Thursday, October 18, 2018

New Article: 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.

Continue reading about the bizarre fates of these 34 Yngling monarchs,
 HERE.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

New Biography: Árni Magnússon And His Many Chests Of Original Icelandic Manuscripts

(Image of Árni Magnússon (1663-1730), by an unknown artist, combined with the Kringlublaðið [the Kringla leaf], c. 1260, both [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
In the year 1663, Árni Magnússon was born in the region of Kvennabrekka, Iceland. The occupations and status of his family would serve him well in later life—Árni’s father was a local sheriff with some political clout and his grandfather and uncle were familiar with the processes of printing and scribing. As these latter two men oversaw Árni Magnússon’s early education, their love of books evidently affected the young boy’s future interests.
 
After graduating from the Skálholt School in Iceland, Árni Magnússon accompanied his father on a trip to Denmark in 1683. While there, he enrolled at the University of Copenhagen and found a job as an assistant to Thomas Bartholin Jr., the Keeper of the Royal Antiquities in Denmark. This trip to Denmark was a momentous event in Árni Magnússon’s life, as the Keeper of Antiquities would set the young scholar on a task that would become his lifelong passion. 
Continue reading about Árni Magnússon and his life's work, HERE.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New Article: The Crazy Succession Crisis In Early 9th-Century Denmark

((A scene from the saga of King Olaf, by Halfdan Egedius (1877–1899), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons))
 
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.

Continue reading about King Godfrid of Denmark and the turmoil in his kingdom following his death, HERE.

Friday, September 14, 2018

New Biography: The Tragic Tale Of Puncker—A Masterful Archer From 15th-Century Germany


In the 15th century, there supposedly lived a man named Puncker (or Punker), who was renowned as a showman and a warrior in the Holy Roman Empire, an empire that consisted of Germany, Austria and other surrounding Central and Eastern European lands. The life of this legendary or semi-legendary person, interestingly enough, was recorded in the pages of the Malleus Maleficarum, a text on witchcraft and demonology that was published around 1486 or 1487. 
 
Continue reading about Puncker and why a book on whitchcraft was interested in his story, HERE.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New Article: 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.
 
Read about the dramatic battles near Olpae, HERE.