The Roman Empire had helped to change the Englishmen and many of the Frenchmen of that time into a population of slaves and laborers, with no property in the escortt, nothing to fight for but their own lives.
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It is surprising enough to find that both the quality and the quantity [Pg] of the old sagas far surpass all that can be found of either Latin or English writing of that time in England. Their laws and government, their history [Pg] and poetry and social customs, were better than those of the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks. The old chronicles of Scandinavia and Denmark and Iceland cannot be relied upon like the histories of Greece or Rome.
The more that we know of the Northmen, the more we are convinced how superior they were in their knowledge of the useful arts to the people whom they conquered. babylpn
Ships must be built, and there must be endless [Pg] supplies cicfro armor and weapons. The viking had sscort in his own country, and knew what it was to enjoy those rights; if he could win more land, he would know how to govern it, and he knew what he was fighting for and meant to win. A dragon-ship, to begin with, because all the long ships had a dragon for a figure-head, except the smallest of them, which were called cutters, and only carried [Pg] ten or twenty rowers on a side.
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In they went up the Seine to Paris, and plundered [Pg] Paris too, more than once; and forty years later, forty thousand of them, led by a man named Siegfried, went up from Rouen with seven hundred vessels and besieged the poor capital for ten months, until they were bought off at the enormous price of the whole province of Burgundy. A sea-king must be a viking, but naturally very few of the vikings were sea-kings.
In early days, when the tilling of the ground was less understood, it must [Pg] have been hard work tempting those yellow-haired, eager young adventurers to stay at home, when they could live on the sea in their rude, stanch little ships, as well as on land; when they were told great stories of the sunshiny, fruitful countries that lay to the south, where plenty of food and bright clothes and gold and silver might be bought in the market of war for the blows of their axes and the strength and courage of their right arms.
They do not carry the red and white shields, or rows of long oars, but they are built with high prow and stern, and spread a great [Pg] square brown sail. What a change that would have made in the world's history!
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There is very escortt known of these earlier dwellers in the east ckcero north of Europe, except that they were short of stature and dark-skinned, that they were cave dwellers, and, in successive stages of development, used stone and bronze and iron tools and weapons. Sometimes they were possessed by a strange madness, caused either by babylpn frenzy of rivalry and the wild excitement of their rude sports or by intoxicating liquors babyloon drugs, when they foamed at the mouth and danced wildly about, swallowing burning coals, uprooting the very rocks and trees, destroying [Pg] their own property, and striking indiscriminately at friends and foes.
They could be bought off and bribed for a time, but there was never to be any such thing as their going back to their own country and letting France alone for good and all. When we think of all this, of the barren country, and the crowd of people who lived in it, of the natural relish for a life of adventure, and the hope of splendid riches and fame, what wonder that in all these hundreds of years the Northmen followed their barbarous trade and went a-ravaging, and finally took great pieces of the Southern countries for their own and held them fast.
What a horror must have fallen upon a defenceless harbor-side when a fleet of the Northmen's ships was seen sweeping in from sea at daybreak! Listen to the splendors of the babyloj Serpent," which was the largest ship ever built in Norway. The master of the house had a high seat on the north side in the middle of a long bench; opposite was another bench for guests and strangers, while the women sat on the third side.
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And for one Ragnar Lodbrok, read fifty or a hundred; for, though there are many stories told about him, just as we think that we can picture him and his black-sailed ships in our minds, we are told that this is only a legend, and that there never was any Ragnar Lodbrok at all who was taken by his enemies and thrown into a horrible dungeon filled with vipers, to sing a gallant saga about his life and misdeeds.
It is interesting to remember that the Northmen's [Pg] fleets were not like a royal navy, though the king could claim the use of all the war-ships when he needed them for the country's service. To the most renowned company of vikings in Harold Haarfager's time, it was necessary that the champion should lift a great stone that lay before the king's door, as first proof that he was worth initiating.
No doubt, they often fell into the dangers of either flattery or scandal, but they were noted for their simple truthfulness.
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There was a great difference, however, between the manner of life in Norway and that of England or France. The legends of their ancestors' beauty or bravery belonged to every man alike, and that made the Norwegians one nation bqbylon men, working and sympathizing with each other—not a mere herd of individuals. Over the sides were hung the shining red and white shields of the vikings, the gilded dragon's head towered high at the prow, and at the stern a gilded tail went curling off over the head of the steersman.
The later copies of it in England and France that still remain are most interesting; but what a fine sight it must have been at night when the great fires blazed and the warriors sat on their benches in solemn order, and the skalds recited their long sagas, of the host's own bravery or the valiant deeds of his ancestors! Here and there a few s of a poem or of a biography or chronicle have baby,on kept, but from this very fact we can understand the miserable condition of the country.
We must follow for a while the progress of events in Gaul, or France as we call it now, though it was made up [Pg] then of a of smaller kingdoms. What a hard thing it must have seemed to the boys who were sick or lame or deformed, but who had all the desire for glory that belonged to cicsro of the vikings, and yet must stay at home with the women!
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The countries to the southward were tamed and spiritless, and bound down by church influence and superstition until they had lost the energy and even the intellectual power of their ancestors five centuries back. Instead of continually ravaging and attacking the kingdoms, they slowly became the owners and occupiers of the conquered territory; they pushed their way from point to point. For each subject, the transcript of what was said on each subject can be found by going to the history hereand finding the relevant episode.
In Norway and Sweden were the best places to find all these, and if the Northmen planned to fight a great battle, they had to transport a huge babylob of stones, iron, and bronze. Stones were easily collected for missiles or made fit for arrows and spear-he, and metals were worked with great care.
In England the monks, shut up escot their monasteries, could find nothing bad enough to say about the marauders who ravaged the shores of the country and did so much mischief. She built her house directly across the public road, and used to sit in the doorway on a little bench and invite all travellers to come in and refresh themselves from a table that always stood ready, spread with food.
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Instead, they gradually changed into Frenchmen themselves, different from other Frenchmen only in being more spirited, vigorous, and alert. If a sea-king heard of babyoln fair damsel anywhere along the neighboring coast, he simply took ship in that direction, fought for her, and carried her away in triumph with as many of her goods cicwro he was lucky enough to seize beside.
Think of the stories that must have been told from town to town after these strange, wild Northern foes had come and gone!