom that your ruler had caused to create an enemy of. If you survived to tell of the battle, your recollection would be only of what you experienced first hand, or what your ruler told you was the cause. You would have known little or nothing about any underlying reasons and you most likely have not cared because in your small world, you would have gone on with your struggle for life in those bleak and uncertain times.

 

The Romans had been in control of the area for 350 years by the time they decided to leave. What happened in Britannia should hold the Romans as much or even more accountable and responsible than the Anglo-Saxons. They left the territory in a vulnerable state, having already destroyed and weakened the native Britons’ ability to rule or govern for themselves. What followed was chaos that left the remaining residents fighting amongst themselves for control of the area. As I’ve already mentioned, some Romans chose to remain as they now considered themselves more Briton than Roman.  Many of them held bitterness and resentment of the Roman Empire for what happened. One other thing to consider is that many  of those who remained may also have been soldiers who had been conscripted into the Roman army from all parts of the Empire, probably including those places of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes.  Just because one was attached to the Roman Empire it did not necessarily mean they were Roman or even a Roman citizen.  When the Roman Empire began to fall, many one time citizens or allies would probably have returned their allegiance to what ever home land they were from originally or the land they were residing in when the fall came. Those Romans that remained became Romo-Britons, and retained their previous elite statuses and lands for some time. They became part of the Briton elite rulers who were trying to re-build and re-establish kingdoms within the country.  Rome made Britain a melting pot of cultures before the Saxons ever thought of arriving.

If you search through the histories to find that in between middle ground, you will find that the Saxons were not unknown to the Roman Empire or the Britons, nor were they necessarily the barbarians they were depicted as other than for the fact they were one of the many groups rebelling against the Roman Empire at the time. The Saxons were at one time part of that Empire, having been brought into it by the Foederati or treaty system that the Romans used to increase their armies. foederati and its usage and meaning was extended by the Roman practice of subsidizing entire barbarian tribes — which included the Franks, Vandals, Alans and, best known, the Visigoths — in exchange for providing warriors to fight in the Roman armies. Alaric began his career leading a band of Gothic foederati.

Saxons were mentioned as early as 350 by the Romans who were already dealing with Saxon defiance to their rule. It was during that time that Rome created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum (“Saxon Coast”) on both sides of the English Channel.  The Saxons were fighting ongoing battles against the Franks who were Roman allies.  It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel coast.  An important clue to why the Saxons might have felt some justification in their continuing settlement of Britain is that before the end of Roman rule in Britannia, many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers. The Romans opened the door for them to move in…. perhaps because they were already thinking of  pulling out of the area and did not really care so much about who moved in next. The Romans may have thought that if the Saxon groups moved into Britain, they would be less of a threat on the rest of the continent.  For the retreating Romans, it may have been a case of “Fine, you want a place of your own…Here take this place and Good Luck with that!”

 

After the Romans retreated from Britannia, some of the remaining powers continued to use the Roman system and still maintained some connection to Rome even though The Roman Empire had made it clear that those who remained in this place would be on their own and should not expect assistance from Rome. At some point they did appeal to Rome for assistance in fighting the Picts and Scoti, and this is possibly how the Saxons entered the picture on a larger scale. They were not marauding invaders, they were invited into the country by both the Romans and the later rulers of Britain!

This early documentation by Gildas in the 6th century is interesting because while he does refer to the Saxons as enemies, he admits that they were invited- hired to help, and he gives a clue as to what the middle ground may have been.

In Gildas‘s work of the sixth century, De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, a religious tract on the state of Britain, the Saxons were enemies originally from overseas, who brought well-deserved judgement upon the local kings or ‘tyrants’.

  1. After an appeal to Aëtius the Britons were gripped by famine while suffering attacks from the Picts and Scoti; some fought back successfully, leading to a period of peace.
  2. Peace led to luxuria and self-indulgence.
  3. A renewed attack was threatened by the Picts and Scoti, and this led to a council, where it was proposed and agreed that land in the east would be given to the Saxons on the basis of a treaty, a foedus, by which the Saxons would defend the Britons in exchange for food supplies. This type of arrangement was unexceptional in a Late Roman context; Franks had been settled as foederati on imperial territory in northern Gaul (Toxandria) in the 4th century, and the Visigoths were settled in Gallia Aquitania early in the 5th century.
  4. The Saxon foederati first complained that their monthly supplies were inadequate. Then they threatened to break the treaty, which they did, spreading the onslaught from “sea to sea”.
  5. This war, which Higham called the “War of the Saxon Federates”, ended some 20–30 years later shortly after the siege at Montis Badonici, and some 40 years before Gildas was born.
  6. There was a peace with the Saxons who returned to their eastern home, which Gildas called a lugubre divortium barbarorum – a grievous divorce with the barbarians. The “divorce settlement”, Higham in particular argued  was a better treaty and the ability to get tribute from the people in the east, under the leadership of the person Gildas called pater diabolus or Father-devil.

What this excerpt tells us is the Britons hired the Saxons, promised them  payment and supplies and then were unable or unwilling to carry through on the treaty. Other early writings mention that the Saxons were also promised land to settle and the Britons reneged on that as well. What ensued was a lengthy period of wars and battles between the Britons and the Saxons.

Gildas described the corruption of the elite: “Britain has kings but they are tyrants; she has judges but they are wicked”. This passage provides a glimpse into the world of Gildas, he continued: “they plunder and terrorise the innocent, they defend and protect the guilty and thieving, they have many wives, whores and adulteresses, swear false oaths, tell lies, reward thieves, sit with murderous men, despise the humble, their commanders are ‘enemies of God'”; the list is long. Interesting oath breaking and the absence of just judgements for ordinary people was mentioned a number of times. British leadership, everywhere, was immoral and the cause of the “ruin of Britain”.

Hengist and Horsa:

HegestAndHorsa hengist and horsa

The earliest accounts of the Saxon arrival are stories or legends regarding two Saxon brothers, Hengist and Horsa.  Bear in mind that these accounts were not written down until centuries later.  Both Anglo-Saxon chronicles and Norse Sagas give versions or accounts of the men.  Hengist and Horsa are figures of Anglo-Saxon history, which records the two as the Germanic brothers who led the Angle, Saxon, Frisian, and Jutish armies that conquered the first territories of Britain in the 5th century. Tradition lists Hengist (through his son, whose name varies by source) as the founder of the Kingdom of Kent. As with most of the stories, theirs was colored by the Christian Monks recording history of the time. What you need to do is strip all of that coloring away down the most basic part of the account. 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 449 records that Hengest and Horsa were invited to Britain by Vortigern to assist his forces in fighting the Picts. Hengist and Horsa arrived at a place called Ipwinesfleet, and went on to defeat the Picts wherever they fought them. Hengist and Horsa sent word to the Angles describing “the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land” and asked for assistance. Their request was granted and support arrived. Afterward, more people arrived in Britain from “the three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes”. The Old Saxons populated the areas of the kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Wessex. The Jutes populated the area of Kent, the Isle of Wight and an area of the adjacent mainland that would later be part of Wessex. The East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians and “all those north of Humber” arrived from the region of Anglia (a peninsula in Southern Schleswig, Northern Germany) “which has ever since remained waste between the Jutes and Saxons”. These forces were led by the brothers Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wihtgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, son of Woden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hengist_and_Horsa

The Historia Brittonum records that, during the reign of Vortigern in Britain, three vessels that had been exiled from Germania arrived in Britain, commanded by Hengist and Horsa. The Historia Brittonum details that Geta was said to be the son of a god, yet “not of the omnipotent God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” but rather “the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen.” In 447 AD, Vortigern received Hengist and Horsa “as friends” and gave to the brothers the Isle of Thanet.

After the Saxons had lived on Thanet for “some time” Vortigern promised them supplies of clothing and other provisions on condition that the Saxons assist him in fighting the enemies of his country. The Saxons increased in number and the Britons were unable to keep their agreement. The Britons told the Saxons that the Saxons’ numbers had increased, that they no longer needed Saxon assistance and that the Saxons should go home as the Britons could no longer support them.

Vortigern allowed Hengist to send for more of Hengist’s countrymen to come over to Britain and fight for Vortigern. Messengers were sent to “Scythia“, where “a number” of warriors were selected, and, with sixteen ships, the messengers returned. With the men came Hengist’s beautiful daughter. Hengist prepared a feast, inviting Vortigern, Vortigern’s officers, and Ceretic, his translator. Prior to the feast, Hengist enjoined his daughter to serve the guests plenty of wine and ale so that they would get very intoxicated. The plan succeeded. “At the instigation of the Devil”, Vortigern fell in love with Hengist’s daughter and promised Hengist whatever he liked in exchange for her betrothal. Hengist, having previously “consulted with the Elders who attended him of the Angle race,” demanded Kent. Without the knowledge of the then-ruler of Kent, Vortigern agreed.

This account by the Historia Brittonum is somewhat contradictory at best… If Vortigern wanted them out of the country, why would he have then allowed them to send for additional forces? What is does do though, along with other accounts is set a basis for the British Kings reneging on their promises to those Saxons they needed help from. Hengist most likely knew full well of this breech and responded in kind with his own betrayals.  The British Kingdoms were not just fighting the Picts and Scoti, they were fighting each other and would go to such lengths as using Saxon mercenaries to win their battles. What eventually happened was that the Anglo-Saxons fought to retain lands they had been given, as well as developing allegiances with some of those British Kingdoms.

 

I am providing this history of the Anglo-Saxon immigration to Britain because I feel it is important to see them in that middle ground of a history that has often portrayed them as the scourge of Britain. It is difficult to piece together what might have happened but many historians today have searched for that middle ground, that in between, those few grains of possible truth sifted out from the extremes.  There a number of theories on how and why the Anglo-Saxons may have become the dominant culture in Britain where by the 8th century, they were viewed as the locals and native Britons were viewed as outsiders or foriegners.  The name Welsh originated as an exonym given to its speakers by the Anglo-Saxons, meaning “foreign speech” (see Walha). The native term for the language is Cymraeg and Cymru for “Wales”.

Most agree now that they did not come in all in one invading force and wipe out the previous culture. It began as a small migration and settlement of them in places where they had been given land. The Roman Britons did not disappear, nor did the native Britons.  A  last battle took place between the original Saxon mercenaries and the Britons- a battle which the Saxons felt justified in fighting because of broken treaties.  the Saxons lost this last battle but were not defeated, decimated or thrown out of the country. A compromise seemed to have been reached and lands were divided up between the British elite rulers and the Saxons. 

Historian Nick Higham is convinced that the success of the Anglo-Saxon elite in gaining an early compromise shortly after the Battle of Badon is a key to the success of the culture. This produced a political ascendancy across the south and east of Britain, which in turn required some structure to be successful.  After this time there began the process of cultures merging together to form one new one.  The Bretwalda concept is taken as evidence for a presence of a number of early Anglo-Saxon elite families and a clear unitary oversight. Whether the majority of these leaders were early settlers, descendant from settlers, or especially after the exploration stage they were Roman-British leaders who adopted Anglo-Saxon culture is unclear. The balance of opinion is that most were migrants, although it shouldn’t be assumed they were all “Germanic”. There is agreement: that these were small in number and proportion, yet large enough in power and influence to ensure “Anglo-Saxon” acculturation in the lowlands of Britain.  Most historians believe these elites were those named by Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, although there is discussion regarding their floruit dates. Importantly, whatever their origin or when they flourished, they established their claim to lordship through their links to extended kin ties. As Helen Peake jokingly points out “they all just happened to be related back to Woden”.

For a more in depth and detailed look at the Anglo-Saxon migration and theories of why they were so successful, you can start your search here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_settlement_of_Britain

Throughout history, the reputation of those earliest Saxons has been colored by the Christian accounts of them as heathens and barbarians that destroyed a land and culture… what is interesting and important to remember is that those same Christians were  in the process of completely wiping out that culture and belief system that they were blaming the Saxons for.  The Christians had already cleared the land of much of it’s previous beliefs by decimating and eliminating the old religious leaders- the Druids and driving out the followers who still clung to those beliefs. Those early Christian leaders were as much responsible for the terror and dark ages that would follow as the Saxons were.

The early Christians shaped our history by shaping our tales, our legends and myths of that time. They were responsible for such tales as the brave and virtuous King Arthur, his valiant knights of the round table who fought evil, injustice and the barbarians in effort to save England, to unite it against all of those evil and demonic forces. We all know those legends and myths that portray the Christian brotherhood in glory and present the Saxons as some of those evil invaders…  And, somewhere even in those tales there are probably small grains of truth as to possible figures of who Arthur might have been or represented, of battles that probably did actually take place. There are a number of King Arthur theories relating to the history of Britain during those dark ages. If you are interested, I have a previous article for you to read:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

I would also suggest that you read Bernard Cornwell’s series on King Arthur. He strips away much of the myth and legend, and tells a tale more of the history and the battles that ensued after Rome left. He still leaves the Saxons in a rather bad light but he does not paint such a perfect picture of Arthur or the Britons either, so it kind of evens out the story a bit. It is an interesting perspective on the legend and does take into account the long lasting Roman influences left behind!

 

winter_king_uk-179x307

‘Once upon a time, in a land that was called Britain, these things happened . . . . and I was there, and this is how it was.’ The Winter King , like the rest of the trilogy, is narrated by Derfel (which is pronounced Dervel), one of Arthur’s warriors. This first book tells how after the death of Uther, High King of Britain, the country falls into chaos. Uther’s heir is a child, Mordred, and Arthur, his uncle, is named one of the boy’s guardians. Arthur has to fight other British kingdoms and the dreadful “Sais” – the Saxons – who are invading Britain. Arthur is supposed to marry Ceinwyn, a princess of Powys, but falls disastrously in love with Guinevere – ‘There have been many more beautiful women, and thousands who were better, but since the world was weaned I doubt there have been many so unforgettable as Guinevere . . . and it would have been better, Merlin always said, had she been drowned at birth.’

 To read an interview  with the Camelot Project, click on this link:  http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/thompson-interview-cornwell

For another perspective on the story of Arthur and the Roman involvement, you could also watch one of my favorite movies…

Movie_poster_king_arthur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

King Arthur is a 2004 action adventure film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.  The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.  It gives a somewhat more historical perspective as well, but does still put the Saxons in the role as sole villains. I watched it recently while researching this history and found myself more seriously bothered by this representation than before! I am still searching for some sort of story that portrays the Saxons in a slightly more positive or at least more balanced light?

In the above movie, the Saxons are represented by their leader Cerdic and his son Cinric… They are of course the vicious torturing villains that we have come to expect Saxons to be. Of interesting note for Vikings fans, Cerdic is played by Stellan Skarsgard- father of Gustav Skarsgard who does such an incredible job portraying Floki!

stellan skarsgard cerdic4

In history, Cerdic was Cerdic was allegedly the first King of Anglo-Saxon Wessex from 519 to 534, cited by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the Kingdom of Wessex and ancestor of all its subsequent kings… which of course would feasibly include Ecbert. I say feasibly because there was some dispute as to whether Ecbert was actually a d descendant.

The most interesting and curious thing about Cerdic’s history is that while his supposed royal pedigree traced him back to Woden, just as all of the other rulers’ did, it seems to have been added later. Historians think that at some point there was forged and alliance between him and  Bernicia, and he conveniently borrowed the earlier pedigree of Bernicia, tacking it on to his own. The reason for this was to perhaps give himself more of a royal/divine lineage than he might have originally had.  There is currently a thought that he was actually  was a native Briton, and that his dynasty became Anglicised over time.   This suggests that ethnicity was possibly not as important in the establishment of rulership within the proto-states of Post-Roman Britain as has been traditionally thought. Cerdic’s father, Elesa, has been identified by some scholars with the Romano-Briton Elasius, the “chief of the region”, met by Germanus of Auxerre. 

J.N.L. Myres noted that when Cerdic and Cynric first appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in s.a. 495 they are described as ealdormen, which at that point in time was a fairly junior rank.   Myres believed that,

It is thus possible … to think of Cerdic as the head of a partly British noble family with extensive territorial interests at the western end of the Litus Saxonicum. As such he may well have been entrusted in the last days of Roman, or sub-Roman authority with its defence. He would then be what in later Anglo-Saxon terminology could be described as an ealdorman. …

Some would disagree with Myres, as Cerdic is reported to have landed in Hampshire. Some also would say that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle proves that Cerdic was indeed a Saxon, however it does not prove that he had no Celtic blood.  Some scholars believe it likely that his mother was a British Celt who left for the Continent, or perhaps a Continental Celt. Geoffrey Ashe postulates he may be a son of Riothamus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerdic_of_Wessex

Despite the conflictin history surrounding his origins, Descent from Cerdic became a necessary criterion for later kings of Wessex, and Egbert of Wessex, progenitor of the English royal house and subsequent rulers of England and Britain, claimed him as an ancestor.  As I mentioned, Egbert’s claim was dubious and is thought  by some to have been fabricated during his early reign  or his bid for that right to give him more legitimacy in his claim. Whether fabricated or not, it was accepted and he was allowed to trace his right back to Cerdic and to Woden….

cerdic is not happy

 

What ever the reasons or theories behind the Anglo-Saxons in Britain,  one thing is certain and evident. As a group, they succeeded where Rome and even the Britons themselves  failed. They entered into a land that even the Roman Empire had failed to conquer and succeeded for the most, so well that in the future they would be looked at as the locals and the native Britons would be considered the outsiders. They succeeded so well in fact that in the future, when the second wave of Northmen arrived on their shores, they looked at them as foreign Heathenish Barbarians.  By the time the Vikings arrived in the late 700s and into the 800s, the Anglo-Saxons had become a completely different culture and society that bore little or no resemblance what so ever to the past they had left behind.  But, had they truly left the past behind them, forgotten who they were originally?

 the Norse Sagas regarding Ragnar Lodbrok give reason to believe that perhaps these Saxons, Angles and Jutes had not completely forgotten their past or their heritage. Some versions of the sagas include passages that comment on how Ragnar’s Father, Sigurd Hring once counted a part of England as part of his realm. Another saga source also mentions that Ragnar Lodbrok went to the place in Angleland of which his forefathers owned.  This would tie in with the fact that the Angles who had originated in lands around Denmark had already migrated to parts of Britain as early as the 5th century. He visited this Angleland and was initially welcomed into their court of royalty. Then he was lured into visiting King Aelle in Northumbria and was murdered by him. I have addressed this connection in my previous article about Horik and Ragnar.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/horik-and-ragnar-part-of-the-oldest-monarchy-in-europe/

The Angles were thought to be allies at one time with the early Danes who took over their land and were a partial cause for them migrating to Britain. The Saxons were in a similar situation at the time of their migration to Britain. As the Danes became stronger and more powerful, they began to overtake those lands and cultures near to them- mainly the Angles and Saxons, but they also took over much of Juteland as well causing these three cultures to migrate to that land which held more opportunity for them. It does stand to reason that these people would continue to hold some grudge or resentment of those who were initially responsible for their relocation in the first place. They may have assimilated into some new culture, but they would probably have their own old oral  histories of a past that included tales of this distant ancestral land that had been taken over by those others… some of those oral histories are included in poems and heroic stories such as Beowulf, Wulf and Eadwacer and Judith.  Another such early work is that of Widsith  from the Exeter book. The Widsith is an old poem that surveys the people  kings, and heroes of Europe in the Heroic Age of Northern Europe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widsith

 

I hope that I have not bored you or overwhelmed you too much with the history of these earliest Saxons. As I keep mentioning, it is important to know some of their history and see both sides of it considering the fact that they did integrate so fully and deeply into the culture that it became their own. As they settled into this new culture and land, they forged those alliances with the remaining British Rulers, became rulers of their own kingdoms and quite quickly took on the Christian religion once they realized the power behind that force. That is not to say that the Christian missionaries had any easy time of converting the Anglo-Saxons. What the Church did in order to accomplish this feat would leave long lingering misgivings and resentments from other Christian Kingdoms and dynasties. The Church had an extremely difficult time converting these Heathens, and resorted to the practice of diluting their religion into terms that the Pagan Saxons would accept. They set about comparing their Christ God to Woden, to telling their testaments and stories in relation to Woden and even went so far as to accept and approve of those earliest Saxon Rulers having divine right to rule on the basis of their genealogy connecting them back to being sons of Woden!  Eventually all of the Anglo-Saxon Rulers of those early Kingdoms of Britain would prove their right by tracing their lineage back to Woden and the Church put it’s stamp of approval on this, in fact in some ways encouraged it. There had to be some way of proving right to rule other than just by might in order to maintain some stability and not descend into the chaos once again. In the future, other loyal and Royal Christian dynasties would decry this as giving in to those Pagans, view it as watering down the religion and hold little regard for these so called  new Christian Royals.

Before we look at what the Kingdoms became and looked like in the time of our Anglo-Saxon Rulers such as Ecbert, Aelle, and yes even Kweni, I want to suggest an interesting documentary about the early Saxons and how their religion evolved. 

This is a preview clip of the documentary called From Runes to Ruins by by Thomas Rowsell, Jamie Roper and Anthony Leigh. It is all about Anglo-Saxon paganism. 

About the director

 
While studying my Master’s degree in medieval history, I was fascinated by the same mythology and legends that had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. Delving through old leather books and countless journals, trying to discover more about the forgotten religion of the Anglo-Saxon pagans, I couldn’t help noticing some familiar place names. It seemed that all the places from my youth were in some way connected to the history of the Anglo-Saxon heathens; whether it be the village of Thursley, named after Thor, which was near to my childhood home, or the ancient pagan barrows I used to camp on as a teen. I realised that through the landscape I had a personal relationship with the pre-Christian inhabitants of England and wondered how many other people had developed this strange fascination. Initially I had never intended to present From Runes to Ruins, but after the production house I was working with dropped the project, I no longer had the funds necessary to pay for a famous presenter. Financial constraints necessitated my stepping in to the presenting role, but this allowed me to put a personal slant on the documentary, using the pagan landscape of my own past to communicate the culture of a far more distant one. I hope that From Runes to Ruins sparks a new interest in the pagan religion of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors and also encourages people to look at the land itself as a beautiful, spiritual inheritance which brings us closer to nature, our ancestors and each other.
You can rent the entire video here:  http://fromrunestoruins.vhx.tv/
It is well worth  the 3.99 rental fee!
Now you know way too much about the early history of Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain… far more than you probably wanted to know! I do hope that it has given you some different perspective of the Anglo-Saxons, their reasons for moving to this land along with their justification for staying and fighting for it. Perhaps the next time you read a book or watch a movie about them, you will have some second thought about how they are portrayed.  In future articles, we will look at each of the four Kingdoms that remained during the later Vikings saga- Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings, Warrior’s Fate: It’s so much more than just a bath!

Before we deal with the darker sides of the Warrior’s Fate, namely battle and it’s aftermath… I think we need a few moments of amusement, entertainment and ohhh yes, let’s do spend some time in that Roman tub with Ecbert, Lagertha, Athelstan… and a rather reluctant Judith. Let’s also catch a glimpse of  Athelstan’s well hidden finer assets…

I do want to warn and advise ahead of time that this post contains some partial nudity, minor sexual contact and explicitness. The clips are from a scene that was deleted for American viewers. I give credit to George-blagden.net for providing the deleted scene so all of us can enjoy it!  You can view the scene here:  http://george-blagden.net/post/112924714611.  I have pulled the stills out of it for our purposes and enjoyment!

In our previous discussion, we talked of  Ecbert, his games of strategy and his pawns in this power game. I did mention that Lagertha could be a possible pawn, but one that he would be loathe to give up or sacrifice. I do not think Lagertha is so much of a pawn in his overall game of power but that remains to be seen? Lagertha is a strong independent woman with her own vision, her own desires and her own agenda. I think that she is probably fully aware and understanding of this game between them. This is a more personal and private game for both of them. I think that Lagertha knows very well what benefits or advantages an affair with Ecbert can provide for her and her settlement.  Ecbert desires her, but knows that this liason is not one that will necessarily give him advantage in the overall bigger picture. I could be wrong, but for now I think this is a case of Ecbert and Lagertha indulging themselves in a mutually satisfying and benefitial situation for both of them!  Lagertha deserves some pleasure and if  Ecbert can provide that, then I say, Go for it Lagertha!

Ecbert has already admitted that he is infatuated and rather besotted with Lagertha. Lagertha is flattered by his attentions and appreciative of his various gifts. These two understand each other, they are both intelligent and curious people and they enjoy the company of each other. I think perhaps that Lagertha sees the side of Ecbert that reminds her of Ragnar as he used to be?

With Lagertha, Ecbert can let his guard down a little, show his more likeable side. He wants her, he is fairly open about this desire and is not attempting to hide it. Why should he hide it… sometimes, it’s good to be King!  He pays another visit with another gift.

ecbert pays another visit and brings another gift

ecbert pays another visit and brings another gift

Lagertha  smugly showed him that she is quite adept in his language.

a smug lagertha shows her language skill Yes I know more now than I already knew

a smug lagertha shows her language skill Yes I know more now than I already knew

So you speak our language.   Of course I do you foolish man!

So you speak our language. Of course I do you foolish man!

A conversation and explanation of his gift of the plow turns to one of sexual innuendo, which both he and Lagertha understand!

I've brought you something a new plow that goes deeper than others

There is yet another invitation to his villa, which Lagertha happily agrees to!

By this visit, both Ecbert and Lagertha have a good idea of where this “friendship” is going? Lagertha is an intelligent woman, she know exactly where Ecbert’s thoughts and desires are going. She is a willing participant in this affair.  Ecbert takes his group of Lagertha, Athelstan and Judith on a tour of his most favorite and treasured space in his home. Now, both Judith and Athelstan know of this room, so this tour was set up specifically for Lagertha’s benefit. Why he chose to include Athelstan and Judith in this tour and the eventual enjoyment of his tub is a little puzzling. It’s almost as though he was testing them both on something? Athelstan is nonchalant and acts as though it makes no difference to him. Judith is uncomfortable with all of it but does go along with the invitation. This goes against all of Judith’s well engrained principles and values but she participates…

Lagertha is awestruck by the place and ever curious about those Romans who built this place.

ecbert's roman bath

ecbert’s roman bath

lagertha is awestruck

lagertha is awestruck

let us talk about the romans

There is some discussion about those Roman Gods and how they were like Lagertha’s Gods… to which she insisted, No they were not!

No she is not like my gods my gods are alive

No she is not like my gods my gods are alive

my gods are as real as you and me

my gods are as real as you and me

She was intrigued and excited about the bath while Judith gave a hesitant description of how the Romans used the baths.

Judith explains the Roman bath is this really a bath it's so big

Ecbert issues his invitation to join him in the bath… Judith is understandably uncomfortable with this suggestion. The underlying question is why does she agree to this in the first place? Has Ecbert put her up to it… has someone else? Why did she not just make excuse and remove herself from this activity? Was it her curiosity and her underlying fascination with Athelstan that moved her to be brave enough to consider this? Was it Lagertha’s more easy acceptance and joy of life that spurred Judith in some way to find enough courage to attempt indulging in this shameful activity? What ever the reason, Judith did manage to get herself in the tub with everyone, though it became obvious that she was not enjoying herself!

judith gulps at ecbert's suggestion for them to join him

judith gulps at ecbert’s suggestion for them to join him

so, with slaves/servants in attendance and trying not to watch, the group enjoyed a soak in the Roman tub. Lagertha and Ecbert settled in together quickly and had no inhibitions or reservations about public displays of affection!

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

After a few drinks, a relaxed conversation about the old Roman city of Paris…Such a beautiful place as you have never seen before!

Such a city Paris is

Such a city Paris is

go on tell me more about this paris

go on tell me more about this paris

Lagertha is ever the curious one about other cultures and ideas. She wants to know more about this city, Paris… Ecbert and Athelstan fill her in on the wonders of this place. She mentions how she would love to see it and asks how far it is? Hmmmm is this a plan of Ecbert’s… she will be so curious and glowing about this land, will tell Ragnar all about it and perhaps Ragnar will be so curious too, that he will head off to Paris and be out of Ecbert’s hair for a while? Not Ecbert has anything against Ragnar yet, but I am sure he is always thinking of the future? It’s just not wise to keep a man as equally powerful and motivated around for too long… he may get ideas of seeking more power here and surely Ecbert would prefer him to look elsewhere for that power and riches.

Judith is trying to relax and enjoy this experience… the one enjoyable part of it is that Athelstan is here. She cautiously sneaks a glimpse over at him and her returns the look…

a quick sneak peek over at Athelstan

a quick sneak peek over at Athelstan

athelstan returns the sneak peek

athelstan returns the sneak peek

Then as if on cue, Athelstan goes into his own wonderous description of Paris…

Athelstan describes paris

Athelstan describes paris

Judith’s mind wanders to some other thoughts during this discussion… perhaps she’s more interested in the here and now, and what the rest of Athelstan looks like? Maybe she is enjoying for a few moments the experience of being a bit of voyeur in glimpsing what Lagertha and Ecbert are indulging in?

Paris  who cares about Paris!

Paris who cares about Paris!

ohhh is this water getting warm it's so warm in here I have to leave I can't do this

The moment does not last however, and Judith quickly snaps back to reality when Athelstan moves closer to her…

Ummm too close too close

Ummm too close too close

judith's thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

judith’s thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

the booze isn't helping well maybe just another sip

the booze isn’t helping well maybe just another sip

What is it  This is wrong this is just so wrong

What is it This is wrong this is just so wrong

thoughts in judith's head  no no no euwwwww I can't watch this

thoughts in judith’s head no no no euwwwww I can’t watch this

Ohhh ummm this is sooo wrong

Ohhh ummm this is sooo wrong

Ultimately, Judith’s good Christian upbringing over rides any enjoyment she might have found in this activity and she hastily flees… Athelstan may have tried to catch a glimpse of her escaping the tube, but she was just too quick! Her shame and embarrassment kicked in and she threw a towel around herself faster than I’ve ever seen anyone move!

a quick stare at Judith getting out of the tub judith makes her escape

Judith fled the scene but Athelstan attempted to remain for a bit longer… even though it must have been extremely uncomfortable to be put in this third wheel situation again?

lagertha's thought... ummm no this isn't wrong in fact I think it's going pretty well

lagertha’s thought… ummm no this isn’t wrong in fact I think it’s going pretty well

Ecbert watches Judith leave and I am quite sure his thoughts were, “It’s about time! I didn’t think she would even get in, let alone stay?” “That’s it Judith, now run along and be sure to take Athelstan with you”

ecbert's thought it's about time I didn't think she would even get in let alone stay now be sure to take athelstan with you

ecbert’s thought it’s about time I didn’t think she would even get in let alone stay now be sure to take athelstan with you

A few well placed nods and some ignoring of his presence… Athelstan gets the hint that this has become a very private party and unless he wants to show that he has truly become a pagan, or he wants lessons, he should probably leave now?

Uhhh Athelstan it's time for you to leave as well unless you want lessons?

Uhhh Athelstan it’s time for you to leave as well unless you want lessons?

Athelstan makes a much calmer and casual escape… which I am sure that everyone, namely those slaves in the background, enjoyed! Too bad Judith left first, she missed her chance to get a good view of Athelstan!

Athelstan's not quite so shy as the lady judith athelstan's bum

Ahhhh poor Judith… the entire experience proved too much for her and Athelstan found her crying in the hall. Judith is young and trying so hard to fit in, to be the good wife, the good Christian.  It might have been easier for her if she had some good role model to guide her in this place? Many other young women in her position would have had some older Noblewoman to watch over her and help her learn the ropes of being such a Noble wife? I can not say Queen… because someone else in the real history of this time had ruined that option? (That would be the real life counterpart of Kwentirith… Queen Edburh made such a mess of things by “accidently” poisoning her husband that no woman was allowed to be called Queen after her!) Ohhh and hmmmmm? There does seem to be mention of some poisoning in the next chapter?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadburh

Anyway, back to Judith’s plight right now… she does not have one to look to for advice. Ecbert has no wife, and the only other Noble or Royal woman around is in fact Kwentirith. Judith may be young and naïve but she is smart enough to know that Kwentirith is not one that she should look to as a role model!  So, Judith must find her own way in this maze of powerful men who control her life. She is having a difficult time of it.  Athelstan’s arrival and his outlook on religion are making it even more difficult for her. This whole new world of Pagan culture and beliefs is causing her to wonder and to doubt her own beliefs. Of course it could also be that she is just an overly tired new Mother with a slight case of post partum depression… What ever the case, I believe she was truly suffering from deep remorse and guilt over her sinful and shameful lust filled thoughts this night.

I'm sorry.   What for I'm the one that's a prude...

I’m sorry. What for I’m the one that’s a prude…

Athelstan did his best to comfort her in her distress but it didn’t really help much! God bless him for trying though…

judith admits her tiredness of trying to be good Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

Meanwhile, Lagertha with her Pagan beliefs and her better understanding of the world… and men, suffered no such pangs of guilt or remorse. No, Lagertha, free woman and embodiment of the Goddess that  Ecbert seems to see her as, took full pleasure and equal enjoyment this night!

lagertha enjoys the ride

lagertha enjoys the ride

it's good to be a free woman!

it’s good to be a free woman!

finally a bath and some mutual satisfaction

finally a bath and some mutual satisfaction

Lagertha, the Free Woman, the Pagan Goddes come to life, is nobody’s pawn!

Lagertha the free woman the pagan goddes nobody's pawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections, wishes and suggestions for the new year!

I just want to take a quick bit of time today to catch up and catch my breath from the busiest weeks of the Holiday season! I hope everyone is enjoying what ever winter holiday you observe or celebrate. My wish is that it is filled with joy, with love, with faith and blessings for the new year! May the coming year be filled with light and goodness for all of you!

After celebrating Yul with all of you here, Christmas with my family, and working, I am going to take a few days to relax and recover from all of it! As I do this, I am reminded of how holidays used to be as compared to what they are now? At one time, really not so many years ago… well, okay a lot of years ago if you are one of the young ones for whom time is still flashing by so quickly that you don’t realize it’s leaving you.  I’m showing my age here, so please be patient and understanding!  When I was growing up all of those years ago, certain days were considered and observed as National Holidays for almost everyone. Businesses were closed, entertainment venues, restaurants- all but essential services were closed so that people could take those few days to celebrate and enjoy the occasion with their families. Little of that remains anymore. Now these Holidays have become much like any other day, with people attempting to carve out some precious time to make it feel like a holiday and capture some thread of what was once so special about the event.  Families were much closer back then, in distance as well as heart. It was easier to come together, share the special time, reconnect with loved ones and build memories that would carry on to the future generations.

Now days, many of us struggle with trying to keep those traditions, those memories and yet adjust them to fit into a world that so quickly changing and evolving around us. With such change always comes compromise. We must give up some beliefs, traditions and sense of our past in order to adapt to a new world, new beginning. What we do not need to give though, are the memories, the stories and the lessons that we learned from the past! We are not the only society that has undergone great change so quickly and profoundly that it wiped out some traces of previous cultures and beliefs. As we look at history, we can find many examples of societies and civilizations that either survived, adapted or faded away as their worlds changed around them. The expression of “If we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it” holds as much truth and value today as it did when George Santayana first commented on it.

George_Santayana

Santayana is known for famous sayings, such as “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”,  or “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Santayana, like many philosophers since the late nineteenth century, was a naturalist (that is, he denied the existence of supernatural beings, like gods and ghosts), but he found profound meaning in literary writings and in religious ideas and texts (which he regarded as fundamentally akin to literature). Santayana was a broad ranging cultural critic whose observations spanned many disciplines. He said that he stood in philosophy “exactly where [he stood] in daily life.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Santayana

 

It is my personal belief that we assume too often that history is not important, that it has no bearing or affect on what we are experiencing in such a new and different time. We assume that our current life struggles and issues are so vastly different from those of the past, that we are so much more intelligent, more evolved, and somehow better than those long dead ancient beings. Of what use or importance could any of their experiences be to us? In reality, they struggled with the same universal life issues that we do today. Some of them survived and flourished, some of them did not. It was all about choices that they made with their hearts, their consciences, and their desire to create a better world for the future. We all make those exact same choices each and every day.

My hope and wish for this coming year is simply that by coming here, reading through my thoughts and my impressions of the past, some of you might find that history speaks as much to you in some way as it does to me? I am reminded of what I have learned through years of teaching and helping others… If you make a difference in one person’s life, then you have succeeded in a purpose of your life. You may not be able to change the world, but if you change one person’s life, then you have made a start on that greater change.

 

Okay, enough my reflections and philosophy… As you take your own time to wind down from Holiday stress and prepare for the coming year, I just want to leave you with a few suggestions for reading and viewing!

 

Movies and Television Viewing Suggestions

For the many Outlander fans here, I have a viewing suggestion that may or may not interest you, but might help some of you get through the later books that involve so much detailed history of the American Revolution? The AHC- American Heroes Channel- has a three part mini series on the American Revolution. I have not watched it yet, but have it recorded and plan to watch it all later this evening!

http://www.ahctv.com/tv-shows/the-american-revolution

American revolution2 american-revolution-ahc-2

 

If you prefer some much earlier history, along with some blood letting and a look at the earliest beginnings of Britain, I have two suggestions for you.  I am not normally a fan of blood and heavy handed action movies that don’t necessarily portray history all that realistically but I did watch these two movies and stayed interested all the way through them!

First is The Eagle (2011 film)

The_Eagle_Poster

The Eagle is a 2011 historical adventure film set in Roman Britain directed by Kevin Macdonald, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland. Adapted by Jeremy Brock from Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), the film tells the story of a young Roman officer searching to recover the lost Roman eagle standard of his father’s legion in the northern part of Great Britain. The story is based on the Ninth Spanish Legion‘s supposed disappearance in Britain.

The film, an AngloAmerican co-production, was released in the U.S. and Canada on 11 February 2011, and was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 25 March 2011.

In the year AD 140, twenty years after the Ninth Legion disappeared in the north of Britain, Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman centurion, arrives in Britain to serve at his first post as a garrison commander. Marcus’s father disappeared with the eagle standard of the ill-fated legion, and Marcus hopes to redeem his family’s honour by bravely serving in Britain. Shortly afterwards, only Marcus’s alertness and decisiveness save the garrison from being overrun by Celtic tribesmen. He is decorated for his bravery but honourably discharged due to a severe leg injury.

Living at his uncle’s estate near Calleva (modern Silchester) in southern Britain, Marcus has to cope with his military career having been cut short and his father’s name still being held in disrepute. Hearing rumours that the eagle standard has been seen in the north of Britain, Aquila decides to recover it. Despite the warnings of his uncle and his fellow Romans, who believe that no Roman can survive north of Hadrian’s Wall, he travels north into the territory of the Picts, accompanied only by his slave, Esca. The son of a deceased chieftain of the Brigantes, Esca detests Rome and what it stands for, but considers himself bound to Marcus, who saved his life during an amphitheatre show.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_(2011_film)

I enjoyed the movie for it’s look at the pre-history, and the history of the Roman involvement in Britain. It deals with the real mystery of the Ninth Legion, and you can find more information on that here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legio_IX_Hispana

the-eagle-movie the-eagle-movie2 the-eagle-movie-tatum-3

One other excellent film dealing with early Britain and legends is, King Arthur.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Movie_poster_king_arthur

This is not your typical King Arthur legend type of film! This movie presents the legend in a much more realistic portrayal. As many of my long time followers know, I have a deep fascination and interest in all things King Arthur related so this movie was perfect in every way for me! for more information on the history and legends about King Arthur, you can search through my archives on the subject!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

King Arthur is a 2004 film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.

The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.

Arthur, also known as Artorius Castus (Clive Owen), is portrayed as a Roman cavalry officer, the son of a Roman father and a Celtic mother, who commands a unit of Sarmatian auxiliary cavalry in Britain at the close of the Roman occupation in 467 A.D. He and his men guard Hadrian’s Wall against the Woads, a group of native Britons who are rebels against Roman rule, led by the mysterious Merlin (Stephen Dillane).

As the film begins, Arthur and his remaining knights Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Bors (Ray Winstone), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy) and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) expect to be discharged from their service to the Empire after faithfully fulfilling a fifteen-year commitment.

However, on the night they are to receive their freedom, Bishop Germanus (Ivano Marescotti) sends them on a final and possibly suicidal mission to rescue an important Roman family. Marius Honorius (Ken Stott) faces impending capture by the invading Saxons, led by their chief Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger). According to Germanus, Marius’ son, Alecto, is the Pope‘s favorite godson and may be “destined to be Pope one day”.

At the remote estate, Arthur discovers Marius has immured pagans: a Woad named Guinevere (Keira Knightley), and a small boy, Lucan. Arthur frees them and decides to take everyone, along with Marius’ family, back to Hadrian’s Wall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Saxons

king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

Arthur and his Knights

King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674

A truly original and unique version of Guinivere!

king arthur movie2 king arthur movie

 

Of course, there are a number of television series that will entertain you and possibly, hopefully provide you some historical lessons as well. If you have Starz, or any number of online services, you might want to catch up on Outlander- if you have seen it already, or not enough times in the case of many fans out there! We’ve already discussed all of it in great depth through out the blog.  Just start searching through the archives for it and that could keep you busy until the show starts again in April!

http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander

OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg Outlanderday

 

Another show that we’ve made extensive reference to here is Vikings on the History Channel!

http://www.history.com/shows/Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

ragnar viking long boat Lindisfarne-ep2

The Vikings will return for season three on February 19! We will be exploring more of their history and the show in upcoming posts!

Vikings is an Emmy Award nominated  historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in the United States and Canada.  Filmed in Ireland, it is an official Ireland/Canada co-production.

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season, which premiered on 27 February 2014.  On 25 March 2014, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode third season, which is scheduled to air on February 19, 2015.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

 

Book suggestions!

If the viewing suggestions are not enough, and you prefer reading about history, I do have a few suggestions for that as well.  Contrary to recent posts and public opinion, I do read a great deal besides Outlander! In fact, I spend much of my free time reading… I have a long commute to and from work each day, which provides me with plenty of time to indulge in one of my favorite pass times- reading. While I do occasionally venture into the time travel realm for reading enjoyment… I know, I know, it would seem and appear that time travel would be my main priority/focus, but actually it is not. Most of my reading focus is on early medieval history from the early Viking Ages through William the Conqueror and on through to about the 1500s.

I have been quite lax and remiss about updating my book reviews page since Outlander appeared but, please rest assured that I have indeed kept up with my other reading! I am providing a quick guide here for those of you who are interested in reading material aside from Outlander! You can also always check out my reviews and books on my Goodreads page.  I have better luck keeping those reviews updated than the ones here!  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22404301-judywork

For now, I will just update you with a few that I’ve read lately and may have referenced in earlier posts!

 

 Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.  This was a one of the time travel exceptions I’ve made and it well worth the read as it is so much more than just time travel or a romance novel!

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

 

Circle of Ceridwen Series by Octavia Randolph

If you are interested in early Saxon and Viking history in Britain, I highly recommend this series!

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

Young women with courage. Swords with names. Vikings with tattoos. Danger. Passion. Survival. Warfare. Sheep. And Other Good Things…

The year 871, when England was Angle-Land. Of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, five have fallen to the invading Vikings. Across this war-torn landscape travels fifteen year old Ceridwen, now thrust into the lives of the conquerors. But living with the enemy affords Ceridwen unusual freedoms – and unlooked-for conflicts. Amongst them she explores again her own heathen past, and learns to judge each man on his own merits. Her divided loyalties spur her to summon all her courage – a courage which will be sorely tested as she defies both Saxon and Dane and undertakes an extraordinary adventure to save a man she has never met.

The first book of The Circle of Ceridwen Trilogy, the historical adventure saga enjoyed by thousands of readers in over 125 nations.

 

There are four books in the series… and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will eventually be more. The series covers the life and journey of Ceridwen from her early years as a somewhat naïve teen through her years living with the Viking conquerors of  Britain, to her journey to the Viking homelands of Gotland. It is an excellent well documented and detailed look at the changes in lives and cultures during that time period, with a focus on how one young woman deals with all of those sudden changes in her life.  I would definitely recommend you read all of them and check out Octavia Randolph!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1365292.Octavia_Randolph

Ceridwen of Kilton the claiming Hall of Tyr

After reading the last one, Hall of Tyr, there was also a nice bonus of a medieval cookery booklet included. She includes early medieval Britain fare as well as medieval Scandinavian dishes!

For a sample of her cookery details, you should read this article!

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/venison-pie-and-honey-cakes.html

3harts

 

For slightly later medieval history, try The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

 

For a better and even more detailed perspective the events of this time period, I would suggest and encourage you to read  two other books about this era by Helen Hollick!

I have already previously mentioned her work, The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series #1)  on my book reviews page but am going repeat here for easier reference. This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
My rating:
5 of 5 stars

Fantastic! I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

I wrote the above short review a while ago but wanted to add to it because I am still so impressed with the storytelling of Helen Hollick. I have not read the second book of the series yet, but will get to it soon! After spending an immense amount of time reading quite serious histories, I needed to take a break and read some less intense ones!

This was most definitely one of the more serious and intense ones! It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

 

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king

I am in the process of reading I am the Chosen King right now and am just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

 

 

Now for one last thought of interest.  You might be wondering just how all of this extensive and in depth history ties into  my interest in the Vikings Saga on the history channel and it’s related actual history? Well, I will leave you with a few clues…

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

As the above paragraph states, the show and it’s various main characters are based on what is known about actual history. Ragnar Lothbrok is based on

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these men are historical figures, it is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed or really fathered them. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

According to legend, Ragnar was thrice married: to the shieldmaiden Lagertha, to the noblewoman Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr, and to Aslaug. Said to have been a relative of the Danish king Gudfred and son of the Swedish king Sigurd Hring, he became king himself and distinguished himself by many raids and conquests until he was eventually seized by his foe, King Ælla of Northumbria, and killed by being thrown into a pit of snakes. His sons bloodily avenged him by invading England with the Great Heathen Army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

vikings_ragnar_3-P

In reality, Ragnar ultimately comes to a bad end and probably was not such a likeable fellow as he is portrayed in the show.

His brother, Rollo is inspired and based on another historical Viking.

A character based on the historical Rollo, played by Clive Standen, is Ragnar Lodbrok‘s brother in the 2013 television series Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

vikings_gallery7_2-P rollo

 

In actual history, Rollo comes out far better than Ragnar ever could have hoped for!

600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

If you look at his family tree, you will see how he ties in to medieval history. He was the ancestor of William the Conqueror- and if you look into William’s activities, you might see that his Viking heritage of conquering came out quite boldly in his genes!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

 

Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many pretenders to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo’s grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.

The “Clameur de Haro” in the Channel Islands is, supposedly, an appeal to Rollo.

Rollo’s grave at the cathedral of Rouen

1024px-Grave_of_Rollo_of_Normandy

So, as my last thought and conclusion for the day…. Which brother would you prefer to take your chances with? Personally, I am going with team Rollo!

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34189423-500-300 vikings_episode6_gallery_1-P

Follow our Viking journey in coming new year!

Ragnar and Rollo legacy