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Viking Age and the Unification


By the end of the 970´s King Harald conquered Zealand and parts of Scania. Then he built the large ring castle Trelleborg in Zealand. The castle has been dated to around the year 978. In Scania it seems to have been the Sound coast and the south coast, which were conquered.
In the beginning of the 980´s the great slave revolt erupted at the Baltic coast.

The period in Nordic history, which involves the youngest phase of the Iron Age, is called The Viking Age. The period is characterized by cultural assent with close cultural connections between the Nordic countries, for instance in areas like mythology, building style and decoration.
The beginning of the period is marked by a violent expansion over geographic areas. Many factors have played a part. A steep rise in population in the original Viking countries, i.e. Norway, Denmark and Sweden, probably plays an important part. A change in the heathen religion during the 6th century towards more martial gods could be another. The martial ideal is evident in the fact that when a man fell in battle immediately was sent to Odin´s residence, Valhalla. Another factor has probably been the highly developed Nordic naval architecture and the introduction of the sail.
By the end of the Viking Age the Christian religion advances heavily in Scandinavia. Early on the European missionaries had gone north, but now they were supported by the domestic kings and magnates. Norway and Jutland was Christianized in the first wave because of these areas´ close proximity to the Christian countries. Norway had close contact to England. Through the conquests of Harald Bluetooth in the 970´s and the foundation of what was to become a united Danish realm, Christianity was introduced, probably by force. From Scania and Norway the new doctrine spread to Västergötland, Östergötland and Småland and by the middle and the end of the 12th century the main areas around the lake Malaren and Uppland were Christianized.
The Viking Age is said to have started with an attack on the monastery Lindisfarne in England in the year 793. Certainly it is not possible to name the start of a period by one of the first attacks in Europe. If anything this implies that you have become so powerful that you can extend your sphere of interest far beyond the sea. This year does not comply either with the archaeological material. In the early 8th century we see an increase in rich graves here. In Bornholm, for instance, excavations have revealed incredible magnificent graves from this period. To date the beginning of the Viking Age back to the 8th century is probably not far off.

When did the Viking Age end then? There have been many different years to choose from. The problem is that the Viking Age has never existed. The period is just a latter-day invention designed to divide up the past in smaller and easily understandable periods. The Battle of Hastings in England in 1066 is thought by many to be a good end, while other more vaguely mention the year 1050, when the Danish royal power was forced to give up their attempt to conquer England.
However the problem is that the Battle of Hastings definitely isn’t a memorable year for the happenings here in Scandinavia. Instead we should choose the year 1103. In this year Lund became diocese for the entire North, when the archbishop I Bremen/Hamburg was forced to divide up his power. In this year Christianity was definitely introduced and with it the European cultural heritage.

Harald Bluetooth
We don’t know when the reign of Harald Bluetooth began. His father, Gorm, was hostile towards the Christians. However, in hear 948 three bishops were ordained in Jutland. This signifies that Harald at this time perhaps had taken over after his father.
Harald Bluetooth was married to Tofa, the daughter of a Wendish prince. Only a rune stone from Sønder Vissinge in Denmark provide information about Tofa: ” Tofa, Mistivoj’s daughter, Harald the Good, the bride of Gorm’ s son, set up this monument for his mother.”
Harald had the children Sweyn Forkbeard, who became a Danish king later on, Håkon, who ruled in Semland, Tyra, who was first married to the Swedish king Styrbjørn and later to the Norwegian king, Olav Trygvasson, and Gunhild, who was married in England. Adam of Bremen also mentions the son Iring, whom Harald had sent to England, but who had been killed there. It is also said that the king had other wives besides Tofa. Adam mentions for instance Gunhild and Saxo relates at the end of the 12th century that the king had married Gyrid, Styrbjørn´s sister.
Harald´s father in law Mistivoj had adopted the Christian faith and in the year 968 he had sanctioned the establishment of the Episcopal residence in Oldenburg. Mistivoj held on to Christianity and died in the monastery Bardowiek. Harald´s marriage to Tofa must have taken place in the 960´s. In the year 974 his son Sven is said to have been a small child. Perhaps it in connection with this marriage that Harald is baptized
Harald Bluetooth formed an alliance through his wife with a Wendish prince. The purpose of the alliance could have been to secure Harald´s expansion plans in Scandinavia and perhaps in England. In the 960´s the battle of Norway seems ho have become topical. Adam of Bremen writes in the year of 1070:
”Harald expanded his domain on the other side of the ocean to the Norwegians and the Angles. In Norway Hakon reigned and when the Norwegians had dethroned him because of his reckless behaviour, Harald reinstated him by way of his authority and made him conciliatory towards the Christians.”
In order to rule over England as well as Norway, and especially the Oslo inlet it was necessary to have a large fleet. It is not unreasonable to view the building of the enormous Aggersborg at Limfjorden as naval base for this conquest. The myths relate how the Norwegian king Harald was brutally murdered and how Harald Bluetooth later sailed to Norway with the Norwegian Hakon Jarl and an enormous fleet. This is supposed to have happened around the year 970.
When the German emperor Otto I died in the year 973, the Danes rebelled against the German suzerainty in Hedeby in Southern Jutland. Harald Bluetooth was supoorted in the fight by his Norwegian ally, Hakon Jarl. According to Snorre Sturlason, Hakon Jarl later crossed the Sound and burned and ravaged on both sides of the Sound on his way back to Norway. This information is important. If it is true it indicates that Zealand and Scania hadn´t yet been conquered by King Harald.
By the end of the 970´s King Harald conquered Zealand and parts of Scania. Then he built the large ring castle Trelleborg in Zealand. The castle has been dated to around the year 978. In Scania it seems to have been the Sound coast and the south coast, which were conquered.
In the beginning of the 980´s the great slave revolt erupted at the Baltic coast. It is all said to have been a heathen counter attack on the Christians. In Denmark Harald´s son, Sweyn, tried to take over. Adam writes:
”Suddenly a rebellion started, the Danes renounced Christianity, made Sweyn king and declared war on Harald… In this miserable war Harald and his supporters were defeated. The king himself was wounded and fled the battle, boarded a ship and he managed to escape to the society in the land of the slaves, which is called Jumne.”
King Harald died of his wounds here and was taken, according to Adam, back to Denmark by his soldiers, where he was buried in the church I Roskilde, which he had built on the honour of the Holy Trinity. Harald must have died in the year 985 or 986.
Danmark´s Birth Certificate
Danmark´s Birth Certificate

The War Harbour in Foteviken
In the Sound area Foteviken on the Scanian Sound coast forms a strategic situated natural harbour very likely for the Scanian war fleet. In the inlet´s mouth towards Høllviken they built an almost 300 metres long obstruction of stone and wood under the water. Only a small opening in the middle made it possible for a ship to sail through.
The obstruction at the mouth of Foteviken was found and partly examined in the beginning of the 1980´s. The place has been marked on a map drawn by hand as early as the 1680`s and was named ” Stiigan ”. The name alludes to the many wooden posts, which have been hammered down here. A year ring dating suggests that the construction may have been begun in the time of Harald Bluetooth and finished later. Later on stone was used to extend the obstruction. On the other side of the obstruction they had to row the ship almost a kilometre south in the deep channel, which runs in the otherwise shallow inlet. Finally they had to round a synthetic lake, before they reached the basin, which probably was here. Opposite the basin was the royal estate with a smaller chapel and the village. However, there have been no excavations in the exciting Viking Age environment.
Roar Ege
Roar Ege
Viking Ship with Soldiers
Viking Ship with Soldiers

©  Øresundstid 2009