Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson

  • "Odin's curiosity about the world, and his willingness to take enormous risks to satisfy it, are among the characteristics that distinguish him most sharply from the omniscient and omnipotent God of the Christian conception...Odin's search for knowledge was very often a driven curiosity aimed at finding out more about how their deaths would occur." - 24-5
  • "Thus far the Vikings had confined their attacks to coastal targets. From about the 830s onwards they began forcing their way ever deeper inland as prelude to larger and more organized raiding that was probably also an investigation of the possibilities of settlement and/or colonization." - 75
  • March 845: "a fleet of 120 ships appeared in the Seine, 'laying waste everything on either side and meeting not the least bit of opposition', and presently threatening Paris....The army of Charles the Bald fled before this force and in desperation Charles offered 7,000 pounds of silver to leave. This is the first recorded example of the danegeld payment, a money-with-menaces tactic that the Vikings would later employ with great success in England." - 96
  • "It seems obvious now that policies of appeasement and alliance with individual Viking leaders only encouraged them to push harder. The tactics employed by Louis the Pious, Lothar, Charles the Bald, and Charles the Fat established clear precedents for the gift of lands...which eventually led to the creation of the duchy of Normandy." - 104
  • the Danish Viking king "Guthrum/Athelstan...and Alfred [of Wessex] came to a formal written agreement that marked a watershed in relations between the two sides. Its prologue recognized the reality of the status quo, invoking a peace between 'all the English race and all the people which is in East Anglia'. The boundary between the neighbors [, the Danelaw,] was settled as running 'up the Thames, and then up the Lea, and along the Lea to its source, then in a straight line to Bedford, then up the Ouse to the Watling Street'." - 140
  • "Natural factors also played their part in the settlement [of Iceland], in particular the serendipity of an interlude of climate change, known to climatologists as the Medieval Warm Period or Little Optimum, that lasted from about 800 to 1200 and made these centuries among the warmest of the past 8,000 years" - 161
  • 930: "with the available land taken, an awareness of Iceland as a country and of themselves as no longer settlers but Icelanders had arisen among the farmers. This manifested itself in the desire for an assembly that would serve the needs of the entire population...The general assembly, the althing, convened annually for two weeks in late June at Thingvellier, or 'the Assembly Plain'" - 165
  • "While slavery was being replaced in other parts of the Carolingian empire by serfdom, the colonists in Normandy [under Rollo, or Rolf the Walker,] developed Rouen as an important centre for the trading of slaves. The trade brought such prosperity to the region that it was still thriving at the end of the eleventh century, occasioning a rebuke from the Lombard cleric Lanfranc to his master, William the Conqueror, and a request that he forbid slavery throughout his territories." - 195
  • 962: "Otto [the Great] styled himself augustus and gave the name of Sacrum Romanum Imperium, or Holy Roman Empire, to his collected territories...It was not as large as Charlemagne's empire, but after a century of chaos its creation symbolized the return of order to central Europe." - 147
  • "A wealth of words passed in the English language as a result of the Scandinavian settlements. Among the most striking adoptions were the Old Norse personal pronouns 'they', 'them' and 'their'...Many words with an initial sk sound, such as sky, skill and skin, derive from Old Norse, as do everyday words like anger, husband, wing, thrive, egg, bread, and die." - 238
  • "a procession of men, Christian and Heathen, approached the Lawrock [in Iceland], named witnesses, and declared that they would not live under the same set of laws...Thorgeir [, the Lawspeaker since 985 for 15 years,] was being asked to set up a separate law code that would have required a separate assembly with its own, Christian, hallowing rituals, so that two communities could carry on separate but parallel lives." - 304
  • Thorgeir said, "'It will prove true that if we tear apart the law, we will also tear apart the peace.'...both sides agreed that everyone should have the same law...It was then proclaimed in the laws that all people should be Christian, and that those in this country who had not yet been baptised should receive baptism" - 305
  • "Unlike the god of the Christian, Odin felt that he understood little of the world he had created...His resignation [through Thorgeir's decision in Iceland] would leave him free to wander the world with his staff and his long coat, broad-brimmed hat pulled down over his one good eye, in pursuit of more knowledge and more understanding." - 313
  • "The break between theCatholic and the Orthodox Churches that occurred in 1054 finally compelled the triumph of Roman Christianity among Swedes and the theory proposes that a century of Greek Christianity was therefore edited out of Swedish history." - 374
  • 1090: "Inge [the Old] was able to press through the re-introduction of Christianity to the Svear [aka. Swedes]...he presided over the long-postponed destruction of the great Heathen temple at Uppsala. With that, the last true refuge of Odin, Thor, Frey, Freyja and the rest of the Aesir was gone." - 377

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