Norman History: Tales
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FIRST PART. TIMES AND SOURCES
Here are stories from the Norman History (Gesta Normannorum) by Dudo of St. Quentin, a Norman, clerical chronicler serving the Norman court. He wrote the book in obscure and clumsy Latin ca. 1015 AD. Parts are retold here. An unauthorised, on-line translation of the previous edition of the stories on this page exists in French. The current edition contains a new backdrop, more on Dudo, and the rest is simplified. - ©: Tormod Kinnes
After the fall of Rome in the 400s, Franks became the dominant ethnic group in the area. They built several monasteries, and replaced the barbarism of the region with the civilization of the Carolingian Empire. Towards the end of the 900s, Viking raids devastated the region, until the French king Charles the Simple handed over Normandy to a Viking, Rolv the Ganger (Rollo) from More in 911.
Normandy takes its name from Viking invaders. They were called "men of the North", or "Northmen". The word "Norman" comes from it.
The gruesome Viking Age lasted for about 250 years, from 793 to 1066, to present some marked dates. In 793 Scandinavian vikings pillaged Lindisfarne in North-East England. But six years earlier they had raided Wessex according to records. And already in 794 they sacked the monastery at Jarrow. Vikings also raided the Scottish Isles, and returned home with the plunder. Later Viking raids establish settlements on the East coast, northwest Scotland, Ireland (Dublin), Wales, Northumbria, and Manx. But in 1066 the army of Harald Hardrada lost a great battle of London, and that was more or less the end of Viking warfare on a massive scale.
The extremely mobile Vikings were slave-takers and slave-traders too. Dublin was once one of their markets. [Tnc 9]. European countries were terrorised.
In 841 Rouen and Jumièges in Normandy were severely damaged by raiders. An expedition in 845 went up the Seine and reached Paris. The raids were carried out primarily in the summer. After 851 the Viking raiders began to stay in the lower Seine valley for the winter, burning and looting. And in 911 the Viking leader Rollo forced Charles the Simple to sign the Treaty of Saint- Clair-sur-Epte. In it, Charles gave Rouen and the area of modern Haute-Normandie to Rollo. In exchange Rollo pledged vassalage to Charles in 940 and agreed to be baptized. Rollo also vowed to guard the estuaries of the Seine from further Viking attacks.
With a series of conquests, the territory of the Duchy of Normandy gradually expanded. Many buildings were pillaged, burned, or greatly damaged by the Viking raids, but no city was completely destroyed. Yet monasteries and abbeys, where treasures had been stored, were destroyed. For all that, what Rollo and his successors did, brought about rapid recovery (!).
Among the Scandinavians who colonised Normandy, were a few Swedes. In some areas the Scandinavians established themselves rather densely. The merging of the Scandinavian and native people contributed to one of the most powerful feudal states of Western Europe. Historians have few sources of information for this period of Norman history. Dudo of Saint-Quentin is one of four such sources.
After 911, the Viking Rollo (Norwegian: Gange-Rolf) was the first Norman count of Rouen. His successors were called Dukes of Normandy. These dukes increased the strength of Normandy, although they had to observe the superiority of the king of France. The Norman dukes struck their own money and leveled taxes. They raised their own armies and appointed most of the prelates of their archdiocese. They were practically independent of the French king, but they did pay homage to each new monarch.
The dukes maintained relations with foreign kings, especially the king of England. Emma, sister of the Norman Richard II, married King Ethelred II of England. Norman dukes appointed family members to positions as counts and viscounts. They held on to some territory in Scandinavia and the right to enter those lands by sea. The Norman dukes also ensured that their vassal lords did not get too powerful. The Norman dukes thus had more authority over their own domains than other territorial princes in Northern France.
William's conquest of England in 1066 opened up more land to the dukes. The aristocracy was composed of a small group of Scandinavian men, while the majority of the Norman political leaders were of Frankish descent.
A curiosity: Dukes of Normandy took their last name from where they signed the Peace Treaty in 911 AD in Saint Clair sur Epte. So the St. Clair or Sinclair families stem from Norman dukes.
The prowess of the Norman rulers made them go for tyranny along with bulwarking large parts of French territory against their "cousins" from up north: looting pirates, robbers and marauding bandits and settlers on various islands.
From the later 900s northern France stood up again, in part as origin of later medieval civilization and the modern world. Christendom was relegated to the realm of theory rather than harsh political fact. Hungarians were abroad, a safe stronghold was needed, and in Normandy was protection. Normans buildt strongholds.
At the same time they generated monastic schools of northern France, advocated Greek learning and art, and also simplified Roman cathedral architecture into so-called Romanesque. Some of the Norman churches still remain.
Certain developments can be distinguished - economic prosperity, ecclesiastical revival, the establishment of a new aristocracy - remarkable independency - [Tnc 14, 24, 29].
One contemporary chronicler wrote: "The world. . . was clothing itself in a white robe of churches" [Tnc 14].
Young descendants were bred and trained for war, land-hungry. They broke out of the confines of Western Europe altogether to take Jerusalem . . . in an orgy of bloodshed [Tnc 14; see also Parker 1986;140-8].
During such dark times the dynasty in Normandy had the chronicler Dudo write their porridge-like history. Dudo of St. Quentin blossomed around AD 1000. He wrote on behalf of Norman dukes that descended from Rollo (Gange-Rolv). Dudo is not considered to be an accurate and reliable historian, bu he is the only for some happenings.
One such marauder was called Anstign. He made a treaty with the Frankish king around 875. But before that the following happened:
Anstign decided one day:
"The breezes we have wished for are becoming and blowing a path for us. Let us go to Rome and subject it under us, as we have done to Francia."
He later came to a city and thought it was Rome. He said:
"When night is falling, notify the prelate and the count that I am dead. Earnestly request, weeping greatly, that they have me buried, a neophyte, in their town."
Anstign also said to his crew:
"Make a bier for me, and place me on it as if I were dead. Place my arms in it with me and lament well as you station yourselves in a ring around them."
The city dwellers thought he was dead and agreed to bury him inside the city, in a church-monastery. They were kind, and also had hopes in ceremonies and emblems, and did not understand what a deadly fraud was about. They wanted to sing ceremoniously. As they did, Anstign jumped down from the bier and snatched his sword in a thrice. He attacked the prelate that was holding a book in his hand. He slaughtered that man in cold blood, and the rest of the clergy stood defenceless.
Pagans had blocked the doors, and none could get out. In a frenzy the pagans butchered all, as wolves do within the pens of sheep. Women poured out useless tears. Young men and maidens were bound together with thongs. The last day of life befell all of them. They were all slain in cruel fashion.
After than Anstign learned that it was not Rome. Angrily he said:
"Take booty from the entire province and torch this town." [From Chapter 2)
Of such a civilian they say in Norway: "He was not kind." That is the essence of it.
The cleric Dudo of St. Quentin tells that duke Richard I of Normandy commissioned him to write a history of the Normans. The commission was delivered two years before the death of Richard I in 996 or 1002. Richard was buried at the Norman monastery of Fécamp in Normandy. After Richard's death, other members of the Norman ducal house continued to patronise Dudo, hoping he would complete the task.
It has not been possible to determine exactly when Dudo began to write his unabashed panegyric of the first three Norman dukes, Rollo, William Longsword, and Richard I, and still harder to decide when he finished. Most likely he wrote the history during the late 900s and/or early 1000s, while associated in many ways with the ruling family of ducal Normandy. From that circle William the Conqueror rode out one day to take over and rule Britain.
It is usually concluded that Dudo completed his Norman history late in 1015, after he got promoted to "decanus". It can be seen in the long work itself that Dudo was a dean (decanus) of the community of St. Quentin in the Vermandois. He served the bishop Adalberto. Before that he was a "canonicus" (canon) at the same place. We also find the title "capellanus" (chaplain) used by duke Richard II.
Dudo's history of Viking Normandy survives in several manuscripts that differ from one another in many ways. Most of them were copied during the eleventh or twelfth centuries, when Gesta Normannorum (Norman History) was at its peak of popularity - when Normans ruled in many countries with their "iron hands".
The translation we bring highlights from and write on top of, is a copy made in the second half of the 1000s, at Mont-St.-Michel - the fabled monastery just off the French coast near the "border" of Normandy and Brittany. The translation we thus take off from, is a good version of a single manuscript of Dudo's Gesta Normannorum, and that version happens to represent a compromise between many conflicting interests.
There is no easy way in these matters. "Editions" of medieval texts can be rather misleading and not only confusing, due to errors and inconsistencies that abound. We should make allowances for that as we read them.
Dudo tells in chapter 4:
THE ISLAND Crete was once called "hundred-towned" for its fertile fields. From that old island a father and son once tried to escape through wings of wax and feather. One was Daidalos, the other was Ikaros.
Daidalos flew well on the wings he had made. But his son flew so high and recklessly that the wax of his wings was dissolved and the feathers dropped off. As a result he fell into the sea where he drowned - a great pity it was. [Cf. Gk]
Dudo falsely attributes the Norman lineage to Trojan Antenor, and he likens Rollo to Aeneas and Constantine. Yet not all critics have dismissed Dudo's chronicle as useless. For his basic task was "to tell in the noblest style the story of a noble destiny."
Dudo tries to show how the formerly pagans integrate in the Frankish society by associating the Dukes of Normandy with saintliness. Saintly qualities are given more and more to each successive Norman duke until Richard I's corpse takes on the attributes of holy relics. It is done by moulding the lives of the dukes to hagiographic models. Rollo, to be sure, was no saint. Dudo claims he had two visions to explain the conversion. The sorts of visions comply with expectations of saintly visions, and imply Rollo was to be a privileged secular leader and had to concern himself with social issues.
Dudo also forms an episode where Rollo is immobilised at the sight of a robe that allegedly had been worn by Mary. By this, and by letting Christians interpret Rollo's visions, Dudo tries to show how ready Rollo was to get baptised along with his troops.
[Drawn from Victoria Jordan. "The Role of Kingship in the Tenth Century Normandy: Hagiography of Dudo of St. Quention." The Haskins Society Journal Studies in Medieval History: Volume 3, ed. Robert Patterson. Hambledon Press, 1992.]
The next poem comprises gist of Dudo's chapter 4.
Learn to stretch out your wings to heaven, you too,
Master the specially favourable songs.
Entrust your heart's intention to the Good Lord,
The original poems that I seem have captured some points of, are largely obscure. So the few lines above are not exactly rendition, but can hopefully be taken to be highlighting gist put together in easy ways for now. And most meanings should be found in the original, often ambiguous Latin of Dudo. Felice Lifshitz writes about the matter:
From a very early date, certain copiests rejected the verse portions of the narrative, which are often maddeningly obscure, and reproduced only the prose sections; this is true even of the oldest surviving copy . . . I have attempted to render neither the metre nor the rhyme-scheme, the latter in any case being effectively non-reproducible. . . [This] text . . . could be used . . . by professors. [From Lifshitz' Gesta Normannorum, an ORB document]
The historian R. Brown tells how Normandy was once again rebuilt, now in the hands of Norman patrons. They took on Frankish manners and became elegantly cloaked, for some of them looted southern Italy and Sicily. They took it out of the hands of Moslems and Greeks who had settled there, and had the blessings of the pope.
Normans rode out into Italy and took over the better half of it, and set up a Norman dynasty of kings with Palermo as the capital.
They took over literature that the Arabs had preserved, including Greek classics - forgotten books by Aristotle. Normans brought such treasures and formerly flourishing Roman building skills to Normandy too. They took manuscripts with them to their many monastic churches and preserved many. This in the long run paved the way or eased the way for the Renaissance.
Before things came that far, they used their management skills to fortify their domains, and did more than merely copy Roman architecture: they forged their own style from it. It was stouter, more astute, and much stands to this day. Many memorable buildings in France, England, and Southern Italy are comprised under the heading "Norman" architecture, which is the same as Romanesque. The Tower of London is one such building, the Lincoln Cathedral, and many more. The massive buildings reflect the needs of the time to withstand hostile attacks. [See Hee 1-25]
Normans from Rollo off had fought for peace in times of peace and war, and many elsewhere were torn to pieces by barbarians.
Normans were not all integrated even if they took up Frankish language and a lot such customs. Their Viking blood turned adventurous, nay, romantic, and naïve chivalry came from them too, and not just feudalism.
But first came the Northman Rollo. By agreement with the French king Charles the Simple, he and his converted men were to defend the Seine and thereby Paris. They succeeded in this.
Then, a few generations after Rollo, the cleric Dudo wrote the Norman history in cumbersome Latin. His mentions of places he had not visited and from times gone by are inaccurate. However, since Dudo the Chronicler writes only one hundred years after main happenings about Rollo, and the other main source, Icelander sagas of Norwegian kings are from the 1200, it could pay to listen guardedly to Dudo for that reason, aiming at discerning fact from fiction, for example. Dudo is purportedly at his best when telling of his contemporary times in Normandy around the year 1000. His style reflects his conditions, and counterbalances some aristocratic, barbarous norms and customs that steered Norse writings.
IN THE REGION of Dacia* there was in those days a certain old man who held almost the entire realm of Dacia for himself.
*Dacia is not Denmark: See Rolv Ganger for thedocumentation.
He also claimed for himself the lands bordering on Dacia and Alania [wherever that might be], and by force and power he subjugated the populace to himself through very many battles.
When he died, his sons took over. Those sons were vigorous, a typical Norman athlete quality, writes the historian Woodward. And they were well-versed in warfare, which is another typical Norman mark. [See Hee and Tnn]
They were fair to look at. And by the way, the Norman that that headed the take-over of southern Italy was described by contemporaries as blue-eyed with golden hair.
Rollo and his brothers were also described as most hardy of spirit.
If we look up in the Icelandic sagas about Rolf the Walker, we find a story of banishment. [A previous page] Both versions agree that the father of Rollo was a mighty duke. Two hundred years before Snorre who sat at home on Iceland and wrote, Dudo lets us in on that the banished Rollo commanded silence if his right hand was raised in greeting, that his mouth could be flowing with honey - which meant he was eloquent. He had come to age as a Viking marauder, was huge and strong.
Dodu writes further of fleeing towns and protecting towns, and that there was a war going on between Rollo and the king against him. According to the Icelander Snorre that would be Harald Fairhair. According to Dudo the king - whoever it might have been - took to fraudulent deceit and camouflaged his real intentions by peace-making words:
"Let there be nothing between you and me except intimate esteem. Hold what is yours by right, and what your father held."
Fraudulent deceit was part of Viking conduct. Treason, nightly murder and burning of homes were common, as well as ambushes.
It happened that whole towns were set on fire. In those times common tactics included pretences to flee, luring others to come out from their lurking-holes and also mutilating one's enemies. Snorre gives many details. This is just a graphic survey in the footprints of Dudo, for most part.
Dudo maintains that Rollo (with a few followers) separatad from others, and that it was not within Rollo's power to reimain in his homeland "because of the king". Rollo left his homeland for good, and his people at home lamented and were shaken by great wailing, writes the commissioned chronicler duly.
Future things will be granted by the stars.
FOR A WHILE Rollo lingered in sorrow in Scania. Then a divine voice cried out to him,
"Arise swiftly. Hurry across the ocean's deep waters, straightway to the Angles."
Rollo told the dream to a wise fellow there, and he explained it in this way:
"In the course of time you will be purified by baptism and will become a worthy Christian. At a future time you will come to the Angles, and you will have the glory of everlasting peace."
At once Rollo went to the Angles and wanted to stay there for a while in peace and calm. But when those who lived in that region heard that Rollo had come, they brought together the greatest possible army against him and tried to chase him from their borders. Rollo managed to battle them as he was used to, without hesitation. He overthrew a lot of them and harassed the backs of the rest with a spear as they turned away from him in flight.
After that many more peasants gathered and sent out against Rollo the hardiest possible army. Rollo wore a wonderful, gold-ornamented helmet and a mail coat against the armed throngs that attacked him.
Savagely he overthrew thousands [?] of them with a conquering hand, and next he pursued fugitives swiftly and captured many of the leaders. After he had returned to the place of the battle, he buried the bodies of the slain and carried off the rest to his ships, where they were bound captives, discoloured by wounds.
Now Rollo anguished and grieved. What now? Should he hit upon Dacia, or go on to Francia, or should he battle and win England for himself?
Rollo, after many perils of war you will have power by right,
[This gist was from Dudo's chapter 6]
WHILE Rollo hesitated as to what to do next, the men of the region he had won, subjugated themselves to him through an obligation and a bond of fidelity.
Then, one night when he lay asleep, Rollo in a vision found himself on a mountain. The mountain was higher than any Frankish mountain. He came across a clear and fragrant fountain at the top of it. Polluted by leprosy he bathed in the water and was cleansed. While still at the top he saw many thousand birds of various sorts and colours. But all the birds had red left wings. The birds were everywhere around the mountain foot.
Not even with a penetrating gaze he could see the outer rim of these birds. They spread far and wide. Next they flew in great accord to the fountain he was sitting by at the top. They washed and bathed as birds do in time of rain.
As soon as all had been anointed with that marvellous wetting, they started to eat by turns, amicably, in a common pasture. They formed a harmonious flock altogether. It was free from controversy's strife. The birds went on and build nests from branches they brought to the place themselves.
At last, the birds surrendered willingly to him as an empire.
Rollo woke up soon after the vision and remembered it. Without hesitation he discussed all of it with the greatest leaders among his men, and also with the leaders that had been taken in battle. He asked them what they felt was the secret meaning of the vision.
And then, when all were silent, one of the captives, a man of inspiration, made the meaning clear, as well as he could.
THIS IS what the inspired man said:
"The mountain of Francia that you seemed to stand on, suggests what rises there there.
The fountain at the summit of the mountain, is explained as one of rebirth. You shall understand how horrible and base the deeds you do truly are, for you were corrupted by most of them.
Now, you were washed in that fountain and purged; you were born again and lost your sins.
The swarm of birds with left wings are men of various provinces - they have shield-bearing arms. This vast throng you will one day see brought together as your fideles.
The birds that got wet and washed in the fountain, and went on eating togheter, must be a populace that first had been polluted by much ancient fraud. This has to be washed off in communal living. These men are in for being nourished and having peace. The nests they were building around the mountain, illustrate ravaged town walls to be rebuilt.
Birds of various kinds were obeying you; men of many tracts will obey and serve you."
Much pleased by the explanation of the vision, Rollo released the seer from his bonds. He also released the others he had captured in the war and sent them back to their homes. Glad they were. They even got many presents and gifts.
AT THAT time Alstem was a king of the Angles, and a good man. Rollo sent envoys to him, and instructed them beforehand for it. With respectful voices and lowered faces they said to Alstem:
"Our patrician Rollo, the most distinguished duke of the Dacians, sends faithful service to you and the gift of unshattered friendship to your followers. Through great misfortune in Dacia he was fraudulently banished. The wind blew us this way.
Trying to return and avenge ourselves on our foes,
Sir, we will not pillage your realm, nor in any way bring plundered booty to our ships. We seek a negotiated peace so that we can buy and sell for a while. And when spring comes, we are going to depart for Francia."
Hearing this, the king spoke out and bowed with a happy face:
"No region brings forth more extraordinary men, and men actively instructed in arms, than does Dacia. That is for sure.
Now, many men have told us of the nobility of your lord's kin. We have also heard of the fraudulent treachery of the king against your leader. No one is more just than your lord in deeds, no one greater in arms.
For now, put away your cares about this matter and be free from all ills. You may sell and buy everywhere in my lands. Please, try to make your lord come to me, for I want to have a good look at him, and to solace him about his ills."
The messengers reported that to Rollo. Boldly and unhesitatingly he went to the king as soon as it was possible. The king came to meet him. The two of them hugged and kissed each another. Then they sat down at a distance from their armies and let the armies depart.
King Alstem was the first to speak:
[Gist from Dudo's chapter 7]
ROLLO was delighted by the king's words:
"Thank you, great king, for these willing boons. I will not stay very long in your realm but go to Francia as swiftly as I am able. There I will remain your friend till the end, united in an alliance of indissoluble esteem."
Inextricably allied through these words, each returned home. Throughout the winter Rollo saw to it that the needed ships and expenses for the journey were prepared. He gathered warriors in the flower of youth, Angles who had becomehis followers and were to travel with him.
When summer set it, when lots of red-glowing flowers gently smiled his way and milk-white and fragrant lilies shone in white and purple, Rollo and his fleet set sail. Winds were gentle and the sea calm and smooth. Then a storm broke out all of a sudden, it was one of the dangers of the wind. Huge billows were lifted up atop the gaping deep. Ever more lightnings flashed across the sky in the black night.
Their oars cracked, the sails were unable to bear the frenzy of the winds. They became exhausted and had to leave it all to the winds. The ships moved to and fro. Rollo and his men found themselves threatened with sudden death. Then Rollo lay down flat on the ship with outstretched hands and said:
Restrain these fierce billows of a violent whirlpool
[Gist of Dudo's chapter 8]
Stirred up in the way he was used to, he went to war against them and won. A great many of these men were slain, and he either captured or put to flight the rest of them.
He kept pillaging the Waal region and tarried there for a long time. Now King Alstem of the Angles recalled his pact and sent him twelve boats loaded with grain and wine and lard, and as many filled with an armed war-band. Rollo was delighted with these gifts, and sent envoys back to king Alstem as an act of thanks. They brought the greatest presents the king, and Rollo sent word that he himself was about to attend the king.
But now the Walgri concluded that Rollo was going to linger in the Waal region for good, because of the abundant supply of grain that had been fetched by him and his men. The Walgri called for Ragnar Longneck, duke of Hesbaye and Hainault, and for Radbod, prince of the Frisia region. With the gathered army of those other districts; the Walgri attacked Rollo.
As he had done so many times before, he went to war without hesitation. He killed many thousands of them and chased Ragnar Longneck and Radbod the Frisian to their own strongholds. Then he ravaged the whole land of the Walgri; and consumed it with fire.
Indignant after these happenings, he swiftly sought out the Frisians and began to ravage their land. Then the Frisian inhabitants of the Zuidersee quickly gathered many people to fight Rollo. Among them were neighbouring people. They all ventured to attack Rollo. It was a sped-up assault.
This is how Rollo and his men met with the attack. They bent their knees and in this way the were wholly covered by their oblong shields against the assailing weapons, Rollo and his men were forming a tight battle array also. Their sword-points glittered - they had been anticipating the combat.
Because the Vikings made up a compact flock, the Frisians thought they were not many. And that is why the Frisians started a war that did not benefit them. The Dacians rushed onwards and killed. They captured many leaders and led a large band of prisoners back to their ships. The remaining Frisians despaired, and from that day on they were subject to tribute and had to obey Rollo's precepts in everything.
Once the tribute of Frisia had been gathered and handed over; Rollo launched the canvas sails high and turned the prows to the lands of Ragnar Broadthroat. He longed to take revenge on that man, for Ragnar had been battling against him.
Rollo entered the bed of the Schelde and pillaged the land on this side and that side, and then he came upon Ragnar Longneck at a certain abbey called Cond. Ragnar set up many battles against Rollo, but the mighty Rollo emerged the victor from all of them.
The land was ravaged; it had to endure the evils of both armies. There was a very powerful famine, because the earth was not tilled by plough. The people of the tract were weakened by scarcity. They were exhausted by hunger and wars. All despaired of living. Many people were robbed of the safety of sustenance.
One day Ragnar lay in ambush, longing to rush on the Dacians, just as the Dacians rushed on him. They surrounded him from different sides and seized him, no matter how well he fought. They led the vanquished man to Rollo.
On that very day Ragnar's men - remaining in coverts in order to capture some of the Dacians - also attacked twelve of Rollo's chief warriors and captured them by means of steady valour.
Now Ragnar's wife, weeping and wailing, called her leaders together, sent for Rollo to return her lord to her in return for the twelve captured counts. Rollo received her envoys and at once sent back to her his words:
"Unless you first hand over my companions to me, Ragnar will not be returned to you, but will lose his head. And what is more, give me all the gold and silver there is in his duchy - the whole tribute payment of that region."
Soon Ragnar's consort, distressed by this mournful message, sent the captured counts back to Rollo along with all the gold and silver she was able to find. With suppliant and intercessory words she sent to Rollo whatever had been granted to the sacred altars, and also the revenue of the duchy. She swore that she neither had more metal nor could she exact any. So he might hand over her husband to her.
Rollo was moved by his inherent compassion and the cries of those who supplicated and besought him. He let Ragnar Longneck come to him and spoke peace-making words that day:
"Duke Ragnar, what wrong had I ever done you when you went to battle along with the Walgri and Frisians against me? If you now desire to vent your rage; the arrows and armed retainers of war are wanting. If you wish to slip away in flight, you cannot escape while entangled in fetters.
As I did with the Frisians, I have retaliated for the evils you brought on me without cause.
In exchange for you, your wife and your leaders have sent me all the gold and silver they were able to find. I will hand over to you half of the gathered tribute and send you back to your wife. Rest after this while growing mild. Let there in no way be discord between me and you, but rather ever-lasting, peaceful friendship."
Ragnar's shins were now released from their fetters. Rollo enriched him with extremely great presents and gifts; handed over to Ragnar half of the despatched tribute and right away sent him delighted back to his wife.
Rollo, tarrying in the Netherlands and possibly Belgium, roughly,
*Aquitanian parts of Francia comprised the western, central parts south of Bretagne, roughly said. - TK.
[All from chapter 9]
The Seine at that time was flowing crystal-clear, with fragrant grasses on its elevated banks. The river went into the sea, and at times was forced back, due to the strong tides along what is now called the British Channel. Dudo comments on how the Seine is extraordinarily winding, so that the river-flow has created large and steep slopes along sections of the banks. When great tides are running, the seas enter the Seine estuary from the English Channel and overwhelm the normal flow of the river current: they reverse it and cause a mighty rush of waters - called a "mascaret".
Rollo did not prefer to stay at Jumieges. Instead he steered his ships to the other side of the river, to the chapel of Saint Vedast. There he placed the body of a certain virgin, Hameltrude, on the altar. He had carried her with him for a while. The place was later called Saint Hameltrude by the residents.
Those who lived in near-by Rouen were poor men and destitute merchants. The news that a gang of Normans was at Jumieges were brought to them. They came of one mind to bishop Franco of Rouen to take counsel about what to do. Franco at once sent someone to Rollo - he asked that Rollo might give a guarantee of safety to himself and to those who lived in the district.
Rollo ascertained that there was only a defenceless mass in the town and its territory, and gave the bishop a guarantee of safety. He assured him of that. Then Rollo came to Rouen and secured his ships at the gate connected to the church of Saint Martin. The ships were plentifully furnished with goods of wars.
Rollo came down off his Viking ship and surveyed the town at a swift pace. He saw its monuments laid in ruins, large stones torn away from sanctuaries, churches shaken from their foundations and walls smashed on every side, and a small and defenceless band. And he began to feel perplexed.
Rollo, mighty duke,
ROLLO returned to the boats and planned what to do after having called together the leaders of his men and asked for advice. And those who followed him through thick and thin said aloud:
"This land is plentifully furnished. It has an abundant supply of all kinds of fruits. It is shady with trees, divided up by rivers filled with fish, copiously supplied with various kinds of wild game. But it has no armed men and warriors. Let us subordinate the land and reign. We will claim this land as our allotment. Through battle we will get villages and fortresses, and large and small towns of neighbouring peoples, so that the throngs we have left behind far away from here, may rest."
Rollo was gladdened by his followers' replies. With untied ships he was carried upstream from Rouen towards Pont de l'Arche, to a place called Damps [at the confluence of the rivers Seine and Eure].
After that, common talk made it known that the Normans were gathered in a vast flock in the bed of the Seine at the cross-roads of Francia. The Franks were as stupefied by their coming to the place as by the sudden sound of thunder, but soon gathered where the river Eure starts descending. The horrible Anstign, formerly an invader of Francia, was summoned there too, and with him was a great army. Then Ragnold, who was prince of all Francia, said to the vile Anstign:
"You, who were born in that nation, give us advice about these matters."
Anstign answered him:
"If you had sought advice from me with three days notice, I could have thought things over and counselled from thorough consideration, and I would have done so. As for now, just send envoys to them to find out what they say themselves."
Ragnold: "Please, go swiftly to find out their purpose."
Anstign replied: "Not alone."
This said, they sent with him two warriors that knew the Dacian language well. When Anstign and his two warriors can on the riverbank, they stood still and said:
"Counts of royal power command you to say who you are, where you have come from, and what you are planning to do."
The Normans replied: "We are Danes*. We have come from Dacia to take Francia by assault."
The envoys: "What authority does your lord discharge?"
They replied: "None, we are of equal power."
Anstign wished to know what they would say about him, and said, "Whose reputation has prompted you to come here? Have you ever heard anything about Anstign, born in your homeland, who sailed here with a numerous warband?"
They replied: "We have heard of him. He was augured to be a good man and he made a good beginning, but he chose an evil end."
Again Anstign: "Are you willing to bow to king Charles of Francia and serve him, and draw many favours from him?"
They replied: We will never subjugate ourselves to anyone nor cling to anyone's service nor take favours from anyone. The favour that would please us best is the one that we will claim for ourselves by force of arms and in the hardship of battle."
The Franks: "What will you do?"
The Dacians: "Go away the sooner the better, and do not stand there any longer. We do not care for your double-talk, and will not reveal to you what we are up to."
The three men went away and promptly reported to the army what they had heard. Ragnold turned towards Anstign and said, "Does it seem to all of you that a war will be started? You men are of their nation. You know how the Danes battle, what they do when they are up to it. What should we do?"
Anstign of fox-like skill said to the army: "That nation is so strong in youthful age, so well-versed in arms, and tested in many battles. If it is attacked, great peril will be created for us."
Then Rotland, who was a standard-bearer of the Frankish host, said, "Why are you all looking to this man? A wolf will never be captured by a wolf, nor a fox by a fox."<
Spurred on by these words, Anstign said, "From now on war will not be reviled by me."
MEANWHILE Rollo and those who were with him made themselves a fortification, and an obstacle in the way fortresses have them. They prepared to defend themselves behind a circular bulwark of rent earth. They left ample space to act as a gate.
The Franks came at dawn to the church of St. Germanus and heard mass there. Then they rode off till they saw the boats on the riverbank and the Dacians in the fortification of rent earth, and attacked the wide entrance-gate alone. The Dacians lay inside, spread out in every direction on the ground of the fortress, and were wholly covered by their shields.
Rotland, Ragnold's standard-bearer, rushed violently on them through the unusually broad entrance. He came along with the battle-line that was advancing in front of the army. The Dacians rose up quickly and put an end to Rotland and his attendants.
Seeing all the dead bodies lying about, Ragnold and Anstign and the other counts fled like hares.
ROLLO at once called together those who were returning from the fleeing enemy and said:
"What evil have we done to the Franks? Why did they leap on us? Why did they prefer to strike us down? They initiated this evil. The fault is the attacker's, not the defender's. The audacity is his who wishes to strike, not his who defends himself. From now on, whatever evil we might do to them, will be done because their own deeds were a cause of offence.
Ho! Let us occupy their fortresses and towns. In return for their offences, let us return like for like, now that such great evils have accumulated."
They left behind the fortification of turned-up earth. With Rollo's encouragement they first sailed swiftly to Meulan, and attacked the inhabitants there and killed the leaders. The Norsemen quickly destroyed Meulan, and lay waste the entire province.
But count Ragnold tried to attack them a second time, with a bigger army than before. The Normans lay down, massing closely together, so that their total number would be supposedly very small. Ragnold began a war that was not to favour his own fortune. The Dacians came unshattered through Ragnold's battle-array, and overthrew very many opponents with rough lashings.
Ragnold saw he lacked men enough for the undertaking, and begun to flee swiftly, when a Seine fisherman stopped him and killed him with his spear. The fisherman was on the side of Rollo. Ragnold was pierced through.
Seeing their lord dead, Ragnold's men made for their horses, turning in flight. Rollo pursued them and killed many, and led many more captive to his ships. He said to his assembled faithful ones:
"Let us sail to Paris this time and seek those citizens who fled from this battle."
THE NORMANS untied their ships from the bank at Meulan and surrounded Paris. They besieged it and depended on the booty of that province for carrying on the siege. But as Rollo lingered long at the siege of Paris, the booty, that was seized in far-off regions, began to run out. The Normans at once made for the Bessin and captured all its booty, storming the city.
The citizens resisted them as an enemy body, and even captured Botho, a Norman count. Therefore the Norsemen would not stay there. Grieving over Botho, they sent to the people of Bayeux to say:
"If you return Botho to us, we will give you a guarantee of safety for one year."
The people of Bayeux, drew together and deliberated it, and next said to one another: "It is better for us to rest for the year than to pass the entire time in battle for the sake of a single count."
So, once the guarantee of security had been given, they returned Botho.
Rollo besieged Paris for a whole year after that. Then he made for Bayeux and took over by force. He destroyed the entire city, and claimed captives and spoils from the whole region for himself.
ROLLO even brought with him the daughter of prince Berengar. It was the maiden Popa. She was beautiful to look at. Rollo made love to her and they got a son called William.
Afterwards, while remaining near Paris, Rollo sent his army to Evreux to capture the city and the bishop there. The army attacked it and seized spoils and very many of the populace. But the bishop, Sebar, escaped. They laid waste the whole land, seizing the spoils of the district, and at once came back to Paris.
Terrified by what went on, very many of the people of Francia paid tribute to Rollo, though very many resisted him.
THE ANGLES heard that Rollo had besieged Paris and was held fast, entwined in Frankish affairs, and estimated that he would not come to the assistance of his friend king Alstem for that reason. So they cast off their promise, began to grow haughty and contend against the king, dealing him blows in unsuitable wars. The English land was being laid waste by the armies of the king and his opponents.
King Alstem could not manage to resist all of it, and sent a count to Rollo, who at the time kept fighting out the war around the walls of the town of Paris. Coming to him the count said:
"Alstem, king of the Angles sends you the dear present of inextricable friendship. At one time you and the peace-making king Alstem pledged an alliance of mutual aid that said if any of you might be in need of help, he would be strengthened by the other's support. And if an unfavourable fortune might trample anyone of you, the other would come to his assistance. King Alstem has been overwhelmed by treason and he begs you to assist him at once. The Angles knew you were hindered by the Frankish war, and did not think that you would come to my lord's help."
Rollo gave the king's envoy whatever was needed and ordered him to wait for three days. And he began to examine what to do about the matter, along with his assembled magnates.
At once Rollo sent to the princes of Paris either to surrender the town to him or give him hostages or prepare themselves for defence. The citizens were not willing to surrender the town to him or to give him hostages, but hastened to prepare themselves for the battles to begin.
Rollo rose at dawn and began the day's combat. For a whole day he cast down citizens in battle. Then, at nightfall, when his efforts had failed and they still had not captured the town, he equipped his ships with sails and left Paris behind.
He came as quickly as he could with his men to the land of the Angles and brought with them king Alstem's envoy. He sent him to the king and let him know that he had come to help.
THE ENVOY'S words made king Alstem glad. He called for his large army and speeded on to meet duke Rollo. The two met, hugged and kissed in their extremely friendly way.
At once Rollo told the king in a gracious voice: "Thank you for sending to me twelve ships filled with able warriors and the same number loaded with grain and wine and lard when I was among the Walgri."
The king said, "I owe you the greatest thanks. Because of me, you left behind a realm given to you by God and hastily came to my assistance. You are not ignorant of the reason why I sent for you to aid me? This realm I rule and serve and profit from, is being laid waste now. The dignity of my rule is being brought to nothing, for the Angles have become puffed up and unwilling to obey my commands. Falling away from me, they conspired among themselves. Rejecting me and my service, they consider me to be of slight value. They even snatch for themselves the profits of my small towns.
Help me dash them to pieces, to scatter them and crush them. By that they can be brought back to my service and be punished as they deserve.
I will give you half of my realm, and grant you half the store of all my household furnishings. Thus bound by an indestructible alliance of united friendship, let us hold the realm and administer its goods and those of the whole office together, we two," said the king.
In this way king Alstem offered Rollo half the realm, and half of his own goods. Rollo at once replied:
"It is for you to command and for me to obey. I will crush whoever you wish, destroy whoever you desire. I will trample and scatter them, subordinate them to you and kill them. I will take their wives and offspring captive and I will devour their herds."
This brought the discussions among these lords to a close. Of one mind they went ahead against the Angles who opposed the king. Rollo fought many battles against these men and besieged their towns, pillaged many towns, and burnt them down. The Angles saw they were not winning, but were in for being wiped out. They came to Rollo and said on bent knees:
"Mightiest of the Dacians, we are prepared to be reconciled and united with king Alstem. Unadvisedly we transgressed against that one and ruptured the ties of fidelity we had promised him. We will give him sureties that our trust will be preserved, and faithfully serve him from now on, devoting ourselves to him of our own accord."
On hearing this, Rollo went to king Alstem and announced what the Angles had reported. Then the king said, "If you advise it, my friend, I will accept them back into our service after they given guarantees, so that the state be no longer scourged."
Rollo said, "Yes, accept those guaranties, that they will abide strictly by their promise to you. Even I, a foreigner who does not know the customs of the Angles, will accept guaranties of lasting fidelity for myself."
At once each offending Angle gave one pledge to the king and another to Rollo. Formerly lashed by Rollo, they got calm and pacified.
THE KING estimated that Rollo would stay for good in the English land, and designated for him half of his realm - large towns and fortresses, villas and small towns, halls and palaces and his own household goods. He also begged Rollo to allow himself to be baptised.
But Rollo did not agree in the matter. Bringing his share of the sureties before the king, he said with a serene look on his face, "I have returned like for like in return for the goods that you laid out for me in the territory of the Walgri. The realm you have given me beyond those goods, I return to you with this sword. It has twelve pounds of gold in its hilt.
Now, bid that the hostages who are mine by right, and who are right here, be taken back. And be careful so that the treachery of their fathers and grandfathers, rejecting you, will not ensnare you again.
I will swiftly return to Francia and destroy and crush, scatter and conquer my foes. I only pray that if any men should prefer to follow me, you will not hold them back."
The king marvelled and thanked, saying:
"You part of my soul, I will go with you. For you I will abase the king, dukes and counts."
Rollo replied: "Do not leave your realm; you ought to rule and advance it now with steady aid."
In friendly goodwill Rollo took farewell and set across the Channel to the Frankish realm at once. Many youths were gathered under him.
For the record: The Danish do not seem have much of a case when they want Rollo to be a Dane. But the viking Rolv Ganger might have grown up on Sunnmore in Norway, and settled in Normandy. That is what medieval sources say. They include several Icelandic sagas and the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway. Another interesting source is The Orkneyingar Saga, which is considered a reliable saga as well. In all these sources, the ancestry of Gange-Rolv is traced to Norway and not Denmark. But think as you will.
The matter is exposed and more sources are cited and referred to on the Rolv Ganger page.
Hnam: Barthelemy, Ch.: Histoire de la Normandie ancienne et moderne. Tours:Mame, 1862.
Bnsi: Marongiu, Antonio: Byzantine, Norman, Swabian and later Institutions in Southern Italy. Collected Studies. London: Variolum Reprints, 1972.
Gh: Hjortsø, Leo. Græske guder og helte. 2. utg. København: Politiken, 1984.
Hee: Woodward, E.: A History of England. London: University Paperback / Methuen, 1965.
Norsd: Steenstrup, Johannes: Normannerne, bd 1. Copenhagen: Klein, 1876.
Noko: Simonnæs, Per: Normannerne kommer. Oslo: Grøndahl Dreyer, 1994.
Nok: Hødnebø, Finn & Magerøy, Hallvard eds: Norges kongesagaer. Vols 1-4. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1979.
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