Homespun cloth used for money in Viking Age Iceland.

Viking woman standing near Drakkar on seashore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.  Illustration is highly consistent with other things I’ve read describing women’s clothing during the Viking Age. Notice the brooch securing the outer wrap, hair ornament, inner and outer garment.

Money is usually defined as something that is a medium of exchange, a measure of value, and a store of value.

For example, I sell you something in return for “money” which I can then immediately buy something from someone else. Or, we can use “money” to set a value for something you have. Or, I can sell something now, store the value in “money” and then buy something of equal value later.

In Iceland during the Viking Age there was not enough silver to use it as “money.” So, other things, especially homewoven cloth was used as substitute.

In Viking Age Iceland, Jesse Byock gives a good explanation of how cloth was used as a measure of value and medium of exchange.

Posts in this series:

Homespun cloth used as “money”

Continue reading “Homespun cloth used for money in Viking Age Iceland.”

Tidbits on money and fighting in the Viking Age

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Fun article on Viking coinage and more tidbits on fighting techniques.

Coins in the Viking Era

Some background on striking coins during the Viking era can be found at The Viking Network. Article dated 6/21/15 explained Vikings in Norway make their own Coins.

First silver coins flowing into Scandinavia were Arabic dirhems. Later pennies from England and the continent were a bigger portion of the coins. Even later, various kings in Scandinavia minted their own coins.

A large horde dated to 1010 A.D. or earlier contains three coins with an inscription of “ONLAF REX NOR”, which the article translates as “Olav King of the Norwegians.” Article points out it is unknown whether this is Olav Tryggvason or Olav Haraldsson.

Continue reading “Tidbits on money and fighting in the Viking Age”

Another guess on amount of silver looted from France and England by the Vikings

Means by which all that wealth was transferred back to Scandinavia. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Been listening again to The Vikings by Professor Kenneth Harl. Audio lectures are from The Great Courses,

The author makes a wild guess on the amount of silver carried out of the Carolingian Empire and away from England.

Based upon written accounts in the 9th century he estimates between 40,000 and 45,000 pounds of silver was extracted from the Carolingian empire as Danegeld payments.

He says most historians would estimate this was between 1/2 and 1/3 of the total silver hauled off. That means there would have been somewhere in the range of 80,000 or 90,000 pounds up to 120,000 or 135,000 pounds in addition. I will smooth that estimate out to somewhere between 80,000 and 125,000 pounds.

Over in England, king Ethelred paid out an estimated 180,000 pounds of silver.

Continue reading “Another guess on amount of silver looted from France and England by the Vikings”

One usuable indicator of the value of a Viking sword. How many weapons you could buy today for that price?

Viking warrior with sword and shield standing near Drakkar on the seashore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What was the price of a Viking sword at the time? How about expressing a price then in some unit of measure we can grasp today? I have looked on the ol’ net but haven’t found any good guesses. Previous post discussed one indicator that I couldn’t process.

Hurstwic website describes one sword that had a reported value.   Chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga says a sword given to Höskuldur by King Hákon was worth a half mark of gold.

Hurstwic says that is equal to 16 milk cows.

Continue reading “One usuable indicator of the value of a Viking sword. How many weapons you could buy today for that price?”

Overview of silver and coin usage in Viking Era

Viking silver hoard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Short overview of the evolution of the means of exchange during Viking Era can be found in Viking Currency, an article by Dani Trynoski at Medievalists.net.

A basic economic concept to remember: part of the definition of money is a means of exchange and store of value. A silver armband, brooch, or coin can be both a store of value and means of exchange. Standard size silver coins are easier to work with on both criteria than jewelry.

A few pounds of silver is far easier to carry and use to buy stuff later than several dozen (?) furs, a dozen or two cows, or a few shiploads of grain.

Some fun highlights from the article:

Continue reading “Overview of silver and coin usage in Viking Era”

Recap of payments made to Viking raiders, called Danegeld.

Viking Coin Hoard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Some day I plan to collate all the comments I’ve read on the amount of Danegeld and other money accumulated by various Viking raids.

In The Vikings, Else Roesdahl provides details on payments to Viking raiders:

France:

  • 44,250 pounds gold and silver during 9th century – from context I think this is from the Frankish rulers – doesn’t include ransom collected, food plundered, or side raids

England:

  • 991 – 10,000 pounds silver- Olaf Tryggvason.
  • 994 – 16,000 lb. – Olaf again, with Svien Forkbeard and 94 ships loaded with their buddies.

Continue reading “Recap of payments made to Viking raiders, called Danegeld.”

Coining money in Viking Age and more details on found hoards

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Consider there was no secure way to store wealth in the time of the Vikings. There were no banks, no marketable securities, no way to establish reliable  title to land. In essence, there was no store of value other than bullion or coins.

So, if you had a huge amount of wealth beyond your livestock and weapons, it would be in the form of bullion or coins. To keep it safe from theft, you would have to hide it in the ground.

Wealthy people who were killed, captured, never came back from another raid or trading expedition, or merely forgot where they buried their wealth abandoned all of their underground accumulation to be found some later time.

In The Age of the Vikings, Anders Winroth says children on a school outing found one hoard of 1,452 silver coins from the Viking age. Almost the entire hoard was Arabic dirham coins.

Author says there have been over 700 hoards found in Gotland. There was so much silver buried that another find is usually discovered each year.

Continue reading “Coining money in Viking Age and more details on found hoards”

Galea – helmet worn by Roman Legionnaires.

Roman Legionnaire re-enactor wearing lorica hamata (chain mail), with gladius (sword) and pugio (daggar) on his balteus (belt), carrying a pilum (spear) and holding a scutum (shield). Also wearing what appears to be Imperial Gallic galea (helmet) with large plume on top of helmet. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

With a shield held in front of you, the most valuable and most exposed area to be protected is your head. Helmets were in used during the entire Roman Era, as well as routinely used by their predecessors and opponents.

Researchers have identified five major types of helmets, with large number of subtypes for each.

Common thread of all the helmets is the basic design was obtained from some other people group, adopted, then refined. That fits with a broader pattern I have observed that the Romans were aggressive in adopting good ideas used by enemies which they found helpful.

 

Galea – plural galeae

Wikipedia provides an introductory overview of galea.

Roman Soldier Operations Manual: Daily Life * Fighting Tactics * Weapons * Equipment * Kit by Simon Forty provides more detail, but alas, is not linkable and all the images are copyrighted.

The Complete Roman Army by Adrian Goldsworthy has several pages providing great discussion of helmets.

As is typical for the book, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak provides great ’advice’ to a Legionnaire shopping for a helmet.

 

Montefortino helmet

A Roman Montefortino helmet by Matthias Kabel  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 . Notice the short and narrow neck guard and place to add cheek guard, which would probably have been made of leather.

Used from 4th century BC through 1st century AD

Earliest helmets were simple, with a round shape and small neck guard. These would have been easy to produce and cheaper than the later designs. They were made out of bronze.

The basic design was developed from Celtic helmets.

They apparently had cheek guards as well, since they typically have holes in the sides of the helmet. Reportedly, most of the Montefortino helmets discovered do not have a cheek guard, leading to speculation the cheek guards were made of leather instead of metal.

 

Coolus helmet

Continue reading “Galea – helmet worn by Roman Legionnaires.”

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:

Continue reading “Roman legionnaire’s pay over time. Increases are an indication of debasement of currency.”

Average pay for Roman Legionnaire

Silver Roman denarius. About one and a half day’s pay for a Legionnaire. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Another indication of average pay for Roman foot soldiers can be found in Wikipedia’s article Imperial Roman Army.

This pay rate applied during the reigns of Emperors Augustus and Vespasian, which means until about 81 A.D. After that point, debasement of the currency led to inflation and rising pay for soldiers. More on that later.

For general framework, this is the pay structure in effect during the time of the New Testament.

Here is a recap: 

Continue reading “Average pay for Roman Legionnaire”