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Warming Up: Anstign

Anstign, also known as Alsting and Hastein, was a Viking chieftain of the late 9th century. He made several raiding voyages. Little is known of his early life. He is described as a Dane in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Anstign (Hastein) disappeared from history around 896, one of the most notorious and successful Vikings of all time, after raiding dozens of cities across many kingdoms in Europe and North Africa. (WP, "Hastein")

Anstign

One marauder was called Anstign. He 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)

Anstign later made a treaty with the Frankish king around 875.

Dudo of Saint-Quentin was critical of Hastein:

This was a man accursed: fierce, mightily cruel, and savage, pestilent, hostile, sombre, truculent, given to outrage, pestilent and untrustworthy, fickle and lawless. Death-dealing, uncouth, fertile in ruses, warmonger general, traitor, fomenter of evil, and double-dyeded dissimulator. - Dudo of St. Quentin, in Gesta Normannorum. 1.3.

Anstign is also known as Alsting, and in Icelandic as Hastein, and similar. He was a Viking chieftain of the late 9th century who made several raiding voyages. Little is known of Hastein's early life. He is described as a Dane in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

During 859862, Hastein jointly led an expedition with Bjørn Ironside. A fleet of 62 ships sailed from the Loire to raid countries in the Mediterranean. In Italy they attacked the city of Luna. Believing it to be Rome, Hastein had his men carry him to the gate and tell the guards he was dying and wished to convert to Christianity. Once inside, he was taken to the town's church. There he received the sacraments, before jumping from his stretcher and leading his men in a sack of the town.

Another account has him claiming to want to convert before he died, and then feigning death on the following day. Luna then allowed his body and 50 of his men clad in robes enter for his burial. Hastein's men had hidden swords under their robes, and once inside Hastein leaped from his coffin, decapitated the priest and sacked the city.

How true the tale is, is debated. He sailed down the coast and sacked Pisa and, sailing on the River Arno, he ravaged Fiesole.

On their way back to the Loire they might have lost 40 ships in a storm, and they lost 2 more at the Straits of Gibraltar near Medina-Sidonia, but still managed to ravage Pamplona. They got to the Loire with 20 ships.

Settled back in Brittany, Hastein allied himself with Salomon, King of Brittany against the Franks in 866. In 872 the Viking fleet sailed up the Maine and occupied Angers, which led to a siege by the Frankish king Charles the Bald and a peace agreement in October 873.

Hastein remained in the Loire country until 882. Then he was finally expelled, but relocated his army north to the Seine. There he stayed until the Franks besieged Paris and his territory in the Picardy was threatened. It was at this point he turned to England for riches and plunder. The Hastein of the Noirmoutier raids (834835) would have been at least 71 years old by this time an unlikely age for a Viking warrior. but not impossible.

Going for success in life, many want to make their own mistakes.

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