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3 - The Scandinavian world

from Part I - Foundations, c.600–1000 ce

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2020

David A. Graff
Affiliation:
Kansas State University
Anne Curry
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

The history of war in the Scandinavian world is inseparable from the history of the Vikings. The stereotype of Norse violence, still prevalent today, was fostered by contemporary writers such as Alcuin, who lamented the strike on Lindisfarne in his native Northumbria (793 ce) as a pagan contamination of Christian society. ‘The heathens’, he wrote to the monks there, ‘have stained the sanctuaries of God, poured forth the blood of the saints all around the altar, laid waste to the house of our hope, and trodden upon the bodies of the saints in the temple of God as if they were dung in the street. What can I say except to lament in spirit with you before the altar of Christ and say “spare your people, Lord, spare your people, and do not give your inheritance to the pagans lest they might say where is the God of the Christians”?’ A century later, a horrified Abbo of St Germain-des-Près recounted how so many Viking longships went down the Seine to Paris that the river itself seemed to have disappeared. According to the view presented in medieval sources from the British Isles and France and replicated in modern textbooks and popular histories, Scandinavians were decidedly ‘other’ to the Europe they plundered.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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