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Torment of the Sea Nomads. Viking Sea States of Merchants - Part I

Torment of the Sea Nomads. Viking Sea States of Merchants - Part I


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In the late 8th century, a group of Scandinavian sea nomads took to the sea and tormented Europe and Asia through their terrible acts of piracy. Thankfully, by the early 9th century, their piracy ceased in favor of a more lucrative trading and commerce policy. Once they had settled and established themselves on their newly conquered lands, they effectively became a Sea State of Merchants.

The Viking expansion to the northern seas (WikiCommons)

Viking Settlements and Trade

Although the actual size of the Scandinavian settlements on the European continent were relatively small in terms of territorial size outside of Scandinavia, their commercial influence was profound, as well as their appetite to continue expanding both economically and politically. Like all conquerors, they initially imported their culture, but eventually assimilated certain aspects of the cultures they were vassals to.

Such did the Northmen who conquered a portion of the English, Scottish, and Irish territories, and the small duchy of Normandy, founded by Rollo - baptized Robert - who served as a vassal to King Charles of Western Francia. Some Northmen expanded into the territories of Eastern Europe. However, even though the Northmen gradually adopted the cultures of the lands they had conquered or were subject to, the trait that they were notorious for never vanished, for by the 11th century, they had succeeded in conquering southern Italy, Sicily, England, and controlled much of what is today western Russia.

It was also during the Viking Age that Scandinavia underwent political change when stronger ambitious chiefs neutralized and incorporated the weaker local chiefs. These determined men escalated in status from powerful chiefs to kings and in turn, transitioned their powerful realms into the medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. However, the creation of these Scandinavian kingdoms or duchies would not have come about, except for one import factor; trade.

King Rorik, son of Hother by Hermanus Willem Koekoek (Public Domain )

Trade is crucial to the development of a settlement for its economic growth. Settlements in medieval Ireland lacked urban centers, but this was rectified when Vikings introduced towns and important trade centers to the island. Such was the founding of the trading towns of Waterford, Wexford, and the transformation of the ecclesiastical settlements of Dublin and Cork into trading ports. The son on of the second Earl of Orkney, decided to follow Rollo’s example, to go on an adventure and carve out a piece of land he could call his own and to profit from. He set his sights on France.

Before 900, Rollo had lead hit-and-run raids along the French coast. After 900, Rollo and his army decided to settle on French soil between the Seine and Loire rivers and became colonists. However, this did not curb Rollo from raiding, as he hit Paris and Chartres in 910. King Charles decided to end the hostility and arranged peace talks with the Viking at St. Clair-sur-Epte, which borders the eastern boundary of Viking territory. They struck a deal and Rollo swore allegiance to King Charles and vowed to protect French lands from other Viking raids. After the agreement, Rollo was baptized Robert in 912 and he became the first Duke of Normandy.

  • Never Before Has Such a Terror Appeared”: Viking Raids into Ireland
  • How the Vikings Started the Worldwide Distribution of Gaited Horses
  • Vikings in Byzantium: The Varangians and their Fearless Conquests

Statue of Rollo, depicted among the 6 dukes of Normandy in the town square of Falaise. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Vikings like Rollo provided a valuable service to the king they swore allegiance to. Not only could the king rely on a very capable fighting force capable of thwarting raids by their own kind, but they also were valuable in terms of training the soldiers of king in the martial ways of the Northman.


Norman conquest of southern Italy

The Norman conquest of southern Italy lasted from 999 to 1139, involving many battles and independent conquerors.

In 1130, the territories in southern Italy united as the Kingdom of Sicily, which included the island of Sicily, the southern third of the Italian Peninsula (except Benevento, which was briefly held twice), the archipelago of Malta, and parts of North Africa.

Itinerant Norman forces arrived in southern Italy as mercenaries in the service of Lombard and Byzantine factions, communicating news swiftly back home about opportunities in the Mediterranean. These groups gathered in several places, establishing fiefdoms and states of their own, uniting and elevating their status to de facto independence within 50 years of their arrival.

Unlike the Norman conquest of England (1066), which took a few years after one decisive battle, the conquest of southern Italy was the product of decades and a number of battles, few decisive. Many territories were conquered independently, and only later were unified into a single state. Compared to the conquest of England, it was unplanned and disorganised, but equally complete.


The Tale of the Merchants at Sea

Here’s a retelling of the Samudda-vāṇija Jātaka (no. 454). It’s a great little tale, which depicts our current environmental situation with uncanny precision. It is the Buddhist version of the widespread flood myth, which probably originated in Mesopotamia perhaps 3000 BCE. The setting here, which depicts the flood as afflicting lost merchants in a far-off land, perhaps preserves a memory of the distant origins of the story.

The story is ideal for a children’s class on the environment. But I haven’t found any up-to-date translations. So I have used the old translation (which you can read here) as a basis, and modernized the language and cleaned up the narrative a little.

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, there stood near Benares a great town of carpenters, containing a thousand families. The carpenters from this town used to advertise that they would make a bed, or a chair, or a house. But after being paid an advance, they couldn’t make a single thing. So people abused those dishonest carpenters whenever they met them. They were harassed so much that they could live there no longer.

“Let’s go into some foreign land,” they said, “and find some place to live.” So to the forest they went. They cut down trees, built a mighty ship, launched her in the river, and took her away from that town. Then, together with all their families and friends, they sailed down the river to the ocean.

There they sailed at the wind’s will, until they reached an island that lay in the middle of the sea. Now in that island grew all kinds of wild plants and fruit-trees: rice, sugar-cane, banana, mango, rose-apple, jackfruit, coconut, and every other kind of delicious food.

Another man had been shipwrecked on that island before them. He lived there, eating the rice and enjoying the sugar-cane and all the rest, by which he had grown strong and sturdy. He went naked, and his hair and beard were grown long.

The carpenters thought, “If this island is haunted by demons, we shall all perish so we will explore it.” So seven brave, strong men, armed with the five kinds of weapons, went to explore the island.

At that moment the castaway had just had breakfast, washed down with sugar-cane juice, and in high contentment was lying on his back in a lovely spot, cool in the shade on some sand which glistened like silver plate. He was thinking, “Life is good here! If I was in civilized lands, I would have to work all day for my food. Here I have all I want, provided by Nature herself!” He burst out in song, just for the joy of it.

The scouts who were exploring the isle heard his singing and said, “It seems to be the voice of a man. Let’s go and meet him.” Following the sound they came upon the man, but when they saw him naked with such long shaggy hair they were terrified.

“It’s a goblin!” they cried, and put arrow to bow ready to shoot.

When the man saw them, he called out in fear, “I am no goblin, sirs, I am a man: spare my life!”

“What!” they said. “Do men go all naked and defenceless like you?”

But it was true. He was a man, and eventually they began to talk pleasantly together. The new-comers asked how the castaway came there.

The castaway told them what had happened. “As a reward for your good deeds you have come here.” he said. “This is a first-rate island! No need to work with your hands for a living. There’s endless rice and sugar-cane, and anything else you might want, and all growing wild. We can all live here without anxiety.”

“Is there nothing else,” they asked, “to hinder our living here?”

“Only this,” he said: “the isle is haunted by spirits, who get furious when their home is polluted. So when you go to the toilet, dig a hole in the sand and hide it there. That’s the only danger, there is no other. Only always be careful on this point.”

So they all made their home on the island and lived happily, becoming strong and healthy on the plentiful diet of fruits and grains.

Now, among these thousand families there were two master workmen, one at the head of each five hundred people. And one of these was foolish and greedy of the best food, the other wise and not always worried about getting the best of everything.

Then they thought, “We have not had a party for a long time. Let’s make some toddy from the juice of the sugar-cane.” So they fermented some sugar-cane juice and made toddy, a strong liquor. They all got drunk, and sang, danced, and laughed together. But being thoughtless they relieved themselves here, there, and everywhere without hiding it, so that the island became foul and disgusting.

The spirits were enraged that these thoughtless men made their beautiful island all foul. They got together for a spirit conference to discuss the matter.

“We have cared for this island for so long,” one spirit said. “We made it beautiful, and provided it with everything that you could want. When these strangers came, we welcomed them and shared everything with them, holding nothing back.”

“All we asked,” said another spirit, “was that they respect the land and not pollute it. They knew this, but still they fouled everything.”

They sat in silence for a time. Finally, one of the spirits spoke up.

“It is too much,” he said. “We cannot endure any more. Let us call the sea and cleanse the island! Let us bring forth a flood, and wash the men back to the ocean from where they came!”

The other spirits agreed. They determined to raise up the ocean to drown the island in fifteen days time, at the full moon when their power was greatest.
But there was a good spirit among them who thought, “These people have done wrong, but they don’t deserve to die.”

So out of compassion she approached the people while they were sitting at their doors chatting pleasantly after dinner. The spirit made the whole island one blaze of light. Adorned in splendor she stayed poised in the northern sky and spoke to them.

“Carpenters!” she said. “The spirits are angry with you. Do not stay in this place! In half a month from this time, the spirits will bring up the sea and destroy you one and all. Flee now, or you will all perish!”

With this advice, she returned to her own home. All the people were terrified, and a great noise arose as they argued in confusion about what this message meant.

Meanwhile another spirit, who was cruel-hearted, wanted revenge on the people. “Perhaps they will follow her advice and escape,” he thought. “I will prevent them from leaving, and bring them all to utter destruction!”

So he approached the people just like the other spirit had done, blazing with light and standing in the southern sky.

“You have been warned of a great danger,” he said. “But that was a lie! There will be no flood. The spirits have always looked after you – we don’t wish you any harm. That other spirit is just selfish, and wants to have the island all to herself. Ignore her and her ridiculous threats. See, the sky is clear, the living is good. Stay, and enjoy the good life you have made for yourselves here. The spirits of this place will bring you all you need.”

When that spirit had left, the foolish carpenter lifted up his voice and cried, “Let all people listen to me! We have been a people lost. We were cast out of our homes, driven to wander across the wide ocean. Against all hope we found this, our new home. How can we leave now? Surely the southern spirit speaks the truth!”

And all those foolish people who only wanted to eat and drink listened to him and wished to stay.

But the wise carpenter did not agree. “We have advice from two spirits,” he said. “One speaks of danger, and begs us to flee, while the other tells us to have no fear and that we should stay. We do not know which of these is telling the truth. This shows that one should not just believe everything you hear. Considering both messages, the wise should consider carefully in their own hearts and then make a balanced decision. So let us build a great ship. If we work hard together, we can complete it before the full moon. Then, if the warning of a flood comes true, we will be saved. If there is no flood, then no harm is done. We can leave the ship and continue to live here.”

“Ridiculous!” said the foolish carpenter. “You see a crocodile in a teacup! The first god spake in anger against us, the second in affection. We know this, for the spirits have always been kind to us here. If we leave this wonderful island, where shall we go? And why should we go back to working hard like slaves, when we have all we want? But if you must go, take your tail with you! We want no ship!”

And so the foolish carpenter, with his 500 followers, went back to their drinking. They laughed and sang even louder, paying no attention to the filth that they were making.

The wise man went with his 500 and built a ship, large enough to hold them and their belongings.

On the day of the full moon, at the time of moon-rise, up from the ocean a wave arose, and it swept knee-deep over the whole island. The wise man, when he saw the rising of the wave, cast loose the ship. Those of the foolish carpenter’s party were scared, but they said to one another, “A tsunami has arisen! Never mind, it will sweep over the island, but it will be no deeper.”

But the tsunami did rise deeper. It rose waist-deep, then man-deep, even as deep as a palm-tree, and it rolled over the whole island.

The wise man, skilful and reflective, not greedy for good things, departed in safety with his 500. But the foolish, greedy carpenter, having no thought for the dangers of the future, was destroyed with all his people.


Об этой игре

Приготовьтесь к историческим приключениям! Студия Logic Artists, создатели Expeditions: Conquistador, с радостью представляет вам игру Expeditions: Viking.

Приготовьтесь к увлекательным приключениям

Вы только что стали вождем небольшого клана викингов, и под вашим началом есть собственная деревня. Но для того, чтобы выбить свое имя на рунных камнях истории, вам понадобится великая сила и великое богатство. Лишь так вы сможете сделать деревню знаменитой и процветающей. Северные земли скупы и бесплодны, и вам предстоит обратить свой взор на запад — туда, где, если верить сказаниям, в море есть удивительный остров, полный сокровищ.

Охотьтесь за удачей

Ваши верные хускарлы пойдут за вами даже в Вальхаллу, если вы прикажете. Но для того, чтобы оставить тысячелетнее наследие, вам понадобится больше, чем просто верность. Соберите отряд могучих воинов, постройте корабль и отправляйтесь за море в поисках богатства и славы. Британия ждет вас в Expeditions: Viking.


Mongol Trade: Linking East to West

Even before the rise of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, the Mongols favored trade. As a pastoral, nomadic people, their lives focused on their herds. For that reason, they made very little among themselves and Mongol trade was a cornerstone of their society. They hunted and herded, but very few Mongols were weapon-makers or potters or weavers. Many of the items the Mongol people needed for living, they had to trade for with the settled agricultural peoples around them.

Nor were Mongols interested in doing things other than hunting, herding and living in their nomadic groups. They didn’t settle in cities or attend schools. They did, however, like trade. And they enjoyed being warriors, at which they were exemplary.

As Genghis began building his empire, he realized the Mongol army would need many things: bows and arrows, swords and spears for war, tack for the horses, leather for armor and, once it was discovered that silk worn under leather could prevent an arrow from penetrating the body, silk clothing. Genghis Khan also needed people who could read and write to administrate the lands coming under his sway. The Mongols needed trade as never before.

To facilitate trade, Genghis offered protection for merchants who began to come from east and west. He also offered a higher status for merchants than that allowed by the Chinese or Persians who despised trade and traders. .During the Mongol Empire, merchants found protection, status, tax exemption, loans and consistent aid from the Khans. For the 100 years of the height of the Empire, the East-West Mongol trade routes became the fabled Silk Road which for the first time linked Europe to Asia, allowing the free flow of ideas, technologies and goods.

The Mongols not only offered the use of the Yam system to merchants, but set up protective associations for them called Ortogh. Instead of extortionist tax rates, the Mongols gave traders tax exemption. Genghis offered a form of passport to merchants that gave allowed them to safely travel along the Silk Road. The Mongols even loaned money at low interest to merchants. If paper money was used as currency, it was backed with silk and precious metals.

As a result of the Mongol Empire, international Mongol trade was born on a level never seen before. Valuable spices, tea, Asian artworks and silk headed west to waiting merchants in the Middle East and Europe. Gold, medical manuscripts, astronomical tomes and porcelain headed east to Asia. Ideas and new technologies also flowed in both directions along the Silk Road. Mongols opened their doors to all religions and diplomats from all over the known world. East learned of West and visa versa.

For the first time, Mongols settled in a city, Karakhorum, which was built by Ogedai Khan, Genghis’s third son. Mongolian sons attended schools and learned the many languages needed to run the empire. Although the Mongol Empire began in blood and conquest, its long-term effect, as envisioned by Genghis Khan, was to secure a general peace and establish international trade over a huge portion of the world.


Ocean cacophony a torment for sea mammals

File photo shows two pilot whales. With the constant churn of freighter propellers and the underwater din of military testing, ocean noise levels have become unbearable for some sea mammals.

With the constant churn of freighter propellers, the percussive thump of oil and gas exploration and the underwater din of military testing, ocean noise levels have become unbearable for some sea mammals.

Contrary to the image of a distant and silent world under the sea, underwater sound intensity has on average soared 20 decibels over the past 50 years, with devastating consequences for wildlife.

"Sound is what cetaceans (large aquatic mammals like whales and dolphins) communicate with. This is how they perceive their environment. For them, hearing is as important as vision is for us," explained Mark Simmonds, the international director of science at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

"If there is too much noise, they probably can't communicate that well," he told AFP late last month on the sidelines of an international conference on migratory species in Bergen, on Norway's southwestern coast.

A harmful effect of this acoustic "fog" is that it impairs the ability of cetaceans, which in good conditions can communicate over a distance of dozens of kilometres (miles), to orient themselves, find food and reproduce.

Basic small boat traffic travelling at slow speeds through shallow waters can be enough to cut the reach of sounds from a bottlenose dolphin, for instance, by 26 percent, and in the case of pilot whales by 58 percent, according to a recent study.

Nicolas Entrup, who works with the non-governmental organisations Ocean Care and the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the ocean is in the process of becoming for sea mammals what night clubs are for humans: "You might cope with it for a while but you can't live there."

"Imagine a situation where you can't communicate with your family, where you have to scream constantly," he said.

Oceans are vast, and animals that are bothered by rising noise levels can of course move on, but it can be challenging to find and adapt to a whole new habitat.

File photo of a beluga whale. A harmful effect of this acoustic "fog" is that it impairs the ability of cetaceans, which in good conditions can communicate over a distance of dozens of kilometres, to find food and reproduce.

The problem is especially dire in the Arctic, where, as the polar ice cap melts, humans are leaving an ever bigger sound footprint as they stake out new shipping routes and look for oil and gas.

"Narwals for example have a narrowly defined habitat," explains Simmonds. "They are very adapted to that cold environment. If it gets too noisy, where will they go?"

The same problem applies to the highly sound-sensitive beluga, or white whale, that migrates to Canada's northern shores.

These mammals, which are capable of detecting ships 30 kilometers (18.7 miles) away, will struggle to maintain their migration route through the narrow straits circling Baffin Island as shipping in the area risks increasing sharply to accommodate a new large-scale mining project.

File photo shows a baby bottlenose dolphin and her mother. As the polar ice cap melts, humans are leaving an ever bigger sound footprint as they stake out new shipping routes and look for oil and gas.

"We simply don't know how certain species will adapt or even if they will adapt at all," Simmonds said.

In some cases, human-produced commotion is fatal.

The use of anti-submarine sonars is for instance suspected of causing the mass-beaching of whales: In 2002, for instance, some 15 beaked whales perished in the Canaries after a NATO exercise.

"Since we're talking about military matters, there is no transparent information available and we know very little of the real scope of the problem," Entrup said.

Other threats include seismic exploration for oil and gas, which involves the use of air canons to induce tremors in the seabed aimed at detecting the potential riches hidden below.

One such project carried out a few years ago off the northeastern shores of the United States literally silenced the fin whales -- an endangered species -- in an area about the size of Alaska, blocking their ability to communicate for the duration of the operation.

Danger can also emerge from more "environmentally friendly" projects, like the building of vast offshore wind farms consisting of ever larger turbines.

A common technique consists of penetrating the seabed with a hydraulic hammer to plant a monopod anchoring the modern-day windmills to the ocean floor.

This so-called pile-driving can emit noise levels up to 250 decibels, which is a deadly dose for nearby marine mammals, though experts say it's easy to diminish the threat by creating a curtain of air bubbles surrounding the drill site.

But on top of pile-driving, ship traffic linked to maintenance, cable-laying and the expansion of port infrastructure are also shrinking sea mammals' habitats.

"The picture is bleak, but now we have the knowledge and the methodology to remedy some of the problems," said Michel Andre, a French researcher at the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics at Barcelona University who is coordinating a project to map seabed sound levels.

"It is for instance fairly easy to reduce the sounds made by boats," he told AFP, adding: "Just look at the military, they already know how to do that."

Europe has been a pioneer in this area, according to Andre, pointing to the European Commission's financing of Ships-Oriented Innovative Solutions to Reduce Noise and Vibrations, or SILENV.

The project, which counts 14 partner nations, aims to create an "acoustic green label" for ships.

The European Union is also working on a directive to reduce noise levels in its waters, and hopes to inspire others to follow.


Rune stones

Many rune stones in Scandinavia record the names of participants in Viking expeditions. Other rune stones mention men who died on Viking expeditions, among them the around 25 Ingvar stones in the Mälardalen district of Sweden erected to commemorate members of a disastrous expedition into present-day Russia in the early 11th century. The rune stones are important sources in the study of the entire Norse society and early medieval Scandinavia, not only of the 'Viking' segment of the population (Sawyer, P H: 1997).

Runestones attest to voyages to locations, such as Bath, Greece, Khwaresm, Jerusalem, Italy (as Langobardland), London, Serkland (i.e. the Muslem world), England, and various locations in Eastern Europe.


WATCH WEEK #1 IN NEW INVESTIGATIVE SERIES! GIANTS, GODS & DRAGONS

All that leads to the $64,000 question: Could the Antichrist actually be the spirit of Chaos, known also as Leviathan, Tiamat, Têmtu, and the Dragon?

Now, while the chaos-god Typhon wasn’t one of the original Titans, he was believed to be their half-brother and is sometimes referred to as a Titan. Interestingly, at least one of the early church fathers thought a Titan would return at the end of days. Irenaeus, a Christian theologian of the second century, offered these thoughts on John’s prophecy of the Antichrist:

Although certain as to the number of the name of Antichrist, yet we should come to no rash conclusions as to the name itself, because this number [666] is capable of being fitted to many names.… Teitan too, (ΤΕΙΤΑΝ, the first syllable being written with the two Greek vowels ε and ι), among all the names which are found among us, is rather worthy of credit… Inasmuch, then, as this name “Titan” has so much to recommend it, there is a strong degree of probability, that from among the many [names suggested], we infer, that perchance he who is to come shall be called “Titan.” [6] (Emphasis added)

To his credit, Irenaeus declined to say absolutely that the Antichrist would be named Titan. He reasoned that if the precise name had been important, John would have revealed it instead of a number. Still, it’s intriguing, isn’t it? And consider this: Jesus demonstrated His mastery over Chaos to the disciples one night on the Sea of Galilee:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35–41 emphasis added)

Puts that story in a whole different light, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s look at Revelation 9. When the fifth of the trumpet-blowing angels sounds his horn, a star falls from heaven to earth with a key to the abyss. We believe that this moment marks the return of the old gods:

He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Revelation 9:2–11 emphasis added)

In the preceding verses, we see the entities that the world thousands of years ago called Titans, Watchers, Anunnaki, and even apkallu angrily roar out of the abyss. That’s where they are now, but they’ll soon be given a short time to torment humanity. Five months. One hundred and fifty days—the same it took for their children, the Nephilim, to die in the Flood! [7]

Thus, the Watchers will take revenge on God’s most prized creation—man—in return for the punishment of watching their own children, the Nephilim/Rephaim, destroyed in the Flood of Noah. Granted, the description of the things from the pit doesn’t exactly match the Mesopotamian images of apkallu or Greek sculptures of the Titans. Remember, though, that those entities were sent to the bottomless pit around the time of the Great Flood. Hundreds of years, and maybe a thousand or more, had passed by the time the Sumerians began to create images of apkallu on cylinder seals and clay tablets. Those descriptions captured handed-down, oral traditions of supernatural human-animal hybrids, however, which is basically what John describes for us in Revelation.

The Titans, the Watchers of the Bible, return when Apollyon opens the pit. And for humans without the protective seal of God on their foreheads, it will literally be hell on earth.

[2] Hesiod. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Theogony(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1914).

[ 3] J. W. Van Henten. “Typhon,” in K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible 2nd extensively rev. ed. (Leiden Boston Köln Grand Rapids, MI Cambridge: Brill Eerdmans, 1999), p. 879.

[5] Apollodorus. Library and Epitome (English). J. G. Frazer, Ed. (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library), p. 47.

[6] Irenaeus. Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter 30.

[7] See Genesis 7:24. 150 days on a calendar based on a 30-day lunar month is exactly five months.


Porcupines bore U.S. bucks

On May 5th, 2018, it was exactly two centuries ago that Karl Marx was born. When in 1867 the good man published the first part of Das Kapital, Marx was actually 1,300 years too late to turn the tide. The ship had sailed. Ships of selfish Frisian merchants in pursuit of personal wealth, to be precise. If only Karl had known, the world would have been, let’s say, a different place today.

One might say that the Frisians originally have much in common with sea nomads. Living on one of those little pieces of our planet that was neither land nor sea. In a way, عرب الأهوار ‘Marsh Arabs’ of the Germanic tribes. Indeed, salt-marsh people, accepting no higher authority than the gods they worshiped, since centralist power structures could not get hold on these watery twilight-lands.

During the turbulent Migration Period and its aftermath, this sea-people with their nautical skills, being possibly even the first to re-introduce sails again since the pullout of the Romans, and with a lifestyle forced to be pragmatic, had recognized the opportunities the dangerous waterwolf offers. Seas were, in fact, the medieval interstate highways. With their ships and sails, their overseas network and these excellent ‘highways’, the Frisian merchants in pursuit of profit was crucial for the rebirth of commercial activity in Western Europe. Moreover, they lay the foundation for free-trade and economic liberalism as we know it today. A concept of thinking and of working together globally, conquering the world of Homo sapiens ever since. Or, should we say, a concept that hás conquered the world? The prison of path evolution, No escaping it anymore.

Ruler Audulf

It is no coincidence the name of ruler Audulfus, or Audulf, of Frisia has been preserved on Frisian coin money when the birth of liberalism was about to take place. It are solidi minted around the year 600. Money with a portrait comparable to a U.S. dollar note with the portrait of president George Washington on it. The era Ruler or King Audulf lived, marks the start of the heyday of the Frisian trade.

The first coins revealing the name of Audulf were found in April 1897, in the village Escharen near the river Meuse and the city of Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands. These coins were part of a hoard consisting of twelve golden solidi and fifty-four tremesses dating between 491 BC and AD 630. Therefore, the hoard must have been buried at 630 latest, and places the reign of Audulf at the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century. Even between 534 – 628, according to some scholars. Later on, more coins have been found, and even a die designed for the minting of coins with the name Audulf was found in province Friesland. All unearthed in the Netherlands. In total between five coins (according to Faber), and seven coins (according to Dijkstra) have been found bearing the Latin texts:

The way the legacy of King Audulfus (mind you, a contemporary of Anglo-Saxon King Æthelbert of Kent, and under whose rule production of gold tremisses started) is being handled, is at best extremely sloppy. We are still flabbergasted, to be honest. No consistent overview and inventories of these coins exists. One coin has been lost, alas. Some coins are being kept in London. Other coins were archived at the Nederlands Muntmuseum (Netherlands’ coin museum) at first, but after the Muntmuseum closed down in 2013 the complete coin collection was divided, or scattered, between De Nederlandse Bank (National Bank of the Netherlands) and Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden (National Museum for Antiquities). Though we try not to see similarities with the monetary system of the European Central Bank, we cannot escape the conclusion of Dijkstra nine years ago: “A total overview and a thorough analysis of these [Audulf] coins, as well as their place within the coinage system, is urgently needed.” Indeed, it is. Again, Dijkstra wrote this nine years ago.

Besides Adulf, there are three more ‘big men’ known from early-medieval golden coins. Only with a coin each.

The first of the three other Frisian big names handed down via a gold solidius is that of Skānomōdu (see above). The found conditions have been lost, alas. Although without provenance, it was part of the collection of King George III and donated in 1825 to the British Museum. It is dated the first quarter of the sixth century, but can be as old as 423, which is the numismatical date ante quem non. It was also used as a pendant, which was a quite common practice. The name is written in so-called anglo-frisian type runes, and means something like skauna ‘beautiful’ (comparable with modern Mid-Frisian skjin/skiente) and mōda ‘brave’ (comparable with modern Mid-Frisian moed). It must have been an important figure too, but no further archaeological or historical information exists about Skanomodu, to date. With this, ᛋᛣᚨᚾᛟᛗᛟᛞᚢ ‘skanomodu’ is the oldest written Frisian word known, and therefore the oldest written word of the Netherlands too. Good it is proudly kept in the British Museum. Much safer there, if we see how the Dutch handle the solidi of Audulf. There is also a theory Skanomodu was not a personal name of a man, but that of a woman (Nielsen, 1993). Not a big man, but a whole lotta woman. Names of women on pre- or early-medieval coins is extremely rare, so not the most obvious explanation.

The second Frisian ‘big name’ is that of Had(d)a (see above). This name has been preserved in runes as ᚻᚨᛞᚨ on a gold solidus as wel. It was found in the area of the town of Harlingen, province Friesland in the Netherlands, and generally dated the third quarter of the sixth century. Again, just like Skanomodu, we have no clue as to who Had(d)a was. All we can say is that the name probably derives from Old-Germanic haþu ‘battle’. There is no additional historical or archaeological material available about this person, again, to date. There is one historian who suggests Hada was the same as bishop Ceadda from Northumbria. Ceadda was the teacher of Saint Wilfrid who once stayed at the court of King Aldgisl of Frisia (read our blog post The biography of King Aldgisl, unplugged). It is then that Wilfrid gave this coin of Ceadda or Hedda as a gift to Aldgisl (Kramer, 2016). You have to be well-rested to follow the reasoning of this theory. We still have not had enough sleep yet. There is another Hadda known. He was an abbot in the town of Utrecht, at least according to a note of Alcuin of York, dated around 780. Much later than the coin.

Concerning the images above of the coin of Had(d)a, unfortunately, we have not found better images on the web. Let us know if you have one.

The third and last one is Wela(n)du (see above). This golden coin was found on a field near the village of Schweindorf in northern Germany in 1948. It is dated between 575-625, or even 575-600. The name of this Frisian ‘big man’ was Weladu, and the name is written (backwards) in runes too: ᚹᛖᛚᚩᛞᚢ ‘weladu’. It is being kept in Ostfriesischen Landesmuseum Emden in Germany. The intriguing thing of this name is, that it is the name of Weland or Wayland the Smith. The mythical blacksmith in Germanic mythology, mentioned in several old written sources, including the epic poem Beowulf and the Deor poem. Then, of course, we cannot avoid to speculate that the famous blacksmith Wayland was a Frisian. For this, read our blog post Weladu the flying blacksmith.

Besides the vanity of (early-medieval) rulers, the question arises what the cash flows and the long-distance trade of the Frisians looked like? Bellow we have tried to give a very basic overview, knowing that the world of early-medieval coin is voluminous, detailed and truly, truly complex. If you want to have an optical impression of the world of medieval coin, check out the publicly accessible numismatic information system (NUMIS-database) of De Nederlandse Bank. But be careful. Do not get hooked on this type of money too!

The silver age of golden coin

After the Romans arrived in the northwest of Europe they introduced the money economy. Coinage was regulated, meaning coins had a certain appearance and were mainly made of solid gold.

In the Netherlands in total 1.100 golden solidi and tremisses have been found, of which 100 pieces at the Walcheren Island (Domburg) in the province Zeeland.

In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman Empire started to crumble. According to Gildas’ Ruin of Britain written in the sixth century, the retreat of the Romans from Britain went with much bloodshed. Gildas: “Fragments of corpses, covered with a purple crust of congealed blood, looked as though they had been mixed up in some dreadful wine-press.” It was around 400 the Romans had left Britain. Although Roman silver and low-value bronze coins continued to circulate in Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, their volume and role in commerce changed. On the other side of the North Sea, the Limes Germanicus along the lower parts of the river Rhine were abandoned already in the third century, and around the year 300 most of the castella ‘fortresses’ in the Netherlands had been given up by the Romans. Around 400, all presence of the Romans had disappeared from the Netherlands. With the total fall of the Western Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century, trade and cities shrunk, and the money economy, especially north of the river Seine, collapsed. Barter being again the primary means of local trade from then on. One relativisation, though, the agricultural economy and goods were and stayed mostly un-monetized, before, during and after the Roman presence.

Nevertheless, not long after the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes did start to produce coin themselves. These were loose copies of Roman solidi, thus depicting fictional emperor’s heads and ‘real’ deities. This way local rulers ordering the mint presented themselves as rightful heir of Roman Rule. To this tradition might belong the coins of Audulf, Had(d)a, Weladu and Skanomodu mentioned above. At first there was no regulation of coinage, but at the end of the sixth century, the Franks set first steps towards regulation. Additional to an emperor’s portrait, the name of the mint location and of the mint master were added on the coin too. Measures adding trust to the currency. From this period names of circa 1,500 mint masters have been preserved.

The Frisians and the Anglo-Saxons started minting coin at the same time as the Franks did, namely at the end of the sixth century. The Frisian approach was somewhat different and more pragmatic than that of the Franks you could say. The solidi were not workable in the north, as they represented too much value. Therefore, tremisses were being produced weighing a third of a solidus and contained less gold. Tremisses weighed 1,3 gram. Its appearance was more stylized with unrecognizable portraits and unreadable, pseudo-lettering characters. Do not judge a book by its cover. What is inside that counts.

Interestingly, early-seventh-century monetarius ‘mint master’ Madelinus moved from a town with religious prestige, where the fourth-century bishop Saint Servatius was buried, namely the town of Maastricht in the south of present-day the Netherlands, to the commercial hub of Dorestat (also written as Dorestad, Dorestate or Dorestado). Indicating the growing importance of this buzzing trading town in the lower river Rhine area at the former spot of the former Roman castellum Levafanum. On its way to become the biggest emporium of Europe even. Remarkable, whilst during the decennia before the mint of Maastricht had set the example for coinage in the region, a coin (confusingly) called Dronrijp-type by archaeologists. Dronrijp being a small terp village in province Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. In his new town, from mid-seventh century, master Madelinus struck coins with the text DORESTATI FIT meaning something like ‘made in Dorestat’, and similar to today’s ‘made in China’. And, his coin was what we would call today a strong brand. During his life Madelinus’ coins were being copied abundantly but actually were not made in Dorestat.

Another early-seventh-century mint master who probably moved his headquaters to Dorestat, was Rimoaldus. Before moving his seat to Dorestat he issued coins at the towns of Huy and Maastricht. The number of coins struck by Rimoaldus in Dorestat are quite rare, however.

A last remark concerning the age of the golden coin is, although suitable for payment, these coins functioned moreover as symbol of power, of status and of ceremony. And, always, for paying taxes. Thus, this type of cash was not circulating fast and was hoarded a lot. Not suitable for the shaking money-making trade that was about to emerge.

The golden age of silver coin

The true golden age of coin started when they were being made of silver.

In the Netherlands in total 3.000 denarii en sceattas have been found, of which an amazing 1.000 from the Walcheren at modern Domburg.

Around 650, an important development took place: the Franks and the Frisians started to mint silver coins. As often real great innovations are small steps. Two decennia later, the neighboring Anglo-Saxons on the other side of the Channel, followed their example. From then on, no golden coins were struck anymore in the whole wide region. A new utilitarian currency was needed to facilitate the growing long-distance trade. This trade needed a cheap coin that circulated quick, that had no ceremonial use as such, and stayed within circulation. Cheaper, because one golden tremissis was still worth the support of a child for a whole year. That represented a lot value. Ask any divorced parent paying alimony. Anyway, too much for the trade.

The solution was the dinarius or penny, and widely known as sceatta. Sceatta is derived from the Old Germanic word ‘skaet’ and comparable with the modern Mid-Frisian word ‘skat’. Sceats or sceattas were minted in England, Frisia, Francia and in Jutland. And it had another advantage: access to silver was more easy for the Franks with silver mines in southern Europe, whereas gold had to be imported from outside the continent. The discovery of silver in central Europe might also have stimulated the production of silver sceattas (Blackburn 2003). The Frisians, however, probably purchased silver for their private mints also, or even mainly, from their trading partners in southern Scandinavia. This was possible due to a positive trading balans of the Scandinavians. Southern Scandinavia got its silver via the eastern trading routes, from the silver mines in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The purchase of silver was financed with the trade of among other fur and ivory. For those readers wondering about all the truly global connections, yes, we are still talking about the Early Middle Ages.

Of the silver coins produced by the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks and the Frisians, the thick Frisian sceattas were the real hit, especially in the eighth century. Frisian sceattas were produced from the end of the sixth century well into the last quarter of the eighth century. It was the U.S. dollar of the Early Middle Ages, certainly in the wider North Sea region and the Frisians sceattas (i.e. sceatta series E and D) flooded into England (Blackburn 2003). The rough picture of sceattas in England was: ten percent minted in York, ten percent minted in Southamton (Hamwic), thirty percent minted in East Anglia and fifty percent minted in Kent and London (Lundunwic). On top of this, more than twenty percent of the total English money consisted of Frisian sceattas (Metcalf 2003). The south coast of England and Humberside reached even thirty percent Frisian sceattas. The D and E sceatta series were heavily represented in the hoards found at Aldborough (Norfolk) of London and, notably, of Fincham. The Fincham hoard consisted solely of crisp porcupines (i.e. sceatta series E). Like paying with dollars in, for example, West-African countries today. And, to quote Michael Metcalf: “The Frisian sceattas were pervasive. There was no part of England which the Frisian money failed to reach.” This, by the way, in stark contrast to Merovingian coins. Not even one percent of foreign coinage in England originated from the powerful, but deep-in-the-woods, Franks.

And again, the stylized and rougher appearance of these coins was different from their continental southern and overseas western neighbors. The traditional portrait of an emperor and deity had become a Picasso-like abstract and resembled more a porcupine. Hence the name porcupine (i.e. sceatta series E) is today’s prevailing archaeological classification. That is, by the way, not without tradition as the word ‘buck’ refers to a deerskin used in the past by American trappers as a unit for barter. The porcupine came in many different variations, since many different moneyers struck these coins spread over Frisia. Frisia back then, the coastal territories stretching from the estuary ‘t Zwin in Belgium to the river Weser in Germany.

Besides the porcupine, other (also non-Frisian) sceatta types circulated as well, of which the ‘Wodan/monster-type’ was a remarkable one. It looks like Wodan/Odin with a spine haircut. Although these are called Wodan/monster-type, the image might not depict the god Wodan at all, and might be a portrait of Christ instead. If so, Christ must have had the same funky hairdresser as Wodan. Think it is strange to connect money with religion? No, it is not. Putting the name of your god on money is still popular to date. ‘In God we trust’, is for everyone a well known phrase. And we all know about what money we are then talking about. In medieval England, there are indications that coinage was commissioned and supervised by minsters. Some Anglo-Saxon pennies carried the inscription MONITA SCORUM ‘money of the saints’.

Perhaps things made to function as alienable items (like metal coins) also need to refer to an overarching, permanent ‘totality’. Money, a commodity par excellence even in our secular times, tends to be decorated with symbols of national identity and/or religion. There are indication this social mechanism, i.e. things that function as alienable commodities need to have a cultural reference, was already in place in the Bronze Age, 3200-600 BC (Fontijn, 2020).

sceatta Wodan/monster-type

In heathen Frisia no religious authorities, monasteries or minsters were involved. Sceattas were minted by these pagans all over Frisia with Dorestat in the central river area, the terp region in the north, the Schouwen Island and the Walcheren Island in the southwest, being the main minting sites. ‘Productive sites’ still for archaeologists and metal detectorists. If interested in the importance of the Walcheren Island in the Early Middle Ages, read our blog post The island Walcheren: once Sodom and Gomorrah of the North Sea.

Despite the lack of central power, coinage flourished in the Frisia territories. The fact that the Franks, who ruled over big parts of Frisia from the mid-eighth century, were not able to install a proper feudal structure, the normal payment in kind was not possible. Therefore, these payments were often done in coin, which in turn stimulated the money economy within Frisia even further.

The Frisian middlemen used silver sceattas to purchase goods for the long-distance trade. For example, with sceattas buying goods in East Anglia, transporting the stuff via emporium Dorestat to the upper river Rhine region to sell it at the markets of, for example, Cologne and Worms. This way thousands of coins found their way (far) outside Frisia for the import of goods. In England 3,000 Frisian sceattas already have been found, outnumbering local Anglo-Saxon production. Frisian coins entered England via all major points of entry along the North Sea coast and along the south coast. Vice versa it is not the case, and Anglo-Saxon coins consist only a minor part of coins that circulated within Frisia and the wider region.

And Frisian money found its way via these export payments outside the North Sea region too. For example, in the Baltic Sea area at the former eighth-century trading town of Reric at modern Groß Strömkendorf in the Bay of Wismar in northeast Germany, thirty Frisian sceattas have been found. Being second after sixty Arabic dirhams. Dirhams reached Scandinavia via the eastern trading routes, as explained above.

Calculations have been made about the number of sceattas that might have been produced, and these numbers are so gigantic they are almost too difficult to accept. During the period 710-750 around 4,000 dies were being used. And a staggering fifty million sceattas might have been produced between 695-800 of which the majority was of Frisian origin. Yes, it is almost too difficult to accept. And, although not all dies were in existence at the same time, the volume of the coinage was “remarkably high” as researchers have put it with a feel of understatement.

Birth of economic liberalism

The word ‘Frisian’ became synonymous to ‘free trade’. The Frisian Trade. It was Frisian money that made the world go round, and the North Sea was the podium where the self-interested Frisian merchants spun their commercial web. A trade that started at the end of the sixth century and was on its height during the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries. Indeed, after Frisia was incorporated within Francia in the first half of the eighth century, the trade network survived and even flourished well into the tenth century, although for a short while not financed with Frisian sceattas but with Frankish’. The fact that the Franks gained control over Dorestat and its revenues through taxation of bulk goods (Loveluck, 2006), meant also that the Frisian merchants could gain better access to the Frankish hinterland. Private mint production in Frisia picked up probably quick after the monetary reforms of the Franks, since the Frankish kingdoms lost their grip on northern and eastern Frisia pretty soon after it had been submitted. Not without reason the Mare Germanicum or the Mare nostrum ‘our sea’, as the North Sea was called by the Romans, was renamed Mare Fresicum ‘Frisian Sea’ from the end of the Migration Period. It kept the name throughout the Early Middle Ages.

“At ipsi, cum navigarent circa Pictos, vastaverunt Orcades insulas, et venerunt et occupaverunt regiones plurimas ultra Mare Frenessicum usque ad confinium Pictorum”

“But when they sailed around the Picts, they wasted the Orkney islands, and they went and occupied many regions past the Frisian Sea till the border of the Picts” (Historia Britonum of Nennius, ninth century, quoting Gildas, sixth century)

“Mare Fresicum, id est quod inter nos Scottosque est”

The Frisian Sea, that lies between us and the Scot” (Historia Britonum of Nennius, ninth century)

In 1076 Adam of Bremen wrote the Gesta hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum ‘History of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen’. In his Gesta, Adam still spoke of the river Eider that flows into the Frisian Ocean.

If you had the ships and you knew how to sail, long distances could be covered relatively quickly. Much quicker than over land and river anyway. The Frisian ships were clinker-built early cogs (Early Middle Ages) which were replaced by the smarter carracks, also called hulks (High Middle Ages), with the carvel technique. It has been calculated that travelling from the town of Rijnsburg at the mouth of the river Old-Rhine to the town of Norwich took two days. That is around two-hundred-twenty kilometers as the crow flies. While travelling from Rijnsburg to Dorestat, at the present-day town of Wijk bij Duurstede, via the river, took seven days and over land four days, around seventy kilometers as the crow flies. Even the current name ‘North Sea’ could be a Frisian geographical perspective, as it is east of England, west of Denmark and, indeed, north of Frisia. But, with hindsight the North Sea, in fact, should have been named Interstate Highway 1.

early-medieval Frisian merchant, by Arne Zuidhoek

With their dynamic large-scale and supra-regional trade, the tall Frisian merchants welded the North Sea, the upper river Rhine region, the English-Channel area and parts of the Baltic Sea into one economic zone. Maybe not yet a fully operational European Economic Area, but it was getting there. On both sides of the Channel, a new economic world was created: the trade settlements or wics (or wijk, vicus, wich, wiccium, vico, vic, wico, et cetera) tripled in size during the first half of the eighth century, and also the coin finds support this economic development during the late seventh and eighth centuries. For a large part, all because of the doing of Frisian merchant activity in the seventh until the beginning of the ninth centuries, after which their Viking cousins took over the hegemony at sea, but clearly with a more imperialistic business model. Yet again, Frisian trade-networks survived despite this new hegemony, just as it had done after the Franks had conquered them. An indication of the strong position of their network, excellent nautical skills, and maybe their pragmatic life style. But, maybe also an indication that the Frisians culturally were still not that far removed from their northern and heathen cousins. Yes, the Frisians would soon even join the Viking raids with significant numbers. Read more about this adventurism in our blog post Foreign fighters returning from Viking war bands. Frisia continued to stay a prosperous seafaring nation throughout most of the Middle Ages, although less phenomenal as during the Early Middle Ages.

The geographical position of Frigonum patria ‘motherland Frisia’ was central. The technical, nautical skills and the commercial fleet of this sea-people were other crucial assets. It is known that Frisian traders sailed in specific vessels and operated in convoys. A population regularly partly washed away by devastating great storm floods. Furthermore, being part of the wider North Sea culture, this people possessed the right linguistic and cultural background needed for this international or overseas trade. Having the Anglo-Saxons and the Danish peoples as their cousins. At the same time, the Frankish landlubbers were their direct neighbors and intensive contacts therefore existed with them too. And, with permanent Frisian presence at important overseas commercial hubs, this people must have been well connected and well informed about business opportunities and about relevant social and political developments in the region for doing business effectively.

Neighboring Saxony stayed quite isolated and economically backward. Despite being surrounded by the Frisian trade networks, the Saxons did not connect. Finds of coins are rather sparse and it took till the second half of the tenth century before the Saxons started minting coins significantly.

early-medieval trade routes wider North Sea

The (early) medieval trade connections were truly dazzling and emporium Dorestat being the biggest trading port of northwest Europe at that time. Dorestat located at the junction where the mighty river Rhine had split itself around 300 into the river Old Rhine, or the river Kromme Rijn ‘Crooked Rhine’, flowing north via Trajectum (present-day Utrecht) to the current town Katwijk/Rijnsburg, and the river Lek flowing west to the current city Rotterdam. Rotterdam, arguably the successor of Dorestat. From Utrecht the trading town Dorestat was connected via the river Vecht to Lake Almere (today Lake IJssel) and the river Vlie flowing north into the Wadden Sea. From there on, eyes on southern Scandinavia. A vicus nominatissimus ‘a town of very great repute’ as it was named in 834 by Saint Ludger, the apostle of the Frisians. A settlement that extended over three kilometres along the river with jetties that had a length up to two-hundred metres. Read our blog post The Batwing Doors of Northwest Europe to get a greater picture of Dorestat.

The Frisians, with their important trading centers and entrepots Dorestat, but also the Walcheren Island and the Schouwen Island, traded with the British Isles, especially with the kingdoms of East Anglia, Isle of Wight and of Kent. Probably already from the sixth century, trade relations existed between the (new) Anglo-Saxon world and Frisia (Brooks and Harrington, 2010). Places like Flixborough, Fordwich, emporium Ipswich (giving access to East Anglia), emporium London (Lundenburth/Lundenwic giving access to Mercia), Sandwich and emporium Southampton (Hamwih/Hamwic giving access to Wessex) belong to the Frisian network. Early-medieval Frisian merchants have been documented in texts in e.g. London and York (Eboracum/Eoforwic giving access to Northumbria).

Regarding the continent, the Frisian presence and trade extended to Saint-Denis near Paris, Rouen and, of course, the emporium Quentovic near modern-day Boulogne. Frisian sceattas have been found all the way in Marseille in southern France. The Frisians were also trading intensively in Birten/Xanten, Hamburg, Cologne, Worms, Mainsz and Trier.

With Scandinavian tribes more to the north, the Frisian free-trade network encompassed the wics ‘markets’ of Ribe, the island Bornholm and Haedum (later Hedeby/Haithabu) in respectively Denmark and Germany. It is on ninth-century coins struck in Hedeby, where cog-shaped ships are depicted for the first time, probably Frisian ships (Meier, 2004). Legend has it the town of Ribe, being the oldest town of Scandinavia, was even founded to attract the rich Frisian trade. Speculation Ribe even was founded by the Frisians. But also in southern Norway and southern and eastern Sweden, with respectively the trading towns Sciringssal (now Kaupang), Birka and later Sigtuna, the Frisian traders were well connected. As said, of course, also into the Baltic sea with Frisian presence at the trading place Reric at present-day Groß Strömkendorf at the Bay of Wismar. ‘International’ presence at Reric of people of Franks, Saxons and Frisians has been established, based on grave rituals, coins and pottery.

And it were not solely merchants passing by during the sailing season in the trading places mentioned above. More permanent settlers existed too. Frisian colonies had been established in many of these towns, like Hedeby, York, Mainsz, Birka and Worms, including the establishment of local Frisian guilds. And besides trading, the Frisians also built their early cogs, perhaps named cokingi.

As we have seen already, the Frisians were keen financiers. Doing business requires a balance between pragmatism and giving trust. If people trusted the trader, they trusted his own minted money and his goods. Producing massive amounts of cheap silver coins was a pragmatic innovation, and if not invented by the Frisians, at least exploited to the max by them. Although no governmental supervision existed and the mint of coinage was a free occupation, the money makers were able to maintain the weight of silver of sceattas at a constant 1,3 grams. Whilst the Anglo-Saxon pennies originally weighing 1,3 grams too, slowly devalued in the amount of silver, despite supervision of minsters or feudal authority. Do we here a renewed plead for deregulation? Frisian pragmatism was further illustrated in the way they dealt with southern Scandinavia. The Norsemen still refused the money economy and payments were solely done in silver or gold, well into the tenth century and some Scandinavian countries still refuse to join the euro-zone. The 󈨞s pop song ‘No tengo dinero’ of a Danish boy band thus fitted perfectly within an old Viking tradition too.

Anyhow, when coins were cut or bend by their northern cousins, needed to establish to silver content and to be sure it were no fakes, Frisian merchants had no problem with it. Regardless the fact cutting of coins was forbidden by Frankish law after most of Frisia had been incorporated into Francia in the first half of the eighth century. They simply struck the deal if the price was right. No scruples, no matter what distant Frankish kings thought. It was business, it was capitalism, it was making a profit. With silver money they bought goods, oh, and slaves too. Read our blog post Merciless medieval merchants to learn of the first, Frisian slave trader documented in 637 in London. Goods and slaves, not for personal use but primarily for the sale somewhere else. Shipped to be sold for a higher price where the demand was higher. The effort put into, was the labor for transportation. The surplus (partly) was probably invested again to enlarge the trade. Thus accumulating wealth with individuals: the Frisian middlemen.

The trade consisted of, among other, hides and parchment, bone, wool and cloth (the famous locally produced pallium Fresonicum, read our blog post Haute couture from the salt marsh), milk products like cheese and butter, eggs, flax and linen, hides, wood, jewelry, pottery (including Tating-type being the fine luxurious stuff), glassware (including funnel beakers), arms, spices, walnuts, raisins, olive oil, gold brocade, Chinese silk, exotic shells, beads, wine (in wooden barrels) from the upper river Rhine area, tephrite quern stones from Mayen, mortars and whetstones of sandstone or quartzite, furs from Scandinavia, walrus ivory, amber, grain, construction wood, ore, dried and salted fish, combs and slaves. Many of these goods clearly meant for luxury as well, and were part of the gift economy that had arisen after the Migration Period the era of ring-givers, and an inspiration for the trilogy Lord of the Rings too.

Poor Marx. He would have become nauseous when he would read all this. To soften his pain, though, the Frisians did produce too. They added value too. Like Frisian broadcloth and salt, which were highly sought after products. To soften Marx’ pain even further, the offspring of these Frisian self-interested traders ended up living at a poor, aging, trembling and sagging countryside, threatened by a rising sea level due to global warming.

Lastly. For long there was no significant central power. Frisian trade was commissioned neither by secular powers nor by minsters, abbeys, cloisters or monasteries or other important people dressed in robes or capes. In alignment with the principles of economic liberalism, it were individuals and their relatives who were trading freely and purely for their personal benefit. No imperialism, to be clear. It was an open market that was almost completely regulated without any state interference: a mercantile community operating outside royal (state) controle. As illustrated above, even coinage was successfully organized on the local level until the centralist Franks intervened. Albeit for a short while. A thousand years later, during the Golden Age, the Dutch Republic took liberalism and the triangle trade to a next level, in many aspects. With the very same sea-coastal area still having the lead, only by then carrying the free-republic names States of Friesland, of Holland and West-Friesland, and of Zeeland. Therefore, if you think the United States are the true representatives of economic liberalism and republicanism, know who their ancestors are.

One of the ancestors, literally, was the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His Dutch ancestors migrated in the seventeenth century to New Amsterdam, a city we now know as New York. It was Roosevelt who understood the ancient, Frisian principles of trade, namely that primarily all individuals and families should profit from trade and production, ánd hold power over economics. Not a small group of bankers and investors. In the 󈧢s, with his hand on the family Dutch Bible published in the year 1668 during his inauguration as President, he retook with the New Deal control over the economy from bankers by leaving the Gold Standard. Governments, serving the people, had become too dependent on those guys on Wall Street a Dutch street name by the way. In the meantime, countries yet again have become dependent on bankers, investors and hedge funds. Upcoming leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plead for a Green New Deal. So, from the Frisian Deal, to Roosevelt’s New Deal to AOC’s Green New Deal.

Indeed, do not underestimate the cultural ties between the Anglo-Saxons and the Frisians when it comes to individualism, economics and free-trade. The Declaration of Independence of the United States is not only filled with individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It also mentions explicitly (free) trade interests. On 26 February 1782 the Republic of Friesland was the second sovereign state in the world that voted in favor to recognize the United States’ independence. Coincidence you think? No. And, till this day one may find this coastal people still being an interlocutor or broker between the old continent and the new Anglo-Saxon World, or as they say: “The Dutch are part of the transatlantic axis.” Mark our words, the Dutch will be front runner in Europe in repairing the damage of the Brexit. They will ignore it.

Read our post History is written by the victors – a history of credits to understand how the American values on civil liberties and free market were planted on its soil in the seventeenth century. Even how the Frisian-born Governor of the New Netherland colony, Pieter Stuyvesant, made sure in the Articles of Captiualtion of 1664 that the bourgeois liberties and rights, including free trade, of the citizens were to be respected by the British when the took over the colony from the Dutch. Also, in the New World the Dutch showed being pragmatic again when it came to currencies, and embrased the local currency of the native American tribes, namely the sewant. These were small, relatively scarce cylindrical or barrel-shaped white beads made from seashell found along the Atlantic coast, the knobbed or channelled whelk (Venema, 2003). Not only they represented valua, they also functioned in storytelling, ceremonial gift exchange, and (condolence) rituals. It is estimated that about 3 million of these sewant beads may have come into circulation with the Iroquois and Mahicans to facilitate the beaver pelt trade. Its value as ‘light money’ was even regulated by the Dutch colonial authorities.

But the early-medieval Frisian trade could not do without a stable market on the continent where to buy and sell their goods. Oh, and slaves. The Franks had pacified or integrated, pardon our euphemistic language, the hinterland into a more or less stable market. And that is the symbiose, or love-hate relationship if you like, between the Franks and the Frisians, and later the Dutch and Germans. Emporium Dorestat, the New York of the Early Middle Ages, with an estimated population of 10,000 people with docks and quays extending a 1,000 meters along the banks of the river Rhine, was a city being neither Frisian nor Frankish. This hybrid nature of Dorestat was illustrative for the interdependence between the two peoples. The Cosmographia Ravennatis, written in the second half of the seventh century, classifies Dorestat as a Frisian settlement, however.

In this respect not much has changed. Later on, it were the sea-trading Low Countries with the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, including Delfshaven but later also Emden, that flourished because of a big and stable hinterland. A hinterland that had gotten a new name: the Rhur. And, again no coincidence. The Netherlands were among the founding fathers of integration of economic area’s like their coastal ancestors had done before with the wider North Sea region. We name the Benelux of 1944 and the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, being the origin of the European Union.

What about Marx?

When in 1867 Das Kapital was published, it was actually a representation of the secluded mountains and woods of the continent. A landlubber who had no clue what was going on at dynamic sea for centuries. He could have guessed, though, since his birthplace Trier at the banks of the river Moselle had depended on Frisian free-trade in early-medieval times already. Just like nearby town Worms to the east at the banks of the river Rhine had done so too. The influential monastery of Echternach near Trier was even founded by Willibrord in the seventh century, whose title was Archbishop and Apostle of the Frisians. To put it bluntly: no person from the southern North Sea coast in his right mind would have written Das Kapital. Read also our blog post The Abbey of Egmond and the rise of the Gerulfings about the medieval links between Frisia, Saint Willibrord and Echternach.

In 1883 Marx died at the other end of the ancient Frisian trade route: Lundunwic, a city that had gotten a new name too, London.

Post scriptum Audulf

We are, of course, aware of the mist still surrounding King Audulf. Some scholars argue the quality of the coins is too good to be true to be Frisian, and therefore should be made by the apparently more refined Franks. Scholars had for long the same hesitation with the origin of pallia Fresonica (read our blog post Haute couture from the salt marshes). On the other hand, we have seen the Frisians were no backward farmers trapped in the woods. In fact,a worldly people able to make cloth and jewelry of the highest international quality imaginable of which fibulae found in the northern terp region are magnificent examples. Jewelry matching without a doubt the quality of the finds of Sutton Hoo in England (read our blog post Ornament of the Gods found in a mound of clay). Making quality dies and minting small coins, therefore, should have been within their grasp. We would say, that is a no-brainer. And yes, the appearances of the coin was more robust. But it was what was inside that counted, namely the stable silver content. That makes you a reliable trader. And the weight of silver in the sceattas was more consistent than the money of their so-called sophisticated neighbors. That was the real finesse, the real trust.

Let us explain it one more time:

medieval die

Scholars adhering to the Frankish origin-theory, subsequently have the additional challenge to explain the text AVDVLFVS VICTORIA, and to make somehow plausible it was a victory of a Frankish king over the Frisians instead. So, a victory over Audulf. Other scholars dismiss this argument as far-fetched, since this was not the practice of rulers in that era. You put as a ruler, of course, your own name on the coin and not somebody else’s. Imagine a portrait of Stalin on a U.S. bank note. Not gonna happen. Neither is there support in early-medieval Frankish texts for this victory over Frisia at the beginning of the seventh century. Lastly, the same question marks are not being placed at the rule and existence of the Anglo-Saxon King Æthelstan who ruled from 825-845 and who is principally known from extensive issue of coins.

All in all, the Frankish-origin clique seem to apply double standards and lack a winning argument. At the same time, local theories arguing the battle referred to in fact was a victory of King Audulf over King Theudebert II of Austrasia, are far too concrete considering available evidence and must be dismissed as well.

Till now we can only speculate as to where big man Audulf had his power base or where his hall stood. The fourteenth-century pro-Holland chronicler Johannis De Beke argued that Audulf had his burh, or burgh, at Foreburg (present-day town Voorburg) in province Zuid Holland. This has been dismissed as fiction. But we can assume it must have been in the central river-lands of the Netherlands. The river basins of the river Old-Rhine, of the river Vecht and the estuaries of the mighty rivers Rhine and Meuse at the coast of present-day province Zuid Holland, might very well be power bases of early-medieval rulers. It gave them control over important trade networks, and at the same time they were connected to the elite network of the wider North Sea that had developed from the sixth century. It is also thought Frisian (over)kings or counts like Aldgisl and Radbod might have had their power base here, and perhaps also the fifth-century King Finn.

NOTE 1 – Although the exceptional achievement of the Frisians being the central freigthers of the Early Middle Age was never equalled again, in the eigtheenth century skippers from the coastal strip between the port towns of Lemmer and Harlingen along the southwest coast of province Friesland, dominated the trade on the Baltic Sea (again). The trade with the Baltic Sea area was called: the Oostzeevaart ‘Baltic Sea-trade’, the Grote Oost ‘Great East’ (as opposed to the Kleine Oost ‘Little Oost’, being the trade with the North Sea coast of Germany), the Sontvaart (‘the Sound-trade’), or the Moedernegotie ‘Mother Trade’. During the period of the Oostzeevaart the Frisians are known as ‘The Freighters of Europe’.

NOTE 2 – If interested in other pre- and early-medieval kings of Frisia, read our blog posts about the Frisian (over)kings Finn Folcwald, Aldgisl and Radbod.


Obscure References

Joel is echoing Harvey Fierstein's plangent cry from the play Torch Song Trilogy, which was adapted into a film in 1988. The line would also be used by Jon Lovitz's parody of Fierstein in several sketches on Saturday Night Live.

The shot of the women raising the boat's mast is reminiscent of the iconic photo Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal.

Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir about a two-year sea voyage by Richard Henry Dana Jr. A film adaptation of the same name was released in 1946.

The S. S. Minnow is the name of the seagoing boat that ran aground on an uncharted desert isle, stranding the crew and passengers on the 1960s TV sitcom Gilligan's Island.

Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive is a book by Harvey Mackay.

"It wasn't a rock. It was a rock lobster" are lyrics from song "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's.

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick opens with the line, "Call me Ishmael."

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" is a quote from Planet of the Apes (1968).

Uncommon Women and Others is a 1977 play about a group of women meeting for lunch and talking about their time together in college. It was adapted into a TV movie in 1978.

A reference to lyrics in the song "We'll Meet Again", made famous by Vera Lynn.

"Football practice!" is a notable line from the horror movie Shocker.

Our Bodies, Ourselves is a book about women's health written from a feminist perspective.

The Bell Jar is a roman à clef about mental illness written by Sylvia Plath.

Robert McNamara was the U.S. Secretary of Defense throughout much of the Vietnam War.

Jean-Luc Godard is a French filmmaker who first made a name for himself during the New Wave.

The Group is a 1966 film about female college graduates.

A reference to the Columbia University protests of 1968, in which student radicals occupied various campus offices.

Judy Chicago is a feminist conceptual artist.

A line from the Frank Zappa song "Camarillo Brillo".

Carol Bly was a Minnesota writer known for her creative-writing workshops.

Helen Gurley Brown was the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Estes Kefauver was a U.S. senator from Tennessee, best known for overseeing a series of hearings on organized crime.

Gwildor and Stridor are characters from the Masters of the Universe media franchise, while Frodo is a character and Rivendell a prominent location from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series of books (and films since the release of this episode). It's possible that "Stridor" was an over-enunciated take on "Strider", another Lord of the Rings character.

A reference to an episode of the TV sitcom F-Troop.

The 5th General Order of the Unites States Marine Corps is "Never quit my post until properly relieved."

A reference to the Charles Manson Family, who wrote the word "piggy" in blood on one of the walls after they murdered some of their victims.

Refers to a light meal served after a funeral. A common occurrence in the upper mid-west.

A hairspray television commercial slogan advocating the 'dry' look over a greased-back men's hairstyle.

A line from the 1989 black comedy Heathers, in which teenage outcast Jason Dean murders two football players who constantly torment him and other unpopular kids. As posthumous humiliation, Dean stages the scene to appear as though they committed suicide due to being gay. At the pair's joint funeral, the father of one of them eulogizes his son with this line.

Paraphrases a line from Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Another paraphrased version of the same line would be used during Experiment #909.

"Whipping Post" is a song by The Allman Brothers Band, most famously immortalized on their classic live album At Fillmore East.

Paraphrase of a lyric by Randy Newman from his 1974 song "A Wedding in Cherokee County": 'She will laugh at my mighty sword/Why must everybody laugh at my mighty sword?'

A reference to a quote from the movie North by Northwest, wherein Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) is speaking with Roger Thornhill/George Kaplan (Cary Grant) about Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint).


Watch the video: Κατάδυση @Ξέρα Ποθητού (July 2022).


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