Highlights of Viking Age warfare – 4

Just Get On With It” by Lil Shepherd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This post continues a discussion of interesting tidbits from The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750 -1100 by Philip Line. The book focuses on warfare, which is slightly off-point for this blog, so I’ll mention some of the highlights for me.

Previous discussions include:

Wrap up

The author concludes by pointing out that warfare was pretty much the same in 1100 compared to 750. Warfare throughout that timeframe would have been highlighted by a focus on raids, taking everything of value from the enemy territory, avoiding high risk set-piece battles, and operating with limited objectives.

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Highlights of Viking Age warfare – 3

Battle Cry” by Lil Shepherd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This post continues a discussion of interesting tidbits from The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750 -1100 by Philip Line.

Previous discussions described the limits of our knowledge and battle techniques. This discussion focuses on campaigns and sieges.

Campaigns

Size of armies, and their mobility depended on the quality of roadwork, which deteriorated after the decline of the Roman Empire. Poor road systems suggest there was more use of pack animals than of wheeled transports, which would slow down a mobile force.

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Highlights of Viking Age warfare – 2

Confrontation” by Lil Shepherd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This post continues a discussion of interesting tidbits from The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750 -1100 by Philip Line.

Battle techniques

Chapter 3 dives into battle techniques.

Predominant leadership model was for a commander to lead from the front. In a time when loyalties were tied to the leader this was a powerful yet risky strategy. Troops would be willing to follow their leader into combat, but if he were killed, morale would probably collapse and the force could disintegrate quickly.

Lots of modern histories assert that a wedge was a frequent Viking technique, yet the author points out there is minimal evidence to support the statement. On the other hand, there is little evidence for much of anything in the Viking era.

Another feature of the medieval battle was the lack of reserves to reinforce breakdowns in the line or reinforce success. This means a collapse somewhere on the battle line could cascade to defeat of the entire line since there would not be any troops to fill the gap.

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Highlights of Viking Age warfare – 1

Moving In” by Lil Shepherd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750 -1100 by Philip Line has lots of discussion on warfare in the Viking Age.  Warfare itself is off-point from the focus of this blog. The main emphasis here highlights the economic factors of ancient times. I will, however, highlight a few of the ideas in the book of interest to me.

Limits to our knowledge of the Viking Age

The author explains throughout the text the dramatic limits of our knowledge of the Viking age. Much of what we know comes from written records created one or three centuries after the incidents under discussion. In additions, those discussions are frequently filtered by a Christian worldview with some additional agenda on the part of the author.

Even archaeology provides partial evidence.

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Condensed timeline of Viking Age

Norwegian Viking statue. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Looking for a condensed timeline of the Viking Era?

The translator’s notes of The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics) by Frans G. Bengtsson provide a very short survey of the Viking era.

Norwegians and Danes usually went west to wreak havoc and seek their fortunes. Swedes usually went east, across the Baltic.

Here is his summarized timeline, paraphrased by me with several additions:

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Roman legionnaire’s pay over time. Increases are an indication of debasement of currency.

Marching Roman legionnaire reenactors. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Pay for a legionnaire soldier in the Roman army increased substantially over time, from 225 denarii a year around the turn of the millenium to 600 denarri in the early 200s.

The amount of silver in a denarii was also steadily reduced over that same time. That is called inflation, which as we know from other reading, was driven by Roman Emperors intentionally debasing the currency as a way to help finance the empire.

A Wikipedia article, “Imperial Roman Army” provides data to analyze the gross pay and real pay over time.

First, let’s look at the declining value of a denarius. Here is the silver value of each coin, measured as the number of denarii minted from each pound of silver, along with my point estimate of the year of the change:

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