Wednesday, June 6, 2012

OMG Vikings in South Italy

What Up, Nerds?

Hold up.

Hold up.

And wait a minute. Did you say that right in the last post? Did you say that the Pope brought Vikings from the south of Italy to fight Germans from the north? Goddamn Vikings in southern Italy? What the hell you you smoking, boy? Ain't Vikings from motherf*cking Scandinavia?

Damn straight I said Vikings in south Italy.

It was the year 912 and Vikings had been leaving Scandinavia to go raid Europe every year for more than a hundred years. They'd conquered and set up a Viking state in the Danelaw--the north east half of Britain. And now those Vikings were moving south. One Viking chief named Rollo conquered and then settled his people in the north of France. Like many Vikings they were called simply the "North Men." People kept saying "North Men" lazily and eventually it turned into the word "Norman."

Within seventy years these Viking Normans had set up such powerful state in north France that they straight-up got to pick the next French King to suit their whims.

Eighty seven years after Rollo set up his Viking-land of Normandy, the Normans had become so renowned for their savage and effective fighting that they were getting hired to fuck sh*t up all over Europe. One of these places was southern Italy, which had some problems with Muslims raiding from North Africa. These Muslims had gone so far and were such a big threat that they had conquered all of Sicily and it was being governed as an Islamic Emirate. Once more there were problems trying to fight off the Eastern Roman Empire. Unlike what a lot of people are taught, the Roman Empire did not fall in 476 AD--the Empire managed to stay alive until well into the 1400's. And in the 1000's AD, the Roman Empire was quite interested in reconquering the Western half of its historical borders.

And so the Prince of Salerno in south Italy went out and hired him some Normans to kick some Muslim/Roman ass.

Soon the demand in south Italy for these wonderful Viking warriors skyrocketed. The Normans were quite happy to be hired out as soldiers to one Prince or another as long as they got paid, and more and more of these Viking warriors came down to Italy to fight for whoever had the cash. They could always make sure that there was a war here or a revolt against the Roman Empire there, and the fighting was always good.

By 1042 there were a whole bunch of Normans in south Italy who were fighting for for a rebellion against the Romans. They suddenly realized that they had the best army around, so they elected their own Count and demanded a big slice of the land that the rebellion controlled. No one was in any position to disagree, and these Viking Normans all of a sudden had their own sizable state in south Italy. And they proceeded to obliterate any army who disagreed.

Five years later they got official recognition from the big-boss-of-Europe, the German Emperor. They pushed on in the wars of the south. They expanded their influence until they came up against the combined armies of the Pope and the Roman Emperor. You may ask what a churchman is doing with an army? That's because at this point the Pope owned a Kingdom right across the center of Italy, and he wanted land and influence in the south as much as the Roman Empire did. The Pope was a king, and the combined Papal-Imperial army was a hell of a threat.

Well our old Viking Norman friends whooped ass. They defeated the Papal army so bad that they actually took the Pope prisoner.

Within about 20 years the Normans had found themselves an incredibly competent leader in the guise of the Viking Duke Robert Guiscard--"The Weasel." Over the next half century the Normans fought everyone and anyone they thought they could beat.

He could kill you in seven different ways even without his armies.

In 1081 the Weasel even invaded the Eastern Roman Empire in Greece. He crushed the Roman army and got on the road to the Roman capital at Constantinople. He was only turned back when Venice, which was terrified of these crazy Vikings, came south and burned the ships the Normans were using to resupply. The expedition to the east had to be called off, but the Normans kept conquering south Italy.

For all these decades several different Norman kingdoms were just hanging around. They had bickered with each other like you might expect a bunch of Vikings to do. But in 1130 one Viking Duke inherited all of the kingdoms and south Italy was finally all united into one big Viking Norman Kingdom, called the Kingdom of Sicily. It took up all of Italy south of Rome. If Italy is shaped like a boot then the Kingdom of Sicily was the foot, the ankle, part of the calf, and the island of Sicily.

If you look at all the Normans in that year, Normans controlled a lot of territory all across the western world. They had the Kingdom of Sicily, Tunisia, most of Libya, north-west Syria, a chunk of north France, and a little old kingdom I like to call England.

This Viking-built kingdom of Sicily stuck around until just over a hundred and fifty years ago, when all Italy was unified. And Viking-built England went and unified Great Britain, which you may or may not know is still quite alive today. Not bad, Vikings.

1 comment:

  1. Great! It was a short and very impressive explanation. Our Vikings sailed across the Atlantic and created the Inca empire. Colon got notice and maps that showed how to use the ocean currents. On his first endeavor he sailed South 1200 miles to the Canary Islands to catch the Africa current when turns across the South Atlantic. How he knew about it? Once on the other side of the ocean sailed 900 miles up North to catch the Atlantic counter current that will bring him back home. He had a crystal ball or detailed maps showing currents and other important data. The only ones with the balls and skills to do that were the Vikings. Why are they forgotten in history? The Qichua language spoken for the Incas descents is sprinkled with old Nordic words, and many other items are a clear sign of their presence many centuries before the spaniards learn to sail.