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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching up with Wessex… and Judith

I have recently realized that with all of the events going in France at the end of our last raiding season, I failed to catch up on Wessex, and with Judith’s situation. I do apologize for that, but in my defense, things were and are still a bit messy to say the least in Paris right now! The events of Wessex were not of  high importance to those of us remaining in France with Rollo.  Now that things have calmed down somewhat and we are playing a waiting game whilst trying to establish ourselves here with the Franks, I can take some time to share what is taking place in Wessex and ponder what the future might hold for my friend Judith.

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

You can read much of Judith’s story so far here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Judith’s admission of adultery with the Priest Athelstan, and the resulting birth of her son Alfred, has put her in a very precarious position. Ecbert was able to save her and the child by citing it as a miracle, and convincing his son Aethelwulf  that it was just that, a sign from God that this was a blessed event and this is a holy child. Now, we all understand that Aethelwulf is a devoutly religious man but surely he would not be so completely gullible as to not have his own personal doubts and resentments remaining about this whole sordid affair.   Ecbert has managed to save Judith and the precious little Alfred, save face with the church, and avoid some tearing apart of their family reputation but rumors will continue to abound about Aethelwulf  being a cuckhold to Judith’s adulterous affair. This will most likely always haunt Aethelwulf in some ways and no matter how hard he might try to forgive, I think it will always remain there in the back of his mind and his heart… causing him even more inner turmoil in his attempts to be closer to God.  For Judith, the events have placed her even more in the middle of this underlying battle between Father and son. And, make no mistake, there is a underlying battle brewing between Aethelwulf and Ecbert.

Ecbert gives a clear clue that in his mind, realistically anyone is dispensable or disposable if they interfere with his plans… including family.

I don't have any friends it's better that way.

I don’t have any friends it’s better that way.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

We have seen so many times in the past that Ecbert is indeed corrupt… ruthless and manipulative, willing to go to any lengths in order to maintain his control of Wessex and achieve his goal of becoming King or Bretwalda of all the Kingdoms. His plan is to conquer Mercia, then move on to Northumbria… with those two kingdoms taken, it would be an easy undertaking to then take East Anglia- which no one so far has made any mention of in this particular story. We’ve seen Ecbert use his son to accomplish some of these goals and as we see with the last event in Mercia, he is willing to sacrifice his son towards this end. Ecbert sees  Aethelwulf as weak and easily manipulated into doing his dirty work for him in the name and reason of religious right. The best example of this was when Ecbert convinced Aethelwulf to go forth and take care of that situation in the Viking village. For Ecbert, it had little to do with religious right or beliefs but more to do with realizing he might have made a mistake with allowing that settlement in the first place. But, in refection, he did need those men to help him beat down Mercia. If it took promising and placating them with a settlement then he was more than willing to play that card at the time. The one thought or question remains in the disasterous outcome of the village. Would Ecbert have went to the same lengths had Lagertha and or Athelstan remained? Ecbert is one who needs to be in control of every situation at all times, much like Ragnar… Ecbert and Ragnar both made serious errors in judgement with this whole situation. I believe they both under estimated the outcomes and each other even though they both know how corrupt each other is.  Would Ecbert resorted to such slaughter if he did not feel some rage and resentment at both Lagertha and Athelstan leaving him? And, ultimately, Ragnar must accept his own responsibility and guilt in leaving the settlement unguarded, unprotected in the first place. He under estimated just how far Ecbert might go in dealing with this mess, in fixing any possible mistake he felt he made or extracting a personal revenge on Ragnar.

 

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert is somewhat of puzzle as far as his religion is concerned. He does  not seem to be  a particularly devout Christian but he does know full well that he needs the church on his side in order to achieve his goals.  At times he seems more interested in what ever  beliefs those ancients Romans that he is so fond of, held? Yet in contrast to his lesser faith and his affinity for more ancient practices, he seems to firmly believe that his grandson Alfred is a special holy child? He believes that there was truly something special about his friend Athelstan and that what ever that was, has been passed on to this child.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

his name is Alfred He shall be great

What ever Ecbert may personally believe in, he knows full well that his own goals can not be achieved with out the backing of the Christian Church. The church was unhappy with this pagan settlement so rather than deal with it himself, he sent Aethelwulf to do it. He knew that as a religious zealot, Aethelwulf would look at this as an act of God’s punishment on sinners such as those Pagans. Aethelwulf looked at that assignment as a bond of trust from Ecbert. Being as religious as he is, Aethelwulf feels he must ever be loyal to his anointed King and Father. Aethelwulf is continuously torn between his religious beliefs and the harsh realities of his life and feelings of failure with his Father. He wants to honor God and his faith, but he also wants to prove to Ecbert that he is worthy and capable of ruling an empire such as Ecbert envisions.  He has the same sort of inner conflicts with Judith. I think that he is torn in his wanting to believe that this is a sign from God, that his faith tells him to forgive… yet he can not help but see her betrayal every time he looks at her son, Alfred.

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife's whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife’s whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

 

We see signs of  Aethelwulf’s struggle with accepting this forgiveness and this son as he makes habit of throwing Judith’s adultery and betrayal in her face until Ecbert intervenes on her behalf. What we see unfolding is Judith’s misery and her difficult plight in this household where she and her son have been saved but to what real purpose? Because of her admission and her mark of adultery, she is seen as somewhat of a pariah by Aethelwulf and most likely many others in the household. Ecbert has saved her and Alfred, but realistically, that does little to improve her circumstances in the beginning. Judith is alive but still living in fear, waiting for a next move against her or her son. She must tread even more cautiously and carefully now in order to assure the safety of her son should anything happen to her. In some ways, her predicament is even more perilous now than it was before. Now, every move she makes, she must consider the fate and future of both of her sons.

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

From the time of Alfred’s birth, Ecbert is completely besotted and devoted to the child to the point of ignoring his older grandson who by all rights no matter what, should be the heir as the oldest son. By all rights, this older son and his future heirs should inherit the throne and even without question as to Alfred’s parentage, he should be looked on as merely the spare. Ecbert, it seems though, has other plans which he secretly shares with Judith… he sees Alfred as blessed and it is his intent to see Alfred as ruler. This information would not bode well for Aethelwulf or his son by Judith.  We know that Ecbert would easily go so far as to sacrifice his son, but would he just as easily go to that length in sacrificing this other grandson? At some point, this thought will have to play heavily on Judith’s mind and heart. How can she manage some way to keep both of her sons safe?  This would be a predominant thought for any Mother put in such a situation. Judith’s ongoing thoughts must certainly be not so much of her own happiness but for the lives and the future of her children.  On a historical side note here, Michael Hirst has made comments as to following more closely to history, Alfred’s path to the throne. He is on his way to taking this closer path, I think, with Ecbert’s obsessive belief that Alfred is special and should rule. In history, someone did think this and paved the child’s way to the throne with a special dispensation and affirmation from the Pope.  The reason behind this special affirmation remains somewhat of a mystery yet today!

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburh.  In 853, at the age of four, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,  he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

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

 

ecbert: what are Judith's feelings towards her father

ecbert: what are Judith’s feelings towards her father

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of judith

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of Judith

 Judith is beginning to walk a fearful and cautious path within the household, enduring Aethelwulf’s taunts and wondering about an uncertain future for her sons. Ecbert ever the manipulative one, takes advantage of her fears and uses them in his tactic to control everyone. In his ploy to gain even more control of Judith than he already has, he uses Aethelwulf and even her Father- he questions her loyalty and wonders aloud just where those loyalties might be.

 

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

Judith reassures him that Both sons are well

 Ecbert calls Judith to a private meeting to discuss the future and what it might hold for little Alfred should she not have protection against Aethelwulf in the future. He makes much of warning Judith of the dangers facing her and Alfred if they are not protected in some way from Aethelwulf’s  vengeance. Ecbert vows his protection but of course there must be some return or recompense for such protection. Judith is not ignorant nor as naïve as she once might have been, she knows exactly what Ecbert is suggesting as her recompense for this protection. Ecbert also suggests that he will keep both her sons safe in  recompense for any such unsaid agreement between them.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

judith knows where he's headed with this recompense

judith knows where he’s headed with this recompense

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

 

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

She  understands just how powerful and controlling Ecbert is and knows how far he would be willing to go to get what he wants. Ecbert proposes that in return for her sharing his bed, he will assure her safety and that of her son, Alfred.  She knows what Ecbert is capable of and she also had a good idea of what Aethelwulf is capable of as well. In his attempt to seal this bargain, Ecbert even goes far as to bring Athelstan into the conversation.

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over judith

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over Judith

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of athelstan

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of Athelstan

So, Judith becomes a pawn yet again, truly caught between Father and son in a situation that could bring danger to either or both of her sons. For Judith, this is not a matter of what is religiously moral, ethical or right in God’s eyes. In her mind, I think she has already gone beyond that with her adultery and with the church’s treatment of her for that sin. No, for Judith now, this becomes an act or an attempt to guarantee the safety of at least one of her children. If she makes this choice to become Ecbert’s mistress, she is hoping to save Alfred’s life and assure some future for him… but in doing so, there must still be some thought of what will become of her older son because of Ecbert’s insistence of Alfred being the holy one, the one who shall rule. By ensuring Alfred’s safety, is she then condemning her older son to just as much danger and uncertain fate from Ecbert in the future? As I have mentioned, and as Judith put it… she is not ignorant. This thought has to be playing in her heart and tearing her apart as she goes ahead with her decision to share Ecbert’s bed.  Some part of her also has to be thinking of Ecbert’s penchant for duplicity in all matters. She has to be thinking of this trait and wondering how far she should trust him. Some part of her must be wondering when he will decide that she is of no use to him or his plans and then what would her fate be?  Even if she has these doubts and does not trust him, in all reality, she has little choice in this matter and she knows it. She knows that Ecbert has spun his web around her and her children quite tightly and she must accept that once again, she is a pawn in his game.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith is called to Ecbert's chambers

judith is called to Ecbert’s chambers

Judith accepts her fate and meets Ecbert in his private chamber

As she enters into this arrangement and his bed, she reminds him of the terms of this agreement… that Alfred will be safe.

judith let's just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

judith let’s just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

Ecbert has calculated this plan well, or so he assumes. He sends Aethelwulf on what should be a sacrificial fool’s errand to ensure Kwenitrith’s loyalty and remind her of her puppet status… probably fully expecting Aethelwulf to be killed in the mission thereby leaving Judith free for his continued dalliance and for  baby Alfred to be named the heir because of his special holy status.  This sacrificial death at Kweni’s hands would also ensure a new war against Mercia in retaliation for Aethelwulf’s death, one which Ecbert would no doubt expect to easily win and be backed by the church’s power behind him.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

Yep Dad has done it again

At this sudden realization, Aethelwulf can do nothing but laugh and warn Kweni of what should befall her with his pre-planned death.

Haaaa finally one up on you kweni we've destroyed his settlement

He is quite calm when he explains the situation to Kwentirith and informs her there is no longer any settlement to bargain for.

 Aethelwulf  however, realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go and how little he really matters to Ecbert’s plans for the future. Aethelwulf survives the trip to Mercia and in his own way warns Kwentirith of  how precarious her own situation is. When he returns home, he makes some insinuation and innuendo towards Ecbert that he understands how the trip was intended to play out. It is also during that dinner when Aethelwulf and Judith begin to understand more of this ultimate power game of Ecbert’s. This last family dinner gives some insight as to what the future might hold for Aethelwulf and for Judith. For Aethelfulf, there is the realization of just how devious and treacherous his Father really is along with an inner questioning of his ongoing loyalty to this Father who would so easily see him dead.

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

At the beginning of the meal, there is some of the usual resentment and insults from Aethelwulf but Judith refuses to be cowed this time and responds in a way that causes Aethelwulf to quiet and possibly rethink his actions in light of his current situation with his Father.

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

ecbert tries to make light of it isn't that just like Kwentirith

Ecbert tries to make light of Aethelwulf’s comments and description of what took place

judith's realization of just how evil and ruthless Ecbert is

When Aethelwulf makes mention of sacrifices, questionable outcomes of the event and divided loyalties, Judith realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go in his schemes…

After Judith speaks up for herself, there seems to be some unsaid truce between her and Aethelwulf through the rest of the dinner. They both appear more focused on Ecbert’s responses and behavior in light of Aethelwulf’s comments. Aethelwulf for his part seems intent on some inner thoughts of trying to be more God or at least Jesus like in acceptance and forgiving attitudes… At one point a look comes across Judith’s face as if to think, “Well, Fuck! He’s trying to forgive me… I slept with that Ass for nothing!”

judith's sudden thought well fuck he's forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

judith’s sudden thought well fuck he’s forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

There is also a fleeting attempt towards forgiveness on his part towards Judith.  For Judith, there is a revelation that she could in some way hold a bit of her own power or control in this game… as she watches this interaction between Father and son, as she sees some small glimmer of forgiveness or at least acceptance from Aethelwulf, she begins to have thoughts of how she might weigh this all to her own advantage? The last we see of Judith is her with a look of  her own calculation and pondering of how she may not be as powerless as she thought she was.

great hall of Wessex

family dinner in wessex Ecbert's somewhat rude and condescending comments A toast to my son.

family dinner in wessex Ecbert’s somewhat rude and condescending comments A toast to my son.

 Judith watches and listens to this interaction between Father and son escalate into a final rather condescending toast by Ecbert towards Aethelwulf. In the end, Judith has a look of her own possibilities for the future… as though she suddenly realizes that she is not without her own power in this game.

Judith is scoping out this situation now between Ecbert and Aethelwulf

There is one very important thing that Judith must keep in mind and make assurances that there will be no doubts of in her future…. Judith has proven herself to be quite a proficient and fertile breeder. She has already had one instance of adultery leading to an unplanned and untimely pregnancy given the fact that Aethelwulf had been away in battle and she had not had sex with him for quite some time before she entered into the risky affair with Athelstan.  Should such another occurance take place, I am quite sure there would be no acceptance or forgiveness forthcoming from either Aethwulf or the church! This affair with Ecbert has taken another turn of risk and danger for her. How could she begin to explain to Aethelwulf that she was sleeping with his Father this time? Although Ecbert probably did not bargain on Aethelwulf returning, he had returned and now Ecbert has another possible sticky situation do deal with…. I believe it would be in both his and Judith’s best interests for Aethelwulf to be placated and for him to be encouraged to see to his husbandly duties. Judith needs to do whatever possible to be in Aethelwulf’s good graces and in his bed very soon!

 

This brings us to a glimpse of the future where Judith seems to have found some of that power?

judith holds her own in this game of power

 

Looking towards that future, she has obviously survived and also managed to keep both of her sons alive! Job well done Judith!  These two adorable boys play Judith’s sons Athelred and Alfred in the next season so we do know that she has succeeded in keeping them both alive so far.

 

Athelred and Alfred Judith's son in season 4 vikings

Athelred and Alfred Judith’s son in season 4 Vikings

Of course, what we do not know yet, is what she has had to do to ensure the safety of both boys? That all remains to be told in the next season.  We do know from previews that Aethelwulf and Ecbert are both still alive so Ecbert has not yet succeeded in killing his son off. Perhaps Aethelwulf has succeeded in finding some of his own power in the future. What could any power grabbing for Aethelwulf mean for Ecbert in the future?

ecbert

As we look toward the future of Wessex and Judith, there is one last thought I want to present. This is my own personal thought, a sort of What if Scenario…. In upcoming previews of next season, we see an arrest and rather brutal torture of Floki.  Now, we should all understand how these images are spliced together in such a way to provoke us, to lead us to often wrong conclusions and keep us guessing or assuming as to what takes place. What we can be positive about is that Floki is arrested by Bjorn for the murder of Athelstan, that he is chained for a time in the village and rebuked by Ragnar for his disloyalty.

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Floki's punishment begins.

Floki’s punishment begins.

ragnar to athelstan you betrayed my trust

ragnar to Floki, you betrayed my trust

you betrayed my love of you

you betrayed my love of you

At some point later, we also see Floki’s gruesome torture…

floki suffers an even worse punishment

Of course, we see this all together and make the assumption that this is Ragnar’s direct doing. Many have made the comment and consideration that while this could be a show of Ragnar’s deep bitterness, his increasing thoughts of personal revenge and ultimately a show of his control and force over his subjects. Many have commented that such an act would serve to alienate the villagers and some of his warriors as well, who already have serious doubts and concerns about his  religious beliefs. Many of the villagers would have sided with Floki and would see this act as more of Ragnar’s disloyalty to their Gods. It certainly would not endear him to most of the villagers and all it would set up is an even stronger resentment against him along with more serious thoughts of revolt and replacing him as their King. 

What Ragnar really needs to do upon his return home is salvage his reputation with the more mistrusting subject. This act is not going to accomplish anything but create more doubt, rule by fear alone and villagers or warriors becoming even more disloyal to him and possibly slipping away in the middle of the night to other sides. When one attempts to rule by fear alone, this is a common occurrence. You can not watch every single person 24 hours a day, he should be well aware of this since it was what many of them did under Harald’s and then Horik’s rule. Another thing he needs to do is get back to England. In order to do that he is going to need some help from these villagers. So, other than stringing Floki up himself what might his options be?

He has arrested Floki for his disloyalty in killing Athelstan but to kill him himself is going to make him look really bad. An alternate option would be to use the unknown fate of those massacred villagers to his favor in another devious plot or scheme. He does not have to tell the villagers anything of their fate but he could imply that they would be in grave danger if the fate of Athelstan is discovered. And he could of course imply that rumors travel, there are missionaries in their country and short of killing every single missionary- which would start an even bigger war, word will get back to England. So, what might he do to alleviate such a war and keep their settlers safe? If he were still as truly devious and manipulative as we saw him last, he would propose that they bring Floki to England to appease the English as a sort of peace offering… Now, the villagers would still be upset with the idea but if it were laid out as either Floki or their relative lives, they might grudgingly go along with proposal.  To give Ragnar some credit, though I’m not really sure deserves it… he may not even be planning to actually sacrifice Floki but just put the fear of the Gods into him?  He needs a way into England behind a ruse or scheme in order to find out for sure what actually happened and who ultimately was responsible. Of course he probably knows it was Ecbert, but you can’t just go knock on his Castle door and accuse him outright. No, you need a scheme to get yourself in the door. So, he uses Floki as his scheme, his scapegoat, his peace offering. He pretends to know nothing of the massacre, Ecbert claims innocence of it and would offer up Aethelwulf as his own scapegoat. Ecbert wants to get rid of Aethelwulf anyway, and what better way than to say, trade him for Floki? Because, in reality, who else would want personal revenge or vengeance on Floki besides Ragnar? 

a game of what if2

So, in my personal pondering of a possible outcome or alternate storyline… What if Ragnar brings Floki to Ecbert and this is Ecbert’s  personal revenge rather than Ragnar’s?  What if Aethelwulf in his attempt to save his own life, spills all he knows of Ecbert’s plans and of Kweni’s secret? Could this be the cause of the looks of puzzlement and fear on Ragnar and Kweni?

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

it's not often we see fear on Ragnar's face

it’s not often we see fear on Ragnar’s face

What is the fate of this baby? Who ends up with him and why does he become so important?

Let me present my son Prince Magnus

And why would Aethelwulf ever think of going against his Father… besides possibly trying to save his own life of course. Could he be racked with some inner guilt about the slaughter of those innocent settlers in his ongoing battle between his own wicked ways and that which his God tells him is wrong? We do see a glimpse of Aethelwulf’s thoughts on ruling…

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

Is this a glimpse of a changing and evolving Aethelwulf? Could this be a path of Hirst’s back towards some actual history, such as that path with Alfred? In history, other than a few early skirmishes The Vikings did not pose a major threat during his reign. In 853 he married his daughter Æthelswith to King Burgred of Mercia, and in the same year he joined a Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony. In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome. In preparation he gave a “decimation”, donating a tenth of his personal property to his subjects; he appointed his eldest surviving son Æthelbald to act as King of Wessex in his absence, and next son Æthelberht to rule Kent and the south-east. He spent a year in Rome, and on his way back he married Judith, the twelve or thirteen year old daughter of the West Frankish King Charles the Bald. When Æthelwulf returned to England, Æthelbald refused to surrender the West Saxon throne, and Æthelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom, taking the east and leaving the west in his son’s hands. On Æthelwulf’s death in 858 he left Wessex to Æthelbald and Kent to Æthelberht, but Æthelbald’s death only two years later led to the re-unification of the kingdom.    In the twentieth century Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low, and he was seen as pious and impractical, but historians in the twenty-first century regard him as one of the most successful West Saxon kings, who laid the foundations for the success of his son, Alfred the Great.

If you look at Aethelwulf’s actual history, you might be reminded of an early conversation that might have been deemed unimportant at the time but could serve as some clue to possibilities in the future. Aethelwulf and Rollo once had a limited conversation about friendship. Floki was disgusted by the whole idea and Rollo gave a clue to his deeper thoughts that may also come up in the future as Rollo begins his relationship with the Frankish.

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

Aethelwulf and Rollo have a stilted brief conversation about differences but friends or allies. They were both just trying placate each other at the time but I think both of them understood some of the underlying idea and concept.

rollo watches floki leave and tries to figure his friend out

Rollo tries to explain this concept of friends/allies to Floki but Floki dismisses and walks away in disgust

rollo comes to better understanding of Ragnar's thoughts

Rollo has a conversation with Ragnar and comes to better understand Ragnar’s thoughts on religion, acceptance and the bigger world… this is of course when Ragnar’s thoughts were more rational.

In history, Aethelwulf maintained good relations with other Kingdoms such as Mercia and with Wales. He was on good terms with the Frankish Carolingian dynasty and seems to have based his kingship on their system. “Æthelwulf ran a Carolingian-style family firm of plural realms, held together by his own authority as father-king, and by the consent of distinct élites.”His ealdormen enjoyed a high status, and sometimes attested charters above the king’s son.  His reign is the first for which there is evidence of royal priests, and Malmesbury Abbey regarded him as an important benefactor, who is said to have been the donor of a shrine for the relics of Saint Aldhelm. In ninth-century Mercia and Kent, royal charters were produced by religious houses, each with its own style, but in Wessex there was a single royal diplomatic tradition, probably by a single agency acting for the king. This may have originated in Egbert’s reign, and it becomes clear in the 840s, when Æthelwulf had a Frankish secretary called Felix.  

In 853 a Viking army defeated and killed ealdermen Ealhhere of Kent and Huda of Surrey at Thanet, and in 855 Danish Vikings for the first time stayed over the winter on Sheppey, before carrying on their pillaging of eastern England .  However, during Æthelwulf’s reign Viking attacks were contained and did not present a major threat.

Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low in the twentieth century. In 1935 R. H. Hodgkin attributed his pilgrimage to Rome to “the unpractical piety which had led him to desert his kingdom at a time of great danger”, and described his marriage to Judith as “the folly of a man senile before his time”.  To Frank Stenton in the 1960s he was “a religious and unambitious man, for whom engagement in war and politics was an unwelcome consequence of rank”.   One dissenter was Finberg, who in 1964 described him as “a king whose valour in war and princely munificence recalled the figures of the heroic age”, but in 1979 Michael Enright said: “More than anything else he appears to have been an impractical religious enthusiast.” Early medieval writers, especially Asser, emphasise his religiosity, and his preference for consensus seen in the concessions made to avert a civil war on his return from Rome.   In Joanna Story’s view “his legacy has been clouded by accusations of excessive piety which (to modern sensibilities at least) has seemed at odds with the demands of early medieval kingship”.

In the twenty-first century he is seen very differently by historians. Æthelwulf is not listed in the index of Peter Hunter Blair‘s An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, first published in 1956, but in a new introduction to the 2003 edition Keynes listed him among people “who have not always been accorded the attention they might be thought to deserve … for it was he, more than any other, who secured the political fortune of his people in the ninth century, and who opened up channels of communication which led through Frankish realms and across the Alps to Rome”.  According to Joanna Story: “Æthelwulf acquired and cultivated a reputation both in Francia and Rome which is unparalleled in the sources since the height of Offa’s and Coenwulf’s power at the turn of the ninth century”.

Nelson describes him as “one of the great underrated among Anglo-Saxons”, and complains that she was only allowed 2,500 words for him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, compared with 15,000 for Edward II and 35,000 for Elizabeth I.  She says:

Æthelwulf’s reign has been relatively under-appreciated in modern scholarship. Yet he laid the foundations for Alfred’s success. To the perennial problems of husbanding the kingdom’s resources, containing conflicts within the royal family, and managing relations with neighbouring kingdoms, Æthelwulf found new as well as traditional answers. He consolidated old Wessex, and extended his reach over what is now Devon and Cornwall. He ruled Kent, working with the grain of its political community. He borrowed ideological props from Mercians and Franks alike, and went to Rome, not to die there, like his predecessor Ine, … but to return, as Charlemagne had, with enhanced prestige. Æthelwulf coped more effectively with Scandinavian attacks than did most contemporary rulers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelwulf

In light of these more recent and contemporary views on Aethelwulf’s life and his guidance of  Alfred toward the throne despite the claims of older brothers and even his nephews by brother Athelred, it will be interesting to see how Hirst approaches the future of Aethelwulf, Ecbert and Judith. He makes much mention of his versions of history going in round about ways to connect in some way to actual history. And, as I’ve mentioned already, if you watch closely, you can see glimpses of change and evolution in Aethelwulf and Judith’s relationship. There is one fact that does come close to Hirst’s storyline regarding Judith’s future with Aethelwulf and any children she might potentially bear him.

Although in history, Judith was his second wife and bore him no children, there is some hint of something special regarding her and her relationship to him? Most wives at that time were not anointed Queens, they were just the King’s wife. Judith was however recognized as an anointed Queen.  Part of this was due to her status as Carolingian Princess, but what ever the reason, Hirst’s manipulation of history or the actual accounting of it, it made Judith’s status special.  The anointing of Judith as “a charismatic sanctification which enhanced her status, blessed her womb and conferred additional throne-worthiness on her male offspring.”   Æthelwulf insisted that Judith should sit beside him on the throne until the end of his life, and according to Asser this was “without any disagreement or dissatisfaction on the part of his nobles”. 

The rest of Judith’s real Carolingian status relates to Gisla as well. Gisla was a daughter, a princess of that Carolingian dynasty. Carolingian princesses rarely married and were usually sent to nunneries, and it was almost unknown for them to marry foreigners so Gisla should consider herself lucky for her marriage to Rollo considering her other options of Odo or a nunnery! So, Wipe that pout off from your face, dry your Damnable tears and Thank your God for your one chance at a possible happy marriage! Quit complaining, you could be Judith’s shoes…. or even Torvi’s with a wretched wife abusing little weasel named Erlandeur!  There are other women out there in far worse circumstances than you!

a tearful gisla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings Paris: The Princess will crown the Bear

 

Ahhhh finally, we put the previous tragedies and terrors of late behind us for now and head for the city of Paris. That city which the Seer refers to in his prophecies…

Paris in the distance the walls of paris

If you remember, the Seer gave prophecies of this city as well as a few other insights that we must consider at this time.  He told Ragnar, “Not the living but the dead will conquer Paris, and the Princess shall crown the Bear, which does not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok.”  His message to Rollo was quite similar, “The Princess will crown the Bear and you shall be there to see it.”  These were as usual cryptic unclear messages which caused   everyone much thought and debate.  Obviously, something good is going to happen to someone during this time because the Seer also assured Rollo that if he knew what the Gods had in store for him, he would dance naked with joy on the beach!  Just on a personal thought, I should like very much to be dancing with Rollo on that beach…

Seer as counselor  What do you think Rollo and the Seer  I paid you good spit for that advice

 

The puzzling question comes to mind of who the “Bear” is? I have mentioned previously that Bjorn might be a possibility as his name literally translates in Norse to Bear, and he does eventually become a King of Sweden in history. We know little else about his history so it’s possible that he will meet his princess… I do not think his destiny lies with Porunn. I have stated this before. His affair with Porunn was that of two young people experiencing their first tastes of lust and mistaking it for love.  I think Porunn realizes this and she keeps insisting that Bjorn will be happier without her. Many assume that this is just her overwrought emotions and irrational thoughts coming out… but, I think perhaps in this one aspect, she is thinking clearly. She knows in her heart that she and Bjorn do not belong together despite sharing a child. Perhaps she is being more honest than we credit her for? Her fate and her destiny are not with Bjorn and she knows it, as much as it hurts her to face it.

While the rest of us headed toward Paris, Porunn was left at home in Kattegat with Aslaug. She struggled with Motherhood and possibly, the thought of raising a child on her own, if as she was so insistent upon, Bjorn would leave her. She did not voice this fear but it could have been part of what caused her rash attempt to give her daughter to Aslaug.  Now, I have made it clear from the beginning that I am not a fan of Aslaug, but in this instance Aslaug spoke with clear determination and lectured Porunn on Motherhood. She gave wise words of advice to the girl.

porunn tries to give her baby to aslaug please take my baby  I can not care for her  Aslaug's reply of course you can

Aslaug tried to be patient but reminded Porunn that she was the child’s Mother and needed to be there for her. She told Porunn that her thinking was selfish, that her daughter needs her! She also tried to remind Porunn to think of Bjorn, Bjorn loves you.

Aslaug spoke of a woman’s harsh and difficult burden in life. “But, you must remember that the Gods determine our fate. Pray to Freya to bring you comfort as she does for me.”

aslaug and her cauldron2 aslaug and her cauldron

No, I do not believe Bjorn’s destiny is with Porunn, though he will always care about her. His destiny may lie with Torvi, who has herself suffered the bitter and difficult burdens of a woman’s life. Torvi who was once married to much older Jarl Borg, had to share him with his dead wife’s skull, then watch as he was executed for his betrayal of Ragnar. Torvi who bore a child on her own after her husband’s death and then was most probably married to young Erlandeur against her will. Torvi, who is in a unhappy and dangerous marriage now and most likely suffers abuse at Erlandeur’s hand… But, as Torvi states, “I will not be left behind, I am Viking!”  Torvi endures her burden with completely different mindset than Porunn. Torvi enters willingly into a relationship with Bjorn, knowing that it will have dangerous and injuring consequences for her.

Bjorn I love my wife Bjorn and torvi

Later when Bjorn attempts to make amends for his behavior, Torvi sets him straight telling him, “It does not matter, I am not with child nor am I a child!”

bjorn  I took advantage of you

 bjorn tries to make ammends for previous behavior. torvi's comment it does not matter I am not with child neither am I a child.

bjorn tries to make ammends for previous behavior. torvi’s comment it does not matter I am not with child neither am I a child.

The relationship between Bjorn and Torvi is of two adults who are able to have a serious discussion, understand each other and agree upon it without yelling or tears.

torvi's response  so did I we used each other

torvi’s response so did I we used each other

torvi can smile at bjorn and admit her complicity in the act

bjorn and torvi are able to have a serious adult conversation and laugh about it

bjorn and torvi are able to have a serious adult conversation and laugh about it

Bjorn gave Torvi a heartfelt gift which she kept and appreciated for a few moments before her husband Erlandeur grabbed it from her and told her it was too good for her, a whore.

bjorn gives torvi a gift of a brooch

bjorn gives torvi a gift of a brooch

Torvi reacts to erlandeur  No you're hurting me

Torvi reacts to erlandeur No you’re hurting me

torvi's brooch is gone and her hand is sliced

It was rather apparent that Torvi has suffered and endured abuse from Erlandeur but kept quiet counsel and maintains her inner dignity through it.

no tears from torvi she is resolute she is viking

Torvi has the inner strength, fortitude and grace of one who knows her worth and value despite her burdens. I only bring all of this up now because there is another such woman on the horizon… A young woman who has inner courage, strength and fortitude to endure and know her worth as a woman, as a princess. I also bring it up to show that Bjorn’s destiny does lie in Paris with a woman who has the inner makings of a Princess or a Queen.

Now, before we go on with Rollo’s destiny, let us look one more time at the Seer’s prophecies. This prophecy was an older one which he made to Ragnar about his sons. He told Ragnar that his sons would do great things, in fact be more famous than him?  One son would marry the daughter of a King, and one son would sail seas  that have no waves… The seer was actually correct in this message according to history.

 

 In 860, Björn led a large Viking raid into the Mediterranean. After raiding down the Spanish coast and fighting their way through Gibraltar, Björn and Hastein pillaged the south of France, where his fleet over-wintered, before landing in Italy where they captured the coastal city of Pisa. They proceeded inland to the town of Luna, which they believed to be Rome at the time, but Björn found himself unable to breach the town walls. To gain entry, he sent messengers to the bishop to say that he had died, had a deathbed conversion, and wished to be buried on consecrated ground within their church. He was brought into the chapel with a small honor guard, then amazed the dismayed Italian clerics by leaping from his coffin and hacking his way to the town gates, which he promptly opened, letting his army in. Flush with this victory and others around the Mediterranean (including in Sicily and North Africa) he returned to the Straits of Gibraltar only to find the Saracen navy from Al-Andalus waiting for him. In the desperate battle that followed, Björn lost 40 ships, largely to a form of Greek fire launched from Saracen catapults. The remainder of his fleet managed to return to Scandinavia, however, where he lived out his life as a rich man.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_Ironside

Another son did indeed marry the daughter of a King…granted, a King that he killed but still, a King. Sigurd Snake in the eye married the daughter of a King and in fact, his descendants went on to gain the throne of England for a short time!

In 865 King Ella of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lodbrok in a pit of serpents. When Ragnar was suffering in the pit he is reputed to have exclaimed: “How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!”   And soon his sons did know, as King Ella was foolish enough to send an embassy to acquaint them of the fact. When the brothers heard of their father’s death Sigurd is said to have cut himself to the bone with a knife he held in his hand and his brother Björn Ironside gripped his spear so tightly that the imprint of his fingers was left in the wood.  Sigurd and his brothers swore they would avenge his killing in time-honoured Viking tradition. The legend says that their first attempt failed, but through the treachery of the oldest brother, the notoriously cruel and cunning Ivar the Boneless, Ella was duped into a battle he could not win. In 866 they crossed the North Sea with a large army. This Great Heathen Army sacked York, met King Ella in battle and captured him. They sentenced him to die according to the custom of the Blood Eagle), an exceedingly painful death. It consisted of cutting away the ribs from the spine and pulling the lungs backward through the cavities formed to form the shape of an eagle.

Ragnarssona þáttr informs that when his father died, he inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He married Blaeja, the daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria and they had the children Harthacanute and Aslaug, who was named after her grandmother Aslaug.

Harthacanute succeeded Sigurd as the king of Zealand, Scania and Halland, but he lost Viken. He was the father of Gorm the Old, the king of Denmark. Gorm succeeded his father as king and married Thyra, the daughter of the Jutish chieftain Harald Klak. When Harald died, Gorm took his kingdom too and united Denmark.

Harald succeeded his father as king and married Gyrid of Sweden. They had a son named Sweyn Forkbeard. Sweyn succeeded his father as king and married Gunhild. They had a son named Cnut the Great. Sweyn also ruled England in his lifetime and established the Danish Empire. When Sweyn died, his elder son Harald Svendsen became King Denmark as England’s former king Ethelred reclaimed it. However as Harald did not marry, his brother Cnut the great became king, re-established the Danish Empire and married Emma of Normandy. They had a son named Harthacnut. When Cnut died, Harthacnut became king of the Danish Empire, however, he lost England to Edward the confessor in 1042.

In his way, Sigurd was probably the son who achieved the most eventual fame and reputation. The interesting part of Sigurd’s story and his descendants is the fact that his most famous descendant, Cnut the Great married a descendant of Rollo. Cnut married Emma of Normandy, who was previously married to Aethelred the unready of  England.  Now, let us add another factor into this equasion… Aethelred the unready was the descendant of  King Ecbert of Wessex and his grandson, Alfred.  What is a bit ironic about Emma’s marriage to Aethelred is the fact that she was descended from Vikings and then married to Aethelred as means of uniting the countries against Viking threats. She brought her Viking bloodline to the throne of England and bore Athelred two sons- one of whom would eventually be King. Then after Aethelred died, she went so far as to willingly marry Cnut the Great. With this marriage she held the title of Queen Consort of England, Denmark and Norway. 

Under his reign, Cnut brought together the English and Danish kingdoms, and the people saw a golden age of dominance across Scandinavia, as well as within the British Isles. His campaigns abroad meant the tables of Viking supremacy were stacked in favour of the English, turning the prows of the longships towards Scandinavia. He reinstated the Laws of King Edgar to allow for the constitution of a Danelaw,  and for the activity of Scandinavians at large. He also reinstituted the extant laws with a series of proclamations to assuage common grievances brought to his attention, including: On Inheritance in case of Intestacy, and On Heriots and Reliefs.  He also strengthened the currency, initiating a series of coins of equal weight to those being used in Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia

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

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

You can read more of Emma’s story in a book by Helen Hollick titled, The Forever Queen.

forever quee

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 by Helen Hollick

With Emma of Normandy and Cnut the Great, the Viking dream of a Daneland rather than an England became very close to a reality. Emma also brought the Normans to England with her Norman/Viking ancestry and the mistake that she made of leaving her son Edward by Aethelred to be raised in exile in Normandy. He thereby had a closer relationship and ties with Normandy than with his own English people when he eventually came to the throne of England.

 

This all gives much credence to the Seer’s prophecies about Ragnar’s sons. That leaves of course, the prophecy regarding the Princess crowning the Bear. Because if it is not Bjorn, then we would assume it must be Rollo himself.  What is Rollo’s connection or reference to “Bear”  other than his presumed size which was mentioned previously. Well, we need to look at the term Bear in the Norse language, mythology and legend, as well as look at Rollo himself in how he might fit into this.

The connection can be found in the word Berserker! If we look back at Rollo’s fighting behaviors, there are certainly time when he could be described as Berserker.

Rollo strikes the blow

Rollo does not trust knut and confronts him

Rollo does not trust knut and confronts him

rollo always the warrior Rollo has slipped away from reason or reality rollo in battle 2

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

Today, the word ‘berserk’  describes one with an irrational, agitated state of mind who cannot or does not control his or her actions. The meaning of the word originates with the Viking berserkers, the fierce warriors who were known for battling in an uncontrollable, trance-like fury, and were alleged to be able to perform seemingly impossible super-human feats of strength.  In medieval Norse and Germanic history and folklore, the berserkers were described as members of an unruly warrior gang that worshipped Odin, the supreme Norse deity, and were commissioned to royal and noble courts as bodyguards and ‘shock troops’, who would strike fear into all who encountered them. Adding to their ferocity, and in order to intimidate the enemy, they would wear bear and wolf pelts when they fought, giving them the name Berserker, meaning “bear coat” in Old Norse.

While some researchers believe the Berserkers simply worked themselves up into a self-induced hysteria before fighting, others maintain that it was sorcery, the consumption of drugs or alcohol, or even mental illness, that accounted for their behaviour. Some botanists have claimed that berserker behaviour could have been caused by the ingestion of the plant known as bog myrtle, one of the main spices in Scandinavian alcoholic beverages. Yet another theory is the consumption of hallucinating properties of such plants as certain types of mushrooms.  Well, both Floki and Rollo have consumed their share of mushrooms!
http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/viking-berserkers-fierce-warriors-or-drug-fuelled-madmen-001472

 

another bite of the shroom and sure no problem I'll get the head passing the shrooms

rollo is a good host he shares his shrooms

And, we are all well aware of Rollo’s drinking habits!

rollo's solution marry both of them take one as wife the other as concubine that will settle the matter rollo is not happy either

With this explanation we can reasonably assume that yes, Rollo could be considered a  Berserker or “Bear” in the context that the Seer is speaking of.

rollo in thoughtrollo in fur

So, Rollo can be considered a Bear, and he arrives in Paris where, as far as we know- there is only one Princess currently in residence! At first glance this young girl would appear far too meek and unassuming to do anything more than simply place a crown on Rollo’s head for some reason?

you must tell him that you will not abandon your people you will stay with them be with them protect them

This initially unassuming young woman is Princess Gisla, daughter of Frankish King Charles. If you are thinking to find out more about her in actual history, you will have little luck. There is some debate and doubt as to whether she actually existed or was errantly confused with another Princess Gisela of the same time period. She does get mention in some traditional, older accounts of Rollo’s history but there is little or no evidence or proof of her true existence.

In our world, she does exist and we can assume that she is the Princess that the Seer is referring to. As to the crown part of the prophecy, this could be a more metaphorical reference than a literal one. In history, Rollo was never a prince or king. What he did supposedly gain with his marriage to Gisela was land. Or rather, with the treaty and the land, he also gained Gisela. I say it this way because the way it was written, there would have been no real reason for Rollo to be offered Gisela? He signed a treaty pledging his allegiance, complied with all of the terms of the treaty and was awarded the land and then for some reason he was also rewarded with Gisela. This is important because it puts the marriage in a different light than one of a peace offering or arrangement. Gisela was not being used as a peace weaver or peace cow as was common for many young women in that time period. An example would be the Lady Judith of our saga, who was in a sense traded for peace between kingdoms. 

So, if Gisela was not being used in this sense, then it was an arrangement that Rollo wanted for some reason, and Charles went along with it. As we see in this young woman, Gisla, she is not one to be put into a marriage not of her acceptance or choosing.  Another thought on this situation that might explain why this Gisla or Gisela gets such little historical reference.  If Gisela chose to enter into such a marriage or partnership with Rollo on her own, perhaps she was willing to give up her more Royal status and forge a life with Rollo instead. If she did that, she would no longer be of any importance or consequence in the history of this Royal lineage. No one would write any further account of her because in their minds she would cease to exist in that Royal line. In history, she supposedly did not bear Rollo any children so she would be of little real importance in the future documentation of his lineage either. It would be quite easy for those early historians to set her aside and let her fade away into unknown history.   In history, our King Charles III or Charles the Simple had a number of daughters by his first wife, then by his second wife, he finally had a son who would eventually become Louis IV of France.  As one of many daughters, Gisela’s marriage choice may have been of less consequence or importance once this son was born to the family. She may have had more freedom to choose her own marriage because of this. 

Charles the Simple:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Simple

In the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) with King Charles, Rollo pledged feudal allegiance to the king, changed his name to the Frankish version, and converted to Christianity, probably with the baptismal name Robert.  In return, King Charles granted Rollo land between the Epte and the sea as well as parts of Brittany  and according to Dudo of St. Quentin, the hand of the King’s daughter, Gisela, although this marriage and Gisela herself are unknown to Frankish sources. He was also the titular ruler of Normandy, centered around the city of Rouen. There exists some argument among historians as to whether Rollo was a “duke” (dux) or whether his position was equivalent to that of a “count” under Charles.

As I mentioned this young woman is not the timid, unassuming mouse that her initial appearance would suggest. No, we come to see that Gisla is very much in control of her own life and it would seem that she is in a way, the hidden power behind the crown of her Father. She has a close relationship with him and acts as his counsel and advisor.

gisla I did not want to be sent away  I wanted to stay here with you with our people gisla is the strength behind this crown

gisla:   you must tell odo that you will not leave your people

gisla: you must tell odo that you will not leave your people

There is mention made that she has turned down a number of marriage proposals, among them, the Count Odo’s proposal. This is clearly not a woman who will be pushed into a marriage of convenience or even political reasons. Odo is hopeful though that once he saves Paris, she will rethink his proposal and agree to the marriage.

if you save paris I will forever be in your debt

I will admit that my first impression of Gisla was that this little mouse of a girl would be somehow forced into a marriage with Rollo and would have great difficulty in holding her own with him… Now, my impression is that she has enough inner strength and determination for both herself and Rollo!  I do believe that she could easily be guiding force behind Rollo’s transition from wild Berserker Viking warrior to founder of a well run and disciplined kingdom that becomes a force to be reckoned with throughout the medieval world! While she may not place a literal crown on him, she will  guide him and shape him into a leader that will enable crowns to placed upon many of his descendants!

This Princess Gisla will teach Rollo how to rule a kingdom… as we will see in a future article about Rollo, someone obviously influences, molds and turns him into a ruler and it just might have been one such as Gisla.

So, in final answer to the puzzle of the Seer’s prophecy, Yes the Princess does crown the Bear and it is Rollo!

Our puzzle has been answered to the best of my knowledge and predictions. But, before I end this tonight, I just want to take one closer look at this Princess Gisla. As I said, there is little evidence of her actual existence or her relationship with Rollo other than some fragmented historical references to her. Most current and more documented evidence gives his wife or concubine as Poppa as the Mother of his children. There is little information on her either other than that she might have been captured by Rollo during his attack on Bayeux.  I believe that from Michael Hirst’s perspective and thought, it may have been easier and more expedient to the story line to use Gisla rather than Poppa.  Gisla gives an excellent parallel and represents the difference between the Noblewomen of Europe and those of a fledgling Britain during this time period.

I think that Gisla is a representation of the women of the Carolingian dynasty. The Carolingian empire and dynasty was the one of which King Charles and West Francia were a part of. It  was the final stage in the history of the early medieval realm of the Franks, ruled by the Carolingian dynasty. The size of the empire at its zenith around 800 was 1,112,000 km, with a population of between 10 and 20 million people.  With its division in 843, it also represents the earliest stage in the history of the kingdom of France and the kingdom of Germany, which in the High Middle Ages would emerge as the powerful monarchies of continental Europe, Capetian France and the Holy Roman Empire, and by extension the predecessor of the modern nations of France and Germany. The beginning of the Carolingian era is marked by the coronation of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great by Pope Leo III at Christmas of the year 800, and its end with the death of Charles the Fat.Because Charlemagne and his ancestors had been rulers of the Frankish realm earlier (his grandfather Charles Martel had essentially founded the empire during his lifetime, and his father, Pepin the Short, was the first King of the Franks), the coronation did not actually constitute a new empire. Most historians prefer to use the term “Frankish Kingdoms” or “Frankish Realm” to refer to the area covering parts of today’s Germany and France from the 5th to the 9th century.

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

I do not want to get too lost or bogged down in the massive amount of history concerning this empire. I just want to point out that it had an extensive long history already before the small Isle of Britain began their slow climb towards a so called civilized nation.  King Charles and his daughter were a part of this empire and were descendants of one of it’s great rulers, Charlemagne. King Charles mentions this during his discussion with Count Odo…

  I will not go to my brothers for help in this I will prove I am worthy of my Grandfather Charlamagne.

I will not go to my brothers for help in this I will prove I am worthy of my Grandfather Charlamagne.

Charlemagne (/ˈʃɑrlɨmn/; 2 April 742/747/748 – 28 January 814), also known as Charles the Great (Latin: Carolus or Karolus Magnus, French: Charles Le Grand or Charlemagne, German: Karl der Große, Italian: Carlo Magno or Carlomagno) or Charles I, was King of the Franks who united most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. He took the Frankish throne from 768 and became King of Italy from 774. From 800 he became the first Holy Roman Emperor – the first recognized Roman emperor in Western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state he founded is called the Carolingian Empire.

The oldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman’s sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Charlemagne continued his father’s policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, at times leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden. Charlemagne reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter’s Basilica.

Called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae), Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

Charlemagne died in 814, having ruled as emperor for just over thirteen years. He was laid to rest in his imperial capital of Aachen in what is today Germany. His son Louis the Pious succeeded him.

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

The kingdoms of England were in their infancy and just learning how to survive let alone reach any form of greatness… A few such as Ecbert of Wessex had been exposed to the greatness and the power of  Charlemagne’s empire. And, to give Ecbert his credit, this is the form of greatness that he was striving for after having spent time at Charlemagne’s court.

One only has to look at the various places of both countries and see the blatent differences….

Paris

paris at night2 Paris in the distance

Wessex

wessex arriving in wessex

Court/ Great Hall of Paris

great hall of Paris

Great hall of Wessex

great hall of Wessex

There was really no equitable comparison between the places, the people or the cultures. This includes the status of women in each place. 

In the Carolingian Empire, women held positions vital to the sustainability of Carolingian culture and society. Not only did they support men in traditional roles as virtuous mothers, nurturers, and models of beauty and morality, but they also controlled massive amounts wealth, protected against armed revolts, and preserved family lineages. Although the majority of Carolingian texts are authored by men and concern masculine activities, brief glimpses of the lives of aristocratic women can be deciphered through careful examination. In addition, history has a tendency to view women through a modern feminist lens, which leaves pre-modern women subject to assumptions of vulnerability, subjugation, and passivity. But these assumptions are not necessarily true. Although they lived in the constraints of a patriarchal society, Carolingian aristocratic women held a high status and role achieved through law and politics, economic and managerial pursuits, religious ties and family bonds, as well as education and domestic leadership.

women in the vast  Carolingian Empire differed in their ethnic backgrounds, roles in religious or lay settings, and responsibilities. Even the simple idea of marriage during this time had different definitions as Muntehe, Friedelehe, and concubines existed simultaneously. It is therefore important to take these differences into consideration and further define the differing statuses of women in order to better understand them.

You can read more about women in the Carolingian Empire here:

http://www.medievalists.net/2012/11/28/powerful-women-in-a-patriarchal-society-examining-the-social-status-and-roles-of-aristocratic-carolingian-women/

The Carolingian Noblewomen did still live within a world of constraints and domination of men but they were more highly valued than the women of Saxon England. They also knew better how to maneuver themselves within those constraints and maintain their value and self worth.  Gisla is one of these women. She was most likely raised to know the importance of her worth in society. And while she would have understood the importance of a political marriage or alliance with regard to her family and her country, she would have been well educated in the politics of the time to know what was advantageous and what would bring her family and country nothing in return. While Saxon England was struggling to find it’s place and learn what was considered acceptable, civilized behavior in regards to nobility, Gisla’s world was already well versed in what was deemed appropriate and civilized for Nobility and Royalty. Gisla was raised as a Royal Princess, and it shows.  Compare her for instance to our infamous now Queen Kwentirith… I am quite sure that Gisla would be completely disgusted and horrified at Kweni’s behaviors as both Princess and Queen? Not that the rest of us aren’t as well, but comparing these two women clearly shows that Kwenitirith is way out her league when it comes to Royal demeanor and social skills!

Gisla’s conduct and carriage

daughter Gisla arrives to give her advice Do not forget who is in charge here gisla I did not want to be sent away  I wanted to stay here with you with our people

verses some of Kwenitirith’s various inappropriate actions…

Just a hint here Kwentirith  when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Kwentirith unleashing her savagery on Uncle britwulf's head kwentirith enjoys the snack and Rollo thinks to enjoy his own snack

The prophecy of the Princess crowning the Bear is much clearer now.

The princess will crown the Bear

This leaves us two last messages to decipher… The Dead not the Living will conquer Paris, and this does not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok. 

Let’s address the message of this all not boding well for Ragnar first because it’s really the easiest to figure out!  First of all, Ragnar has always been the favored one of the Gods. Rollo makes much of this fact when he speaks to the Seer of his pain and his anger. In the relationship between these two brothers, Rollo has spent his life in Ragnar’s shadow fighting for his own identity, his own reputation. It is a constant battle for him to find his own way yet remain loyal to a brother he loves. Because despite all of Rollo’s bitterness and resentment over Ragnar’s favor with the Gods and everyone on earth, he does love his brother and continues to stand behind him no matter what. Ragnar has come to take this for granted. He assumes that Rollo will continue in on this path of following him and remaining in his shadow. I believe that Ragnar thinks all of their sibling difficulties and rivalry are now in the past. He believes that Rollo has accepted his fate and will remain ever loyal and faithful to him now. The coming events in Paris will test this relationship again. This time Rollo will be given opportunity and reason to once more question his allegiance and loyalties to Ragnar’s mission, Ragnar’s goals. Rollo will find his own path, his own destiny in Paris and it will eventually lead to far greater fame, glory and reputation that Ragnar could ever think to achieve. Rollo’s time for greatness is coming and Ragnar will most likely not be expecting it or so happy about it.  

Portrait of Rollo’s destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.

 

portrait of Rollo by Lindamarieanson of Deviant Art

portrait of Rollo by Lindamarieanson of Deviant Art

 

The message of “Not the Living but the Dead shall conquer Paris”  far more difficult to sort out. In looking at the history of Paris, it has actually only been conquered a few times in it’s long history. The Romans did conquer it and gave the city it’s name. The new city was called Lutetia or Lutetia Parisiorum (Lutece of the Parisii). The name probably came from the Latin word luta, meaning mud or swam.  Caesar had described the great marsh, or marais, along the right bank of the Seine. 

The gradual collapse of the Roman empire, due to the increasing Germanic invasions of the 5th century, sent the city into a period of decline. In 451 AD, the city was threatened by the army of Attila the Hun, which had pillaged Treves, Metz and Reims The Parisians were planning to abandon the city, but they were persuaded to resist by Saint Genevieve (422-502). Attila bypassed Paris and attacked Orléans. In 461, the city was threatened again by the Salian Franks, led by Childeric I (436-481). The siege of the city lasted ten years. Once again Genevieve organized the defense. She rescued the city by bringing wheat to the hungry city from Brie and Champagne on a flotilla of eleven barges. She became the patron saint of Paris.

In 481, the son of Childeric, Clovis I, just sixteen years old, became the new ruler of the Franks. In 486, he defeated the last Roman armies, and became the ruler of all of Gaul north of the Loire River. With the consent of Genevieve, he entered Paris. He was converted to Christianity by his wife Clothilde, was baptised at Reims in 496, and made Paris his capital.

During the Viking era, No Vikings ever conquered Paris. In future generations, Paris would suffer great devastations and catastrophes from the Plague and from various wars but it would not be conquered again until World War II when Hitler invaded and conquered the city.

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

Knowing the history and the future of Paris causes one to wonder just what the Seer is referring to with this foretelling.  As we’ve come to see, the Seer is usually fairly correct in connecting his prophecies to some sort of real historical events. So, what exactly is he alluding to with this reference?  He is speaking of this to Ragnar so one would assume that it has to do with Viking attempts to conquer the city and not later devastations which would almost decimate the city but not bring about it’s downfall. One event was the Plague which nearly wiped out the population but not the city itself.

When the Seer speaks of the Dead conquering the City, perhaps he is referring to the fact that at this time, the only people to have ever conquered the city were the long dead Romans! Perhaps he is warning Ragnar  in his usual cryptic way that this attempt is futile and only filled with death for the Vikings. It could also refer to the fact that aside from the long dead Romans, there is only one other force which has already conquered Paris. Paris has already been conquered and won by Christianity and their dead Christ who will rise again to defeat their enemies. Paris is a stronghold fortress of the deeply religious Christians. Their beliefs are so strong that they will defend their city and their religion at all costs. These are not wishy washy half believers like many of the only recently converted Saxons. Many of the Saxons were only pious believers as long as it was to their benefit. No, Christianity was so deeply engrained in the people of Paris and other parts of Francia that they firmly believed that their righteous God would carry them through any adversity. This area was the beginning of the Warriors of God, Defenders of Faith.

Their faith and their determination were every bit as strong as the Vikings belief in Odin. In a sense this could be looked at as a battle between God and Odin. Gisla understands this clearly and becomes a driving force and inspiration to the people of Paris as she leads them in a disturbing yet riveting prayer to God for victory over these Pagan forces intent on destroying their city and their faith.

you may rely upon me to do everything possible to persuade our people to hold firm and remain calm.

you may rely upon me to do everything possible to persuade our people to hold firm and remain calm.

Perhaps she is entreating God, calling him to send the courage and strength of the Dead such as their Holy Saints to the aid of this city?

In Paris they invoke their god for protection and victory

death masks

What ever her intent or her specific prayer, she has indeed inspired their people. She has put fear into them, and given them that God inspired courage to stand up and face this attack, to fight and win for God.

citizens of paris filled with fear and with awe

 

Princess Gisla uses all of the trappings and rituals of the church to inspire her people prayer of the dead

On the other side of the River the Vikings are calling upon their own Gods for victory

which gods will win

viking prayer for victory

viking prayer for victory

the future begins here

It will be a battle  beliefs as much as a battle for wealth and reputation. It will be a battle not easily won, filled with death and in the end most likely no side will actually claim victory.  Both sides will tire of the long siege and will eventually give into compromise.  In history, the Francians continued with a long held practice of paying the Viking raiders to leave. The Viking raiders were not well trained, skilled or patient with such long drawn out and life costly battles. They would grow weary as well.  They would accede to far less rewards than they originally wished for, take their payments and leave only to return again when they were in need of more wealth. We will talk more of the various battles and non- victories when we learn more about Rollo’s true history and destiny.

For now, who conquers Paris- the dead or the living… Well, in a way the Seer is again right because in the Vikings view the death of so many warriors is never really acceptable unless they are certain of victory. They are well known to be greatly cautious and careful with their battles so as not to risk the lives of their Warriors needlessly.  If they see the loss of lives becoming too great with no clear victory in sight, they will retreat and live to fight another day!