December 13th, 2011
Different Strokes for Different Folks
The hunter has now become the hunted. For centuries during the age of the Roman Republic and Empire, citizens of Rome knew that north of the Alps resided longhaired, thick-bearded, untamed races of Germanic peoples that Romans, both pleb and aristocrat eloquently referred to as barbarians. These naked savages to the north had shown they could defeat the mighty Roman Empire repeatedly by using tactics the Roman legions were not accustomed to, and superior knowledge of their home terrain. The Battle of the Teutoburg Forrest and the failed conquest of Briton perfectly illustrate the ...view middle of the document...
As a result, from the Viking incursions, the French and English systems of governing took opposite paths, and though the common people of both countries suffered from these Viking attacks, the overall impact of this period of war was positive.
The earliest account of a Viking raid in England took place in the year 789.1 Though this first raid was relatively small, the Vikings still managed to sack the nearby town. From then on, constant Viking raids tormented the English coastline. As a center of wealth in the medieval ages, monasteries served as the perfect target for Viking raids. The accounts detailing the suffering of the people, especially the holy, are gruesome at best. “In 870, the same year Peterborough was destroyed, the nuns at Barking are said to have been burned to the death in their church by the Northmen.”2 And the anonymous chronicler of Peterborough recounted how the Vikings burned and demolished his monastery, and slew the abbot and the monks and all that they found there, reducing to nothing what had once been a very rich foundation.”3These are just a few of many instances of Viking brutality towards the monasteries of England. The Vikings, being pagan themselves, had no second thoughts about burning to the ground the church of another religion. What is more damaging to the people of England was that monasteries were also the center of literacy. With the mass killing of monks, the Vikings also severely impaired the knowledge of English people, something King Alfred the Great would later work to restore.4
Politically, the Frankish monarchs also shared the suffering of the common people. The Frankish Holy Roman Empire at this time was already suffering from political fragmentation, and the arrival of the Vikings only hastened the process. Soon after the death of the empires greatest ruler, Charlemagne the seeds of political strife had been sewn. During the Carolingian expansion, the aristocrats acquired vast amounts of wealth and power. With the monarchy already showing signs of weakness, many rich landholders broke off from the monarchy.5 The discord continued when Charlemagne’s grandsons broke up his empire into three separate kingdoms at the Treaty of Verdun.6 After this, a trend of weak monarchs followed. These political disputes weakened Francia as a whole, and the Vikings seized the opportunity. Spending the better part of 20 years focusing on Francia, before continuing there raids of England once more.7 The French empire like its Roman predecessor was too large for an adequate defense, thus leaving protection of the people to the local lords.8 This further disintegration made way for the French noble class, and feudalism. With this new era of feudalism nobles increasing developed loyalty to their local lord, and once castles began to be raised, powerful families now had a center of power, much like a capital of any state or country. The coming of castles also changed how nobles were addressed....