CHAPTER VI
THE SOUTH AND EAST BALTIC COASTS

IN the middle of the tenth century Denmark, under that restless and ambitious king, Harald Gormsson, was chief of the northern powers. Both Norway and Sweden knew her might, but there was a third land that had learnt to fear her and that was the country of the Wends, a group of recently arrived Slavonic people who had established themselves during the seventh century in the country between the Elbe and the Weichsel. Here, in the district where that thronged trade-route between north and south, the river Oder, reached the sea, these Wends had a town by name of Jumne (or Vineta) and thither flocked merchants and adventurers from Scandinavia and Russia, from Germany and from Central Europe, from the East even, for the purposes of barter and exchange. Great was the wealth that passed through this people's hands.

To Wendland, somewhere about the year A.D. 960, came Harald with fire and sword, soon to make himself master of the Oder mouth, and that this new and profitable dominion might not easily slip from under his suzerainty, that the many pirates who haunted the Oder and Peenemunde flats might no longer vex his own kingdom, he built close to Jumne a stronghold, or fortified harbour, that was known as Jomsborg.1 It was, according to later accounts, a mighty place; 360 warships could ride at anchor shut within the port, this having a harbour-entrance of stone that could be closed by iron doors and that was bridged over by an arch with a tower above bearing giant catapults for its defence. Probably, as at Hedeby and elsewhere in the north, a huge semi-circular vallum guarded the land-area of the fortress.

____________________
1
That Harald founded Jomsborg (Knytlingasaga and Fagrskinna) is more likely than the tale in Jómsvíkingasaga to the effect that it was built by Palnatoki, the Danish viking from Wales, who had won the friendship of Boleslav, king of the Wends. The best study of the historical material relating to Jomsborg is that by L. Weibull, Nordens hist. o. år 1000, Lund, 1911, p. 178, who comes to the unwelcome conclusion that Jomsborg and the Jomsvikings never existed at all. The student should not fail to make himself acquainted with this author's cogent arguments, for there can be no doubt that the whole story of the Danish fortress and its vikings must rest under suspicion.

-179-

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A History of the Vikings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • List of Abbreviations viii
  • Contents ix
  • Contents x
  • List of Illustrations in the Text xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - The Lands of the Vikings 41
  • Chapter II - The North Germans 62
  • Chapter III - The Birth of the Viking Nations 78
  • Chapter IV - Scandinavia and Denmark in Viking Times 117
  • Part II - The Vikings Abroad 143
  • Chapter VI - The South and East Baltic Coasts 179
  • Chapter VII - The Western Empire 193
  • Chapter VIII - England 227
  • Chapter IX - Ireland 274
  • Chapter X - Scotland and Man 300
  • Chapter XI - Wales 323
  • Chapter XII - The Faroe Islands 328
  • Chapter XIII - Iceland 336
  • Chapter XIV - Greenland 361
  • Chapter XV - America 370
  • Select Bibliographies 389
  • Index of Authors 393
  • General Index 396
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