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THE VIKING-TIMES IN THE NORTH.
[b. Second Period of the Later Iron-Age, 700-1000 A.D.]
NONE of the previous pre-historic periods in the North can vie in vast importance with the Middle Iron-Age. Colonisation, especially to the North, had advanced as though with one bound. The most fertile results almost everywhere succeeded the fusion of old and new elements of race. The stream of European culture was no longer, as of yore, checked on the northern frontiers of the old Danish lands, but spread with remarkable regularity and on the whole with more uniformity, than hitherto, from the extreme south of Denmark up to the far north of Sweden and Norway. The introduction of agriculture navigation trade and warfare became the sources of great wealth. A somewhat peculiar though barbarised style of art had begun to develop. In speech too the inhabitants of the North were more and more severed from their Germanic kinsmen, and for the first time had acquired a written language by the introduction of the early runes from abroad. But shortly after the close of the Middle Age of Iron (about 700 A.D.) these must have given place to a peculiarly Scandinavian rune-writing developed in
the North itself (about 800 A.D.)1 A complete theology with a marvellously subtle and profound development of symbolistic speech had struck root firmly in the people, their whole existence being penetrated with reverence for the gods and assurance of a new life hereafter,
In many other points the Middle Age of Iron left behind it in the eighth century and subsequently the germs of an uninterrupted development of the life and culture peculiar to the people of the Northern countries. Ornaments weapons and ships gradually assumed specially Northern forms. It was as though an ancient Northern or north-European national spirit, after being long driven back and acted on by fresh elements of peoples and a new culture, had again broken out in stronger independence. The more the purely Christian culture aided by conquest gained a firm footing in the neighbouring countries, the more were the powerful freedom-loving heathens in the North compelled to arm and protect themselves and carry on their inner development by themselves, if they would hope to defend their religious and political independence, which was menaced from many sides. The Danes especially, for their protection against the power and greed of the German Emperors, had henceforth to bear the brunt of a hard struggle at the Kurgrav and Danevirk rampart, a line of fortifications constructed according to principles of military science on their southern frontier just north of the Eider.
Traces of fortified farmsteads or castles are also to 1 Vide author's note on Slesvig's Oldtidsm., pp. 100, 101.
be found not merely in the North on suitable hill-tops but also in the southern lowlands; where however men confined themselves to the defensive behind moated entrenchments and stockades.
Throughout the North during the pre-historic Middle Age of Iron there must have been a large increase of population and a peculiar national development. This is proved incontestibly by the force in which scarcely a hundred years afterwards well armed Northern Vikings in great war-ships began to sally forth to the terror of their neighbours (770-880 A.D.).2 They swarmed abroad on the North Sea, especially on the coasts of the western countries, and some appeared even as far down as the Mediterranean. At first these raids were commanded by single chieftains, as a private speculation, with the direct object of returning to their Northern homes laden with glory and plunder. But these were gradually thrown into the shade by larger Viking fleets under fixed martial laws. They were manned by numerous warlike emigrants and by high-born chiefs driven abroad by the pressure of overpopulation and the growing power of the kings, which threatened to curtail the power of the petty chiefs. Sword in hand, on foot and mounted, they sought to win new homes in the western lands, which were torn by intestine feuds. The success which attended these
2 Of the author's Danske Erobring af England og Normandiet, Afdel.; Kap. iv. For the laws under which they sailed (ib. p. 278), and the causes which led to the emigration (ib. pp. 30-31), and generally, the author's Danes and Norwegians in England Scotland and Ireland (Lond. 1852). Munch, I Deel. I Bind., pp. 437-443
Nearly 2000 Danish names exist in the Danelagh: Danske Erobring, p. 181, Danes and Norwegians, p. 65 ff., and ib. Table, p. 71.
national migrations by sea steadily increased their numbers, and encouraged the daring energy which it was their task to infuse into the enfeebled and degenerate populations of western Europe. The emigrants even settled in distant lands as yet uncolonised. But this does not seem to have drained the population of the North itself to any very perceptible extent. Wherever they settled, they brought with them their own native institutions, with which they well knew how to establish security and peace in the countries they ruled. The strength and importance of the new settlers in the West are still attested by many Norwegian and Danish names of places in Scotland Ireland the north of England and Normandy. In these lands, as well as in Russia, constantly increasing discoveries of graves and antiquities characteristic of the North and quite distinct from the native remains of olden times clearly prove that the Northmen in the midst of foreign surroundings for a long time clung with remarkable pertinacity to their language rune-writing style of art customs fashions and other national observances. Even to this day in spite of all later intermixtures the traces of these are not quite effaced among their descendants.
In these important but too long misunderstood movements of the people, which formed, as it were, the closing scene of the great national migrations in Europe, the Danes played a specially prominent part. They conquered and settled considerable tracts in the north of England, where they quickly mingled with the highest aristocracy. Their kings persevering alike in the pursuits of peace and war soon had a coinage
of their own-a thing as yet unknown in the North itself-struck in a peculiarly Northern style. They occupied many important points in Ireland, partly in union partly at war with the Norse settlers. They conquered Normandy, and finally subdued the whole of England, where again their Norman kinsmen in later times established the supremacy of the new DanishNorman elements on the ruins of the Anglo-Saxon and Danish kingdom. So too they settled firmly in the important trading town of Dorestad on the Rhine, where it is certain that Northern heathens had coins struck, partly in imitation of foreign types but also marked with their ancient sacred signs and pictures, e.g. the marks of Odin Frey and Freya, Thor's head, Frey's stag, his ship Skithbladnir, &c. In the North itself the Danes extended their dominions over the districts next to Scania, especially over the south and sometimes even over the whole of Norway. Following the example of foreign countries their first large realms appear to have been formed in Denmark, which owing to its situation was always the first to feel the action of currents of culture setting in from the south and south-west, especially in the times of Charles the Great. With good reason therefore has this period of transition from the prehistoric to the historic ages in the North been called the time of "the Dane-Vaelde," just as the common Northern language was in olden times named "The Danish Tongue" both in the North and elsewhere.
The most important position next to Denmark was at that time evidently occupied by Norway or the Noregs-Vaelde." The Northmen, who seem to have