Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Fatal Curse Over The Yngling Dynasty

King Harald Finehair brought all of Norway under his influence in the later half of the 9th century and continued to rule over Norway until his death around the year 940. His successors are often labeled as the Finehair Dynasty, but Harald supposedly claimed lineage from an even more ancient line royal line, which was said to link all the way back to the Norse gods.

According to Scandinavian tradition, Harald Finehair was a member of the Yngling Dynasty. The Icelandic scholar, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), wrote an account of this peculiar family in his Yngling Saga. He began with pure myth and gradually moved through legend, semi-legend, and finally folklore-laden history to reach the more factually-grounded time of Harald Finehair. According to legend, the first two members of the family were gods and, if calculations are correct, Harald Finehair was supposedly the thirty-fifth ruling member of the Yngling Dynasty. Yet, despite the supposedly divine origin of their family, the Ynglings were very, very unlucky—according to the saga, twenty-five of Harald’s thirty-four predecessors died violent, accidental, or simply unnatural deaths.

The Yngling Saga begins with an interesting theory that suggests Odin and the Norse gods migrated from a location near the Black Sea and eventually traveled across Europe to ultimately settle Sweden, where Odin founded a kingdom. After a long reign, Odin handed the control of his kingdom over to another god from outside his family. The successor’s name was Njord and he was technically the founder of the Yngling Dynasty. The dynasty, however, was actually named after Njord’s son and successor, Frey, a popular god who apparently also went by the name Yngvi, hence the family name of Yngling. In the saga, the reigns of Njord and Frey were portrayed as golden ages of prosperity, as would be expected from gods. The personal luck of these two god-kings were said to have been very positive during their time as rulers over a Swedish kingdom and their aura of good fortune spread over the entire kingdom during their reigns. Of course, Frey was prophesied in the Norse religion to eventually fall during the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok, but that did not stop his mythical days as a monarch from being considered the epitome of good fortune.

After the reign of Frey, however, the Yngling Dynasty suffered an unbelievable fall from grace. Here are the bizarre fates of the Yngling Dynasty members, beginning with Frey’s son and ending with Harald Finehair’s father, Hálfdan the Black. Enjoy the stories, but keep in mind that the Yngling Dynasty is considered mythical or extremely legendary, with Harald Finehair, and to a lesser extent, Hálfdan the Black, being the only members of the dynasty generally accepted as historical figures.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Crazy Succession Crisis In Early 9th-Century Denmark

King Godfrid And The War That Almost Was
Charlemagne came very close to open war with what could have been one of his deadliest foes—King Godfrid of Denmark (also spelled Godofrid, Godefrid, Gudfrey and Godfrey). As early as 804, presumably Godfrid’s first year of rule, the Danish army and navy moved down to the border of Saxony, a region that the Franks held dearly, as they had spent decades crushing Saxon rebellions to stabilize the region. Godfrid wisely did not invade Saxony proper, but he did invade the territory of the Obodrites in 808, a people who were neighbors of the Saxons, and a long-time ally of the Franks. In response, Charlemagne sent forces to defend Saxony against a possible attack.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Terrible Battle Of Olpae During the Peloponnesian War

Around 426 or 425 BCE, an army from the Peloponnesian League set out to conquer Amphilochian Argos, a city founded on the southeast end of the Ambracian Gulf, and not to be confused with the more widely known Argos in the Peloponnesus. This army, according to Thucydides (c. 460-400 BCE), had around 3,000 heavy infantry hoplites and was commanded by a Spartan general named Eurylochus. In addition to this, a further 3,000 hoplites invaded Amphilochian Argos from pro-Peloponnesian Ambracia, located just north of the Ambracian Gulf. This Ambraciot army was the faster of the two invading forces, so they seized the stronghold of Olpae without Peloponnesian help, and in doing so, gained a strong position just a few miles from Amphilochian Argos.

Eurylochus and the Peloponnesian army apparently did not launch their invasion until after the Ambraciots had already seized Olpae. As a result, the Amphilochians had time to muster their manpower and call for Athenian help. As the Ambraciots waited for Eurylochus’ army, the Amphilochians reinforced their city of Argos and placed scouts at a region called Crenae, in order to watch for the Peloponnesian army. They also successfully contacted, Demosthenes, one of Athens’ craftiest generals—he answered their plea and arrived with twenty ships. His fleet was only carrying a reported 200 hoplites and 60 archers, but Demosthenes’ knack for odd strategies would make up for the lack of numbers. In addition, the Amphilochians also received military aid from Acarnania, a neighboring region that survived a Peloponnesian invasion between 429 and 428 BCE. Demosthenes was appointed as commander-in-chief of this coalition of forces and he marched their united front to challenge the Ambraciots at Olpae.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Dire Escape From Lyncus Of Brasidas And His Peloponnesian Army

In the year 423 BCE, the Athenians and Spartans, who had been in the midst of the Peloponnesian War since 431 BCE, decided to observe an armistice that was planned to last for one year. Athens and Sparta did, indeed, halt the official war, yet smaller states on the periphery of their alliances kept fighting in their own minor feuds. As for the leaders of the war, Athens and Sparta, they also kept up their militancy in ways that would not break the armistice. For Athens, this was a time to crush rebellions and suppress dissidents. On the Peloponnesian side, a general named Brasidas (responsible for many of the aforementioned Athenian rebellions) decided to occupy his time by participating in a joint-invasion alongside his ally, King Perdiccas of Macedonia, against the Kingdom of Lyncus.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Tyrian Troubles Of Alexander The Great

From 336-323 BCE, Alexander the Great undertook a remarkable campaign of warfare and conquest, spanning from the Danube River in Europe, all the way to the Indus River on the edge of India. Interestingly, one of the most trying and frustrating conflicts that Alexander the Great endured during his travels took place relatively early on in his career. By the year 332 BCE, Alexander was advancing deep into Phoenicia, following the coastlines of the lands known now as Syria and Lebanon. Most of the cities in Phoenicia and Cyprus had surrendered to Alexander after news spread of his victories over the Persians at the Granicus River (334 BCE) and Issus (333 BCE). Despite this, the most powerful of the Phoenician cities, the island sea power of Tyre, staunchly kept its relationship with Alexander no warmer than neutral.