4:00 P.M., January 16, 2003
by Frederick S. Bromberger Ph.D.
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
This paper is a realization of the external exploits of the three Scandinavian people chiefly between the ninth and the eleventh centuries. They moved from their European homes to the western hemisphere; east along their commercial routes to found Russia; south to create the modern state of England and open western Europe to the Near East.
Wire, Brier, Limberlocks,
Three groups of Vikings in three flocks
One portaged east and founded Russia
One rowed west and discovered the western hemisphere
One flowed southwest and changed the course of western history
Between the 8th and the 11th centuries no more fearsome cry was heard along the beaches of the British Isles than "Viking!" (raider). Beginning 793 with the wealthy monastery of Lindisfarne on the coast of northeast England, small groups of Norsemen, mostly from Norway, began raiding and plundering the coastal towns wherever wealth in precious metals could be found. The raiders wanted riches of any kind, especially silver to promote trade with other Scandinavian peoples in what are now Sweden and Denmark.
Who were these savage, merciless men who approached silently in their superbly built longships? They were bold seafarers who built open, seagoing ships in which they sailed to Iceland and Greenland where they sustained permanent colonies hundreds of miles from home. An Icelandic captain named Bjarni Herjolfsson was, about the year 995, carrying supplies for one of the two colonies in Greenland when he was blown past his goal and saw "long seacoasts with much timber," but he could not land with his merchandise. Eric the Red, seeking new lands and markets believed Bjarni's story. This Eric was a Norwegian who, because of his involvement in a murder in Norway was exiled to Iceland. He was a wealthy man who owned several ships and urged his son Lief to sail west from Greenland to test whether land existed west of what they had thought was the edge of the world. In ships fitted for a long journey Lief sailed due west about Goo miles on about the Goth parallel, touching the northern tip of what is now (quite appropriately) Newfoundland. He continued down the coast, crossed the Strait of Belle Isle and established a living area on a tip of land that is now called L'Anse aux Meadows, the Cove in the Meadows. Either Lief or one of the people who continued the landfall for perhaps a decade called the place Vinland, which suggests that they found grapes there at about 53 degrees north.
About the year 1000 the climate in these latitudes had been unusually warm, which encouraged the Norwegians' ventures. Soon after this the north Atlantic became unusually (or maybe usually) cold; many of the adventurous colonists returned to Iceland or to their farms and cattle in Norway.
Whence came these Vikings, the Scandinavians? It is difficult to believe that a people would of their own choosing forage in the forbidding northern woods and establish homes among the mountains and lakes. Lacking any evidence of northern treks, we assume that they were forced from the agricultural lands of central Europe (Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine) to the less desirable north and were prevented from returning to their places of European origin. When were these people forced out? Perhaps about 2000 B.C., for we have evidence of inter-Scandinavian trading in about 1500 B.C. One may theorize that as population grew in the Baltic area, unwelcome newcomers were offered promises of land and the opportunity to grow in peace. They did so for about three thousand years until they too cried Lebensraum, and began their plundering and western colonizing.
These ancient Scandinavians are related to the Germanic peoples of central Europe in many ways: linguistically, physically, and in their mythologies. Many Old Norse terms have become part of our language: fjord, lemming, berserk as well as four days of the week: Tuesday from Tiu, god of the skies; Wednesday from Woden (German Wotan) or Odin, chief Norse deity; Thursday from Thor, god of strength and war; and Friday, from Friga, goddess of the home. We know by skeletal remains that they were taller than most central Europeans. They were light-complexioned with blue or gray eyes and had blond or red hair. Incidentally, their warriors did not wear two-horned helmets like Hagar the Horrible or in Wagnerian operas. Low, pointed helmets of metal or leather seemed to suit their bellicose needs.
The plundering savagery of the Vikings was a seasonal occupation. When their raids and trips to the western islands were done they returned to their domestic livelihoods. To harvest the rich fishing waters of the Faroes, the Orkneys and the Shetlands and of their northern colony, Iceland, they needed large seaworthy vessels capable of withstanding northern storms and of carrying ample cargo. They built the finest ships that the world had known, ships that were models for the Danish ships that were to besiege Paris and carry the Normans to victory in England.
During most of the Viking period the raids on the coasts of England, Scotland, and Ireland persisted. Dublin was occupied in the 9th century and became the most flourishing of the southern colonies. Shannon, Waterford, and Cork were also raided for the supplies and for the slaves (often referred to as "wives") who went unwillingly with their captors to the northern ports. Some of the "wives" were returned to their homes on the return trip and some Vikings remained with their wives in Ireland. Recently at the University of Redlands, we had a professor named Eileen Cotter who was a native of County Cork in Ireland. She explained that her name was from the Scandinavian word otter, the name of one of the invaders who stayed with his "Irish Rose." Otter's children in Ireland would be called Macotter, son of Otter. If Otter had an illegitimate descendant he would not have the benefit of the full name Mac, but would be called by the last part of Mac, hence Cotter. Hearing Dr. Cotter's story instilled the picture of a beautiful colleen, perhaps her grandmother hundreds of generations before, who was snatched screaming and biting by a Viking boatman and stowed aboard a vessel bound for Greenland. But the lassy so charmed the sailor that he chose on the return trip to deport with her in Cork.
The Vikings attenuated their raids and their colonization programs soon after 1,000 as the cold climate returned. Many of their colonies, all coastal, grew into modern cities like Cork, Dublin, and York, all of which have museums commemorating their Viking past. York, in northern England, has a detailed reconstruction of the original colony called Yorick.
The eastern movement While the Vikings were raiding and discovering new worlds in the Atlantic, the Swedes in hundreds of small groups were pushing across what is now the Baltic Sea, Poland, and the lower Slavic regions toward their main trading posts in the region of Kiev, capital of the Ukraine.
The eastern Scandinavians were chiefly traders and colonizers. They and their slaves from Slavic lands portaged boats large enough to carry finished timber to their colonies along the Dnieper and Volga rivers, which carried their goods to the fresh-water ports on the Black and Caspian seas. Constantinople was a prime goal for their polished amber, furs, silver jewelry, and slaves. Besides using boats across streams and lakes, they made sleighs with runners of bones to which could be attached wheels and axles when the season permitted. This, in contrast to the Vikings' raids, was not a seasonal occupation; the trade routes east and west were well-traveled roads for hundreds of years.
Slave labor was important in the trafficking of the Scandinavians. The eastern traders raided villages in the lake regions of what is now central Russia and took slaves to portage their larger boats on log rollers on the land between the lakes. Young girls whom they could find or for whom they bartered brought high prices as slaves from the Arab traders and in their budding colonies in the Ottoman Empire.
While the western and southern groups were referred to by the generic name, Scandinavians, the eastern adventurers were called variations of the Norse name, Rus, Ros, or Rosus. The Finns called their neighbors of passage Rusotli. The name was widespread, for their powerful and effective prevalence in the areas of the great eastern rivers, and their name was adopted in the vast steppes that is now called after the foreigners who traded and opened the land commercially to the warm South, Russia.
As the population increased in the steppes of the southern Slavs, trading communities and colonies grew into cities in the fertile Ukraine, and many merchants and their families from Ankara in Turkey, from Odessa and Minsk became neighbors in Kiev. Together they created laws for their melting pot of Rusosi, Arabs and far-eastern tribespeople.
During the three centuries in which the Swedes invaded Russia they capitalized on their common northern capability and characteristic: adaptability. While many of the Rusosi returned to Sweden after trading their wares and slaves, many of them remained in the eastern lands, adopting the orthodox religion, languages, and customs, marrying different racial people,
As we have seen with the Vikings, the Scandinavian movements were scatterings away from the prohibiting homelands toward the possibility of more livable conditions than the cold, northern forests offered. They were good organizers and workers as they had to be to move their products over the vast and forbidding seas and terrains thousands of miles from home. They were welcome traders: a small keg of pure honey could fetch a fine horse, an ermine-skin coat, a brace of strong slaves. For such riches they enticed and befriended traders from east of the Ural mountains, heard their stories, learned their dances, and listened to their oriental music.
The distances east and southwest that these tradesmen traveled is remarkable. From Birka (now Stockholm) to Kiev and to Moscow is boo miles as the crow flies. They traded at Bulghar on the upper Volga, and they, and/or their scions, were known in ancient Tashkent and Samarkand in the Eastern Uzbek Republic.
By the middle of the eleventh century the eastern movement had resolved into an amalgamation of Slavs, Swedes, Danes, and Finns. Sweden was becoming a strong national force, developing and receiving international commercial resources and migrants from central Europe.
The Danes, like the Swedes, eventually moved eastward over great distances but via vastly different routes.
While the Vikings were raiding the British Isles, the Danes, in small groups, even as families, pushed quietly into northern England. The Vikings sought wealth in their summer raids, and the Rusos moved east to achieve power by colonizing and by bartering with the merchants of the Middle East. Between 85o and 1050 thousands of Danes had migrated to England. They were peaceful farmers, for the most part, who took their livestock with them to graze the ample green fields in a longer growing season than obtained at home. So many Danes filtered into England and settled in small units or on farms that by 900 northern England was called the Danelaw, the loosely structured system of landholding by occupancy that was honored by the English tribal monarchs.
On a smaller scale than their neighbors who had migrated to England, many Danes had surreptitiously moved to farmsites in northern France along the English Channel. By 835 they had become so demanding of property rights in France that they sent demands to the King, Charles the Simple, for good pasturage. Their first demands were refused. A little later, in 855, a huge fleet of long-boats ready for battle were rowed up the Seine River to Paris completely surrounding the central city (Isle de la Cite). Negotiations obviated the deadly threat of attack, and the warships returned to their home. Migration into France continued, and in 885 another large group of ships with warriors and horses approached the capital and threatened to destroy the island city and the surrounding environs unless they were granted channel properties. They were placated by the generous grant of land that is Normandy, land of the Norsemen, for a promise of peace and for adopting Christianity.
True to their word, the Danes created a peaceable dukedom in Normandy. In the next century and a half they intermarried with the Francia, became loyal and defensive Catholics recognizing the sovereignty of King and Pope, created a world-famous architectural style, adopted a successful feudal system, developed agricultural practices that greatly increased production, and formed a disciplined army and navy. They raised ecclesiastical foundations for monastic orders and for training scholars, produced an order of knighthood that was their effective army, maintained a social order that placed a Duke at its head with a system of primogeniture. The rouge et noir (red and black) offered humbly born servants the possibility of becoming, with great application, commanding military officers or even the Pope himself.
The Normans, as a nation, are perhaps the greatest example of adaptability in history. Not only did they as farmers, fishermen, boat builders, and creative artists accomplish the remarkable feats above, but within a century of life as Normans they disavowed their native language, married French wives, were unified for the first time in a progressive social system, adopted the household social manners (including table manners) of their hosts and set the basis for a most successful government in the medieval world.
The conquest of England by the Normans began almost imperceptibly many years before 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, had been promised the kingship of England by his cousin, the English King Harold. There was not in England a system of royal descent such as promogeniture by which the eldest son succeeded his father. Before the Conquest power was granted by a king or it was wrested from him by a superior force.
Norman venturers, knowing that William would one day challenge the English powers, moved to England in small groups as they sought more living space and better farmlands. No Norman organization in England is known, but William knew that many from his Dukedom were in England before he began organizing his invasion forces about lobo.
Who was this William? He was born in Normandy in 1027, the natural son of Duke Robert the Devil. He was a French subject of the French kings who had allowed the Danes to remain in their assigned Duchy since 892. From his earliest days William was trained as a soldier and organizer. At his father's death in 1035, when he was eight years old, he assumed the Dukedom. He grew to lead and control the military forces, refine the feudal system, and was second only to Pope Alexander in his church.
William's cousin, Edward the Confessor, was king of England from 1042 until 1066 He promised William the kingship of England on his death. However when Edward died a group of English nobles chose Harold of Wessex as their king. Believing that his heritage was violated, William began fine tuning his military and naval forces to claim his promised throne. The Norman invasion of England in 1066 was a carefully planned and executed military operation. William had for many years been training an army of 7,000 knights, bowmen, and lancers as an invading force and had built more than 600 long boats for transporting personnel, horses, and supplies. The combined forces gathered at the mouth of a river in Normandy and crossed the Channel, landing unopposed in September near Hastings where they grouped for battle with the forces of King Harold.
The King knew that his country was to be challenged by the Normans, but of greater concern was the probability of an invasion in the North by King Hadrada of Norway. Harold took his forces north to Yorkshire and on 25 September defeated the Norwegian (Viking) invaders at the Battle of Stamford
Bridge. The victorious Harold then marched his weary soldiers 200 miles south to meet William's fresh, waiting troops who quickly destroyed the English defenders and King Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 With the aid of many Norman landholders in England, William had little opposition from the Church and scattered nobles in establishing himself as monarch. He was coronated king of England on Christmas day 1066.
The new king immediately began building strongholds like the Tower of London all over Britain to control many widespread landowners who were loyal to King Harold. To know what land he controlled William ordered the Domesday Book (Judgment Book), the survey of the entire county, and then he granted lands to his followers to protect and to develop their new powers.
William died at the age of sixty in 1087 to be followed by his son William II. Their kingdom has survived uninterrupted by 1,937 years. The only other continuous parliament to this day is the Althing of Iceland, that was founded by their Viking relatives in 930.
The southern Scandinavians, while they wandered widely, were not seafaring people as their relatives, the western Vikings, were. Emanating from their long held dukedom they first moved south along the Atlantic coasts of western France and of Iberia occasionally enriching themselves with inland raids on churches and/or offering their wares in market towns, in trade for food and supplies for their farther adventures along the entire northern Mediterranean coast into the Middle East. They entered the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, advanced along the Iberian peninsula where they had mostly losing skirmishes with the Moors, but they persisted, setting up bartering posts mostly for jewelry in the Camargue of Southern France. They raided cities along both coasts of Italy, sailed to Turkey where they dealt with the Swedish Rusos in Constantinople and apparently ceased they travels in the twelfth century in Baghdad with which city the Slav traders had been active for many years.
Adventure and wealth drew the Scandinavians from their millenia in the northern woods toward freedom and high civilized states. They were cruel and resourceful as adventurers, merchants, and colonists. Ironically, they were destructive and highly productive. They began and ended the conquest of England; it took only 273 years.
The story of the Vikings cannot end without a final irony. The northern people in their mythology conceived of the world as a dark, foreboding place without hope or happiness for mankind or for the gods. The struggle against evil was the supreme act, and although those lost in battle could, in a kind of divine triage, be chosen by the Valkyries to be taken to Valhalla, home of the gods, the entire world of the northern people and their gods would be destroyed in Ragnarok, the great and final fire, like the burning of Valhalla at the end of Wagner's The Twilight of the Gods.
However, a new Force obviated the destructive fires. At the end of the tenth century hordes of zealous, militant Christians turned their cleansing ardor on the paganism of the Scandinavians. They destroyed libraries of their ancient stories, the Eddas, icons, holy places in a successful attempt to obliterate what for the Christian missionaries were pagan materials solid, spiritual, or intellectual, those things that united the diverse northern peoples. Into that hopelessness the missionaries went as far as Iceland to give all men the promise of eternal life. Slowly the new order flourished and Scandinavia was united by the destructive Christians. Into the darkness had come the Light of the World.
Wire, Brier, Limberlocks,
Three groups of Vikings in three flocks
One found the brave new world in the west
One founded Russia One established the central government as the model for Europe's future
Biography of the Author
After training as a Pilot in Royal Air Force, Fritz Bromberger ferryied bombers to tactical areas in Europe & Africa for the Air Transport Command from 1943 to 1945. He also flew the Hump from India to China in 1945 and retired as a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve
He married Corrine Aldridge Bromberger in 1944). They have five children.
Eric (45) College Prof., Music editor
Troy (47) Asst. Curator, Isabella Gardner Museum, Boston; now at Miami, FL, museum
Corinth (50 Housewife; football mom
Matthew (52) various occupations
Thrace (52) attorney, vintner
Fritz education included the following:
Kemper Military School; University of Missouri, Univ. of Redlands 1948-1984 (Dept Chairman, Acting Division Dean: now officially retired)
U.C.Riverside; Elderhostel Program of University of Redlands since 1981; Salzburg Program 1965, 1979, 1980; Adult Ed Program, Redlands c. 1950-1955.
- Chmn: Citizens Advisory Comm for Board of Redlands Unified School District
- Redlands Cultural Arts Commission
- Exec . Comm. Kimberly Crest Assoc.
- Exec. Comm. Carolyn Park foundation
- Past. Pres. Redlands Horticultural Society
- Past. Pres. Riverside SB Counties Orchid Society
- Past. Pres. Redlands Fortnightly Club
- Past. Pres. Friends of the A.K. Smiley Public Library; present leader of weekly book auction; personally trucks donated books to the library
- Univ. of Redlands Chapel Campaign steering committee
- City of Redlands Street Tree Com., 1999-
- Advisory Com Univ of Redlands Retired Faculty Association
- Board member of Youth Ensemble of Strings (young peoples string orchestra)
- Redlands Man of the Year 2000
He played 38 years with and was a founding member of what is now the Redlands Symphony Orchestra. He Recently played Fiddler on the Roof in the Redlands Bowl performance of Fiddler on the Roof
He has published numerous articles on Shakespeare and Victorian literature and he wrote the Program Notes for the Redlands Community Symphony, 1950-1975. He has led 18 trips to Europe and has Traveled to 41 countries.
Fritz continues his dedicated service to people and to Redlands, capping a lifetime of service to education, literature, music, horticulture, community, and country.
Works Consulted for Vikings!
Brown, R. A., The Normans, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1984
Editors of Time-Life Books, What Life Was Like When the Long Ships Sailed, Alexandria VA, n. d.
Hamilton, Edith, Mythology, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1942
Jones, Gwyn, A History of the Vikings, New York, Oxford University Press, 1984.
Jones' book is the fullest source for this material.
MacManus, Seumas, The Story of the Irish Race, New York, The DevinAdair Company, 1944
Visilind, Priit, "In Search of the Vikings," Washington DC, The National Geographic Society, Vol. 197 No. 5, pp. 2 - 27.