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Rollo and His Men Enter Normandy

In 876 CE Rollo was counselled by his fideles to leave the bed of the river Schelde. He hoisted his sails and came by ship to Jumieges of the Seine.

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 the Channel. The Seine was winding a lot, so the river-flow has created large and steep slopes along sections of the banks. When great tides were running, the seas enter the Seine estuary from the Channel and reversed the flow of the river and caused a mighty rush of waters: it was 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.

He brought over with him from England the relics of a holy virgin, Hameltrude, carried them up the Seine on board his longship and deposited them in the church of St-Vaast. - Robert Fergusson, The Hammer and the Cross

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 returned to the boats and planned what to do after having called together the leaders of his men and asked for advice. 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, where the rivers Seine and Eure merge.

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."

Rotland in front of the army

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.

"The others are to blame for it!"

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."

Rollo and his men besiege Paris. Count Botho is captured and set free

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.

Popa is made pregnant and some Franks pay tribute

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. (WP, "Poppa of Bayeux")

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.

While besieging Paris, Rollo is asked to rescue his friend and ally, the king of Angles

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, needs your help at once. Please, come to his help."

Rollo gave the king's envoy whatever was needed and ordered him to wait for three days. Rollo began to examine what to do about the matter, along with his gathered magnates. The problem was that the citizens of Paris were not willing to surrender the town to Rollo or to give him hostages, but hastened to prepare for 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.

Rollo and his men help out the king of Angles

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. 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 and conspired among themselves. 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.

Those who have been dashed to pieces and crush, may not be able servants, or what?

"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 him 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 and surviving Angle gave one pledge to the king and another to Rollo. Formerly lashed by Rollo, they got calm and pacified.

East England, no permanent stay

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.


Franks and Burgundians Fight Back

In Francia, Rollo now sent some counts sailing to take booty from the provinces lying along the bed of the Seine, others along the flowing Loire, others along the torrent of the Gironde. He himself sailed once more to Paris and began to storm the town and to lay waste the land of his foes.

King Charles the Simple heard that Rollo had subjugated Anglia, and sent for the bishop of Rouen to come to him. The king told the bishop, who was associated with Rollo:

"The realm which I to rule is deserted. The land is not rent by the plough, the state is both taken captive and destroyed. I am unable to hinder Rollo, for I am daily deprived of my followers. Therefore I ask you secure a negotiated peace of three months from Rollo. If he should wish to become a Christian during this time, we will favour him greatly and repay him with great gifts."

The bishop brought the king's offer to Rollo. After consulting with his men, Rollo gave the king a three-month pact, so that the land was at rest for a while.

But the Burgundians Richard and count Ebalus of Poitou, heard of this and sent a message to the king:

"Why do you allow the land you hold to be layed waste by pagans? Why do you not help those over whom you ought rule and whom you ought to profit? And why do you not resist? If you would like, we will aid you and will willingly be at your side if some war should assail you."

The Franks, irritated by these arrogant words, began to wage war again on the Vikings once the term of the peace had run out. At once Rollo began to mangle and destroy and wipe out the populace by laying waste their provinces.

His followers went into Burgundy and sailed through the Yonne into the Seone and laid waste the lands adjacent to those torrents on all sides all the way to Clermont-Ferrand. They attacked the province of Sens and pillaged all around, and then came back to meet Rollo at St. Benoît-sur-Loire.

When Rollo saw the monastery of St. Benoît, was unwilling to defile it, and did not want that province to be pillaged because of St. Benedict. (WP, "Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire")

He went to Etampes instead and ruined all the nearby land, took very many captives, took booty from neighbouring lands, and from Villemeux he hastened to return to Paris. On his way, rustics now gathered to defeat him.

Rollo, looking back, noticed that the air was full of dust and thickly clouded by these foot-soldiers, and said to his gathered leaders:

"A crowd is following us. Let our foot-soldiers swiftly make for the road, while the horsemen remain with us, so that we might see how much courage they have, those who wish to ruin us."

As Rollo waited with his horsemen, the rustics - horsemen with foot-soldiers - drew near. At once Rollo rushed on these villagers and killed them.

Afterwards, Rollo laid waste the county of Dunois and the Chartrain. But a religious (!) bishop, Uualtelmus, had charge of the town Chartres. He sent for duke Richard of the Burgundians and for count Ebalus of Poitou to come to the assistance of that town. He also sent ambassadors with this sorrowful message to the Franks. Keeping close to count Richard, the Franks swiftly attacked Rollo, who was then battling around the walls of Chartres.

As the armies were battling, suddenly bishop Uualtelmus bounded forth from inside the city followed by the clergy and citizens, lashing the backs of the Vikings with spears and swords. Rollo was outnumbered and withdrew from there to avoid getting killed.



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