The Norsemen and the Carolingian
• The Vikings
• Fury from the North
• Influence of the
• 8th 9th & 10th centuries
• Pagan Scandinavians
• Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes
• Beginning in 8th century—Scandinavians
spanned out in conquest and foraging Raids;
establishing new trade routes and markets; also
formed settlements;
• And Violent attacks against others.
• These raids stretched from Newfoundland to
• Viking attacks against the
British Isles were fierce and
deadly from the beginning
(started 789 AD);
• Didn’t reach real critical
violent mass on the continent
or America until around the
840s AD;
• Still unclear as to why these
expansions and/or raids took
• No written records.
• By 9th century the Viking
raids were very
destructive and terrifying;
• The Carolingian empire
had no choice but to deal
with these ferocious
warriors from the North;
• Vikings left indelible mark
and influence on Europe
from Ireland to Russia.
• The word Viking was used
sparingly in the 9th and 10th
• Sometimes the Northmen
referred to themselves as
• No one really knew what it
meant then or now;
• Did bring fear and foreboding
with the name.
• The Carolingians referred to them simply as the
“Northmen” because they came from the North.
• Their raids were extensive; there has been found
tens of thousands of Arab silver coins and even a
Buddhist statue;
• They were warlike, fierce, and nautical experts;
• But they were also a conundrum.
• Many theories exist why they turned from traders
to raiders and settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries;
• It could be because Scandinavia became over
populated, Kings grew powerful displacing many
aristocrats seeking their fortune elsewhere;
• Maybe because there were Civil Wars going on in
Baghdad trade was interrupted so they resorted to
raiding to support themselves; maybe they settled
elsewhere for land, trade routes, or because they
• What we do know is the Viking diasporas was part of a
much larger expansion;
• It went further than the Anglo-Saxons and the
Carolingians—it traveled to America, Newfoundland
Greenland and Iceland;
• They would also attack Baghdad and what is today the
Ukraine and Russia;
• Russ is a Viking word meaning inhabitants of Russia.
• The first Russians were
actually Scandinavian;
• Europe shocked at the
severity of the Viking
attacks; early Viking
leaders named:
• Erik Bloodaxe and
Thorfin Skullsplitter;
• Grabs ones attention.
• In fact in the Orkney
Islands Northeast Great
Britain, there is still an
Ale named “Skullsplitter”
It has an 8.5% alcohol
• Most famous attack (1st)
was Lindisfarne
• They were easy prey; they
were not combatants;
• They possessed much
silver and booty
• Other Monasteries would
also suffer the fate of
• The Vikings would raid
Ion and Columba and
again Lindisfarne;
• They would ever so often
repeat these vicious raids
• First recorded raid on the Carolingians (France)
was in 799 AD; Ireland raided in 795AD
• And from 799 through 840 AD ever so often they
would raid the continent;
• In the 830s AD the Vikings stopped their hit and
run tactics; they actually would settle in the area
designated for pillage—winter there, and then in
the spring pillage etc . . .,in fact between 841 and
892 there was non-stop raiding and pillaging of
the Carolingian Empire.
• Because of their
technological advantage
and their nautical
expertise, no empire or
part of western or eastern
Europe was safe from the
marauding Vikings.
• The Long Boat, shallow
draft, easy to portage and
carry; easy to navigate
shallow rivers, as well as
Ocean—also carry it
around obstacles.
• In fact, during the 9th century, no Western
European city escaped the wrath of the Vikings at
least once.
• They would take as much moveable wealth and
slaves as they could carry; it was a cruel march or
journey for slaves—they would drag them from
Europe to the markets of Baghdad—a huge
Islamic slave center—one reason why the word
slave came about—originally referred to the slav
people who were enslaved by Vikings and
• Vikings were not all Warriors;
• Many were Farmers who
moonlighted as warriors on the
• Plant crops early spring; go
raiding and pillaging during
the Summer;
• Return in fall to harvest; and
essentially party all winter
until the cycle began again.
• Though seen a s a vicious cycle, it did offer
respite for Europe during the winter months;
• Changed in 840AD; Vikings began to winter in
the area they wished to raid in spring—to get an
earlier start before other Vikings could beat them
to the intended target;
• Dublin Ireland was a Viking settlement—or
staging point for Viking raids.
• One tactic used; was to create
a winter base on an island at
the mouth of a river;
• Europe full of these little
tributaries leading to large
rivers such as the seine etc . . .
• They were nautical experts—
made sense to do this—
protected from village
retaliation and created easy
attack routes and escape routes
if necessary.
• The raids were now more than a nuisance—they were
deadly and constant;
• Charles the bald decided that one must negotiate with the
• Idea was to pay tribute if necessary to not raid Paris, etc
• Flawed strategy: Viking raiding parties were independent
of each other—the deal with one didn’t equate to a deal
or guarantee from other raiding parties; tribute became
known as the Danegeld or “money paid to the Danes.”
• The Danegeld became a form
of Viking extortion;
• The terms always favored the
• They or another raiding party
could always return and
demand the Danegeld or the
village suffered the
Extortion was the game and the
Vikings were good at it.
• Though the Danegeld may save Paris, it benefited
the Vikings.
• They could collect the ransom and still plunder
other parts of the Carolingian Empire;
• Best of both worlds—as stated earlier their fierce
behavior and nautical advantage gave them this
• The Long Boat itself was the
greatest advantage other than
their crazy brave attitude;
• It carried about 100 people, all
armed and dangerous;
• Nautical skills still seen in
French and Gaelic
Creek,(French) and boat,
rudder and ship (Gaelic);
• It could be carried over land
and navigate shallow river
Continental Europe—Carolingian Empire
One reason for Viking success:
Though Charlemagne did a good job of keeping
intruders out; By the time of 846AD, Louis the
Pious, the Arabs began to probe and attack the
eastern part of the Carolingian empire;
They too forced kings and Mayors of the palaces to
pay tribute and ransom—also a group of peoples
called the Magyars (Hungarians) much like the
Huns, they were central Asian nomads—900AD
Carolingian Issues Cont’d
• Arabs and Magyars were good
at extracting tribute learned
from the Vikings; The rarely if
ever attacked a town or big
• The Vikings, however, were
very good at sacking towns
and destroying large
• Carolingian empire attacked
from every corner
• Viking Merchants and Traders;
• Not all Vikings or Norsemen were warriors and
• Many were traders and were very good at
economics. They remained in an area such as a
trade crossroad as Constantinople, Paris, Ukraine,
the Balkans wherever and established businesses
that remain very influential today
Viking Traders and Merchants
• One of the first Peoples to
establish and maintain true
Global trade routes and
• Many surely failed, but
many also succeeded.
• Markets reached all of
eastern and Western
Europe, The Americas and
even into China and Asia
• For some unknown reasons as quick as they
started, they seemed to subside, the Viking
• By the early 10th century (930AD) Viking Raids
are essentially over; still do not know why they
began and certainly are curious as why they ended
so abruptly—the Europeans certainly did not
conquer them or sign a peace treaty with them??
• Speculation: nothing left to
rob—cupboard was bare;
• All Monasteries had moved to
far inland or were left with
• Maybe the Vikings were
enjoying so much success and
influence in Anglo-Saxon
England they decided to ignore
the Continent;
• Or maybe the Carolingians
finally figured out how to stop
the Raids—by pitting Vikings
against Vikings.
• Vikings did not settle in large numbers on the
European continent;
• Unlike the Germanic migrations of the 4th and 5th
centuries where the Merovingian's and the
Carolingians settled in great numbers;
• One exception—Normandy, which derives its
name from the Northmen—very much settled by
Norsemen or many children were born to
Norsemen in this area.
• 911 AD a Carolingian ruler—Charles the Simple
managed to defeat the Viking ruler of Normandy;
• Viking rulers name: Hrolfe or Rollo—he agreed to
become a Carolingian Count and was allowed to
maintain rule over Normandy—maintain
allegiance to the Carolingian Empire;
• Defended Paris and France from further Viking
Raids—Christianized his name to Robert—lineage
to William the Conqueror.
Collapse of Carolingian Empire
• Between the three centuries of Viking Raids and
destruction on the Continent and the peripheral attacks
and raids of the Arabs and the Magyars, the Carolingian
Empire became weak and fragmented;
• Difficult to maintain a large empire without security;
difficult to manage the political, social, or economic
• Became embroiled in many Civil Wars and by the middle
and especially the end of the 9th century there was no
more Carolingian empire—remember it was the isolated
Holy Roman Emperor title that would survive 1000 yrs.
Collapse of Carolingian Empire
• As all dynasties and Empires, if found by the
sword, usually die by the sword—success was
rooted in military conquests—this allowed large
rewards and the buying of loyalty;
• This where the rule of Knights and Honorable
prestige began to appear—Knights of the Round
Table etc … Franks did use Knights as Army.
• Features of the Knightly fighting technique was
use a lance to unhorse ones opponent …
Carolingian Collapse
• Two inventions established
this Knightly combat:
• Stirrup and High-backed
saddle; made them a little
more formidable in combat;
Unfortunately could use
Knights against Vikings and
• Dynastic luck in that lands
were divided equally—no one
ruler could dominate the
other—had to form security
and economic alliances for
Carolingian Collapse
• Recall Pepin was the first
Carolingian ruler;
• Charlemagne's brother died—
no contention;
• Charlemagne ruled for a long
• Also two of the three sons
died, so everything went to
Louis the Pious—no
contention here—happened at
Louis the Pious’ death—three
sons all wanted power
Carolingian Collapse
• Secure alliances avoided civil wars;
• Unfortunately due to Viking beat downs during the
8th and 9th centuries, various Carolingian rulers
assumed independence as other rulers made deals
with the Vikings, others tried to defeat them—
created a lack of trust and much bellicosity;
• They began to also war against one another. It
began with the break down between familial
relations concerning Louis the Pious’ three sons.
Carolingian Collapse
• Three sons, Lothar, Pippin and
Louis the German;
• Lothar crowned co-emperor in
823AD; based on the
Ordinatio Imperii (oldest son
to receive imperial title) also to
become overlord to the other
two sons.
• Louis the Pious’ wife died; he
remarried –son Charles the
bald—resented their brother
Lothar—as co-emperor he had
imperial title and power over
them as mere Kings
Carolingian Collapse
• Lothar had Louis the Pious imprisoned three times before
his death—assuming Imperial duties—each time,
however, Pippin and Louis the German recanted and
freed their father—
• Lothar could not trust them so he waged war against his
brothers—and against Charles the Bald when his share of
the lands were given him when Pippin died;
• Perpetual Civil War, now—this Civil war ended in 843
with the treaty of Verdun—divided empire equal parts.
Treaty of Verdun
• It is called the “Birth certificate of Europe.” Europe
divided into three (3) equal parts”
• Modern day France, Modern day Germany, and what
would become modern day Eastern Europe, the Balkans,
Romania, Czechoslovakia etc …
• Basically emasculated the title of Holy Roman
Emperor—no true authority over the others—needed
permission to travel through their lands and they need not
pay tribute … prestigious title but nothing more …
Carolingian Collapse
• Important: Lothar retained
Holy Roman Emperor
• Unfortunately for the
empire, Charles the bald
and Louis the German
were essentially
independent principalities;
• No allegiance or deference
to Lothar or the moniker
of Holy Roman Emperor.
Carolingian Collapse
• Brief period in 880s AD,
Charles the fat reunited
various parts of the Old
Kingdom trying to restore the
Carolingian dynasty;
• Unfortunately the Vikings
besieged Paris 885AD,
Charles the Fat merely paid
them danegeld; despite the
brave resistance of Count Odo
of Paris—he was deposed
because of his mental and
physical collapse in 887AD.
Carolingian Collapse
• Now because of the successive Civil Wars and
the attacking of each other;
• The Carolingian armies once formidable could
not protect the population against the Viking
raids—or against one another—lost all respect
and credibility with the people;
• Empire collapses, no authority, or credible
dynastic succession.

The Norsemen - Midlands Technical College