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Today's show is part two of a two part series on the spread of Christianity to the far north of Europe and the last holdouts who still believe in the ancient pagan Germanic gods of the Norse sagas, the Odins and the Thors, and people like that. If you didn't happen to hear part one, you might want to catch that before you hear this show. Both shows are actually a continuation of our 2012 series called Thor's Angels, and if you want that, that's available for a nominal fee from our website. One last thing. Stay tuned at the end of today's show for some announcements of live appearances I might be making in a town near you.


So without further ado, let's kick off today's ending of our two part series here with Twilight of the Isaiah, part 2. December 7. It's history. 1941. A date which will live in infamy events.


It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


The figures would have final power not quite to the moy humanity. From this time and place, I take pride in the words the drama ish bin ein vieelina. Mr. Robachov, teared down this wallet. Two has had a major explosion collapse surrounding the entire area.


I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, it's hardcore history, parallel universes, simulation theory, infinite world hypotheses, other dimensions. I'm not smart enough to understand these concepts, but I have been fascinated by them ever since I was first exposed to the ideas. Obviously, these are concepts that people like physicists study.


Another reason I wouldn't understand them could never understand the math. Right? You just take it at face value. But I've often wondered if such concepts couldn't explain or put some sort of a scientific sort of patina, or as they would say in the UK, patina. On top of some of the ancient beliefs that earlier peoples had that they talked about in ways that have come down to us as fairy stories or myths or legends or folklore that would be much more easy for us to grasp and accept if some physicist explained it to us as something that was a part of another dimensional realm or a parallel universe or something connected to a physicist type theory.


That sounds a lot more logical and acceptable than talking about the existence of something like elves or trolls or, of course, magic. Sometimes I wonder, if earlier peoples couldn't understand those higher concepts, how would they explain things in their world that they saw or thought they saw or believed in? As we've said before, if a lot of people believe in something like magic fervently, doesn't that create a know all its own? There's something known as the Tinkerbell effect. Maybe you've heard of it.


If you remember the Walt Disney production of Peter Pan? There's this moment where you have to believe in Tinkerbell or Tinkerbell's gonna die. If you go look up the definition of it, it describes the phenomenon of thinking something exists because people believe it exists, right? Magic. Sorcery elves, dwarves, trolls, Valkyries, Norns, these are Viking belief systems, things that they believed in.


Wouldn't it be interesting if it turned out someday that these were their representations of things that a physicist could explain in scientific terms? One of my favorite parts of any Shakespeare play, and I'm not alone in this, is the earliest part of Hamlet where you have this moment where the Night watch comes and tells Hamlet and Horatio his somewhat skeptical we would call him today more of a know terra firma kind of guy. And the Night watch tells Hamlet that the ghost of his father has just appeared. So Hamlet and Horatio run up to the battlements, and sure enough, the ghost appears. And Horatio, in his wonderfully skeptical but can't deny what he's seeing in front of him sort of way, is stunned, doesn't believe in ghosts and says, oh, day and night, but this is wondrous strange.


Then Hamlet replies with that wonderful line that I feel covers up a lot of what we just said. He says, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Suggesting, of course, that the human imagination is limited and there are many things we don't know, things that haven't been discovered and in fact, things we haven't even dreamt of. As we've said about magic before, what happens if lots of people believe in it and act on it? Magic might not be real, but the effects are.


If some king goes to the oracle at Delphi in the ancient world and asks the prophetess on the oracle's seat, should I go and attack this rival kingdom? And the prophetess says, yes, you should go attack this kingdom. And he does. Well, that may be a bunch of bunk, but he acted on it and people died and kingdoms rose or fell because of it. How real does that make the magic?


If you believe yourself to be cursed and then things start going wrong, does that double down on this belief that you're cursed? And does your mind start working on against you? I mean, there's a lot of things here where the human mind can interact with belief in a way that manifests a kind of reality that, even if it is a phantom sort of reality at its core, manifests in real world consequences. Maybe the effect of the human mind and positive or negative thinking is just as much of a physicist's undiscovered country as parallel universes simulation theory, infinite world hypotheses or other dimensions. But when you talk about what the people in the Viking world believed in, they believed in elves and dwarves and trolls and Valkyries and Norns.


They also believed in beings like giants, who they believed were an integral part of the creation of the universe, and may not have been these overly large beings that we normally associate with. The term, just like their view of dwarves, may not have involved beings who were smaller than human in stature, but many of these beings constituted what historian Neil Price in his book The Viking Way refers to as the invisible population. And he says that to many in the Viking world, the invisible population of things like elves may have been more important to their daily life than the gods themselves, because in a polytheistic religion, the gods had their own problems and people were just one of the things that they may have been concerned with. This is difficult for those of us raised in an environment of monotheism to understand. Just like trying to get your mind around a belief system that may not have been orthodox and may not have been learned and may not have been understood by everyone.


Similarly right. They didn't all read the Bible and learn in Sunday school how things were. People just had an innate understanding and it could differ person to person in the Viking way. Neil Price writes. Quote in the same spirit as Philip Velakott's description of the gods of classical Greece, the worship in air quotes required by the Norse pantheon was not adoration or gratitude or even unreserved approval, and was thus utterly unlike the Christian relationship to the divine.


The religion of the Aizer and the Vanir demanded only a recognition that they existed as an integral and immutable part of human nature and society and of the natural world, and that as such they possessed an inherent rightness, perhaps even a kind of beauty. If one wished to avoid disaster, it was necessary to come to terms with the gods, and the terms would be theirs, not those of their followers. This is an important point in relation to the interpretations he writes that I will develop in the following chapters, because a refusal to acknowledge the gods in this way could have dire consequences. It would also involve a contradiction, as such an act would be a denial of the undeniable. The question of believing in the Norse gods was probably irrelevant.


End quote. Price also points out that there wasn't the sort of orthodoxy of belief that we are accustomed to in the more monotheistic religions. No Sunday school, no singular text that everyone could study and be on the same page with. There might be quite a bit of variation in the belief systems. Also, unlike the religions of the book, you could not automatically assume that the deities were on your side because they had their own problems, their own goals and their own issues that they were involved with.


You might be a secondary or even lower on the list. Concern Odin, who is sometimes considered to be the chief of the gods, but maybe not odin is the perfect example. Right. It is said that you have to be careful because Odin can be tricky. He might sleep with a man's wife or he might sleep with the wife's husband.


These are not the sort of things one in the religions of the book need to worry about.


Odin is a fantastically interesting figure that when you contrast it with the monotheistic religions, shows many of the various differences. I mean, famously, the god of the Bible is supposed to know when any sparrow falls from a tree. Odin doesn't. Odin has a couple of ravens that he keeps for reconnaissance purposes. One is named mind, the other memory.


Sometimes you'll hear one is named Thought too. You'll run into that. Neil Price says mind and memory are the translations that he would ascribe to. And these ravens go out in the world and report back to Odin so that he can know when some sparrow falls, if he even cares about something like that. Odin also has powers and magic that he can use to gain further information.


Again, one would assume that the god of the Bible has this information. Odin needs to search for things like wisdom. He gave up an eye in his pursuit of wisdom. That's why he only has one. He's known by perhaps hundreds of different names.


And one of the powers that he has and uses all the time is he talks to dead people. He goes up to the bodies that are hanging on the gallows after someone is hanged and he talks to them. He raises the dead so that he can question them. He has the decapitated head of another god that he has preserved and keeps with him so that he can ask it questions. It reminds me a little of like a very gory version of a Harry Potter painting where you can ask the figures in the painting for information.


Odin talks to the head. There is no clear separation of powers and authorities and responsibilities amongst the gods. There's overlap. For example, Odin and Thor. Thor is Odin's son.


And from the comic books and movies and stuff, thor is very famous. But Thor, the god of thunder and weather, also rules a part of military affairs, war, the actual brute strength of fighting, whereas his father, Odin is the strategist and the god of that also, apparently the god of berserk kind of fanaticism. Odin also gets slammed sometimes for using things like magic, because in the Norse religious beliefs and society, magic is where the women shine. It's a female thing to do. And there is, in one of the Norse sagas, Loki, who is thought to be the son of a god and a giant or giantus loki sort of takes a slam at Odin by saying the fact that he practices magic is perverted and makes him feminine.


But this is part of what makes women so both respected and in some cases feared. They are spell weavers and shaman. And sorceresses the three women who supposedly weave the destinies of human beings, the Norns, fall into this category. And there are some who think that there are similarities between many of the different European prechristian mythologies because there are figures in Greek mythology, for example, the famous Fates and the names are similar. The three women, one is named something akin to a version that means the past.


Another is named with a version that means something like the present, and another is named with a version that means something like the future. It's sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge's a Christmas Carol's. Ghosts. Ghost of Christmas Past. Christmas Present.


Christmas Future. The Norns are somewhat more terrifying, and some of the mythology suggests that they weave the fate of mankind on a loom with the entrals or bloody body parts of human beings. I've also heard that ascribed to Valkyries and Valkyries also have been completely distorted by things like comic books and male fantasies into sort of Scandinavian versions of baywatch women that a man might watch and admire and lust after. When the actual accounts from the sagas and whatnot describe looking at a Valkyrie as terrifying and akin to staring into flame, the entire universe in Norse mythology is held together or girded by a tree, an evergreen ash tree known as Yggdrasil. And the Norns care for yggdrasil.


And Yggdrasil is sometimes thought by some to refer to sort of a version of the Milky Way. And Yggdrasil connects the various realms of existence. This gets us back to our physicist idea of other dimensions or multiple world theories. I mean, yggdrasil connects like a interstate highway. Places like Midgard, which is where human beings live and which is the term J-R-R.


Tolkien used and translated into Middle earth connects Midgard to Asgard and Midgard and Asgard to the realm of the giants Jodenheim and the land of Midgard and Asgard and Jodenheim, to the lands of Fire and Ice and all the other different realms. There's an interesting connection between ancient Germanic religion across Europe and this question of this sacred tree, because when the Christian bishops are going around trying to convert people like the Saxons or other Germanic tribes or the Frisians or any of those people, they all sort of have a tree that is connected to their worship. In fact, hundreds of years before, when Tacitus is writing about Germanic beliefs, he talks about sacred trees in sacred groves where they have sacrifices that involve the bloody killings of human beings and animals who are then ritually hung up around sacred sites. In his 11th century writings, Adam of Brayman, who has as his source a Danish king, talks about one of these sacrificial places at Ufsula in what's now Sweden. And by the way, when Adam of Brayman says Woden, that's the more Germanic version of the name Odin.


When he says frico, he means Frey or Freyer. And when he says Bjorko when he's talking about a city, he means the city of Burka, which is the trade center in the island in the middle of a lake that's so famous. And he says, quote, that folk, meaning the Swedes, has a very famous temple called Upsala, situated not far from the city of Sikturna and Bjorko. In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber. Woden and Frico have places on either side.


The significance of these gods is as follows thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other Woden, that is the furious, carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Frico, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus. But Woden, they chisel, armed as our people are, want to represent Mars.


Thor, with his scepter, apparently resembles Jove. The people also worship heroes, made gods whom they endow with immortality because of their remarkable exploits, end quote. The scepter that he says Thor has is probably the famous hammer Mjolnir. Adam of Bramen then describes what the sacrifice at these various places is like, and he writes, quote, the sacrifices of this nature of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in a sacred grove that adjoins the temple.


Now, this grove is so sacred in the eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrefication of the victims. Even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian 72 years old told me that he had seen the bodies suspended. Promiscuitously. Furthermore, the Incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly.


Therefore it is better to keep silence about them. End quote. Given how little is actually known about what went on at these sorts of Viking religious ceremonies, one wishes Adam of Braymond wouldn't have been so scared or horrified and could have told us what the Danish king told him about them. But Adam of Braemon's response to this is what you would have expected for most Christians of the Middle Ages, who would have seen these Viking ceremonies as little more than satanic rituals designed to placate or even conjure devils and demons, and the people involved in them as folk who were headed for the fiery pits of damnation. Viking expert and University of Oslo historian John Vidar Sigurtson, in his book Scandinavia in the Age of Vikings, points out two interesting facts about the Scandinavians in this era and their belief system.


He says that the worship of deities like Thor and Odin is part of an ethnic religion, meaning it applied to a specific people. Contrast that with something like Christianity, which is a universal religion. Islam is too, the idea that anyone can convert to this, and it applies equally well to people all over the world. Sigurdson points out that that's not how the Scandinavians would have seen their gods. Their gods were exactly that, their gods.


Sigurtson also says that you could classify this religion as an elite religion, meaning the people that communicated with the gods were people like the kings. And this is key because the biggest threat to this religion in this time period is people like Adam of Bramen, who simply want to keep these people from the fiery pits of hell and stop them from worshiping demons and devils. But to the people of Scandinavia, it's the same as saying that you want to kill their gods and destroy their worldview and make them stop believing in the traditional spirits and the invisible population, the elves, the dwarves, and yes, the giants and the Valkyries. And as we said in part one, the Christian assault against the traditional Viking beliefs is a two pronged one, both from above and below. They're able to find inroads in the Viking world through the Christian slaves that the Vikings take, who can't help but share their belief system with their slave masters, and also through the elite.


As Sigurtson said, these are the people who communicate with the gods. Well, what if you convert those people and you can see exactly what happens? If you look from a little earlier in this story when Charlemagne and his Frankish Christians are able to use this same sort of tendency among the German peoples of Saxony to achieve the same sort of result, the long standing tactic of converting the kings to Christianity, who then take their people with them. But make no mistake about it, odin, Thor and the rest of the Norse pantheon are fighting a defensive rear guard action against the most dangerous foes these gods have ever faced. And it's not the giants and the eventual destruction of Ragnarok.


It's the Christian god and the many powerful states and their armies who go to war under that banner. But the followers of Odin are not the only peoples who feel threatened during this era. The people that threaten the people of Odin are themselves beset by portants of doom in their near future. The Christian states of Europe and their power is more latent than manifest in this era. And we see it more clearly than the people living through this time period, right around 899, 900 ADCE, when Alfred the Great died.


We see it more clearly than they do because, like patrons at a movie theater who've already read the book, the movie's based on, we know how the 900s are going to go for Europe. The people in Europe during the 900s don't, and they see a quadruple threat on their horizon, the first of which has been plaguing them for more than a hundred years. By this time period, the Scandinavian Vikings have gone from smash and grab piracy raids to full on colonization and settlement. Historian Neil Price suggests that there were 40 to 50,000 Danes taking up residence in Britain during this time and they control about half the island.


It's called the Dane Law. They are settling elsewhere as well. In addition, the long running feud between Islam and Christianity takes a decidedly negative turn during this time period in the Mediterranean, where the island of Sicily, which had been attacked and temporarily occupied by Vikings at one point is finally swamped and overwhelmed by Arab conquerors from North Africa. And by 902 they control the island. And they are putting great pressure on the Christian Byzantines in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.


Add to that the latest and newest threat from the Eurasian step breaking like a tsunami on the defenses of central Europe and penetrating them the magyar Hungarian peoples who will raid into Bavaria and then finally into southern France. And as Tom Holland, in his wonderful book The Forge of Christendom points out, perhaps the greatest threat looming on the horizon for Christians in 900 and ADCE is coming at the appointed date, a hundred years in the future when the long awaited promised appearance of the Antichrist is expected. Like a giant, exponentially worse version of the Y two K virus from the year 2000. All of those things together create a climate of pessimism and negativity that shows up in the sources. In his classic work, The Age of Faith, historian Will Durant in a condensed and edited account from A, it appears monk in southern France gives a sense of the feeling when that monk writes quote the cities are depopulated, the monasteries ruined and burned, the country reduced to solitude as the first men lived without law.


So now every man does what seems good in his own eyes despising laws, human and divine, the strong oppress the weak. The world is full of violence against the poor and of the plunder of ecclesiastical goods, men devour one another like the fishes in the sea. End quote. Now, as I always say, I'm addicted to context. And I also have a background in journalism which some people have said is the first draft of history.


And there have always been criticisms about journalism. For example, one is the idea that stories get chosen because of their shocking or violent nature. Maybe you've heard the phrase, if it bleeds, it leads. Well, maybe there's a little of that going on in this story, too. Because right after he uses that quote we just cited, the one about the men devouring each other like fishes in the sea, will Durant, in his nearly 75 year old history, notices that.


Maybe there's a little trick history is playing on us about this as well. Maybe it's a case of, historically speaking, something bleeding and so making the history books more than the much more boring stuff like peace and commerce and happiness. And he writes, quote, perhaps we exaggerate the damage done by the Norse and magyar raids to crowd them into a page for Brevity's sake. Darkens, unduly, the picture of a life in which there were doubtless intervals of security and peace. Monasteries continued to be built throughout this terrible 9th century, he writes, and were often the centers of busy industry.


Roux, despite raids and fires, grew stronger from trade with Britain, cologne and mates dominated commerce on the Rhine and in Flanders, thriving centers of industry and trade developed, end quote. There's another line we used to have in the news business, and it was that another story is killed by overchecking. And what that meant is something that appeared to be a really good scintillating tale. The more you looked into it, the less scintillating it appeared to be. There's a case to be made that this very discussion on the Vikings falls into this category.


Because Hollywood and accounts like Hollywood have so transformed the Vikings into this uniquely barbaric and terrible entity that almost anything you do to put a more accurate sort of cast on top of them makes them look, well, less worthy of leading because of the lack of bleeding, if you will. Also because I'm addicted to context. The other reason that the Vikings look less outrageous the more you dive into this time period is because, compared to the people they're up against, they don't look anywhere near as barbaric, right? They may score a ten out of ten on the barbarity scale, but what Hollywood doesn't often show is that the people they're fighting would often score a nine or an eight on the barbarity scale. Right?


Take the opponents of these Viking raiders in Europe, the Protonites, as I like to call them, these horsemen from Western and central Europe who, several hundred years after this time period, will take all sorts of vows to protect the weak and the poor. Well, they need to take those vows, because that contrasts greatly with the behavior of the protonites in this era. People. Tom Holland, in his book The Forge of Christendom, labels a gang of male clad thugs who prey on the peasantry of Europe in ways that make them sound little different than the Viking attacks in The Forge of Christendom. Tom Holland writes about these gangs of mail clad thugs, quote, month by month, season by season, year by year, their exactions grew ever worse.


How gruesomely apt it was that their favorite mode of torture should have been a Garretting chain, notorious for inflicting upon its victims. Now, quoting a contemporary source, not one, but a thousand deaths, he continues, a literal tightening of the screws, robberies too, and rapes and kidnappings. All were deployed with a brutal gusto by hit squads determined to trample underfoot every last vestige of independence in the countryside and to reduce even the most prosperous of peasants to servitude, end quote. As the old line goes, with friends like that, who needs enemies? And if your enemies are barbaric, how much less do they stand out when your friends are pretty barbaric too?


In the era we are in this story, there will be such a reaction to the depredations of these gangs of male clad thugs that a movement that I was surprised to read is considered one of the greatest peace movements in world history. Will get going. It's known as the peace of God. But in the early 900s, we're still seeing the sorts of activities that will create the equal and opposite reaction that leads to that movement in another century. This is the era of the Castellans as they're known, and Holland talks a lot about them.


Local warlords who put up what we would consider today to be rudimentary, small, primitive type castles wherever they can and then fleece the local area that they could now control. Using these castles and use the money to hire more and more gangs of male clad thugs and to show how history can be seen in multiple different ways, There are different ways to view this development, whether it's positive or negative. Let's go back to Charlemagne in the late 700s with a united Europe, which won't happen again for a thousand years after Charlemagne's time, right? It'll take Napoleon in the late 17 hundreds, early 18 hundreds through war to unite Europe. Similarly, again, this is often seen as a golden age by people who loud all the benefits of centralization and who see the disintegration of that empire as a terrible tragedy and the fragmentation of it as something that invited things like Viking attacks.


Right. When you have something we would call today a failed state, well, that invites terrorism, doesn't it? And warlordism. And the era that is the one that Europe is going into now is often I have a chapter of a book that calls it The Rise of the Dukes. Well, who are these dukes and counts and lords and barons?


Well, these are the Castellans and the more glorified, more decorated Castellans who will take over areas that used to be all part of Charlemagne's empire and rule all these little territories themselves. Is this a plus or a minus? History has seen it differently during different time periods. If you are a fan of centralized authority and that whole thing, well, you see this as a terrible negative in Europe descending into a fragmented, unable to coordinate their activities sort of entity. And you will say something like, well, Charlemagne didn't have Viking attacks to worry about because he could fight those things off, he could build all sorts of defenses, and the minute all know, falls apart into anarchy.


Well, that's know, you create the conditions, know, it's like taking the police force out of your community and keeping all your doors unlocked. You're inviting robbers, right, and interlopers. But the. Other way to look at it, and it's been seen this way throughout different eras also, is that the decentralization here is a reaction to things like Viking raids, right? If the emperor or the king is so far away that by the time they're able to send soldiers to protect the people who were hit by Viking raids, the Vikings are long gone.


Well, what if the central authority isn't? Who sends out the equivalent of the local police force? What if that's a local duke, count, Lord Baron or what have you, right nearby with a little local castle right there on the spot, right? So there are historical accounts over the eras that see this fragmentation not as a downside, but as a reaction to the need to have local protection and authority and decision making on site, because otherwise it's hard to respond to these quick hit and run raids that the Vikings are launching. But by the time we are where we are in this story, right, we've gone from the we're in the conditions on the ground are much different, and the easy pickens of undefended monasteries and all that from the 800s is a thing of the past.


Now, the Vikings are encountering the equivalent of locked doors, burglar alarm systems and local police forces nearby. And the 900s will prove to be an entirely different sort of affair, as we said in the last part of this discussion, in places like modern day France West franquia, they're starting to fortify the bridges because the Vikings use the river systems as a kind of superhighway to get into the inside of the territory. Well, if you fortify bridges at the mouths of these rivers, well, all of a sudden you have the equivalent of a toll booth or a police bureau or a guarded border. In Britain, kings like Alfred the Great and his successors will start to create fortified cities. They're called burrs, and they'll do similar sorts of things.


They'll put them at important sites where the Vikings would use as superhighways roads or river crossings. And once again, it doesn't mean you can't have Viking attacks. But it means all of a sudden, the defenses are there to make something that used to be considered a relatively easy score, something where you can expect to lose people and maybe a lot of people and maybe just lose. Because the 900s start to see a lot more times where the Viking raiders and maybe even larger forces than Raiders start losing. Of course, losing in quotation marks is a bit of an eye of the beholder thing sometimes, isn't it?


There's a phrase often used about winning the war and losing the peace. For example, one of the most important cases of maybe winning the war and losing the peace happens in the year 911, when one of the most famous Viking figures in all Viking history, and one of the earliest that we can say conclusively, actually lived and was a real person and there's no doubt about it. Is this guy known to history as Ralo. His Viking name was probably some version of Ralph and his nickname because those Vikings often the in his case it was Ralph the Ganger. And that supposedly was a reference to his size.


And he was supposed to be so large that he couldn't ride a horse and that he had to walk. He's not the only Viking that that is said about. But this ralph the ganger. The future Ralo. The future Robert is one of the many Vikings supposed to have been involved in the famous siege of Paris in the late 800s that we talked about in the last segment of this discussion.


It is not known whether he is Danish or Norwegian. Both traditions exist. The Norwegians often claim Ralo Ralf as one of their own, but he gets into a scrap, one of many with the west frankean King right? What will in the future be France? A guy named Charles the simple that we mentioned earlier.


And simple doesn't know. Not intelligent. It kind of means sincere, right? Not simple minded. But Rolf will lose this encounter in West Franchea and as part of the peace agreement, he will be given a territory that in the future will be called Normandy, which is a reference to the people who settled there after this peace agreements, the Northmen under Rolf the Ganger.


Rolf is fully a Viking right out of the Hollywood movie Trope. In his book Powers and Thrones, Dan Jones writes, quote the creation of Normandy was directly linked to the dramatic siege of Paris in 880. Among the Viking leaders of that expedition was a man called Ralo, who was probably born in Denmark and whose career was described by a later biographer Dudo of San Quentin in idealized but undeniably thrilling terms. End quote. Jones is going to intersperse some of those quotes from Dudo in this next part where he says, quote, Dudo described Ralo as a preternaturally, tough and dogged soldier, quote trained in the art of war and utterly ruthless, end quote.


Who could typically be seen, quote, in a helmet wonderfully ornamented with gold and a male coat. End quote. Jones continues, quote Ralo was one of the most violent men of his exceptionally bloody times. On one occasion, he prevailed in battle by ordering his men to kill all the animals, chop their carcasses in half and build a makeshift barricade out of their freshly butchered meat. But he was a canny negotiator, jones writes during the second half of the 9th century, ralo made a tidy living among the Franks, doing, as all thrusting young Northmen did, burning laying towns and villages to waste, plundering and killing.


By the early years of the 10th century, he and his Viking comrades had driven the rulers of the Franks to distraction and their people to a state of abject war weariness. End quote.


His biographer Dudo then says that the subjects of West Franchea were complaining to their king that the land in the realm was, quote, no better than a desert, for its population is either dead through famine or sword or is perhaps in captivity. End quote. So Charles the simple defeats Ralo in a battle, a siege perhaps. And the peace agreement is one that the people who are the fans of the highly centralized sorts of governments decry as a huge mistake, but those who see the decentralized approach as something maybe more akin to doing the best with what you have available. If you have terrorists continually destroying and raiding a region and taking off captives and killing the population and robbing everything, what would you think of turning that area over to the terrorists, telling them that they now owe their allegiance to you, that they need to convert to your way of thinking?


In these days, we might make it a rule that they have to then become a democracy. But back in these times, the rule is you have to become Christians and then telling them to defend that territory against other terrorists like themselves, because that's going to be the deal.


Charles the simple is going to grant to Ralo the Viking the areas that Ralo is sort of already controlling and occupying. These areas that will become Normandy. Around the entry to the Sane River. And then tell him, know, if you accept this deal, you're my vassal. Which may sound weird, except that this is the era, as we said, when the dukes and counts and lords and barons are going to start to come to the fore.


And what's the difference if your warlord happens to be a locally groaned warlord or if it's somebody from outside, right? I mean, if you're giving lands to a bunch of barons who are going to throw up their own castles and be sometimes loyal to you and other times rebellious, well, why not make it the guy who's already in charge of that area and who knows probably best how to repel Viking raiders? Because he is himself a Viking raider. And in his book Northman, historian John Hayward writes about Ralo and this agreement, quote, in return for his homage, conversion to Christianity and agreement to defend the Sane against other Viking raiders, charles appointed Ralo as Count of Roaun. It was a mutually advantageous arrangement.


Charles got recognition of his sovereignty over lands he did not actually control, while Ralo's de facto rule over the lower sane was legitimized. End quote. Haywood then points out that this is hardly a new arrangement and that other kings have done this with Vikings before. In fact, one can go all the way back to certain Roman practices from the Roman Empire that sound similar, including the way the Romans treated the Franks themselves when the Franks were much more Viking like than they are in this time period. Famously, Ralo may not be the submissive vassal to Charles the simple that the peace agreement may have expected.


The biographer Dudeau tells a story where at one point during the ceremony, ralo is supposed to kiss the feet of the Frankish king and instead says he's not kissing anyone's feet and orders an underling to do it for him. And normally, you bend down and kiss the feet of the king. Instead, the Viking underling lifted up the king's foot to his mouth, toppling the king on his back. And supposedly, the Vikings all laughed about this. It's a sign of exactly how much respect they have for this agreement and this king.


But Ralo did convert to Christianity. But like so many other Vikings who did, first generation Christian converts from Scandinavia often hedged their bets a little bit. And John Haywood in Northman explains how that worked for Ralo when he says, quote, although Ralo was still a pagan, when he won control of RA, it appears he allowed what was left of the church to function in that area under his control, much as the Danish rulers of York had done. Pagan Vikings, he writes, were rarely positively hostile to Christianity. Sacking churches and monasteries and selling their occupants into slavery was just good business.


Even after his baptism in 912, ralo, like many first generation Viking converts to Christianity, hedged his bets and worshiped the pagan gods alongside Christ. Shortly before he died, Ralo ordered a hundred Christians to be beheaded as an offering to the pagan gods. But he also gave a hundred pounds of gold to the churches of Ron, end quote. The interesting thing about this, though, is that you can see the long term antiterrorism strategy at work here, what the Chinese would have called in their long term antiterrorism strategies, with their so called barbarians nearby them. Cooking, right, cooking the barbarians, because you turn them into people more like yourself, and when that happens, it changes the relationship.


It's a good thing for a ruler like Ralo because becoming a Christian and beginning to organize your society the way the Christian states did exalts the king turns the societies into one organized as a hierarchy.


Not so good for the individual, freedom loving Viking farmers who used to get together at their assemblies, known as things and make decisions that way, right? If you're freedom loving and you like a nice, decentralized system, having your ruler convert to Christianity, then mandating all his people do, all of a sudden puts you under the control of a much stronger, despotic ruler. Maybe the other thing, though, that it does for the other Christian states is it takes away one of the great Viking Scandinavian advantages in war. All of a sudden, instead of the circumstances being that they can rage you, but you can't go and attack them because they live far away and who knows where, and you can't get to them. When the Vikings begin to settle in places, for example, in the Dane law in the British Isles, or in Normandy, they lose the main advantage that they have of mobility.


And now all of a sudden, their farms, their homes, their families and their wealth are right next door to the people that they're sometimes making angry with them or vengeful or warlike. And now their foes can do to them what they've done for more than a century to their foes. And one of the really interesting things to follow during the Viking era are these overseas settlements by these Scandinavian pirates, conquerors, colonists, settlers, whatever you want to call them, because they become part of the societies that they're embedded in. Over time, they become absorbed. I think we compared the Viking age in part one to a hand grenade detonating in the Scandinavian homeland and spreading burning shrapnel in all directions.


It's part of why this story is so hard to follow. You're following all those pieces of shrapnel as they embed themselves in the surrounding societies, but if shrapnel doesn't kill you, eventually the wound closes up and skin forms around it. And while the metal may impact your life and cause a lingering amount of influence forever, it just becomes one piece of a larger whole. And there are interesting stories about ralo. For example, having dreams of creating a society that is the equivalent of a whole flock of birds that shows up in one place of all different breeds and types, but all bearing the same blood red left wing and creating what one historian refers to as a mongrel society.


Out of these many different parts sort of foreshadowing the fusion to come. It reminds me of the American experience where the United States often referred to itself as the great melting pot or had Latin phrases associated with it, like epluribus unum. Eplerabus unum, which means out of many, one. And that is not a bad phrase to describe the Normans. And of course, Norman just means northman, and Normandy is the land of the northmen.


But these men came from all over and quickly found themselves a part of the society around them, maintaining, perhaps, though, something in their blood or their DNA or their cultural makeup that hearkened back to the ferociousness and the fierceness of their Viking roots. Because you can hear chroniclers and even historians up until the mid 20th century, and maybe even today, talking about that weird sort of extra ferocity that the Normans had even when they were Christian and French. And you can see how quickly they're absorbed by the local population. Ralo, who's the first to settle there, right, this Viking who is almost the quintessential example of the type, will marry a local woman in the Danish way we're told, and have a son who's already only half Viking and who speaks French and who's Christian. He will have the respectively French name of William attached to him and get a surname or a nickname afterwards.


He'll be known as William Longsword. He will have a rebellion. Ralo's son launched against him by a bunch of his own Scandinavian Viking peoples who consider him already too francophied. And then he's gonna in the Danish way, which means sort of like a concubine or a hookup or what would they say today? A baby mama.


He will hook up with another local woman, which means that his kid, who will be named Richard, is only one quarter Viking. So in the space of two generations, you can already see the burning piece of shrapnel being absorbed by the much larger West Frankish body. But as we've been saying all along, what happens to Ralo and his pirate Vikings in what will be Normandy is just a continuation of a process that's been going on since long before the Roman Empire fell, centuries beforehand. It's the taming of these Germanic language pagan peoples and earlier versions of them, from Goths to Lombards to Vandals to Burgundians to Franks. Yes, even these Frankish people, they've already gone through this process.


They're being well, 150 years ago, somebody would have seen a very superiority kind of way of looking at things said. They're being civilized. These savages are being turned into reputable members of the Christian community, answerable to God and the surrounding other nobles. But if you're an average Viking farmer who goes on these raids, as your ancestors might have, doing a little piracy work to better yourself, go home, marry the girl next door and start a farm with your winnings from your pirate affairs, you might look at something like this as being sold out, right? The big guys like Ralo and his yarls and yarl could mean earl or lord or anything like that.


Those guys are the ones who benefit greatly from these sorts of deals. It's the average Viking who once upon a time used to be considered sort of an equal, who loses. If you want to make the Hollywood movie about the Vikings, and you want them to be these barbarian type pirate movie tropes, and you want them to be a bunch of warriors involved in an equal brotherhood, that when somebody says, who is your leader? You say we have none. Right?


That's a famous line from the old Viking. We have no leader. We're all equal here. Then you want to set your movie in the 700s or the 800s, because in the 900s ADCE, the Viking world begins to become more like the non Viking Christian world and the hierarchies that are taking over in places that will become France and Germany and places like that arrives in Scandinavia. And you can begin to see the consolidation of these independent, small time rulers, these so called petty kings, by the great kings.


And it's a bit like watching corporate giants swallowing up small time businesses and mom and pop operations until they create the geopolitical equivalent of a monopoly. And in keeping with history's love of consolidation and consolidators, the men who do this are often lauded as the founding fathers of the modern day nations of Scandinavia, right? Their version of a George Washington type figure. It's worth pointing out that the people who do this in the places like modern day Sweden or modern day Denmark or modern day Norway are figures that you can't 100% confirm were even real. Welcome to the early Middle Ages.


Take, for example, the guy who famously does this in what will become the country of Norway. His name is Harold Finehair, also known as Harold Fairhair. Also known as Harold Hair Fair. Neil Price, the historian of Viking times, says that his nickname was Luffa, which means Mophead. And Price points out that these guys often had pirate last names and nicknames.


Compare it to something like Blackbeard from the 16th or 17th century. And Mophead is a famous figure in one of the sagas written by one of the most famous saga writers of all time, an Icelandic writer named Snori Sterlison. And in his work, known as the Heimscringler, or The Lives of the Norse Kings, he writes about Mopphead and in very storybook like fashion, traces his desire to conquer all of Norway and be the king that unifies the entire place to a woman that he wants. And he goes to her and basically proposes that he become her man. And she says something like, why would a petty king like you appeal to me?


I mean, she says, when we have kings who are unifying Sweden and kings who are unifying Denmark, why don't you go unify Norway and then come back to me when you've made something of yourself? He in the saga says something like, oh, yeah, thanks for reminding me. I was always going to do that. And then he vows to not cut his hair until he does. And then he goes around like a mafia dawn, making the sort of offers that the other petty kings can't refuse, because if they do, he kills them and all of their top men with them.


If they instead join him, as we said, with Ralo, all his top men can become his men. Yarls. And they can be bigger than the petty kings of old, but if they resist, he's going to kill them. And this creates a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction that precipitates one of the things that the Viking era is most known for, right? The pushing out and exploring farther and farther away lands, in part because these people need to get away from Harold Finehair, who's going to kill them if he catches them.


It's a little bit more complicated than that. But let's let Snori Sterlison, in his work, written farther away from the time that he's chronicling than the American Revolution is to our time. Let's have him discuss a little bit of the career of Harold Finehair to show us what we're dealing with here. I'm using the Erling Monson translation, by the way, and it needs to be pointed out that there are reasons that people would resist what Finehair is trying to do. They often were people who were farmers on ancestral land that had been handed down from father to son, from time immemorial.


And all of a sudden, this great king comes in and says, all this land is mine, and you can stay on it if you pay taxes. And a lot of people said, to hell with you, I'm going elsewhere. And that's described by Sterleson when he says, quote, amid all the unrest, when Harold was seeking to subdue all the land of Norway, the pharaohs, which are islands, and Iceland lands out beyond the sea, were found and settled. At that time. Also, there was a great faring to Shetland, and many great men fled as outlaws from Norway, and they went on Viking raids to the west.


In the winter, they were in the Orkneys and the Hebrides, but in the summer they harried in Norway and did great Scaith there in the land. End quote. What Sterleson means by that is that these people didn't just run away from Harold Finehair, and everybody let bygones be bygones. They came back and treated Norway or what will become Norway, the same way that Viking raiders had treated the rest of Europe. They raided and robbed and took slaves from Harold Finehair's growing kingdom.


And this recalls something we said earlier in this story that before the Viking Age supposedly begins, it was probably already going on in the deep, dark Scandinavian mists before Europe ever knew about them. And it continued probably long after the Viking Age sort of officially in air quotes ends the Vikings raided Scandinavia, too. And like all the kings of Europe whose main job is protecting their subjects, harold Finehair's main job was protecting his. And so when Vikings who had fled Norway came back and raided Norway, harold Finehair goes after them. Sterlison continues quote king Harold learned that the Vikings who in the winter were in the westlands, which means Britain and Ireland, were harrying in the Midlands, which means Norway.


He went out to war each summer and ransacked the islands and the outlying rocks. But when his army came near the Vikings, they all fled, most of them out to sea. And when the king was weary of this, it happened one summer that he sailed west with his army across the sea. First he came to Shetland, and there slew all the Vikings who had not fled thence. Next he sailed south to the Orkneys and cleansed them.


All of Vikings. Thereafter, he went right to the Hebrides and harried. There he slew many Vikings who before had warriors under them, and he held there many battles and most often had the victory. End quote. So Harold luffa mophead hair, fair, fine hair, adopted the same anti piracy strategy common in the ancient world.


When it becomes too much, you go find the pirate layers, launch the equivalent of marines from your boats, and wipe out all the pirates where they live. Now, if you're trying to clear pirates out, though, the problem is how do you keep the areas from being reestablished as pirate bases later? If you look at the history of the Mediterranean, for example, and piracy in that area, you can have successive empires and kingdoms clear out pirate layers only to have those places get reinvested later, usually because they're mean they're just it's easy to hide. These certain islands that become known for piracy are right along important shipping routes. They just lend themselves to reinvestation.


So according to the Sagas, harold will put some of his own people in charge of these islands, like the Hebrides and the Orkneys and whatnot. And their job is to sort know, create a stable business climate and settle people there and make it one of those areas where there's just too many eyes and too much law and order and too many authorities for it to be a good place for pirates anymore. I don't know if that's true. And the sagas are not necessarily all that trustworthy on this sort of stuff. There is another aspect, though, of Harold's rule that more modern histories are taking a much more jaundiced view of than my earlier ones.


And that the Sagas take, which is that Harold's tyranny and people fleeing from it are the reason for many of the great Viking discoveries. The islands overseas, the Icelands, the Greenlands, the east coast of the Americas, and places like the Yorkneys and the Hebrides. And the reason that modern historians are discounting that as a major reason is because the dating doesn't line up. He couldn't have been his tyranny, couldn't have been the reason that the Hebrides and the Orkneys and those places are settled because they're settled long before Harold's time. Even Iceland is settled before Harold is putting immense pressure on other Norwegians, and Greenland and the Americas aren't settled until long afterwards, so the dating doesn't line up.


John Haywood points this out in Northmend. That couldn't have been the reason. But what he does say is it could be a reason for further know new waves of people leaving Norway to escape the new restrictions that a guy like Harold is putting into place through consolidation. Right. If you don't like it, get out.


And they do. And where do you go? Well, American draftees fleeing the draft during the Vietnam War went over the border to Canada. If you're someone located in modern day Norway, maybe you go to the Hebrides or the Orkneys, or if those are becoming too established and controlled by Harold's men, maybe you go farther and farther. In harold Finehair's lifetime would have been a place like Iceland, and then after his lifetime, would have been a place like Greenland.


When you look at how those places were probably discovered, that's an interesting story in and of itself and something that is undetermined as of yet. But more and more, the history suggests that some of these places were found before the Vikings even found them. Take Iceland, for example. Iceland may have had Irish monks find the place first. Now, we need to take a different sort of approach with a place like Iceland than with most of the places the Vikings settled in Europe, because we talked about the piece of shrapnel, the Vikings embedding themselves in these larger societies and eventually being absorbed.


It's a little different when the Vikings discover places that don't have pre existing large societies to begin with, then the shrapnel acts more like a seed and grows into a real sort of Viking settlement, and Iceland falls into that category because Irish monks would have been celibate anyway. They wouldn't have gone to a place like Iceland to try to start families and settle down and be fruitful and multiply. And there's no evidence that when the Vikings actually got there, the Irish monks were still there, although they supposedly found some leftover stuff. The bottom line, though, is it's like finding free land with nobody there occupying it. The various histories that I've read suggest what would probably be considered a rather obvious way that these places get discovered initially.


And that's not because you seek out places, because no one knows these places are here. They get found accidentally when the Scandinavian ships get blown off course. I mean, if you're a sailing ship and all of a sudden you get caught in a place like the North Atlantic or the Atlantic above what's now Scotland and those islands, and the wind starts taking you where it's going to take you, you're kind of along for the ride, aren't you? And this is the part of the story that I find personally terrifying. It is also the part of the story where we've been making connections between the Vikings and their contemporaries and the Vikings and their predecessors, right?


The Germanic language, pagan peoples like the Saxons, and all these people who came before the Vikings and the people in western and central Europe during their time period, and trying to show the context that shows continuity and how the Vikings don't really stand out so much from all these other peoples. In most respects, the area where they really do stand out and where they break new ground completely is the seafaring part. And that's the part that blows my mind and has fascinated people, well, for a very long time. The Vikings became very big in the 19th century, but people knew about these seafaring things long before then. The people in Iceland, for example, who were fascinated because they were an immigrant people, too, like the United States and like Australia and a lot of other places now, you become fascinated with your roots.


And it was people like Snori Sterlison and all those folk who were writing about how their island originally got populated from the home country. And so everyone has been fascinated with what the. Vikings were doing with ships because what they were doing with ships was relatively unprecedented. And I say relatively because there were other peoples, but they're some of the most famous seafaring peoples in history, people like the Polynesians and what maybe we could call the proto Polynesians, who were doing similar things in the Pacific, mostly south of the equator. And the big difference between the Polynesians and the Vikings and all the other seafaring peoples before them was the willingness to go out into the open sea.


Because seafaring pretty much from the beginning of time until about the vikings. And the protopolynesians was all about staying within sight of land, hugging the coast or going point to point like a connect the dots game. From this island to that island to this island, never getting too far away from land. Even when you see, for example, the transfer of shipping or some of even the great naval battles in the Mediterranean, you can always see that it's a point to point to point navigation system. They're never getting far away from land.


There's always an island here or there that they're nearby. Once you go. The old line was beyond the Pillars of Hercules or Heracles, the Gibraltar area, out into the Atlantic. You were going off into the Dragon territory on the edge of the map, where people go and never come back. That's where you lose ships.


But it's funny what you can discover while still hugging the coast. The great Phoenicians, who were the greatest seafarers of the ancient Mediterranean, they were able to get allegedly all the way up to the British Isles and the Scandinavian areas and everything, simply following the coastline. But what the Vikings do is, as far as I can tell, except for the Polynesian types, unprecedented in this era and before, which is they will venture out into the open sea. Now, after pointing out that both the Polynesians and the Malays in the Indian Ocean had gone farther distances in this era or earlier eras than the Vikings, historian John Haywood in Northman mentions that both those peoples at least had warmer weather and more predictable seas working in their favor, whereas these Scandinavians are operating in close to Arctic conditions sometimes. I mean, go look at a map.


Look at where the latitude of a place like Iceland is. There are no major cities above something like Reykjavik that I can see. It's subarctic, maybe you would say. And Haywood says that like earlier peoples, the Viking, Scandinavian explorers and seafarers preferred to stay within sight of land, go point to know so that they were going from island to island and stayed as close as they could. To areas where they felt safe to pull their ships into coves and harbors and places where, at nighttime, they didn't have to be out in the water.


But often they were out in the water. And when you realize that these are open boats in sometimes Arctic conditions. It boggles the mind. You can go online, by the way, and see videos of modern recreations of Viking long ships and people traveling on them, and you just can't imagine doing it for days at a time. But that's what had to be done.


And these Viking warships that are often used in the recreations are usually not the kind of ships that Viking settlers traveled on. They traveled on tubbier merchant men called Nars, or Nors. And Haywood describes these, and he says, quote, most of the leading settlers, or he uses the Scandinavian word that means land takers because that was the phrase used. Or land takers arrived in their own ships. These were not long ships, but sturdy merchant ships called Nars.


With shorter, broader and deeper hulls than long ships. Nars relied on sails alone, carrying only a couple of pairs of oars for maneuvering in harbor. End quote. He then points out, at the time of the settlements, the Nars probably had a cargo capacity of 25 to 30 tons. This would go up as the Viking age went on to probably more like 50 tons.


He says modern replicas of these merchant vessels have sailed around the entire world. But the one that sailed around the entire world sank off the Spanish coast in 1992. So just like modern day fishing fleets and I believe that fishing is still considered, per capita, the most or one of the most dangerous professions you can have. And that's with satellites, modern ships, coast guards and all those kinds of things. Imagine what it's like with a wooden boat with open decks and people navigating well, with none of those tools.


And Haywood writes, quote, the voyage to Iceland could take two to three weeks, often with stopovers in Orkney, Shetland and the Pharaoh Islands. The voyage cannot have been a comfortable experience. Nars were basically just large open boats without cabins to give crew and passengers shelter in bad weather. Tents were stretched over ship's decks to provide shelter in harbor. But it is unlikely that this could be done at sea because the tent would catch the wind and drive the ship off course.


People probably had to huddle under sealskin or greased leather coats in the hold along with the livestock to keep warm. Nor was there any possibility, he writes, of enjoying any hot food on the high seas. Shipwreck was a real possibility in one bad year. Of the 35 ships sailing to Iceland, all but eight were wrecked. End quote.


I've spent my entire life, except for when I was in college, within a 35 minutes drive of the Pacific Ocean. I grew up body surfing at an age that was almost child abusive to have left me out in the waters. At that age, I'm very brave on the coast, but you get me out into the open water and I get just terrified, much more cowardly. I remember a cousin of mine, an idiot cousin of mine tipping us over in a catamaran three times in a day until the Coast Guard said, that's enough of that. You get to go in within sight of land and feeling absolutely helpless.


I can't imagine what it would be like in subarctic conditions in the middle of nowhere, with no help anywhere. I was looking for accounts that could give us some semblance of what it was like for these Vikings, but they don't exist during this period. And the best ones that I found are actually in a book called The Perfect Storm. Now, you might have seen the movie based on the book, but the book is a very different animal, and it combines the story that the movie focused on with historical accounts. Firsthand, eyewitness remembrances, the science of the ocean and waves and shipping and all that.


It's absolutely fascinating if you can get your hands on it. It's by Sebastian Younger. It's wonderful. And he has some accounts that give us a sense of what it might be like in the open sea and how absolutely terrifying it can be. So, for example, one of the scientific parts of the book talks about the difference between waves that are not crashing versus waves that do crash in the open ocean.


And Junger writes, quote, A general rule of fluid dynamics holds that an object in the water tends to do whatever the water it replaces would have done in the case of a boat. In a breaking wave, the boat will effectively become part of the curl. It will either be flipped end over end or shoved backwards and broken on instantaneous. Pressures of up to six tons per square foot have been measured in breaking waves. Breaking waves, he writes, have lifted a 2700 ton breakwater en masse and deposited it inside the harbor.


At Wick, Scotland. They have blasted open a steel door 195ft above sea level at I think it's unstlight or unstlight. In the Shetland Islands, they have heaved a half ton boulder 91ft into the air at Tillamook Rock, Oregon. End quote. So that gives us a sense of the power of the waves that these early mariners are having to potentially encounter.


And then Junger talks about a phenomenon that used to be considered sort of an old wives tale, or one of those tall stories that a salty sea captain would relate. But it turns out that they're true and buoys in the middle of the ocean. And people in oil rigs in the middle of the sea have now conclusively proven that the phenomenon known as rogue waves are real. And Junger points out that the problem with eyewitness accounts is that a lot of people, especially in the pre modern seafaring era, who encountered large rogue waves never survived to tell anybody about them. Speaking about the rogue waves, he writes, quote, in the dry terminology of naval architecture, these are called nonnegotiable waves.


Mariners call them rogue waves or freak seas. Typically, they are very steep and have an equally steep trough in front of them, a so called hole in the ocean, as some witnesses have described it. Ships, he writes, cannot get their boughs up fast enough, and the ensuing wave breaks their back. Maritime history is full of encounters with such waves. When Sir Ernest Shackleton was forced to cross the South Polar Sea in a 22 foot open lifeboat, he saw a wave so big that he mistook its foaming crest for a moonlit cloud.


He only had time to yell, Hang on, boys, it's got us, before the wave broke over his boat. Miraculously, they didn't sink. He continues. In February 1883, the 320 foot steamship Glamorgan was swept bow to stern by an enormous wave that ripped the wheelhouse right off the deck, taking all the ship's officers with it. She later sank.


In 1966, he writes, the 44,000 ton Michelangelo, an Italian steamship carrying 775 passengers, encountered a single massive wave in an otherwise unremarkable sea. Her bough fell into the trough and the wave stove in her bough, flooding her wheelhouse and killed a crewman and two passengers. In 1976. He says the oil tanker Cretan Star Radioed. Now, the radio message was, quote, vessel was struck by a huge wave that went over the deck, end quote, and, he says, was never heard from again.


The only sign of her fate, he wrote, was a four mile oil slick off Bombay. End quote. He then tells an amazing story of one of the people who lived after seeing and surviving one of these waves hitting. And the waves are very different sometimes. Sometimes they create they come together.


Several waves come together and get larger than the sum of its parts, so to speak. And that's a phenomenon known as the three sisters, sometimes when they come in threes. But this 1966 encounter off South Africa was a wave that stretched from horizon to horizon. And Younger writes, quote, most people don't survive encounters with such waves, and so firsthand accounts are hard to come by, but they do exist. An Englishwoman named Barrel Smeaton was rounding Cape Horn with her husband in the 1960s, I guess I said 66, when she saw a shoaling wave behind her that stretched away in a straight line as far as she could see.


Now, quoting the survivor quote, the whole horizon was blotted out by a huge gray wall, she writes in her journal. It had no curling crest, just a thin white line along the whole length, and its face was unlike the sloping face of a normal wave. This was a wall of water with a completely vertical face down which ran white ripples like a waterfall, end quote. Younger than points out that the wave flipped the 46 foot boat end over end, snapping the eyewitnesses harness and throwing her overboard. Now, I know in this era where we see people surfing almost 100 foot tall waves and whatnot, that we are blase to the power of the surf sometimes.


But even a twelve foot wave, and I've been in twelve foot waves churning around after wiping out body surfing on the coastline. And I can just tell you the power of a mere twelve foot wave is absolutely shocking. And I can't imagine what this woman's experience was like after being having her ship turned over with a wave like that and then finding herself cord snapped in the open ocean.


And then I recall that all those vessels that we just talked about had multiple decks so you could go below deck when things got hairy up above. They had modern communications equipment, modern navigational tools. They knew their relative geographic position on the map perfectly. And it still freaks me out. Now imagine having none of those things and being a Viking era Scandinavian in an open boat, no communications tools at all, no modern navigational equipment at all, and no below decks, and you're out in the open ocean.


There's a part of me that thinks those people are crazy, but that might be an eye of the beholder sort of thing, right? Try telling them that we routinely go up in manmade metal tubes that fly higher than birds fly, and take us across whole oceans, continent to continent, and see if they don't think we're the crazy ones. And I imagine if you told people like that that we could do what we do with air travel, they'd probably want to see what manner of human being it was who could do that. And I feel the same way about them. And if you discount the sagas, which, as I said, I don't know what Hollywood would do in portraying Vikings if they didn't use the sagas.


Because discounting the sagas means you're left with very few eyewitness accounts of who these people were. And like all eyewitness accounts from people who found themselves on the receiving end of violence or mistreatment or even just very different cultural norms and standards, hard to accept the idea that the Viking Aras Scandinavians are getting a good shake. I mean, if you're a monk writing about these people who as part of their business strategy, aren't just pagans but like to assault holy sites and monasteries and kill monks. Well, is a monk's account of these people going to be particularly even handed? I doubt it.


We do have the rare accounts, though, that show up from eyewitnesses who are not Christian monks and who run into people who may be Viking erascandinavians. And the most famous happens right around where we are in this story. It is an account which, like the sagas, a lot of people have to hang a lot of assumptions on because you have so little to work with. And it's such a famous account and so rare that it has been used by fictional authors to sort of build stories off of michael Crichton, the author of Eaters of the Dead, for example, used this account as the foundation on which to build a fictional story. And a movie was built on top of that book called the 13th Warrior.


So you may have seen that, but neither one of those tales gets told if not for the original account, the eyewitness account of a Muslim traveler named Ibn Fadlan. And he traveled two regions in what are now Russia in the year 921 and 922 ADCE, and along the way ran into a people who were trading on the rivers back then who very well may have been Viking erascandinavians. Let's put some disclaimers in here, though, shall we, for accuracy's sake. Disclaimer number one. These may not have been Viking era Scandinavians.


These may have been people who were Slavic, for example. Or it may have been what we would call today an international crew of people, a mixed crew of people that included some Scandinavians mixed with some Slavs mixed with some Balts. You just don't know. Disclaimer number two. Even if these were Scandinavians, they may not be representative of the Scandinavians back in Scandinavia or Vikings in other places, even though it's very possible that these same people that Ibn Fadlan talks about were migrating back and forth to Scandinavia and maybe then going west to Britain and maybe then to France.


You just don't know because how representative of Scandinavian culture back in a place like what will be modern day Sweden, modern day Norway, modern day Denmark? Are these seafarers? It's possible that you could look at them the way we would look know sailors today who spent their life at sea and then come back home covered in tattoos. These salty, the know Long John Silver characters from Treasure Island, where they are people from your culture, but they're not representative of most of the people in your culture. For example, one of the things Fadlan talks about in this eyewitness account is how dirty these people were.


But this clashes with other accounts that suggest that Viking era Scandinavians in Scandinavia were meticulously clean people with clean clothes and clean hair and all. So these are the disclaimers in one of these very, very rare eyewitness accounts of a people that very well may be or include Viking era Scandinavians, probably, if so, mostly Swedes. Now, here's the backstory of Fadlan's account. He sets out from Baghdad, I think it was, where his bosses and he doesn't want to lie to them. So these aren't like Marco Polo type accounts where there could be all kinds of exaggeration.


This guy's trying to give a good account of what he runs into, and he's not looking for Vikings. Remember, in the part of the world where Fadlan's traveling, they don't call them Vikings. They call them varangians. And this is the era where these Varangian people are morphing. Perhaps again, another disclaimer into that people we introduced in part one, the Rus.


Who these Rus are is another one of these great non understood things. And historians over the eras have had different opinions. I think we introduced the concept of the Normanist and the anti Normanist controversy in part one when we talked about the Rus, because in a place like the old Soviet Union, you didn't want to assume or acknowledge that there was any Scandinavian influx of DNA or cultural influence in a predominantly Slavic sort of historical account. But on the Germanic side, it was just the opposite. I mean, Hitler and his Aryan supremacists, I think Hitler famously said something like, if not for the infusion of the Scandinavian blood into the Russian bloodline, they would still be like rabbits in the forest.


Right. The only reason they're advanced in any way, shape or form is due to the Aryan blood. So those are the two extremes of the pendulum. There DNA bioarchaeology and the assessment of artifacts that are being found is helping to clarify this. This would be a different show if we could have this conversation 20 years from now.


Nonetheless, Fadlan talks about these people that he sees on his travels to what's now southern Russia. He's there to talk to some step nomad. Maybe semi. Nomad. By this point, leader of a group called the Bulgars, right?


This is know Bulgarian comes from that. So this guy is Islamic, but his Bulgars are practicing a form of Islam that might not exactly be kosher, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors there. And so he asks for some instruction on the know. Come on up here. Tell us what we're doing wrong in practicing Islam.


And, oh, by the way, I'd like to make some deals with you, like to do some trading with you. So Fadlan goes up there, and it's like a travel log, if you will. And as with anything from that long ago, it's a miracle it's come down to be read by us today that it survived. But amongst the many people he talks about are these people he calls the Rus or the Rusiah. Now, I'm using the translation by Richard Fry.


There are others. But Fadlan talks about these people that he encounters along the rivers who are trading and in the east, if these are Varangians, if these are the Viking people from Scandinavia trading in what's now southern Russia, what did we say in the first part of the show? That the Vikings in the west are like 60% raiders and 40% traders, and in the east, it's reverse, like 60% trader, 40% raider, in part because there's a lot of powerful entities in the east that make it a lot tougher to just go along, sacking everything and killing everyone. There'll be pushback, and these Bulgars are a perfect example of the kind of people that would push back. So Fadlanza talks about these people now to show you how difficult it is.


He talks about them having tattoos. Now, we mentioned in part one there's all kinds of things that they found on the Viking skeletons that have been uncovered. For example, the tooth grooves, right? Horizontal cuttings or carvings in the teeth of some of these skeletons that may have been dyed when they were alive. So you put a die in there so you can see them even more pronounced.


And this may have been the mark of certain warrior bands, right? It shows that you're in this particular group of people. There are the accounts, of course, of the eye makeup. What did we call it in part one? War mascara that the Vikings are supposed to have used.


And it was one of those things that was thought to be so cool by other people who saw it that the Anglo Saxons in Britain, right on the opposite side of this great divide between they and the Danes. They start wearing it sounds like the girls liked it. Reminds you a little bit of, like, how the Romans in the Roman era start adopting Gallic and German fashions, like the tight pants, because, once again, seem to be popular with the opposite sex, right? I can look cool like a barbarian, too. Give me that leather jacket.


Give me those tight pants. Little bit of the eye makeup. The guyliner the war mascara and, you know, maybe the hairstyle. There's an account by I think it was a monk, I think it's in Britain who was talking about how scandalous it was to see youth, you know, adopting the fashions of the barbarians and the heathen. Well, Fadlan has these people that he encounters.


He says they're tattooed. Now, once again, we're brought into the situation where do you extrapolate that and say, well, we have an eyewitness account of Vikings, so they must all be tattooed? Or is this like Popeye the Sailor and Long John Silver? And this isn't what Vikings are like at home. This is what the ones who go to you know, it's a brotherhood of guys, and they act a certain way.


We're dirty, we're scroungy. We're a bunch of guys on the road. We're like musicians on the road. It's different on the road. You get home and you're amongst your own kind and you want to look clean and pretty and reputable, and maybe you look different.


So don't know how much you can extrapolate the Fadlan stuff. But what he says is awesome and more awesome because it's one of the few accounts you have. This isn't a saga, right? This is a guy who saw these people, and this is what he writes from the Richard Fry translation of Ibn Fadlan's journey to Russia. Quote, I saw the Rusiya or Rusia when they came hither on their trading voyages and had encamped by the river Itel or ITIL that's the Volga, by the way.


I have never seen people, he writes, with a more developed bodily stature than they. They are as tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy, so that they do not need to wear a tunic nor a cloak rather, the men among them wear a garment that only covers half of his body and leaves one of his hands free. Each of them has an ax, a sword and a knife with him. And all of these whom we have mentioned, never let themselves be separated from their weapons. Their swords are broad bladed, provided with rills, and of the Frankish type.


Each one of them has, from the tip of his nails to the neck, figures, trees and other things tattooed in dark green. End quote. So this jibes with what we know about the Vikings that they don't stray too far from their weapons. It also jibes with the fact that they like Frankish swords. But if you're in Europe, who doesn't, right?


The great arms manufacturers of the Frankish war warehouses and factories produce the best European weapons, so everybody wants them. It does show how much the trading, though, is completely interactive and interspersed in Europe, so that if you can get your hands on a good Frankish sword, it's like a Winchester rifle of that era. You get it. Now, he also talks about, as I said, how dirty these people are. And as we've said, this doesn't necessarily jibe with other things that are asserted about life at home, but this may be like a bunch of dudes on the road and we don't have to be so clean.


And when we get home, we'll smarten up, clean up a little bit, get the nice clothes out. But we've been on safari here for a long time, and your clothes get a little dirty, and we live a little rough and ready and close to the ground. And Fadlan writes and remember, he's from a very in, air, quote, civilized place during this time period where there are lots of manners, cleanliness, a lot of white collared jobs going on, we would say, in his world. And he writes, quote, they are the dirtiest creatures of God. They have no shame in voiding their bowels and bladder, nor do they wash themselves when polluted by emission of semen, nor do they wash their hands after eating.


They are then like asses who have gone astray, end quote. Now he starts to talk about what they're selling, and they're selling goods. But the number one goods that they're trying to sell off to other people are other people. The Vikings were great slavers. These people are, too.


They take slaves, according to the Muslim accounts, often from the Slavic people. And there are historians who say that the term Slav is connected to the term slave. But this is the part that people sometimes minimize when you talk about people like the Vikings. They are a great Slaving people, and they're a great trading people. And the number one thing, probably, that they make the most money off of are slaves.


And a lot of their raids are connected to the idea of getting more, shall we say, raw materials for sale. This is also where you get a chance to see a reminder, shall we say, of the absolute horrificness of slavery, of human bondage. Because there are women for sale, mostly from according to Fadlan's account, anyway, the people he run into are selling women, and when they're selling women, they're also using women. It's horrible, it's rape, it's slavery. And he writes, quote they come from their own country, moor their boats on the strand of the Ital, which is a great river it's the Vulgar, right?


And build on its banks large houses out of wood. In a house like this, ten or 20 people more or less live together. Each of them has a couch, whereupon he sits, and with them are fair maidens who are destined for sale to the merchants, and they may have intercourse with their girl while their comrades look on. At times a crowd of them may come together and one does this in the presence of the others. It also happens that a merchant who comes into the house to buy a girl from one of them may find him in the very act of having intercourse with her.


Then he, the Rus, will not let her be until he has fulfilled his intention. End quote. One gets the vibe again, this is a non historian vibe, so take it for what it's worth, but one gets sort of a vibe here that this is not how these guys are going to behave amongst their own women folk back in Scandinavia. This is a bunch of dudes far away from women folk and manners and, you know, wink, wink, nod, nod. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and the levels of cleanliness and upkeep may not meet the standards expected of them back in their home territory.


And Fudlan writes, quote as a matter of duty, they wash daily their faces and heads in a manner so dirty and so unclean as could possibly be imagined. Thus it is carried out. A slave girl brings each morning early a large vessel with water and gives the vessel to her master. And he washes his hands and face and the hair of his head. He washes it and combs it with a comb into the bucket, then blows his nose and spits into the bucket.


He holds back nothing impure, but rather lets it go into the water. End quote. So far, no problem, right, guys? Just being clean, washing, you know, that whole thing. But the problem comes with what Fadlan says.


Next quote after he has done what was necessary, the girl takes the same vessel to the one who is nearest, and he does just as his neighbor had done. She carries the vessel from one to another until all in the house have had a turn at it and each of them has blown his nose, spat into and washed his face and hair in the vessel. End quote. Remember, what's so unusual about this is this isn't. Some story from some monk that some monk may have heard or is lying about.


This is an eyewitness writing for his master. His accuracy is probably better than any other accurate account you're going to get about the Vikings in this period, asterisk here. If these are Vikings, then it gets truly dark where he talks about what happens when one of their numbers, one of these chieftains of this group, dies. He gets to witness this. He says he's curious and wants to see what happens and what the burial practices are like.


And by the way, one of these Rusia people comes up to him and tells him through an interpreter that people like him are stupid where he comes from, because they bury their loved ones to allow them to be eaten by worms and frogs and slimy things. He says, we burn them and then they go straight to paradise. No musk, no fuss. But the ceremony itself is a scene of gang rapes, drunkenness killings, and the archeology of Scandinavian Viking era burial practices seem to indicate that at least some of the things Fadlan witnesses is in sympotico with what has been found, archeologically speaking. And he writes, quote, when a high chief dies, his family says to his slave girls and servants, which one of you wishes to die with him?


Then one of them answers, I when he or she has said this, he is bound. He can in no way be allowed to withdraw his word. If he wishes it or she wishes it, it is not permitted. For the most part, this self sacrifice is made by the maidens. End quote.


Then there's a whole ceremony involves a lot of drinking, a lot of pronouncements and all kinds of things. It also involves a person, a female, known, he says, as the angel of Death. Remember, he's an eyewitness to this. This is why this account is so important. He's not telling you something he's heard.


This is something he saw. How many people ever wrote anything down like this? And, of course, how many of those accounts ever survived to come into our hands today? So he talks about this boat that is laid out with all sorts of precious material and whatnot. And a couch is put on it and the boat is dragged onto shore and they build sort of a facade around it and over it, and then talks about the slave girl who drinks to insensibility, makes a bunch of pronouncements.


She's got a role to play in this whole ceremony, too. And then he writes, quote, thereupon an old woman came whom they call the angel of Death and spread the draperies mentioned over the couch, meaning the couch on the boat she had held the oversight over the sewing of the garments of the deceased and their completion. This old woman kills the girl. I saw that she was an old giantess, fat and grim to behold, end quote. He says that they then bring a bunch of different animals to the boat that the chieftain is laid in including all sorts of food, drink, fruits, flowers and everything else bread, meat, onions.


Then they brought a dog, he says, and chopped it into two halves and laid the halves on the boat. Then they brought weapons and laid them by his side. Then they took horses and chopped them in half which is not an easy thing to do but it's probably a little bit easier than what they do next, which he says, they take two whole live cows and cut them in two. Again, not an easy thing to do and then laid them in the boat. And then he writes, quote, the maiden who wished to be put to death went here and there and entered each of the tents where the head of each tent had intercourse with her saying, say to thy Lord, I have done this out of love of thee.


End quote. So what it seems like they're saying there is take this message to wherever the spirit of the guy who just died is and tell him I'm having intercourse with you because I love him. Interesting how the different cultures of the world can seem to us now. She then takes part in some ceremonies involved and some drinking and some statements. And then he says, as it gets time for the killing of her to happen, he says, quote, I saw then how disturbed she was.


She wished to go into the tent but put her head between the tent and the side of the boat. Then the old woman, the angel of death, took her by the head, made her go into the tent and also entered with her whereupon the men began to beat their shields with the staffs so that her shrieks would not be heard and the other maidens became terrified. Then six men went into the tent and all had intercourse with the girl. Then they placed her beside her dead lord. Two men seized her by the feet and two by the hands.


Then the old woman placed a rope in which a bite, meaning a noose, had been made and gave it to two of the men to pull at the two ends. Then the old woman came to her with a broad bladed dagger and began to jab it into her ribs and pull it out again. And the two men strangled her until she was dead. End quote. The end result of all of this is she's laid in the boat next to the dead chieftain.


The boat is then set on fire, goes up in smoke and you have a very high ranking version of the Viking funeral. The low ranking version, by the way. They say if it's not a Chieftain they often just put them into a boat with weapons, light it on fire and push it out into a river or the ocean or whatever it might be. And as we've been mentioning, it is difficult to know how much one can talk about this, as in air quotes, Viking funeral versus some sort of hybrid Viking Slavic Eastern sort of deal. Because in all the areas, as we've said, that the Scandinavians sort of touch upon and enter into, they become more like the locals.


They start to fuse with them. And they certainly adopt styles and practices, weapons, armor, tactics, maybe sometimes even religious beliefs of the locals. That's how you get people like the Norse Irish in Ireland for right, this what did we say? The shrapnel begins to be absorbed into the flesh of the local population. Well, here in the east, it's an eastern population.


You want to get a sense of the vibe, go look at artist renderings of these Eastern Vikings or these Rus people. They look like Vikings with an Eastern sort of flair, right? The hairstyles, the weapons, the armor. The armor is sometimes lamellir armor, which is sort of fish scaly, looks different than chain mail. You don't see a lot of lamellir armor in the west, but this is something you see all throughout history.


I mean, the Steppe people are famous for this, the nomadic horse archer people from the entire Eurasian landmass. They tend to look like the big settled societies that they operate near. I mean, if you're on the borders of China and you're a Step tribe, well, you're trading with China, aren't you? You're raiding with China. You're intermarrying with the Chinese in the border areas, and you tend to look kind of, well, Chinese.


If you're Step tribes north of Persia, you have an Iranian sort of feel. If your Step tribes in the west and you're getting your fabrics and your armor and your weapons from the Byzantines, either through raiding or trading, well, you tend to look like a Western steppe tribe. And these Scandinavian peoples have this same sort of feel to them. And if you ever go look at an artist rendering of the Scandinavian peoples in Eastern Europe, they sort of look different than the Scandinavian peoples in Ireland, for example, or northwestern France, in Graves, in the merchant town that's located in modern day Sweden. Now, Burka, they have found clear influences from the east and the Step nomads and hairstyles, for example, the Rus will always look a little Step nomad in terms of their particular look.


And in his book The Children of Ashen Elm, historian Neil Price talks about these Burka burials and the fact that the Eastern Vikings were starting to look, well, very Eastern indeed. And he writes, quote, recalling the people in the Burka chamber burials, the mounted archers with their recurved bows and special thumb rings, the Rus appear as military elites who have adopted the best equipment and tactics of those they might have to fight. Ornate silks and caftans have been found in Graves across Scandinavia, and depictions on gatlandic picturestones of warriors wearing the wide baggy trousers that characterized Persian and Arab fashions similarly imply that Viking dress codes were infused with an element of foreign flair. The same individuals also had armor of the Byzantine type, as well as the lamelier that was particular to the mounted step nomads of Eurasia all while the isotopes and genomic analysis indicate that they themselves were Scandinavian origin. In a way, this almost appears to be a uniform, not in the sense of identical clothes, but in a recognized repertoire of symbolism and style, what one scholar has called a Turkic military outfit.


End quote. There are some other elements in play, too, where you can see why the Scandinavian Vikings in the east would start to diverge a little bit from the ones in the west. One has to do with cultural affinity in some places in the west. England's a perfect example. The Vikings are running into people that are quite a bit like themselves in some respects.


I mean, the Anglo Saxons in England spoke a language that was probably mutually intelligible. They could probably speak to the Vikings in the past. They had the same gods. They look like them, they sound like them, they have a bunch of the same sorts of customs. It's not that way in the east.


What's more, as we've said before, the east is a much more dangerous neighborhood. There are many more cultures coming together in a kind of a cultural estuary in the east, a sort of a meeting of a bunch of different worlds. The Scandinavians in the east are much more, in a population and numbers sense, a drop in the bucket. We quoted historians in Part One of this discussion who suggested that the population of Scandinavia in its entirety during this era might have been around 2 million human beings. And remember, it's only a small percentage of that 2 million that's going to go down the river systems in the east and become the Ros.


Well, they're intermixing with a Slavic population that's enormous. The Slavs today are still the largest, I believe, ethno linguistic group in Europe during this time period. There would have been many, many millions of Slavs divided into all sorts of different Slavic tribes. How much of an impact could a small amount of Scandinavian adventurers or conquerors have had on such a large population? Maybe they're a layer of leadership or a dominant group amongst a bunch of different tribes.


Hard to know. Archeology is helping to flesh out some of the answers to these questions by studying graves, grave goods, skeletons. But what's missing are the stories, the sort of things that you would get from written accounts. And as we've said and said extensively in the first part of this series, the Byzantines would write about some of this stuff. But when the Rus first appear in the Byzantine accounts, they're treated like an almost unknown people.


Remember, let's review here for a minute. The first time you hear about these Rus is in the 830s, back in Western Europe, we told the story of the two or three Rus travelers who show up in a court of a Frankish king and the Byzantines send them there and say, can you help these people get home? If they go the direct route, ferocious tribes will kill them. And the Frankish Emperor has to say, well, tell me who you are, and we'll try to get you home. And they say, we're rus.


And he doesn't know what that means. They have to go do some investigative work and they finally determine that Rus means swedes and these are swedes. So that's in the 830s, there is a rumor, is a good way to put it, or a tradition that there might have been an attack on some Byzantine territories in the 830s also. But most historians seem to discount that. What they don't discount is the story we told in the first part of the show about the great raid on the suburbs of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in the 860s.


Right. 860. Famously, we told that story and the Byzantines treated that like a brand new people had shown up in their territory from some parts unknown. Which doesn't make any sense if a couple decades before, they'd been sending them to the Frankish Emperor and telling them these are Rus people, get them home. Nonetheless, in that whole era, we really don't know who, for example, the rulers were, what the politics were, or any of that sort of stuff.


Now, you'll get some of that from the Byzantine records later. We do have some information about what's going on in terms of the stories from this era. But as is usual with these sorts of situations, they're not written down for hundreds of years. And the people who wrote them down have their own reasons for writing them down, which makes the information suspect and requires historians to be very vigilant about what they accept and what they don't, and try to cross reference and double check things. Those of you who know this story know I'm talking about a bunch of documents put together and chronicled in something called the Russian Primary Chronicle, supposedly written by Christian monks, one specifically named Nestor, living in caves.


So you get a sense now of what we might be dealing with here. It is compiled hundreds of years after the events in question, and there are reasons why these monks might have skewed the story, including trying to sort of trace back the ruling dynasty's lineage and give support to the legitimacy of that. It is a fascinating text, though, anyway. You slice it, and when you hear the accounts, you realize what a different animal it is than the sorts of information we have from archeology, from Byzantine accounts or anything else. So it makes it very valuable in that respect.


Maybe as a jumping off point for detective work, but, boy, when you read it, you also see stuff that reminds you of, like, Grimm's fairy tales, Greek mythology, J-R-R Tolkien stuff. So well, take it with a grain of salt. I, by the way, use the Samuel Hazard cross. And Olgurd P, sherbovitz vetser. Translation and what's wonderful about these sorts of documents is that they will start the story at a logical beginning point.


And the Russian Primary Chronicle begins with the biblical flood of Noah and sort of works its way down. We call that comprehensive where I come from, but the chronicle tells the, shall we call it, legendary story of the founding of what will be called the Kievan Rus State. And it involves three brothers from Scandinavia. The story is that the Slavic tribes in what's now, Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine, Russia, that whole area, really. A central area, sort of.


If you drew a line from like St. Petersburg now, all the way down to Istanbul and there's that whole area in between because the people who became the Kiev and Rus desperately want to get to where the money is and the money's in Constantinople. So if you start in Sweden and you want to get to Constantinople and you want to control the pipeline in between, well, that's the area we're talking about here. And the Russian Primary Chronicle says there were all these Slavic tribes in that area that the Varangians, as they call them, these Scandinavians come in there, try to bully their way around, force the locals to pay tribute. The locals eventually throw them out, but then ask them back later.


And they ask them back later because the tribes of Slavs are all fighting with each other when they need someone to come in and rule them. This is the very basis, by the way, of that Normanist, anti Normanist controversy we've talked about. Is this a bunch of Scandinavians who are imparting their DNA and their culture on the locals and improving them? What did Hitler say? Something like, if it weren't for the Scandinavian infusion of blood, the Russians would still be living like rabbits.


The opposite viewpoint are the people in the Soviet Union who think that the whole thing is a bit of a scam and that this is mostly a Slavic story and all this other stuff is a bunch of meaningless sort of fringe material that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. But the story is that these three brothers are asked by the Slavs to come back and rule over them because they need someone to prevent the violence between the Slavic tribes. This might sound weird, except we should realize that bringing in royal families from completely other dynasties and places is not unusual at all. The current British royal family, for example, is German. You look at people like the Habsburgs that besides marrying into all kinds of places and conquering all kinds of places, sometimes when you just needed a ruler and you didn't have one, you'd bring a Habsburg in.


It also kind of makes sense if you have a bunch of tribes, none of whom wants to have their royal family ruling over them from one of their competitors. So you bring in a non biased, outside source, right, with no allegiance to any of the tribes that are involved in the current conflict, an outside, unbiased person to come in here and rule fairly. So the Russian Primary Chronicle, written by these monks in caves, supposedly hundreds of years later, tells the story, and here's the way they tell it. Quote The Varangians from beyond the sea imposed tribute upon the Chuds, the Slavs, the Marians, the Vess and the Crevicians, but the Khazars imposed it upon the Polyanians, the Severians and the Viachians, and collected a white squirrel skin from each hearth. End quote.


The Khazars are in a very important group of people in this era. They are a Step tribe confederacy. They are Turkish and other ethnicities, as these Step tribes tend to be. And the upper echelons of the Khazars converted to Judaism, which is a rather unusual thing. I'm interested in the squirrel skin comment, because if you think about peoples who exist in a mostly non currency sort of society, if somebody wants to force them to pay tribute, how do they pay?


And the story basically says that they required each homeowner to deliver their share of the tribute, in this case, a white squirrel skin. Well, if you have hundreds of homes that pay tribute to you and you say, I want a white squirrel skin from each of you, you end up at the end of the day with hundreds of squirrel skins, don't you? The Russian Primary Chronicle continues talking about how these Slavic peoples and others by the way, those aren't all Slavic groups, as I understand it, throw the Vorangians out and send them home to where they came from. Quote the tributaries of the Varangians drove them back beyond the sea and refusing them further tribute, set out to govern themselves. There was no law among them, but tribe rose against tribe.


Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against another. They said to themselves, let us seek a prince who may rule over us and judge us according to the law. They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian. Ruses. These particular Varangians were known as Ruses, just as some are called Swedes and others Normans, English and Gottlanders, for they were thus named the Chuds, the Slavs, the Crevitians and the Vess then said to the people of Rus, our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it.


Come to rule and reign over us. End quote. The Chronicle then says that they selected three brothers who would come and rule over them, and each of the brothers was going to take and rule one of the key trading post towns along the rivers that formed sort of the pipeline from the Baltic to the money port of Constantinople and Byzantium. But within two years, the chronicle says, two of the three brothers died, leaving the one brother that's famous. His name is Rurik.


Now, to me, Rurik is an Eastern version of a figure that reminds me of Ragnar Lothbrook in the west, right? Famous Viking. You see him on television, in the movies all the time. But Ragnar loathbrook's a figure that no one's exactly sure if he was even real or if he was real. He's had so much myth and legend piled on top of him that maybe the real person doesn't even resemble the know in the stories.


But what you can say about Ragnar Luthbrook is his descendants are real, and you can say the same thing about Rurik. You get a sense in the Russian primary chronicle that stuff is happening without it necessarily being spelled out to, you know, more of these Slavic tribes are paying tribute, that things are being consolidated by the time Rurik dies. It seems like it's a more subtle situation. The chronicle says he turns things over to a member, it says, of his kin not his child, but his kin, who'll be known to history as Oleg. The Russian histories call him Oleg the Wise.


Now, if these don't particularly sound like Viking Scandinavian names to you, there's a reason for that. They are all sort of reimagined through a Slavic lens. So when you read the history books, the historians will often go to great pains to give you the likely Viking name for these people originally. And then you get to see what the Slavic version of it is. So Rurik was probably Eric.


Oleg was probably helgi. It goes like that. Eventually, the names will be Slavic from the get go, and then that supposedly signifies some major change there, right when you're not any longer giving them Viking Scandinavian names but naming them Slavic names, something's gone different. So Oleg the Wise is famous. He does the same thing Rurik does in terms of consolidating things, expanding things.


These early rulers change the tribute that people are paying. So oftentimes they'll deal with these tribes who are paying tribute to someone else. The Khazars we mentioned earlier are famous. The Bulgars are another one, and they'll know who you're paying tribute to. And they'll say and the Scandinavian, Rus Verangians, will say, well, stop paying tribute to them and start paying it to me.


Sometimes they'll say, we'll charge you less. Usually they'll say if they give you any trouble, they can come talk to us. And so there's this process of sort of taking over. In the last show, we compared some of the Viking activities to sort of the organized crime or the mob moving in. If you want to give that overtone to this, it still sort of works coming in here and taking over the territory from the other mob.


The best story in the Russian primary chronicle, whether it's true or not, again, this all sounds like Greek mythology or Grimm's fairy tales to me sometimes. And you can tell by the story of how Oleg dies. So the story about how Oleg dies involves a wizard, and the wizard tells Oleg that his horse is going to be the reason he dies. Now, if somebody told you that your horse was going to be the reason you died long before your horse does anything to you, what would you do? Probably the same thing that Oleg does.


When the wizard says your horse is going to be the bane of your existence, he sends the horse away, doesn't hold anything against the horse. Tells his underlings to take it far away, feed it, take good care of it, just don't have it near me. And then one day, when the prophecy is supposed to come true and Oleg finds himself still alive, he says to one of his squires, the Russian primary chronicle says and you can see how very different this is, can't you? From information an archeologist would provide or something the Byzantines would write, right? This is the origin story as told by the descendants of the people they're writing about.


But Oleg says to the squire, whatever happened to that horse that was supposed to be the death of me? And the Russian primary chronicle says, quote the squire answered that he was dead, meaning the horse was dead. Oleg laughed and mocked the magician, meaning the wizard exclaiming, soothsayers tell untruths and their words are not but falsehoods. This horse is dead, but I am still alive. Then he commanded that a horse should be saddled.


Let me see his bones, said he. He rode to the place where the bare bones and skull lay dismounting from his horse. He laughed and remarked, so I was supposed to receive my death from this skull? And then he stamped upon the skull with his foot, but a serpent crawled forth from it and bit him on the foot so that in consequence, he sickened and died. End quote.


Now, I suppose there's a tiny chance that that's what actually happened, but you could see why people take the Russian primary chronicle, especially these early parts of the story, with more than a grain of salt. And you can also see, though, why it's the kind of material you just don't get from the other sources, right? Sometimes you're left with something that might not be good enough to hang your hat on, but if it's all you have, well, it's hard to throw away in its entirety, isn't it? Now, Oleg leads to Igor, and Igor is a fascinating character, including because of the woman he marries. Igor marries Olga.


There's a lot of names, I realize, but Olga is also supposed to be a Scandinavian person. Her name was probably Helga in the Scandinavian naming system. She's fascinating. In fact, I'm trying to think I know there has to be more because there's so many Christian saints. I'm trying to think of a Christian saint with a more bloody, vindictive, retributionally, violent sort of temperament that would outstrip Olga's reputation.


And I can't think of one off the top of my head. But some would say Olga had a good reason for being the way that she was, because Olga's husband will be killed by a Slavic tribe. Now, if you are a Slavic proponent, you will say that they had a very good reason to kill Igor, because what happens is, like his predecessors before him, igor will go and lay tribute on these Slavic tribes. He shows up, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle, to this one tribe with his army and basically know that amount you were paying to my predecessor, we're raising the rent, right? So you're going to pay me more.


And what could they do? He had the army with them. They just sort of meekly said, okay. And then he and the army head back to headquarters. But on the way, the Primary Chronicle says he decided he was going to raise it even more.


So he goes back to the people whose rent the tribute he just raised, but he only brings a small bodyguard with him. And when he tells the Slavic tribe he's raising the rent even more than he said he was, they kill him. The traditional account is, and you'll run into this quite a bit, that they tie each of his legs to a birch tree that is bent over under tension and that will pull his legs in opposite directions. And then when they let go of the birch tree, it splits him right up the middle. And then they have the gall to go to his wife, Olga, and tell her what they did to her husband.


And then they have the greater gall to say, well, now that your husband is dead, we think you should marry our leader. And that's where the story gets fantastic again. Is it true? Who knows? It's not something the archeologist, at least at this time, can confirm, and it's not something that the Byzantine documents confirm.


But Olga basically says, oh, yeah, you know, what am I going to do? My husband's dead. And the story starts off from there, and it's just wickedly retributional. Quote olga was informed that the Durevlians, that's the Slavic tribe in question, had arrived and summoned them to her presence with a gracious welcome. When the Durevlians had announced their arrival, olga replied with an inquiry as to the reason of their coming.


The Durevlians then announced that their tribe had sent them to report that they had slain her husband because he was like a wolf, crafty and ravening, but that their princes, who had thus preserved the land of Deriva, were good and that Olga should come and marry their prince, whose name was Mal. Olga made this reply quote, your proposal is pleasing to me indeed, my husband cannot rise again from the dead. But I desire to honor you tomorrow in the presence of my people. Return now to your boat and remain there with an aspect of arrogance. I shall send for you on the morrow.


End quote. She then has her people show up the next day after they have dug a big trench without the Derevlians knowing about it. They pick them up in this boat. They carry them in this boat to the trench. They throw them in the trench and then they bury them alive.


Olga's not even close to being done, though. She then, according to the chronicle, sends a message back to the Durevlians basically saying, quote if they really required her presence, they should send after her their most distinguished men so that she might go to their prince with due honor, for otherwise her people in Kiev would not let her go. End quote. Right, send me your best people, they'll conduct me to you and we'll get this marriage thing underway, basically. So they send their best people to her.


When they arrive, she says that she's set up a wonderful bath in a bathhouse for them. They should go sort of wash off the dirt from the trip. And then she'll receive them. When they all go into the bathhouse, she has her people burn it down with them in it. But Olga's not done yet.


She then tells the Derevlians that she's coming to them, that they should prepare a feast with lots of alcoholic beverages and they'll party it up well. And then she shows up. Everybody gets drunk. She has a small escort with her. And when everybody gets drunk, she has her followers kill everyone.


The Russian primary Chronicle says that her followers killed down 5000 of the Durevlians, but that she wasn't done even yet. Olga then returns to Kiev, the chronicle says, and prepares her army to attack the survivors. It does. She puts their city under siege, it says, for a year. Eventually, both sides tire of the siege and they know, what do we have to do to get this resolved?


And she says, I only want a sparrow, actually three pigeons and three sparrows. I correct myself from each house. And then when they're really happy to find out that that's all she wants they deliver up the three sparrows or three pigeons from each house. She ties sulfur and other inflammatory materials to each one of them, releases them. The primary chronicle says they instantly return to where they came from.


All the various houses with their thatched roofs light, the whole city on fire. The whole thing burns down. And as the Russian primary chronicle says, quote there was not a house that was not consumed and it was impossible to extinguish the flames because all the houses caught fire at once. The people fled from the city and Olga ordered her soldiers to catch them. Thus she took the city and burned it and captured the elders of the city.


Some of the other captives she killed, while she gave others as slaves to her followers, the remnants she left to pay tribute. End quote. Now, spoiler alert. In the future, Olga is going to be sainted. She's going to become a Christian saint.


When was the last Christian saint that you can think of off the top of your head responsible for as much retributional, violence as Olga is? She's clearly one of the women in history you would least want to make angry with you. But is any of this stuff about Olga, or for that matter, Rurik or Oleg or Igor true? All this stuff from the Russian Primary Chronicle is open to debate and inspection and critique. What's more, I like the other name that the Russian Primary Chronicle is known by.


It's also called the Tale of Bygone Years, which makes it sound less authoritative and more like a hobbit might have written it right. It's the Red Book of West March or something like that. And historians trying to disentangle truth from fiction in it have not only been trying now for generations, but they often disagree on what they consider to be truth and falsehood. I mean, there are several attacks on Constantinople that some historians think happened and others think didn't. The question of Olga all by herself is interesting.


In the emergence of Rus, historians Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard point out that the Olga story is formulaic and symbolic. And they write, quote, olga has ample space in the Primary Chronicle, and she also became the subject of a quasi hagiographical eulogy, end quote. They point out that she meets certain specifications for how women are supposed to behave in the time that the Primary Chronicle was written, saying, quote yet Olga emphatically confirms the rule. In the first place, her status is within the norms. She is shown as holding power not in her own right, but as her husband's widow during her son's minority.


And her actions against the Durevlians were her revenge for her husband's murder. Secondly, they write, most narratives about her have a curiously feminine texture, unlike the equivalent narratives about men. Mal, the Prince of the Durevlians, sends envoys to Olga, proposing marriage. Olga agrees and orders that the envoys be carried up to Kiev in their boat. When the envoys reach Olga's compound, the boat is cast into a pit and the envoys are buried alive in it.


This, they say, is Olga's first revenge. She then requests more envoys to escort her on her journey to her bridegroom. When they arrive, she suggests they take a bath. The doors are then locked, the bathhouse is set on fire, and the envoys are burned alive. Finally, they write, olga goes to the land of the Durevlians, requesting only that before marrying, she might hold a funeral feast for her husband.


At the feast, the Durevlians drink themselves into a stupor, whereupon Olga's men set upon them and cut them to pieces, all 5000 of them. These, they write, are formulaic tales under the guise of betrothal, olga sets a series of riddles with cryptic clues symbolizing not a marriage, but a funeral boat, burial, washing the body, cremation, the funeral feast. The penalty for not decoding the riddle is death and the derevlians drink at their own funeral feast. End quote. During the time period we just mentioned, there are a couple of treaties that are signed between the Rus or some of the Rus and the Byzantines.


These treaties are interesting because trying to figure out why treaties are being signed has created confusion. The Russian Primary Chronicle says they're signed because, well, they're ending conflicts, right? When do you sign a treaty? When you end a war. But whether these conflicts occurred or not is also controversial.


I have many books on the subject. I would off the top of my head say about 60% believe that these conflicts, but the treaties are supposed to settle didn't happen. About 40% buy the idea that they did. The Russian primary chronicle. The Tale of bygone years says that they did.


But this may be a later insertion to explain why there are treaties. For example, Viking historians Fevrior Jacobson in the vorangians God's Holy Fire, writes, quote the treaty is placed into the primary chronicle in context of the attack by Prince Oleg on Constantinople in 907. There is, however, no distinct reference to such a raid in any Roman sources, meaning any Byzantine sources, which is in stark contrast to the raid of 860. It could thus be surmised that Oleg's attack on Constantinople was a later invention, perhaps intended to explain the circumstances of the treaty, which itself does not refer to any raid, only to a long standing friendship between the Rus and the Roman Empire. End quote.


In his book Northmen The Viking Saga, viking expert John Haywood puts it this way quote According to the Primary Chronicle, oleg led an attack on Constantinople in nine seven. If he did, no one in Constantinople appears to have noticed because it is not mentioned in any Byzantine sources. End quote. Yet, as I said, about 40% of the histories you'll read by the idea that those attacks happened. I'm not a historian, I can't make distinctions between arguments between historians.


So I'm going to treat those attacks as suspect and stick with the ones we know happened because there's going to be another one. But before we get to it, you have to know about a geopolitical firestorm that erupts, that changes everything in the eastern Viking Varangian Rus world. And that is the latest eruption of the newest Step tribe du Jour. If you follow Eurasian steppe tribe history, you know that they break like waves upon the settled societies that ring the Eurasian Step. And there's always another wave behind the current breaking crest.


And in the late 800s, early nine hundred s, the newest wave is the petch and eggs. And these people blow through the kazars and the Magyars and destroy the stabilization that has occurred in that region over the previous decades disrupt everything. When the Byzantines suggest to the Magyars, also known as the Hungarians, that they fight these new tribal peoples from the east, the Hungarians say they can't. In the emergence of rose. Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepherd have this quote quote the petchin eggs overran the grazing grounds of the Hungarians during the 890s having been egged on by the ruler of Bulgaria, Simeon, the region between the dawn and the Donyet Steppes in the east and the Nister and then subsequently the Danube in the west lay at their disposal.


They were markedly poorer than the Hungarians in terms of material culture, ornaments and riding gear. But they were, perhaps for that reason, more ferocious. When a Byzantine emissary tried to stir up the Hungarians against the petchin eggs, they protested. Now, quoting the Hungarians, quote we cannot fight them for their country is vast and their people numerous and they are the Devil's brats. End quote.


The devil's brats. I love that term. And the Devil's Brats are going to create geopolitical upheaval, threaten the trade routes, make life miserable for lots of different people, the Rus not least amongst them on this superhighway from the Baltic to Constantinople and beyond that to Baghdad, there are going to be spots where the Rus traders have to take their boats over land. And that, we are told in the original sources, is where the pension eggs wait for them and they get them. But crisis can create opportunity.


And in many places it is thought that these Rus warriors are able to make new inroads and create new tributary societies amongst the slavs because all of a sudden these slavs desperately need protection from the petchin eggs. And these Rus, these Vikings of the east, are strong, well equipped warriors. And one of the things I find interesting is you can start to see the development of what we can call true cavalry here in the east. That's part of a Newtonian formula. In warfare, for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction.


When you are fighting mounted people in wide open country eventually you learn that you need to be mounted too. And true cavalry, meaning fighting as cavalry, will start in the east long before it does in the west. And of course when I say that, I mean Scandinavian cavalry because of course cavalry had been fighting as cavalry in some parts of the world for 2000 years or something by this time. But the Scandinavians in the eastern areas will adopt true cavalry quite a bit of time before the Scandinavians in the west will. It's in 941 that we see the famous great attack on Constantinople by the Rus that no one denies that there are multiple sources for as we said earlier, if it bleeds, it leads.


Kind of works for history the same way it does for journalism. And that's why the earlier attacks that supposedly happened in 907, for example, are harder to believe because you can't really have one of those big attacks without a bunch of people writing about it. Well, not easily, anyway. And the famous 941 attack is written about by a lot of sources proving the point. We should talk a little bit about the place that's attacked, because we've mentioned it before, but it bears some discussion.


We call it the Byzantine Empire. This is a misnomer. That's not something anyone living during this time period we're talking about would have understood or used or called themselves. The people in what we call the Byzantine Empire called themselves Roman. And it's easy to understand why.


All you have to do is pretend that the same thing that left the Byzantines in the position the Byzantines are in by this time happened to a place like the I mean, what would happen if in some future time, an invasion of the United States happened and the invaders were able to conquer all the way to somewhere in the Midwest? Let's just, you know, Illinois, Indiana, that whole area. So California to Indiana is gone, taken over, becomes a bunch of separate kingdoms. But every place east of Know, from Know, Michigan, all the way to the East Coast, remained as it was the United States. As we halted the invaders at the Midwest and we continued on for another thousand years, would you call that something different?


Would the people in those territories rename the United States as something else just because they lost some of it? Well, that's what happened to the Eastern Roman Empire when the barbarian tribes and the various other groups were able to eventually, let's just say extinguish government in the Roman West, the Roman East remained for another thousand years. What matters, though, in this discussion is that there is an unbroken historical tradition in those places that dates back, well, a good 1300 years. What would you say? I mean, Julius Caesar is in the 50s BCE.


Well, they still call their emperor Kaiser. That's what Caesar would have been called in the Roman Latin, right? Khazar. And by Julius Caesar's time in the 50s BCE, roman military tradition is hundreds of years old. Already they write this stuff down.


It continues to build upon the information that's been compiled since at least the Pyrrhic invasions of the 280s BCE. So there's a huge amount, a wellspring, we can say, of military and technological knowledge in a place like Constantinople in this time period that dates back, well, a long way during this time, the estimated population of the city of Constantinople is about a half million people. This is probably somewhat less than the city of Rome at Rome's height, which has been estimated somewhere between 750,000 and a million people. But this still makes it, at half a million people, the largest European city, the most technologically advanced European city, the most wealthy European city, and they have weapons that these Rus can't even dream of. And when the Rus attack in 941, just like in the attack in 860, it is well timed and that might not be an accident.


They may know, intelligence wise that the Byzantine navy and army is away fighting elsewhere because just like in 860, in 941, it is away and fighting elsewhere. And the emperor is too. And the Rus attack, they come down the rivers, they head into the Black Sea, they sail over to the Bosphorus and they begin to attack the suburbs and the places that have lighter defenses because the defenses of Constantinople are famous. And it's part of the reason why it never fell to the barbarians back when the Western Roman Empire fell. It's one of the great defensible cities of all time.


It's mainly surrounded by water and the places where it's not, it has massive walls. We should point out, as I believe we did for the earlier attack in 860 that the ships or boats, whatever you want to call them it's somewhere between a ship and a boat that the Rus are using are not the long ships that they're using in the west. Because the long ships they're using in the west would never survive the river journeys with all the falls and the rapids and the rocks. They had to have boats that could be carried at times. So these are smaller craft.


The Greek name for them makes them sound like they're kind of like large dugout canoes, but they're wood. If you today were faced with a bunch of wooden boats that you needed to defend yourself against, what would be a good weapon to use against them? Because in 941, when the Byzantines are faced with this attack, the Eastern Romans, maybe we should say, are faced with this attack, they pull out all the technological stops. We are told in the sources that they have 15 old hulks, we would use the term mothballed today. And they pull them out of mothballs and they fit them with one of their great technological marvels.


I think the best term to use for it probably to be somewhat near accurate would be to call them flamethrowers. The Byzantines, the Eastern Romans have a weapon that the technological, scientific experts of today still can't figure out what it was composed of. We have all sorts of accounts because they used it to keep themselves free for a very long time. The historical term you will usually hear it referred to by is Greek fire. It is sometimes called Medean fire.


It is sometimes called liquid fire. It is sometimes called sticky fire. There are lots of theories as to what the formula for this was. But it should be pointed out that the reason that this isn't better understood is because this is a jealously guarded state secret. In fact, I was reading that the Byzantines, the Eastern Romans, would make sure to keep the people who dealt with the Greek fire in compartmentalized situations, right?


So no one knew everything about it. These people might handle the making of it, these other people might handle the distribution of it, these other people might handle the wielding of it, but no one knew everything. And that's how you kind of keep the secret from getting out. There's a famous Byzantine manual written by one emperor to his son, and in it he talks about a lot of different things of importance that his son should know in ruling the empire. But one thing he wants his son to understand is you keep this technological marvel, this superweapon secret, or else.


And the account says, quote similar care and thought you must take in the matter of the liquid fire, which is discharged through tubes, so that if any shall ever venture to demand this too, as they've often made demands of us also, you may rebut and dismiss them in words like these. Now he's telling his son what to say to people that might want to put him in a position where he's forced to reveal the secret to Greek fire. Quote this too was revealed and taught by God through an angel to the great and holy Constantine, the first Christian emperor. And concerning this too, he received great charges from the same angel. And as we are assured by the faithful witness of our fathers and grandfathers that it should be manufactured among the Christians only and in this city ruled by them, and nowhere else at all, nor should it be sent nor taught to any other nation whatsoever.


And so, for the confirmation of this among those who should come after him, this great emperor caused curses to be inscribed on the holy stable of the Church of God, that he who should dare give of this fire to another nation should neither be called a Christian nor be held worthy of any rank or office. And if he should be the holder of any such, he should be expelled therefrom and be anathemicized and made an example forever and ever, whether he were emperor or patriarch or any other man, whatever, either ruler or subject, who should seek to transgress this commandment. And he adjured all who had had the zeal and fear of God to be prompt to make a way with him who attempted to do this as a common enemy and a transgressor of this great commandment, and to dismiss him to a death most hateful and cruel. And it happened once, as wickedness will still find room that one of our military governors, who had been most heavily bribed by certain foreigners, handed over some of this fire to them. And since God could not endure to leave unavenged this transgression, as he was about to enter the holy Church of God, fire came down out of heaven and devoured and consumed him utterly.


And thereafter, mighty dread and terror were implanted in the hearts of all men. And never since then has anyone, whether emperor or noble or private citizen or military governor or any man of any sort whatever, ventured to think of such a thing, far less to attempt to do it or bring it to pass. End quote. That is quite an admonition, isn't it? And that shows exactly how much of an important secret weapon this Greek fire was.


In his short history of Byzantium, the historian of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich, puts it this way quote It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Greek fire in Byzantine history to the Saracens, it was all too familiar to the Russians, a total surprise. End quote. Earlier in the work, he describes how it worked against the Saracens and says, quote The Byzantines, moreover, possessed a secret weapon. To this day, we are uncertain of the composition of Greek fire. Whether it was sprayed over an enemy vessel or poured into long, narrow cartridges and catapulted against its objective, the results were almost invariably catastrophic.


The flaming oil based liquid floated upon the surface of the sea, frequently igniting the wooden hulls of the ships, causing an additional hazard to those who tried to jump overboard. End quote. The Byzantine Princess Anna Comnini, writing a couple hundred years later and maybe talking about something different, seems to slip and give a little bit of the recipe, maybe when she wrote, quote now, this fire was chemically prepared in the following manner from the pine and other similar evergreen trees, they gather resin, which burns easily. This is rubbed with sulfur and introduced into reed tubes. A man blows on it with a strong, sustained breath, as though he were playing a pipe.


And then it comes in contact with the fire at the end of the tube, bursts into flames and falls like a flash of lightning on the faces in front of it. End quote. She also describes how they would use this in a way where it was sprayed out of the sculptures, the metal carvings and images of, like, wild animals and lions and dragons. And she says, quote the emperor thereupon ordered all provinces of the Roman Empire to provide ships. Many were also made in Constantinople itself.


From time to time, he used to board a ship with one bank of oars and give advice himself to the shipwrights about their construction. He, meaning the emperor, knew the Pizans, were masters of naval warfare and he feared a sea battle with them. End quote. Let me stop here. They were fighting the Pisans at the time.


This is hundreds of years after the time period we're talking about. But this is what matters for the time period we're talking about. Quote accordingly, he affixed on the prow of each vessel the heads of lions and other land animals. They were made of bronze or iron with wide open jaws. The thin layer of gold with which they were covered made the very sight of them terrifying.


Greek fire to be hurled at the enemy through tubes was made to issue from the mouths of these figureheads in such a way that they appeared to be belching out the fire. End quote. So these 15 mothballed rotting hulks of galleys are brought out of storage. They are loaded with these tubes that can shoot out essentially this explosive flamethrower like material. And when these wooden dugout canoes end up surrounding these galleys, the Byzantines, these Eastern Romans, turn the flamethrowers on the wooden vessels of the Rus.


And it is, as the historian we recently quoted said, catastrophic. There are multiple accounts that confirm that the Rus are defeated by fire. That's how many of the accounts put it by fire. One account is by a man whose stepfather visits Constantinople right after this four month long attack occurs. His name is, and I think it's pronounced Ludprand of Cremona.


And he talks about how the Byzantines, just like in 860, were taken by surprise in 941 and that the ruse devastated the area near the coast. They were said to be crucifying people, driving nails into their heads, chopping them up, using them for target practice with arrows, raping women, taking slaves, the whole nine yards. And this Ludprand of Cremona says that the 15 old galleys were rigged with the Greek fire. And in their book The Emergence of Ros, historians Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepherd talk about this original story from Ludbrand of Cremona and say, quote, if we believe Ludprand, the Byzantines were taken by surprise in June 941, as they had been in 860, and the Emperor Romanos La Capanos spent, quote, not a few sleepless nights in reflection, end quote. Those are quotes from the original source by Ludprand.


While the Rus devastated areas near the coast, the day was saved by bringing 15, quote, battered old galleys, end quote, out of mothballs and rigging up Greek firethrowers at the Boughs, Stearns and Broadside. Ludprint depicts the Byzantines as winning fairly easily thanks to this non conventional weaponry. Rus'boats swarmed around the galleys, which began to, quote, project their fire all around. And the Rus, seeing the flames, hurled themselves from their boats, preferring death by water to live incineration. Some sank to the bottom under the weight of their querces and helmets.


Others caught fire even as they were swimming among the billows. Not a man escaped that day, save those who made it to the shore. End quote. The Byzantine army finally makes it back from where they were otherwise engaged, starts picking off the Rus soldiers on the shoreline where they're continuing to loot and commit atrocities. John Julius Norwich writes about the final part of the drama as the four month long attack is winding down and says that the Byzantine fleet, as the ships would return, would go right into combat with the Rus boats.


And he says, quote, the fleet, too, was on its way, and as each new squadron arrived, it went straight into the attack. Soon it was the Russians who were on the defensive. Autumn was approaching and they were anxious to sail for home, but it was too late. The Byzantine fleet was between them and the open sea and slowly closing in early in September, they made a desperate attempt to slip through the blockade, but suddenly the whole sea was aflame. As the Russian ships went up like matchwood, their crews leapt overboard.


The lucky ones were dragged down by the weight of their armor, while the rest met their death in the oil covered water, which blazed as fiercely as the ships. According to Leodprand of Cremona, his father was there when the emperor paraded a bunch of the Rus captives in front of an Italian diplomat and had them all beheaded in front of him. The 941 attack is fascinating to me, clearly, because I'm interested in the technological and military capabilities of early states in the Middle Ages and the ancient world, and the use of things like flamethrowers or naphtha weapons is going to be intriguing to me regardless. But it's also interesting because in this story of the Rus, right, these Vikings from the Eastern European sphere, this is the encounter that gives us multiple different sources that you can then use to sort of play off against each other and compare and contrast. Svever Jacobson in the Varangians in God's Holy Fire lists no less than five separate accounts of this affair, all of which have key differences.


So what this says is, well, two major things. One, it actually happened. Two, that the Byzantine victory was clearly gained through fire because all the sources mentioned the fire. But something else is involved, too, and you can tell when you compare these different sources and see that there are major differences between them. So something's not right.


How about this major difference? You don't know who's in charge of the rust during this period, and the differences in the sources point that out. If you just believe the Russian primary chronicle, it's clear, right? They go from Rurik clearly. Then you have Oleg, right, the guy who stomps on the horse's skull and gets bitten by the snake.


And then clearly after that, you have Igor, I mean, who's married to Olga. I mean, it's a very clear succession. But maybe the best source, according to Jacobson, for this entire 941 attack is a Hebrew letter. And the Hebrew letter, which is considered to be relatively contemporary, says that the leader of the 941 attack on Constantinople is Oleg, the guy who stomped on the horse's skull and got bitten by the snake on the foot. He's, according to the Russian primary chronicle, clearly dead and buried by this time.


So you start to see that that history before this Constantinople attack in 941 is hard to pin down. And these figures are less flesh and blood than some compilation of legendary accounts. That's hard to peel the layers back from and get. Your mind around. In fact, the first couple of figures that seem unequivocally real are Olga that we just mentioned, right?


She of the retributional violence against the Drevlians, although that story may be legendary. And her son, the first of the Rus rulers to clearly have from birth a Slavic name. If you've taken Russian history, you know it, because he's famous is Sviatoslav. We'd mentioned earlier that most of these earlier Rus rulers almost certainly had Nordic names that were reimagined through a Slavic lens, right? So Olga was helga, igor was Ingvar, that kind of thing.


But Sviatoslav was Sviatoslav from birth, apparently, and this is telling, Svevrier Jacobson writes about that quote. It is noteworthy that the son of Ingvar Igor has a Slavonic name rather than a Scandinavian one, which suggests the Rus were rapidly becoming assimilated into the surrounding Slavonic population, end quote. In fact, it's really hard to try to figure out what percentage of these people that the Byzantines were incinerating with their flamethrowers were actually Scandinavians and what percentage of them were Slavic tribes or step peoples or other groups of linguistic or ethnic elements from that region. It's, as we said, a cultural and ethnic estuary in that part of the world. And a lot of times it's not that hard to get a whole bunch of different peoples to join you on an endeavor like let's go attack Constantinople and get rich.


My favorite story about the attack on Constantinople is also, I believe, from one of these letters to the Khazars that suggests because they were trying to figure out why the Rus would attack Constantinople if the trade with the Byzantines was going so well. And that story is that the Byzantines encouraged the Rus to go attack the Khazars which they did. But then they were defeated by the Khazars and the Khazars made sort of an extortion blackmail demand on the Rus and said well, now that you attacked us because the Byzantines goaded you into it we're demanding that you attack the Byzantines or else. And so the Hebrew letter to the Kazars paints the entire attack of 941 as being done reluctantly by the Rus, and that maybe the Rus knew darn well what their chances of success were and felt like they had to do it anyway. Ancient and medieval history is wonderful that way, isn't it?


You just don't know what really happened. It is with Olga and Sviatislav, though, that you start to see things that you can actually grasp and hold and look at and say, okay, this is real. With Olga, it's less the story about her treatment of the Durevlians than her conversion to Christianity. And her conversion to Christianity is one of those things you see over and over again. Well, I was going to say in all history, but especially in the story of and I'm using air quotes here christianizing, the barbarians in Thor's Angels.


We talked about it extensively, how often it was that it was the wives of barbarian in air quotes, rulers who managed to either convert their husbands or their peoples or start the process of transitioning from the pagan religions to Christianity. My mother was always fond of saying that the women get the short end of the stick in the historical accounts, because the historical accounts up until recent times really followed the if it bleeds, it leads sort of approach. And so often it's about generals and these great kings and figures. And the women are there, though they're 50% of the population, they're not slaves. They're influencing the population all the time in ways that aren't always clear in the historical accounts.


They're more like a gravitational force acting on these figures that get all the publicity. But you can see in the Christianization process over hundreds and hundreds of years how important their role was. And Olga does this again. She doesn't manage to convert the rough to Christianity, but it's hard to see them doing so with her grandson, as they will spoiler alert, as they will do without her sort of laying the groundwork for it. Sometime after the attack of Constantinople in 941, within about 15 years, she goes to the Byzantine emperor.


He converts her and baptizes her into the faith. She goes back, she tries to convert her son's, Fiatislov, who says that he can't adopt the Christian religion because his entourage will laugh at him. But you can see that she has replanted the seeds because we said in 860, the first time that the Rus ever appeared in Constantinople as this sort of unknown people. The sources say that after that encounter, that the Byzantines sent out their evangelists to go convert them, right? The formula of cooking the barbarians, the same one that they were doing in the Know, the Frankish empire, was sending out their evangelists to go convert the heathen, right?


St. Lebwin and all those guys. This is the way what did we call it in part one? The long term anti terror strategy here is turn these heathen, pagan people who worship bloody warrior gods into fellow Christians. Now, that doesn't mean you're not going to have problems with them.


It just means that they're going to have societies more like your own. They're going to be more hierarchical. That's easier for you to deal with. You're going to incorporate them into what we would today call the family of respectable nations. And then they also become subject to the kinds of military and economic pressures that one organized state can impose upon another one.


There's another aspect of this that is sometimes overlooked, unless you are a fan of the history of the Middle Ages in Europe, because it's a huge problem over the course of the history of the Middle Ages in Europe, and that is who gets to decide who the bishops and archbishops are in all these mean? You'll see German emperors fighting with popes, you'll see English kings fighting with archbishops. I mean, it's a huge thing because all you have to realize and we said this in the first part of this discussion, which is what it means to have Christianity introduced into a pagan realm. It's a lot more than religion, it's a lot more than saving souls. It's things like an instant bureaucracy.


Just add Jesus, I think is the way we put it. Well, if you think about it that way, try to imagine how that would work in the modern world. I mean, can you imagine the Chinese or the Russians being able to decide, for example, who the United States Secretary of State might be? That's why so many of these rulers will try to create some sort of self sufficiency over time so that they don't have a foreign power deciding who some of their most important officials are going to be. I mean, it's explained very well in German historian Christian Raffensberger's book reimagining Europe, Kiev and Rus in the medieval World when he says, quote, it must be noted that the conversions discussed in this chapter are what are referred.


To as ecclesiastical conversions, which are and he's quoting someone else now quote often the consequence of sociopolitical strategies, power, economics, intellectual or psychological issues and other motives or expediencies that have, in fact, very little to do with religious feelings. End quote. Raffensberger continues, quote and though conversion due to true religious feeling and religious motives can be found throughout medieval history, including at the royal level, it is the more geopolitical reasoning behind conversion that will be examined here. Because of these social, political and economic reasons behind medieval royal conversion, historians for years have practically assumed that whoever Christianized a kingdom gained tacit control over that kingdom. That control was enforced by the appointment of bishops, by the Christianizing power bishops who were loyal to those who appointed them rather than to those they ministered to.


This created a strong foreign power center in a kingdom that could potentially have strong political consequences for the orientation of the kingdom's foreign policy interests. End quote. So while the Byzantine emperor might be thinking he's getting some extra value points that would help him get to heaven if he gets a lot of souls converted amongst the roasts for Jesus, there are some more real world political things on his mind also. And once Olga gives way to her son Sviatoslav, a man the Byzantines refer to as Svendoslavos, all of a sudden, every trick that the Byzantine emperor has, every tool in his toolbox has to be employed. Because Fyadoslav is a handful.


He is a warrior. He is one of these rulers that the minute he takes control, he starts attacking the people around him and turning the Rus into a major power in the region. It's interesting to watch Byzantine diplomacy at work because they will often use money and diplomatic agreements to try to play off potential troublemakers to their foreign policy against each other. And they try to use Sviatoslav this way, too. But it backfires when they get him to attack some of their other enemies and he defeats them and becomes stronger with every victory.


Now the Byzantines have created their own kind of monster. The Russian Primary Chronicled, the Tale of Bygone years, describes Sviatoslav this way when he takes over from his mom, Olga. Remember, he's the one that, when Olga tries to tell him to become a Christian, says, if I do that, my retinue will laugh at me. He's also, by the way, the physical living embodiment of the sort of linguistic and ethnic fusion that you're seeing amongst the Rus during this period, where they're not just Scandinavian and Slavic anymore, they're Balt, they're steppe tribes. And remember, the Step tribes are themselves a interesting mix of Turkic and Iranian fino, Hungrian and Asian.


So this is a blending of all sorts of different people. And Sviatoslav the first of these rulers with a Slavic name. When you see what he looks like, he looks the physical part of that blending. And we know this because a guy who was probably an eyewitness to what he looked like, a guy named Leo the Deacon, describes this whole period. So we have something as a counterpoint to the Russian Primary Chronicle.


And by the way, my history of Leo the Deacon, who's written is translated by Alice Mary Talbot and Dennis F. Sullivan, and they describe a figure here who looks like he's something between a twelveTH century Russian and a 9th century Viking. The Russian Primary Chronicle describes him in a way that would fit very nicely for Attila the Hun. Also one of these people who is a warrior in the field who doesn't need all these wonderful luxuries but sleeps with a blanket and a saddle for a pillow. The Russian Primary Chronicle says, quote, when Prince Fiatislov had grown up and matured, he began to collect a numerous and valiant army, stepping light as a leopard.


He undertook many campaigns upon his expeditions. He carried with him neither wagons nor kettles and boiled no meat, but cut off small strips of horse flesh, game or beef, and ate it after roasting it on the coals. Nor did he have a tent, but he spread out a horse blanket under him and set his saddle under his head, and all his retinue did likewise. He sent messengers to the other lands announcing his intention to attack them, end quote. And the Russian Primary Chronicle has this guy attacking a new opponent every year.


He becomes the one who breaks the backs of the Khazars, which was probably a shock. If this was a sporting event, you would have favored the Khazars in any Las Vegas bets. And yet he destroys their power. Very soon afterwards, he starts destroying the power of the Bulgarians. Some of this may have been done at the instigation of the Byzantines, but they didn't expect him to be so successful.


They kind of created a geopolitical monster here, and then they have to deal with him. All of these victories, we should point out, are done less for the expansion of one's borders than they are for, well, essentially doing what organized crime would do. Sviatislav is going into other mob bosses territory like the Khazars and the Bulgarians and taking over their rackets, going in and shifting the protection money paid to one group of overlords to the Rus and a lot of the Rus income during this time period. And Olga was doing the same thing, by the way, before. Sviatislav is designed to have the people that they protect or rule or strong arm pay them a portion of their living wages, right?


They're the ones doing the farming, they're the ones doing the trapping, they're the ones doing the resource extraction and then providing it to the Rus. At a certain point, the Byzantines will essentially tell Sviatislov and the Rus, okay, you're taking over lands now that even though the Bulgarians were occupying them, belong to us traditionally, so give them back. And Sviatislav said, Why don't you just get out of Europe? You don't even belong here, and it's going to cost you a lot if you want me to leave this territory I just took. Leo the Deacon says when he took one of these Bulgarian towns, he impaled 20,000 people on a bunch of forked poles.


Whether that happened or not is debatable. We talk a lot on this show about the actual physical challenges of things like this. Killing 20,000 people is about a mid size American university's student population. It's not easy, although there are ingenious ways that have been suggested over the eras for this to be done. The Mongols, for example, are supposed to have made this something that was the responsibility of every individual soldier.


So if you have 30 or 40,000 Mongol warriors and you say, every one of you gets five captives, and you have to execute those five captives, bring me the ears when you're done, so I know you did it well, you could kill a lot of people pretty quickly, couldn't you? It's a pretty efficient way to destroy a ton of human lives, and Sviatoslav is supposed to have done that. Eventually, Sviatoslav and the Byzantine army will come to blows. And this account is recorded in Leo the Deacon's work. And he talks about this arrogant barbarian getting very puffed up after beating the Bulgarians, a people the Byzantines call the Messians.


And Leo the Deacon writes, quote svendoslavos Sviatoslav was very puffed up by his victories over the Messians and swaggered insolently with barbarian arrogance, for he already held the land securely. And since he had reduced the Messians to terror and stunned submission with his innate cruelty, for they say that when he took Philopolis by force, he cruelly and inhumanely affixed to a stake 20,000 of the men captured in the town, thus terrifying all his enemies and making them come to terms. He delivered arrogant and insolent responses to the Roman envoys that he would not renounce his claim to this fertile land except in return for the payment of vast sums of money and the ransom of the cities and prisoners that he had taken in warfare. If the Romans were not willing to pay this, then they should quickly withdraw from Europe which did not belong to them, and move to Asia. End quote.


Leo the Deacon says that the response from the Romans was essentially something like remember what happened to your father when he tangled with us? Remember what those flamethrower ships did to him. Remember how he ended his days being torn into by the drivelians, tying his limbs to trees and then letting them snap back. Leo the Deacon says that Svendoslavos Fyadoslav was enraged by that answer. Quote Svendoslavos became furious at this response and carried away by barbarian frenzy and rage, made the following reply I see no need for the Emperor of the Romans to come to us.


Therefore let him not tire himself out by coming to this land, for we will soon pitch our tents before the gates of Byzantium, we'll surround this city with a mighty palisade, and we'll meet him bravely when he sallies forth. If he should dare to undertake such a great struggle, we will teach him with very deeds that we are not mere manual laborers who live by the work of our hands, but bloodthirsty warriors who fight our foes with weapons. Although the Emperor believes in ignorance that Rus soldiers are like pampered women and tries to frighten us with these threats as if we were suckling infants to be frightened by hobgoblins. End quote. After that, clearly, it's on.


There will be several fights between Sviatoslav and the Byzantines, and the Byzantines, doing typical Byzantine things, will offer enemies of the Rus incentives to attack them, which is how they created this big problem with Fiatislav in the first place. They used him as a puppet to attack other enemies of theirs. Sometimes Byzantine diplomacy can backfire. Eventually a meeting happens, and Leo the Deacon may have been there. This may be an eyewitness account, but it's the best eyewitness type account that we have since Ibn Fadlan described the tallest date palms Rus that he personally saw in the leo the Deacon says that Sviatislov says he wants to have a meeting with the Emperor.


The Emperor, with his gold encrusted bodyguard, shows up to meet this living embodiment of the fusion going on in the Rust people during this time period. And Leo the Deacon, as I said, very good chance he saw this firsthand, describes it and says quote after the treaties were arranged, meaning treaties between the Rus and the Byzantines, svendoslavos Sveyadoslav asked to come and speak with the Emperor, and the latter came without delay. The Emperor, on horseback to the bank of the Istros River, clad in armor ornamented with gold, accompanied by a vast squadron of armed horsemen adorned with gold. Svendoslavos arrived, sailing along the river in a scythian light boat, grasping an oar and rowing with his companions as if he were one of them. His appearance was as follows he was of moderate height, neither taller than average nor particularly short.


His eyebrows were thick, he had gray eyes and a snub nose. His beard was clean shaven, but he let the hair grow abundantly on his upper lip, where it was bushy and long, and he shaved his head completely, except for a lock of hair that hung down on one side as a mark of the nobility of his ancestry. He was solid in the neck, broad in the chest and very well articulated in the rest of his body. He had a rather angry and savage appearance. On one ear was fastened a gold earring adorned with two pearls and with a red gemstone between them.


His clothing was white, no different from that of his companions, except in cleanliness. After talking briefly with the emperor about their reconciliation, he departed sitting on a helmsman's seat of the boat. Thus the war of the Romans with the scythians he means the Rus came to an end quote. But forgiving and forgetting was not really the style of the time period on either side. The Byzantines almost certainly encouraged the pension Eggs to ambush Sviatoslav and his men, which they did.


What did we say that the Byzantine sources had said? That the Pension Eggs waited until the Rus had to take their boats overland to transfer from one river system to another. That's where they caught Sviatoslav. They killed him and a bunch of his men. And the pechinegs, in a very step warrior sort of traditional thing, cut his head off, poured gold into the skull and used it as a drinking cup, which I've always thought was a kind of an interesting thing.


I mean, imagine being able to look into the face, the actual face of one of your enemies as you drank your wine. Do you talk to it? I mean, it's a little like the real version of Dan, Aykroyd's crystal skull vodka, which comes in that wonderful glass skull shaped bottle. But this isn't a reasonable facsimile of a skull shaped container. This is the real deal.


And so Sviatoslov ends his days not a whole lot better than his father did. When you look at Leo, the deacon's description, physical description of Sviatoslav, as we said, he seems like the physical embodiment of the fusion that's been going on now in the east between all the different peoples, where the Scandinavians are just one of the groups that are coalescing into a new ethno linguistic group. I mean, he doesn't sound like the Vikings in Ireland or England or the Frankish Empire. When the description of his clothing and hairstyles and all that is put forward by Leo, he sounds like a 16th or 17th century Eastern European cossack. Doesn't he go look at an artist rendering of those guys or go watch a modern day recreation of cossack riding and you'll see the people dressed in the traditional Kosak outfits with hairstyles and everything.


That's almost a dead ringer for Leo, the deacon's description of Sviatoslav. So right there you can see that he represents this blending of cultures and ethnolinguistic elements. You can see that by the way, also in the treaty of 944 between the Byzantines and the Ros, the one that ended the war that involved the ships and the flamethrowers and all that that we talked about. Because as the treaty is being signed, the Rus have to swear to the various deities and religious elements that they hold dear. Some of the leading Rus are already swearing to the Christian god.


So you can see Christianity making inroads already. But the ones that swear to pagan deities aren't swearing to Thor and Odin, they're swearing to, you know, rulers and gods like Perun and people like that. Now a case can be made that those Slavic pagan deities have know Perrin could be Thor in terms of the way one might view him. But this entire series we've been doing is called Twilight of the ISR. And the ISR, of course, represents the pantheon of Germanic gods that dates way back in history, right when the Romans first encountered Germanic peoples, they're worshiping those gods.


And ever since then it's been sort of a struggle to try to maintain that pagan belief system in the face of the overwhelming power and growing power of Christianity, right? Essentially a religion from the Near East that's continually expanding outward, pushing back the traditional pagan beliefs of a bunch of different peoples, the Germanic peoples just being one of those. But what the 944 treaty shows is that already in the east, by the middle nine hundred s, the Isir, the Odins and the Thors. And those gods may have already been supplanted by another pagan group of gods before they're all overwhelmed by Christianity. It will be one of Sviatislav's sons who will take the Rus into the long term direction that Sviatoslav's sainted mother, Olga wanted them to go.


In his book Northmen The Viking Saga, viking expert John Haywood puts it this way quote sviatislav's empire was ephemeral. Soon after his death, civil war broke out between his teenage sons Yarapolk, Oleg and Vladimir. After Yarapolk killed Oleg, Vladimir fled to Sweden. In 980, Vladimir returned with an army of 6000 Varangians and drove Yarapolk out of Kiev. Vladimir lured his brother into a peace conference where two Varangians murdered him.


Vladimir's reign from 980 to 1015 was one of the most important in Russian history, marking the end of Kiev and Rus as a Viking state. In his early years, Vladimir was a devotee of the thunder god Perun, the Slavic deity. But in 988 he made the momentous decision to convert to Orthodox Christianity, end quote. The truth is, when you read the civil war between Vladimir and his two brothers, it sounds like a lot of Russian history. And Russian history is wild, weird, wonderful.


I mean, if you've never taken a Russian history course other than the names always reoccurring or variations of the names reoccurring, it will blow your mind. This sort of infighting. And whatnot is not unusual at all when Vladimir ends up being the one who comes out on top in this sort of civil war between brothers or half brothers, he ends up looking initially a lot like his dad's Fiatislov. He's got tons of concubines, something like 800 is the amount normally given multiple wives. He ends up sounding very much like a Viking warlord.


But over time, the publicity, shall we call it in the historical sources, gets somewhat more positive, which is what will happen if you convert to Christianity and some of the sources writing about you are Christian. Vladimir goes through a very famous and almost certainly legendary weighing of the various other religions that are out there. Supposedly has a bunch of the different peoples of the book send representatives to him so he can hear about all these different religions and how they believe and what they do. So supposedly Islamic representatives come to him and he says, tell me about your religion. And they tell him all the things about it but point out he can't eat pork and he can't drink alcohol.


And he has that wonderful line where he says that drink is the love of the ruses and that they can't exist without it. So Islam's out. Jews come to the court and explain to him their view of the religion and he asks them where their homeland is and they say it's in Jerusalem. And he basically says, well, why aren't you there now? And they explain how they've been exiled and scattered all over the world.


Well, this sounds to Vladimir like god must not be thinking too highly of you if he'll let you get scattered all over the world. So they're out. Then the, you know, the Western European Christian representatives visit him and they look a little poor and like they're not that grand because he also gets representatives from the Byzantines. And of course, they look like well, Rome. And his representatives go to Byzantium, the legends say, and they see the amazing ostentatiousness of the churches and the rituals and all this stuff and they come back and say something to the effect of we couldn't tell whether we were on Earth or in heaven anymore.


So he's going to, the legends say, adopt Orthodox Christianity. But there's a more real world diplomatic side of this too and that's that Byzantium falls into civil war during this time period and they need some help. And guess what? Vladimir and the Rusk can provide it. Vladimir says he wants a Byzantine princess to marry.


And that's a problem because they're not going to allow one of their princesses to marry a pagan. He'll have to convert to Christianity? He does. He gets a Byzantine princess. It cements the ties between Byzantium and the Rus, and then he sends help to one of the sides in this civil war, supposedly 6000 Varangians.


It sounds a little high, but we're told that these Scandinavian Viking types that have been imported from Scandinavia as mercenaries, goes down, fights amazingly for the Byzantine emperor, crushes his opponent. And from about this moment on, you're going to see a unit created that will fight in the rest of Byzantium's major wars until late in the 13th century. They're famous. They're called the Varangian Guard. Vladimir, when he converts, by the way, will order his subjects to show up by the water, or else, he says, become my enemies.


So that they're all baptized. That's the sort of mass baptisms that were not uncommon when you convert a ruler and expect him to convert everyone he rules. The bottom line, though, is that in this story, know the twilight of the Iser and the rearguard action of the Germanic deities against the creeping power of Christendom. If Vladimir hadn't already ditched Germanic paganism, by worshiping these Slavic pagan gods, he does ditch it around 988. And the story in the east from this moment on, from these Scandinavian Slavic steppeople, finn, Baltic, Finnongrian, Turk, Asian, Iranian fusion of peoples goes off on a permanent side tangent, never to return to Thor and Odin again.


And from here, our story shifts back to the west.


Now, I've been enthralled with the way the newer breed of Viking historians treat the entire Viking world, for lack of a better term for it all. East, west, the places where the Vikings settled, all that kind of stuff, because it explains and helps us to understand so much of what's going on better. Back when I was a kid and they treated things like the Scandinavians in what's now Ukraine or Russia as an entirely hermetically sealed different theater from Iceland and France and Ireland and Britain. Certain questions kept arising when you start to realize as a Neil Price or a Kat Jarman or a Sigurdson or any of those people keeps pointing out that the same people are traveling from one of these parts of the Viking world to the others intermixing. So imagine, for example, a person born in Sweden in, say, 950 maybe, and they travel down the river systems in Eastern Europe when they're a teenager to a place like modern day Ukraine, maybe, and they stay a while.


Then they go a little farther south to Byzantium and join the Varangian Guard for a decade. And these, by the way, I'm not making this up, this sort of thing happened all the time. And then they go back to the homeland after that. Think about all that they've experienced while they were gone. First of all, the exposure to things like Christianity, to name only one thing.


So then they go back to the home country and they're influencing people there. Those people then may go to the west, or the same individual who'd been to Byzantium might then go to the west to what's now? France or Frisia, the coast of modern day the Netherlands or Britain or Ireland. In other words, it's the very same people traveling from one part of the Viking world to another. It's a giant intermixing.


It's like a Scandinavian cultural estuary where all of the influences in all the parts of the world, the Vikings are touching, and they're one of the more well traveled people in the Middle Ages is intermixing and influencing Scandinavian affairs. When we last dealt with the west, we have to roll the chronology back a little bit from where we were with the ruse. We were in like the 910s, right? We were talking about Harold Fair hair. Harold Fine hair.


Harold hair. Fair being involved in the political consolidation, allegedly legendarily, maybe, of Norway. This is a trend that's going on in the entire Viking world. If you were taking a college course on this, they would, for the test, have three major themes that you had to pay attention to state building, political consolidation, and the conversion, especially of the Scandinavian elite, to Christianity. Okay, that's all well and good, but when a guy like Harold dies, like so many of these Scandinavian leaders involved in political unification, his sons will tear it all up and fight amongst themselves.


There's a very bunny hop sort of rhythm to this state building. In, know, two steps forward, one step back. But even if Harold Finehair did live, and even if Harold Finehair did what he was supposed to do, and even if Harold Finehair's kids screwed the pooch and screwed up the whole thing, it never goes back to the level of fragmentation that existed before the Unifiers. So when the unification process gets started again, they don't have to start from ground zero, right? So you begin to see progress towards the creation of what Norway will turn into and Denmark will turn into and Sweden will turn into.


By the time you get to the Middle Ages or the later Middle Ages, we had last spoken about what was going on in Normandy, right. With Ralo, the Viking warlord who gets defeated by the west. Frankean king. So he settles for being given control of the area that will become Normandy, which means land of the northmen. And he's told to guard it against people like himself.


Right. What did we say? If you gave a terrorist the territory they were operating in and said, you now owe your allegiance to me, but defend it from other terrorists like yourself? I think I said it was like putting one of the foxes in charge of the chicken coop security. Another historian I read said it was like promoting the lead poacher to the post of gamekeeper.


But it kind of worked the Normans are going to be a thorn in everybody's side, especially the King of France's side, and a whole bunch of other problems. But basically, they do what Charles the simple of West Franchea hoped they would and keep the area from being overrun with new Vikings. And perhaps the most important aspect of this entire affair is that the people that are being granted these lands in what's now modern day France, these pagan, heathen, Viking conquerors, are being forced to convert to Christianity as an element of the deal. And even if a Viking pagan warlord like Ralo is providing more lip service than reality to his conversion, and that's debatable. His children aren't and his grandchildren aren't, they're going to be real Christians.


And that undercuts the entire culture that led to the Scandinavian Viking pirate age to begin with. And it should be pointed out that the very people who are doing the converting here, whether we're talking about the Franks in what's now modern day France or the Germans in Germany or the Anglo Saxons in England, all three of those people used to be the worshippers of the old Germanic pantheon of gods. Basically worshiping Odin. Basically worshiping Thor. They might have had subtly different names for them, but now they're converting the people who still believe what they used to believe.


And it's worth noticing, if you're a military history fan, as I know many of you are, that in this centuries long religious war between Christians and Germanic pagans, only one side's really playing offense. For centuries, really, since Rome, you've seen these evangelists go out to convert these Germanic peoples. That's how the Germans got converted, that's how the Franks got converted, that's how the Anglo Saxons got converted. The other side's not playing offense at all. You don't see Scandinavian or Germanic evangelists going to Christian areas and converting Christians to the worship of Thor or Odin.


And so even if progress slows or even if people backslide, it's an inevitable slowly, and sometimes not so slowly movement towards a specific outcome. And when you're able to get people like Ralo to convert, when you're able to make deals with Viking warlords and as part of the deal require that they convert to Christianity, you are creating a long term solution to a long term problem. And let's recall, it's easy to say that by 910, 911, 912, the European world has been dealing with the Viking problem for 110, 120 years. But if you put it in terms relating to our own time, I mean, imagine we had a problem like that that had been going on since 1900 or 1910. Well, even in a world that changed more slowly than our current world, one would expect us to have created countermeasures.


One would expect that our long term policies designed to change the circumstances would finally be bearing fruit. And the 900s is an example of that, because they're going to be very different than the 800s especially on the continent. The different areas will have different circumstances. Of course, in a place like modern day Germany, it's going to be based on strong leadership, really. I mean, they're going to get, as we mentioned earlier, several important kings henry the Fowler, Oto the Great, and they're going to have knights, mounted knights, which we spoke about earlier, which are very dangerous to the Vikings.


And most good Viking pirate raiders want nothing to do with mounted knights. Not because they couldn't best them in a one on one encounter, but because it changes the ODS of a pirate expedition. You're hoping for an easy score. You don't want a life and death struggle every time you go out there to try to take what you hope is a bunch of peasants goods or a bunch of monasteries, relics. And you will still see some Viking attacks in what's now Germany in the nine hundreds.


But oftentimes on the way home, after striking targets that weren't ready for them, the Viking raiders will find themselves encountering Germanic knights and often lose, and sometimes badly. And it will be all that the rulers of the Scandinavians in Denmark, in Viking era Denmark, can do sometimes to keep the Germanic people from turning the tables on them and invading Denmark from Germany. The sorts of scenes that we saw in the 800s where Scandinavian raiders were stabling their horses almost incomprehensibly in the former royal palace at Aachen where Charlemagne ruled, you're not going to see that in the 900s, in what's now modern day France. The results are similar, but the methods a bit different. In northern France, you're going to see maybe the most famous example of feudalism, early medieval feudalism anywhere.


You have to be careful with the term feudal, because when I was a kid, that's my famous phrase, isn't it? When I was a kid, back in the old days, feudalism was considered to be mostly a early medieval thing. Now it's considered to be a sort of a political system and it's applied to all sorts of other systems. I mean, you'll hear the early Achaemenid Persians, the ones who fought the Greeks and the Greek and Persian wars, the society that was overthrown by Alexander the Great, you'll often hear them described as a feudal society. But the poster child for that system was in northern France during this era, where it's not going to just be ralo in Normandy, but a bunch of Frankish and later French counts and dukes and lords and barons who are all going to have their own little piece of the King's territory.


They're going to put up their own little castles. They're going to have their own little group of knights and retinue and all that sort of stuff. And it'll be their job to defend this territory, ostensibly for their ruler, but sometimes they'll fight amongst themselves, sometimes they'll be rebellious against the king. That's what early medieval feudalism is known for also. But they'll also have mounted knights with all of the same advantages that that gives the German mounted knights.


And they'll also have castles, just like in Germany. And the castles have a couple of different aspects. We talked about them in part one a little bit and early in this discussion. It's not just that you have a place where you have defenses, so that if the Vikings show up on the horizon unexpectedly, there's a place that can defend the territory, because there'll be a garrison of soldiers there as well. But I was reading something that brought up an aspect I hadn't thought about, which is that when the Viking sails appear over the horizon and you have a tiny little bit of warning that they're coming, if you're the peasants and the farmers living in that area that's about to be assaulted by these Viking pirates.


You grab any valuables you have, any livestock that you own, anything you want to keep, and you put it in a wagon, and you cart it up to the walls of the castle, and you go inside. So not only do the Viking pirates now have to deal with a garrison and walls and all that sort of stuff, but whatever they were coming to steal might now be behind the walls of that very protective bastion. Making the entire affair not just more dangerous for them if they want to try to take stuff, but maybe not even all that valuable. Which leads us to the Viking age in the 900s in Britain and Ireland.


Britain and Ireland do not have mounted knights. And I was reading a book by author Ian Howard called Swine forkbeards Invasions and the Danish Conquest of England. And he said, and I hadn't read it elsewhere, but I'm sure it's mentioned elsewhere, that that's a very specific reason that explains why Viking attacks shifted so strongly away from Germany and France. What will be Germany and France in this era in the over to Ireland and Britain? If you don't want to deal with heavily armed mounted knights, go to a place where they don't have that.


And the English, for example, won't have mounted knights until after the Norman Conquest in 1066. It's an army that is mostly infantry, some would suggest all infantry. That's debatable. They do use horses, but they use them the same way the Vikings do, as mounted infantry, right? So you use them to get from place to place, but when you want to fight, you dismount.


And so in the early nine hundreds, you see the story shifting more towards what's going on in Britain. But if you are a fan of the Vikings, you can't help but notice that not only are the fortunes of the Scandinavians being challenged in Germany and France, even without mounted knights, they're not having things their way in Ireland or Britain either. Winston Churchill, we had quoted him earlier from his History of the English Speaking Peoples, and he's so wonderful because he supposedly dictated all of the works that he wrote. And so they have a real sort of an oral feel about them. It sounds a little like a hardcore history conversation.


And when he talks about Britain, for example, during Alfred the Great, who died in 899, we spoke of Alfred. He almost sounds like he's narrating his own story from the darkest years of 1940 in the Second World War. But then the story after Alfred also parallels the story in the Second World War, where Britain survives the darkest times and begins to crawl out of it and issue payback the reconquest, if you will. And Churchill writes, quote, alfred, meaning Alfred the Great, died in 899. But the struggle with the Vikings had yet to pass through strangely contrasted phases.


Alfred's blood gave the English a series of great rulers and while his inspiration held, victory did not quit the Christian ranks. In his son Edward, who was immediately acclaimed king, the armies had already found a redoubtable leader, end quote. If you look at the first 50 years of the 900s, you see the equivalent of a British or English or Anglo Saxons, the more proper way to put it, reconquest of territory that the Vikings had taken from them during the 800s. But it's a bit of an ebb and flow sort of an affair. By and large, the Anglo Saxons are winning.


Think about a boxing match where they're getting the rounds handed to them by the judges scorecards, but they're still taking damage, they're still getting punched, they're still getting knocked to the canvas from time to time. And that often happens when new reinforcements arrive from either Scandinavia or from the Vikings in Ireland. Turn the tide, sometimes temporarily. But eventually the several rulers after Alfred the Great, and they're blessed with several good ones in a row. See rulership matters.


Look at the German kings we mentioned earlier. They will slowly grind things back towards a reconquest. Churchill talks about another battle that eventually the English gain the victory. The Danes are just like Rallo and Normandy, required to convert to Christianity. And then he talks about this treaty being broken and says, quote, in 910, this treaty was broken by the Danes and the war was renewed in Mercia.


The main forces of Wessex and Kent had already been sent by Edward, who was with the fleet to the aid of the Mercians. And in heavy fighting at Tettenhall in Staffordshire, the Danes were decisively defeated. End quote. Now, reminder places like Wessex and Essex and Northumbria and East Anglia, these are all the places that had been separate, independent kingdoms when the Viking Age started. And one of the reasons that Anglo Saxon territory was so vulnerable to the Vikings was this fragmentation.


And why so many historians suggest that the Viking era helped create the modern day Britain and created England out of Anglo Saxon territories was because the Vikings swept away a lot of those independent territories clearing the way for unification. But those places still maintained some semblance of a self image and an independence. Places like Mercia, for example. Churchill Continues quote this English victory was a milestone in the long conflict. The Danish armies in Northumbria never recovered from the battle, and the Danish Midlands and East Anglia thus lay open to English conquest.


Up to this point, Mercia and Wessex had been the defenders, often reduced to the most grievous straits. But now the tide had turned, fear camped with the Danes, end quote. There's a lot of reasons for this. One is that all of a sudden, the Danish settlers in Britain who lived in the north and the east, in this area we talked about earlier, the Dane law, the land where the Danish laws predominated. They had settled, they had farms, they had families, and this made them vulnerable.


We had talked earlier about how much of an advantage it was to be a pirate raider from far over the seas, where you could hit your opponents, take their stuff and then run away to a place where they couldn't get you. But if you settle right next to the people you're raiding, they can get you. And as Charles Oman, the military historian from more than 100 years ago, pointed out, by this time, if the Danes in Britain raided their neighbors, the English, the English hit them right back. What's more, whereas once before, when these raiding parties arrived in Britain, they were unified groups of people, the Danes in the British Isles during this period were composed of a bunch of different groups of people, not united, who could be picked off bit by bit and during the early nine hundreds. That's what happens.


And it doesn't just happen with these male Anglo Saxon kings. Uniquely enough, and in an event that is sometimes called one of the most unique in all of early medieval history, they also are subject to attacks by female military rulers. This reconquest of territory from Danish settlers in the British Isles creates a different sort of dynamic than the Viking attacks from the 800s. My Encyclopedia of Military History from Ernest and Trevor Dupui puts it this way, and it's a good way to look at it. It says, quote, during the 10th century, the Anglo Saxon struggle with the Danes was no longer a matter of Viking raiders against local inhabitants, but rather a more or less constant war between southern and northern England, end quote.


Southern England being the part occupied by the Anglo Saxon rulers and people, the northern part mostly by Danish settlers or people who had some affinity for the Scandinavians and often sided with new Vikings that showed up on the shores. They're sort of a fifth columnist group in Britain, and during the 900s after Alfred the Great dies, two of his children take the lead in starting to push back with the eye towards eventually eliminating entirely that group of fifth columnists. One of them is the king that Churchill mentioned, Edward, but the other is his sister, Ethelfled. Now, Ethelfled's an interesting lady, because if you watch the Hollywood movies, there's always this bending over backwards to include female characters where perhaps they didn't actually exist, or female warriors, where perhaps the evidence for them is very scanty. But that means that when you actually encounter real historical figures that live up to all the hype, they deserve a little bit more attention.


And Ethel Fled is one of those people. If you look at statues of her, she's often shown bearing a weapon. And if this were the Hollywood movie version of her, she would certainly be a swashbuckling Robin Hood type character, cutting the heads off enemies dressed in armor and performing all sorts of acrobatic military feats. But that's not the way we should probably see her. She is instead a somewhat Anglo Saxon version of a Napoleonic figure, maybe an inspiring leader of men, a tactician, a strategist.


There is what some historians have referred to as a conspiracy of silence around her. And our modern temptation would be to suggest that this conspiracy exists because she was a woman. And there may be some truth to that, but an actual better reason, something that is lost in sort of the years that have passed since then, but would have been very apparent. And a lot of historians pointed out it might have more to do with the fact that she was known as the lady of the Mercians. The Mercians, as we just mentioned, Mercia is one of these places that used to be an independent kingdom before the Vikings swept all that away.


The people that wrote the chronicles that have come down to us, like the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, were working for the kings of Wessex. And the last thing that they wanted was to do anything that inspired what today we would call patriotism amongst these know, independent areas like Northumbria East Anglia, Mercia or separatist tendencies. And a figure that a place like Mercia could rally around to sort of bolster their credentials as an independent kingdom is someone like Ethel Fled, but along with her brother from about 911, the time that Ralo takes over in Normandy, when her husband dies, she takes over in Mercia. She and her brother start a two pronged approach, retaking territory from the Danes in Anglo Saxon England. And they do it in an interesting way.


We had mentioned that with her father, Alfred, that one of the things he did was to set up these fortified towns known as Burrs, sometimes very rudimentarily fortified, it must be said, just a ditch around them sometimes, or a palisade or an earthen wall. But it's enough to do the job. And what you do is you fortify these towns, you stash a garrison in them, so some defenders, and all of a sudden you make life difficult for Viking raiders. Well, she and her brothers start using these fortified towns in an offensive way. It's a little like taking a place and then fortifying what you just won in concrete, because once you dig the ditch around it, put up the palisade wall, put a garrison in there, it becomes very hard for anyone on the Danish side to retake it.


And over a period of about a decade, they will fight battles. She and her brother retake towns that used to be Anglo Saxon towns, fortify them with the burr. And very soon, maybe by their standards, by our standards, their wars look like they take place in a very sort of slow motion way. But she and her brother begin to reconquer the territory. And you will have this interesting sort of scene where she will have all of these again, Hollywood, I'll say that a million times because they've warped our view of these Scandinavians.


But you will have this amazing scene where you will have these alpha male hairy barbarian types pledging their submission to a woman, the lady of the Mercians, Ethelfled, and she'll kill a bunch of them, a bunch of Viking Yarls and kings and lords in these battles. Not personally, but her armies will. And historian Kat Jarmin points out that this is a huge rarity. There's only one other woman, and Kat Jarmin mentions her during the early medieval period where you can see them commanding troops. Kat Jarman talks about her and the other one who's related to Otter the Great of Germany, and she says, quote if we look elsewhere in northern Europe there are contemporary examples of women wielding military power.


The best known being Athofled, lady of the Mercians who was the daughter of Alfred the Great possibly the only woman from Anglo Saxon England known to have led military forces. Meanwhile, on the continent, another woman was in charge of a fight against Vikings, too. Gerberga of Saxony, the sister of Oto I of Germany, organized the defense of Leon in northern France in 945 946 when her husband Louis IV was captured with both Athofled and Gerberga have in common is that they independently led forces and attacks and organized defenses in a 10th century environment, which is typically thought of as a time when only men could hold power. In both cases, these women owed their political position to a family connection. But at the same time, both are described as well educated, intelligent, and possessing the ability to lead military strategy with the support of their contemporaries, end quote.


Now, there are not a lot of sources, as we said, talking very much about Ethelfled from the era. The Irish chronicles refer to her as an Anglo Saxon, the renowned Anglo Saxon queen, but she wasn't a queen. But in the 12th century, the early English historian William of Malmsbury makes sure that we don't forget about Ethel fled. And by the way, he uses an interesting term when he describes her. He calls her a Varago, and I had to look it up.


And apparently the meaning of the term has changed over time. But in the era he was writing, it sort of means a great soul or a formidable person, or maybe a woman who has tendencies you normally associate with a man, like a war leader. And William of Melmsbury writes, quote, at the same time, we must not overlook the King's sister Ethelfled, Ethelred's widow, who carried no small weight in party strife, being popular with the citizens and a terror to the enemy. She was a woman of great determination, who, after having difficulties with the birth of her first, or rather her only child, abhorred her husband's embraces ever after, declaring that it was beneath the dignity of a king's daughter to involve herself in pleasures which would be followed in time by such ill effects. End quote.


He's talking about childbirth, by the way, remember? That could easily be fatal in this period. And he also praises her as a builder of cities. But rather than a builder of cities, what he's really talking about is a fortifier of cities, as we said, taking these cities and then creating these fortified towns out of them. So he continues, quote, she was a Varago, a very powerful influence and help in her brother's policy, and no less effective as a builder of cities.


It would be hard to say whether it was luck or character that made a woman such a tower of strength for the men of her own side and such a terror to the rest. End quote. Ethel Fled dies in 918 ADCE, and her brother will continue what's been going on the reconquest of the Dane law until he dies about six years later. Their successor, a guy named Ethelstan, will continue it even more. He'll include fighting the Scots and the Welsh.


I mean, this is all part of carving out England, and Athelstan will be by many considered the first truly English king, if not him, then his successor. This is all important stuff for British history, obviously, but also for the history of peoples who can trace their at least political DNA back to England. And that's anyone who was a part of the British Empire. You think of the Canadians, the Americans, the Australians, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, this is all part of their history, which has often made me think that this is partly why the Vikings have such a prominent place in the mean.


Why do we pay more attention to them than the Visigoths, as we said, or the Know or the Lombards or any of these other Germanic barbarian peoples? Well, because they play a huge role in the creation of places like England. And England, well, has a political strand of DNA that goes through a lot of modern day countries. The interesting thing, though, is that what's going on in places like England during this era is not hugely important. In 99% of the respects to life in Scandinavia to the average pig farmer.


As Neil Price, historian who wrote The Children of Ash and Elm, puts it. I mean, the average pig farmer in Scandinavia isn't concerned, to wit, with these colonial possessions or know settlements or these diasporas going on in the edges of the Viking world, right? They're in the lands that encompass modern day Denmark, Norway, Sweden, just living their lives, right, believing the old ways, the old gods and all these kinds of things. But as we said, there is cultural transmission going on through all these areas. And if you are, let's just say, a very conservative, traditionalist living in Scandinavia, standard pig farmer who believes in the old ways, the old gods, the traditional culture of your ancestors, all of a sudden, you can't help but notice by the middle 900s that there's a whole lot of new stuff infecting your community.


I love the term and I use it all the time, and I'm sorry if I overuse the same term as, but it's just so wonderful intellectual contagion, seeing ideas and beliefs the same way one would see a pathogen that can spread like a disease. Well, it's hard not to notice that. At the exact same time you see Olga in the eastern Scandinavian areas of the Rus really beginning to explore Christianity in that neck of the woods, you see the same thing happening on the opposite side of the Viking world in places like England. More and more of these warlords converting as parts of arrangements and deals and treaties and settlements. More and more Scandinavians living away from the home countries in places like the Dane Law, converting due to exposure to Christianity.


If you actually zoom out and look at how long evangelists have been traveling to Scandinavia trying to convert the people there, by the time you reach the middle 900s, it's been like 200 and 4250 years, right, as far back from where we are today as the American Revolution. Now, it's hard to say how much fruit that has borne by this time period, but when you add all the conversions in the far flung territories to the few people who maybe these evangelists have converted to the few rebel rulers like Harold Clack that we mentioned from the, who converted and then converted some of his followers to all the slaves that the Vikings took who were Christian who couldn't help but share their intellectual pathogens with their slave masters and whatnot. It's not hard to see that you're going to have pockets of Christianity beginning to pop up in Scandinavia also. Denmark may be more than Norway, norway may be more than Sweden, but it's a thing. And then you look at the political pressure.


We had talked about how in the nine hundreds, the German Danish relationship flips from what it was in the all of a sudden, the Germans are very dangerous to the Danes. And one of the things that the. Danes kind of do, to maybe lessen the danger of Germanic attacks on them is treat Christianity a little bit more positively. All these things together are beginning to sort of reach a critical mass by the middle nine hundred s. Now, we should point out that there's something that's often overlooked when we talk about religion, and that's that even when nations or rulers decide that they're going to change their faith overnight, that's not how people really behave, right?


People don't change the gods that they believe in, the religious practices that they take part in, the ancestors faith and traditional narratives that they grew up with, those things don't change overnight. So anytime we talk about a huge, relatively quick change in a religious belief, let's not pretend that that means the people on the ground have all of a sudden shifted their faith 180 degrees. But it should also be mentioned that the traditional faith of the Scandinavians is not some orthodox by the book kind of belief system. In fact, it's fair to say, and this is a little surprising, that experts aren't really all that sure what it was. And partly the reason this is strange is because there's a neopaganist movement today that is trying to sort of resurrect a lot of these ideas and reestablish worship.


Know the ancient Norse gods, for example. But who these ancient Norse gods and how they were worshiped and what this all meant to the practitioners of this faith is up in the air. There's a wonderful history book written by a Scandinavian historian called The Wolf Age. The Vikings, the Anglo Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire. And I hope I don't murder this guy's name.


I looked it up. Torah Shaya is, I think, close to the pronunciation. And he says what all these other histories that I've been reading say? And it's a little bit shocking when you think about how much we pretend we know about the Nordic religious beliefs. And he says, quote, like all Germanic religions, pre Christian Nordic worship centered around war, fertility, and the making of sacrifices to powerful spirits, along with an entire pantheon of gods.


Above all, it was Odin, Thor, and Freyr who were worshiped across Scandinavia. The people who practiced the ancient religion left behind no proclamation, no tablet inscribed with commandments, no religious book. The depictions of their faith and rituals were written down by Christian and Muslim observers who regarded them as lost souls in need of saving, or as frightening and exotic barbarians. The lavish and intricate universe of gods and monsters born of fire and frost in the resounding deaths of Ganunganap, which goes up in flames in the war inferno of Ragnarok, has primarily been handed down to us through the eddas poems that were first written down in the twelve hundreds in the anonymous poetic Edda and in Snori? Sterleson's Edda, his tribute to scaldic poetry and inherited knowledge of the ancient forefathers mythological narratives.


And despite both works, he says strikingly detailed accounts, both Snori and the author of the Poetic EDA viewed their ancestors'stories from a great distance from their own thoroughly Christianized age, with a stranger's wonderment and fascination, just as we do today. End quote. In addition to that, the Christian Evangelist framings of Christianity are often done in an extremely clever fashion. And this is something we discussed at length in Thor's Angels when we were talking about how early Christian evangelists tailored the traditional Christian beliefs to mesh the views of a bunch of Germanic warriors like Franks and Lombards and visigoths and all those people who might not be all that positively disposed to a prince of peace from a Middle Eastern based religion when they came from dark, deep forests filled with spirits who were involved in human sacrifice of captive war prisoners. Maybe you have to modify the message a bit for the audience.


And historian Neil Price and the children of Ash and Elm says that's exactly what these same evangelists centuries later did for the Scandinavian audience that they were trying to interest, shall we say, in this religion. And he writes quote, There is a remarkable glimpse of how this worked in practice through a document known as Heliand the Savior. Written in old Saxon during the first half of the 9th century. It is a paraphrase of the Gospel for a Germanic audience tweaked for their sensibilities and pitched almost as a Norse saga, though with biblical heroes. Thus we read of Jesus'birth in Galilee land, his later travels to Jerusalemburg, and how the Lord lives in a great hall in the sky, clearly valhalla.


The Lord's Prayer, he writes, is in quote, unquote secret runes. Peter is given commands over the gates of hell or heal with one l, and so on. Satan's temptation of Christ, he writes, takes place in a northern wilderness filled with vague forces, powerful beings that seem to live among the trees. And one wonders what this implies of the traditional northern beliefs that were once known by the Christian clerics, he continues, and think about how this tweaks the traditional religion of peace for a warrior people. Quote by the same token, Jesus'disciples were warrior companions framed in the language of a warlord's retinue, and the Last Supper is the quote unquote final mead hall feast.


Even God, he writes, is called by the Odinic epithets such as victory, chieftain and all ruler. This is the kind of message that was taken into Scandinavia by the first missionaries, a doctrine meshed with the ancestral stories of the north and following a model found in many other conversion histories, end quote. As we said, the conversion histories of the Germanic people to the south of the Scandinavians who converted before they did. It's interesting to note that this tool of blending this new religion that evangelists and Christian states are trying to spread to the far north isn't just used by those evangelists. It may have been used by the rulers of the far north as a way to make this transition between the old belief system and a new belief system more palatable or more seamless.


Take, for example, the famous yelling stones put up by one of the first Scandinavian rulers that you really have clear evidence for. And how weird is that? This far into the so called Viking age. And you're just now getting to the point where you get the Scandinavian side of this story stuff from the indigenous peoples themselves, as opposed to the people who wrote about them, who hated, feared, reviled and looked down on them, the literary peoples of Britain or the continent or byzantium King Harold Bluetooth. And yes, that's what the term Bluetooth was named after arises in the mid nine hundreds.


There are all sorts of theories as to why he was called Blue Tooth, including potentially having a blue or black rotted tooth. But I've also read that he may be one of those Scandinavians who have the horizontal grooves cut into his teeth and then died. So lots of reasons. One might be called Bluetooth, but Harold is famous and he writes down in stone, carved into this heavy well, it would have been seen at the time as a near permanent monument, why he should be thought of as famous and why he should be remembered. The yellingstone, which is actually pictured, the artwork is pictured on the Danish passports to this day, carried by Danish citizens, says, quote, king Harold ordered this monument made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Tira, his mother.


That Harold, who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian, end quote. That's quite a claim to fame. And it is actually Arguable. But, I mean, he's the one that put up the monument that survived, so he got first crack at how he was going to be remembered. But Harold Bluetooth is one of the most famous Scandinavian rulers, and not just because he supposedly brought Christianity to Denmark, but because he is, as we said, one of the first really well known attested to Scandinavian kings.


Right? This isn't a legendary ruler, this is a real guy. On this yelling stone is a piece of artwork which used to be painted and now is weathered to stone color, although there are recreations of what it looked like painted. And on the yelling stone, you can see a figure of Christ being crucified. But the way that the figure is shown makes it look arguably quite a bit like Odin being hung in the tree that he hung himself in so that he could gain wisdom.


And so you have a potential meshing of the old tradition with the new and maybe Christ being portrayed as a kind of Odin like figure. It's Arguable. Experts debate it and people who know a lot more than I do about it go back and forth. But you can see how fascinating it is to see the early Scandinavian Christian artwork infused with some of the old flavor of the pre Christian times. And this is not unusual.


You see it in many societies. Go to Ireland and look at the way the Celtic forms are overlaid with later Christian artwork. So it's normal for there to be regional variations on this stuff. And maybe some of that is intended to, as we said, make it easier for the locals to sort of latch on to a new religion and connect it to the old. I find it interesting also that the way this is sometimes portrayed, the conversion process, is that the people in Scandinavia are shown sometimes as having no problem believing in the Christian God at all.


Their issue sometimes is not quite understanding the exclusivity of monotheism, the idea that you can't just believe in Christ and all those gods you used to believe in, right? When you come from a religion that believes in a lot of gods, seems like you should just be able to add another one. But it doesn't work that way with monotheism, does it? There's a wonderful account, maybe is a good way to put it, by a near contemporary named Vidukund who wrote a famous book translated into the English. It's called Deeds of the Saxons, and in it he describes supposedly how Harold Bluetooth is converted.


And if you know about the history of the Middle Ages in Europe, you know that there's all these different things that they used to do to sort of give God a chance to weigh in on things, right? So you'd have things like trial by combat, where two people who disagreed about something could be sentenced to fight it out, and the winner was perceived to be the one God favored. In other words, the one telling the truth will win the trial by combat. Therefore, God has weighed in and shown people. It's like a giant pro Christian Ouija board type thing.


And by the way, I'm using the Bernard Sbachrock and David S. Bachrock translation of the work and indeeds, of the Saxons. Vidukun portrays the conversion of Harold Bluetooth the same way. Harold Bluetooth gives God a chance to weigh in on whether or not he's the real God. And Vidukun tells the story thusly written in the nine hundreds and says, quote, in times past, the Danes were Christians, but nevertheless continued to worship idols in their traditional manner.


But then there was a dispute in the presence of the king during a feast regarding the worshiping of their gods. The Danes affirmed that Christ was a god, but they claimed that there were other gods, greater gods, who manifested themselves to people through even more powerful signs and prodigies. Against this, a certain cleric named Papo, who is now a bishop and leads a religious life, proclaimed that there is one true God, the Father, along with his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit. The images, meaning the images of the Norse gods, he proclaimed, were of demons and not gods.


King Harold, who it was said, was quick to listen but slow to speak, asked if Papo wished to demonstrate his faith through his own person, papo responded without hesitation that he wished to do so. The king then ordered that the priest be placed under guard until the next day. When morning came, the King ordered that a very heavy piece of iron be heated in the fire. He then ordered the cleric to carry this glowing iron for his Catholic faith. The confessor of Christ seized the iron without any fear at all and carried it as far as the King had ordered.


The priest then showed everyone his unharmed hand and gave proof to everyone there of his Catholic faith. As a result, the King became a Christian and decreed that God alone was to be worshiped. He ordered all of his subjects to reject idols and gave all due honor to the priests and servants of God by these events. Also, he writes, are to be ascribed to the virtues and merit of your father, by whose efforts the churches and order of priests shined forth in these regions. End quote.


It's interesting to note that if you zoom out and you look at the history of Scandinavia, from about 950 to about ten hundred or 1010 or 1020, really a single person's lifetime, they go from basically being pagan countries to basically being Christian countries. It is shocking the speed at which this occurs. And it wouldn't have happened if the rulers themselves didn't convert and then proclaim that everyone else had to convert too. That's what the yelling Stone talks about. Made the Danes Christian, didn't ask them to become Christian, didn't encourage them to become Christian, made them Christian.


But as Viking historian from the University of Nottingham, Judith Yenge points out, there is a difference between conversion, which can be done overnight by decree, and Christianization, which can take centuries. Judith Yench makes another distinction that's very interesting. A distinction between religion and myth and where one ends and the other begins. I mean, for example, if a people like the Scandinavians convert to Christianity, does that mean they can't believe in things like dwarves and elves and trolls anymore? Can they still believe in the female spirit that supposedly inhabits all of us?


I mean, how much of the old folklore do they give up? Also, another thing worth pointing out is that even if the rulers and the rulers retinues, and the people that are vassals to the rulers convert to Christianity. So, as we said, by about the ten hundred s mid 1000s, certainly officially, those kinds of people have in all the Scandinavian countries doesn't mean there still aren't temples and out of the way places still having the old blood sacrifices. They're going to have those in the out of the way territories of Sweden into the eleven hundreds. So it's a process.


In addition, it's not necessarily being treated the same way that, for example, Charlemagne treated conversion 150 years before this time period, where, if you recall, as we said in part one of this story, he was cutting the heads off Saxons who had the audacity to eat during a fast day. I mean, it was draconian. When Iceland converts by democratic decision, by the way, in 1200, they agree to keep some of the heathen practices going for a while and sort of let them wither on the vine rather than get rid of them overnight. For example, they decree that you can still have the practice of infanticide, right, exposing unwanted children. Continue.


Just do it in private. Right? They also say you can continue to eat horse flesh. Just do it in private. Let that die out.


I didn't even know shows you what I know. I didn't even know that eating horse flesh was against the Christian religion at this time period. But it was a big deal. And you can see it was a big deal when you look at how Norway gets into the conversion process during this same time period. Now, let's zoom out for a minute and realize that one of the things we get from being able to finally see some history in Scandinavia that you can sort of rely upon during Harold Bluetooth's time is that you get a window into what it must have been like before.


History sort of pulls the veil off what's going on. Archeology has always hinted at this. So have the old sagas and whatnot, but the fighting amongst peoples within Sweden, Denmark and Norway and between Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and we should also include Finland in this to some degree has been going on from time immemorial, probably. And when the Harold Bluetooth era sort, know, shines the light on what's going on in Scandinavia, we see it still going on. So when the yellingstone says that know, unites Denmark and Norway, well, you might ask yourself, what the heck is Harold doing in Norway?


Right? What does he have to do with Norway? Now, we should say, and we have already, but let's remind ourselves that the borders of the modern Scandinavian countries are not the borders back in this time. Denmark, in air quotes, controls parts of southern Sweden. They have the rulers of parts of Norway, which is not a unified country as vassal.


So it's hard to get your mind around what's more, we had talked about the great legendary leader Harold Finehair, harold Fairhair, harold Hare Fair, who supposedly legendarily united Norway. Well, when he dies, as we said, his kids begin to tear things apart and fight each other. I mean, I'm looking at you, Eric Bloodax, one of the most vicious Vikings of all time. Supposedly, they're killing each other. They're setting their mead halls on fire and burning them and their retinues up.


I mean, it's horrible stuff, but there's one of Harold Fairhair's kids who is safely ensconced away from all this violence. He's in England. And I say allegedly, because once again we have to rely on the sagas for this to a degree. So hard to parse how much of this is real and how much of it isn't. But there's one of Harold Finehair's sons in the court of Ethelstan, king of well, let's call it England at this time period.


In his book on the sagas, the Heims kringle, Snori. Sterleson has the story of this guy. And I must say, right off the bat, it's wonderfully refreshing that he doesn't have the same name as everyone else. Because by the time we get to where we are in this story, you must feel like I do. That the Norse needed a bigger book of potential baby names to choose from because there's far too many Harolds and Eriks and Olafs, and it becomes very confusing.


So whenever you run into a Rolf or an Ivar or anything like that, it's a pleasant surprise. In this case, the son of Harold Finehair, who is in England during this time period's name is Hakon. H-A-A-K-O-N is the way it's usually written. And if you believe snori Sterlison's sagas, he is the foster son of Ethelstan, because Ethelstan was tricked into accepting him. But that doesn't mean he wasn't happy with the result.


Snori. Sterlison's comments on the young life of Hakon, who will eventually be known as Hakon the Good, say this quote king Ethelstan had Hakon Christened and taught him the right faith and good habits and all kind of learning and manners. He loved him much more than he did his own kin, and so did everyone who knew the boy. He was afterwards called Athelstan's foster son. He was the greatest in sports, bigger and stronger and more handsome than any other.


He was wise, of fair speech and a good Christian. King ethelstan gave Hakon a sword of which the hilt and grip were of gold, but the blade was even better. And with it Hakon cleaved a millstone to the eye, and it was afterwards called the Krenbit, or millstone biter. It was the best sword that ever came to Norway. Hakon had it till his death day, end quote.


There are a couple of things that pop into my mind when I read that. The first is that Krenbit is like sort of a Norwegian version of Excalibur in my mind. And I'm fascinated by how swords acquire these sorts of lineages or almost like magic qualities. By the way, if you don't know what a millstone is, it's like a wagon wheel size stone used to grind grain. And it's basically, when he says it, cleaves it to the eye.


This is a guy who then took a sword and cut a piece of stone the size of maybe a wagon wheel to the Midsection Kern bit. Very interesting, right? It is interesting. To me, too, that swords can acquire this sort of soul, if you will, or personality in a way that things like firearms never quite did. And it's not a Scandinavian thing.


Look at the way the Japanese, for example, do the same thing with their swords, right? Hand them down from generation to generation, have ancient lineages. And all I can figure is, because of the speed at which technology changes in the firearms era, you wouldn't want an ancient gun, right? You wouldn't want to try to fight your enemies with a musket from the Daniel Boone era in the 1950s or the 1960s, right? Using an M 16 instead, whereas good old Fern bit would have been useful 200, 300 years after the time period where Athelstand gave it to him, just like it would have been useful 200 or 300 years before that period.


The other thing that comes to mind, and when you read Snori. Sterlison and you get any of his works that have illustrations in it, you can't help but notice it. It's the extreme contrast between those illustrations and the Hollywood trope of the Vikings. Now, I had to look up when the illustrations were penned, but they were penned in 1899, right? So very modern, but not quite Hollywood modern.


And they portray all of these figures as far less barbaric than the way the Hollywood trope has us. See them, right? There's fire breathing berserkers who look like they belong in a heavy metal rock concert. I mean, there's a whole bunch of tropes involved in the Hollywood view of these things that make the Vikings seem almost like you couldn't live next to them and the monks didn't help, right? The monks always portray these heathen pagan types as one step above animals sometimes, but the Snorri.


Sterleson illustrations make them look very much like, say, the English in Ethelstan's court might have looked. In other words, normal people, clean, well dressed when they're not going to war in their armor and stuff. They wear nice clothes, they look, know, typical early Middle Ages type people, right? Respectable types. And in fact, if Ethelstan can raise HackON Harold Finehair's son in his court as a Christian, basically being indistinguishable from an English Anglo Saxon person and then send him back to Norway, well, he's gotta be enough like those people if they're to accept him as a king.


Doesn't he have to be that way? Because that's what Ethelstand does. Because after Harold Finehair dies and his kids start going to war with each other, basically, and tearing things apart, eric bloodak supposedly takes control for a couple of years, but so anger is everybody that he causes problems and they want a new king. And, well, lo and behold, there's one sort of exiled in England, just ready to return the return of the king at the right time. Ethelstan supposedly gives him boats and followers and monks and sends Hack on over to the land of his birth that he did not grow up in, so that he can become the king there.


And, oh, yeah, when he arrives, he's a Christian now. Hakon the Good and Errol Bluetooth are contemporaries, basically, and in fact, they're going to fight each other. So what you see is all of this Christianity coming to Norway and Denmark especially, all in a very short period of time, and all in a very strong way, right amongst rulers. But whereas Harold Bluetooth is so powerful and so scary and has the support of so many nobles that he can sort of enforce his will, when it comes to Christianity, Hakon has a harder time. And this is where you can see that you have to kind of be careful how you impose a new religion on people, not necessarily because they're opposed to changing their beliefs if they belie