Thursday, September 29, 2011

Injections (of the Cultural/Political/Economic variety)

"Lord save us from the from the fury of the  Norsemen"

English Monastic Prayer

  This was the prayer uttered by the monks of the English isles, and true it was as during the early middle ages the Vikings terrorized all of Europe's coast. The common idea that most people hold about Vikings, that they were axe-wielding, bearded, marauders, is not inaccurate. But one thing people do not usually realize is the other attributes that these northern raiders possessed; these other attributes would in fact play an important role in shaping Europe and through that shaping our country as well.

  A ship would appear quite suddenly above the waves and would dock at a seemingly impassable beach. It would then disgorge a large cadre of fierce fighting men. Who then proceed to pillage towns and monasteries. They would then retreat back to their ships, and sail away with plenty of plunder from their attack. This scene would have been played over and over practically anywhere in coastal Europe. The sight of a longboat and these men would strike fear into any town, army, or general. But where did these voracious warriors come from? Who were they? The answer to these questions are one and the same: Norseman. The name Norseman is a broad categorization for the people that came from the northern regions of Europe(viking only refers to the tribes that raided England). No one truly knows who they are descended from, but theories point that they were a splinter off-shoot of the Germanic tribes, that separated themselves into the frozen lands long ago, and were isolated for the majority from most contact from them on.
  Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland were the frosty homes of these rugged people, and the Norse had to work hard to scrape out the meager agriculture that they did. It did not take long for these Northern dwellers to realize that a more bountiful living could be found on the waves than in tilling the ground, this would soon result into a race of extremely proficient sailors that would create perhaps the fastest most versatile ship in existence until the advent of steam power. But even with the sea, living in the Northern reaches of the world still was difficult. It is a testament to the Norse  people's determination that they multiplied and spread out in such a environment.
  No one knows for sure the reason why the Norsemen suddenly exploded out of their sphere of influence, perhaps it was just overpopulation or perhaps something else, but the first of the hordes of  the "Pagans" flooded en-masse into the medieval world around the 8th century. The Norse had raided Europe before, but never in such staggering numbers, and never with such weapons of steel. The terror of the North was ascendant and would effect all reaches  before it would stop.
  The history of these people is divided up into three "phases" , Phase one is the "era of vikings", second comes the "era of Conquest", and finally the "era of Settlement". The era of vikings is so named because of the massive raiding that took place. The Norsemen had exorbitant advantages over the defenders, the biggest of these were the longboat. The longboat was created with oars and sails so that they could have forward movement even when the sails were struck; longboats also were built with special hulls designed to allow them to float in much shallower water than any other large ship.
These ships, on top of the fact that the Norse had learned to create and use iron weapons, allowed these "Blond Giants of the North" to cause untold amounts of damage to all they faced. The fact that these northern hordes did not conquer but instead burned, plundered, and ran, frustrated all but the fortified towns and castles. The state of Europe at that time did not help either. The Carolingian Empire had recently splintered to inward divisions and outward pressures, for which the Norsemen are partially responsible. There was no authority to be found in Europe, and all organized military and government was devolving into Feudalism. In this state of lawlessness that gripped the region, it became a paradise for any raiders that had the force and a will to use it. But this situation could not last, for either of the two peoples. The terrified victims of repeated raids by the Norse marauders eventually banned together for their mutual protection, and were able to defend from most raids. On the other side of the spectrum there had begun an alarming trend of powerful warchiefs that had started  consolidating their raids, because of the fortification of towns, and in the process began forming their own mini-empires. This began the second phase, conquest.
  The leaders of the Norse people soon realized that it became more profitable to conquer empires than to destroy them. The first powerful warchief to attempt this was Canute, the king of the Danes.
He had been strengthening his forces through political marriage and bringing like-minded warriors to his banner until he launched an invasion on the Anglo-Saxon controlled England. Canute quickly took most of Middle England, but when he attempted to subject lower England he was faced with many fortified towns,and his campaign slowed considerably. These fortified towns called for the Saxon king Ethelred to help them against the Danes. Ethelred fought admirably, but could not prevail against the Danes; Canute conquered all of England with the exception of Wales. England would stay in the hands of the Danes only one generation to Canute's intermarriage with the previous royal family, which resulted in his step-grandson Edward the Confessor returning England to native rule. But England was not the only place that felt the hand of the Viking empire-building. In France, King Charles gave a very strategic strip of coast land to the Rollo, the leader of an army of Norseman that had journeyed up the river to besiege his capitol of Paris. This strip of land would become known as Normandy,and would have immense impact on the future. In Eastern Europe the Swedes were particularly active, virtually creating the state known as Rus, from which came Russia; a band of swedes known as theVariagians sailed up rivers until the got to the Black sea, and from there they conducted numerous raids on the Byzantine Empire. Until finally, the emperor hired them at an immense amount to join his army as elite troops. The islands of Vinland(greenland) and Iceland were both fully conquered as well. Through the domination of these nations we have seen the ferocity of the Norseman, their fighting ability was a central part of their culture, but now as the warchiefs of the Northerners became Kings of Europe, and the Viking raiders became lords over fiefs, we see their other attributes come to the fore.
  The third and final phase was the era of settlement. The gruff Norsemen faced a problem. How would a culture of warriors, with limited numbers, rule over all the people that had been conquered? 
There were really only two options open to them: (1)rule from afar as an empire. That had not worked for Canute and the Danes, their Empire was lost in a few generations, (2)rule with the locals and create a amalgamation of governments. This option was looked upon with favor,as the Norsemen were quite used to taking the best of people and combining it with their own, many used it. 
  Now some maybe wondering what the significance of this is. What could backward raiders offer a more "sophisticated" culture like that of France or the Slavic nations? The answer to that is everything! What most people focus on with the Norsemen is their ability to make war, their ferociousness in battle, and the huge amount of havoc they caused in an already chaotic time, but too many people stop there. Yes, they were fearsome warriors. Yes, they were a major factor in the Dark Ages. Yes, they conquered a large amount in proportion to their actual size. But the greatest feat in my opinion comes after, when they have conquered these areas and cause them to become some of the greatest areas in that region. 
   It is no coincidence that areas controlled by the raiders-turned-rulers profited by the virtues of there new overlords. The Medieval age was ruled by Feudalism, and Feudalism is inherently decentralized, this caused an amount of chaos. The Norsemen when they settled had no form of Feudalism, in fact, the Norse community had a very simple hierarchy that basically consisted of Chieftans, Freeman, and Prisoners taken from raids. Loyalty to your people was imperative, because rebellion could cause death to your entire band. Chieftans were forced to rule wisely, because the penalty for failure was loss of rank. The Tribes were very organized in their business, because waste could not be afforded in the tribe. So when the Norsemen took to administering their lands they applied to same principles to ruling that they did to most other areas of their life: Find what you need, take what will be beneficial,cut away what is unnecessary and then succeed. This technique varied in areas, but some steps were always the same. The redistribution of land by the leader to loyal generals, this on the outside seems very superficial, and does not seem like it would do much, but on the contrary it does! The redistribution of land BY the KING to his loyal generals, in most Feudal communities the king only had as much power as the land that he owned. Kings were really powerless over new territories because they were won with his nobles' troops, but when the chieftain over a Norse warband took a large tract of land HE owned it, and the nobles were just overseers that he put in place; they may have controlled it but the king owned it, and ownership was(is) nine-tenths of the law, this practice alone put the Norman fiefs decades ahead of any of their European counterparts. The Norse imposed a council like organization on the King and government that composed of Freemen/warriors that acted in a advisory capacity. This is the parent institution of what would become the parliament.   Another common theme in Norse administration was the use of the locals beneficial customs, such as when they adopted the French's cavalry tactics that were once used against them, or when they used Russian trade routes through the Black sea to expand their own impressive trade; In fact, the Normans penchant for fitting things to their needs influenced America greatly when the they conquered a newly independent Anglo-Saxon England. 
  The Anglo-Saxons had just gotten self-rule back when their king died with no appointed heir. The  Duke of Normandy William I had a claim to the throne through his mothers line, and decided to invade England to fight his opponent for the throne, Harold the Saxon. Duke William won against Harold's forces, and conquered the entirety of England. Duke William (now King William) moved in Norman fashion, as his predecessors had, and organized his newly conquered territory into perhaps the most powerful and well administered land in all of Europe. This would be the last time that England would ever be successfully invaded. No small glory should go to the Normans, who after they conquered England propelled it to be one of the premier countries in that hemisphere.
  Many more exotic lands were affected by the Normans in the crusades as the marauder traditions of the vikings played back generations later in the blood of Norman knights. The Normans were hired as mercenaries by the Papal States, who were feeling threatened by the Muslim invasion of Sicily. It took many years, but the Normans finally managed to conquer Sicily, and another nation was added to the roles of being conquered by the Norsemen. 
  But it was inevitable that such a small ethnic group of rulers would be able to retain their identity among the millions of people that they ruled. All the nations which were conquered by these uncouth, rough, sea-faring pirates profited under their rule,and although they were successively lost their identity into the people that they had ruled, they made some of the largest contributions to them.


Friday, September 23, 2011

What should I name betta?

I'm thinking of getting a Betta fish and I;m one of those weird people who like to name there fish so I wondered if you had any ideas?

ps I googled for a picture of blue bettas and these are some of the things that came up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2 All I have 2 more randum quetions for you guys

If you could do any thing with or in your life what would it be?
Please answer the first question before you read the next one !

ashfd a;sjdfh a;dsjfh jfheoiwHGF SADF !!
lllll /Why/e///aren't//adsgf/you/aaaa/doing/it/eeeee/?/

Friday, September 9, 2011


All right Mr.Burkhard is offing to tech a class on making and using longbows the details are still in the works but I need to know who would like to come it would probley be 2 or 3 classes of a few hours each.