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From Treveri to Trier, From Celts to Vikings!

In my previous family history post, I took you on a very brief tour of Trier’s history. I originally planned to leave it at that but I was so intrigued with it’s long history that I decided to find out more. I am going to share it here in a more in depth post because the story of Trier is so interesting and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves when people think about great cities of history! I also think that Vikings fans may be interested in one of the visits that a group of Northmen paid to the city in 881. We will look at that visit and it’s result later.  Before you begin reading, I will warn and advise you that this has become a lengthy post! It is a more detailed and extensive history than some of you might like but it is also is not nearly as long and in depth as it could have been! I have tried to edit as much as possible but given the massive history surrounding Trier, I find myself thinking it unfair to leave out certain parts or deem some portion unimportant. If you simply can not bring yourself to read through all of it, I have broken it up into sections with subtitles which you can scroll down through in search of what might interest you the most.  I really do hope you will take the time to read the entire article though.

Index of Subsections:

Pre-history and Celtic origins

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

The Constantine Connection

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Saint Helena’s connection

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

 

 

Pre-history and Celtic origins

First let’s look at the rich history of this city that was at one time thought of as one of the most important cities of the Roman and then the Frankish Empire. The following Roman era map shows Trier by it’s Roman name of Augusta Treverorum and lists it as a Roman city. In red, you will find the Celtic tribe of Treveri in that area.

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The Celtic Treveri tribe inhabited the lower valley of the Moselle from around 150 BCE, if not earlier,  until their eventual absorption into the Franks. Their domain lay within the southern fringes of the Silva Arduenna (Ardennes Forest), a part of the vast Silva Carbonaria, in what are now Luxembourg, southeastern Belgium and western Germany;  its centre was the city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum), to which the Treveri give their name. Celtic in language, according to Tacitus they claimed Germanic descent. 

Although they quickly adapted to  Roman material culture,  the Treveri had a tenuous  relationship with Roman power. Their leader Indutiomarus led them in revolt against Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars;  much later, they played a key role in the Gaulish revolt during the Year of the Four Emperors.  On the other hand, the Treveri supplied the Roman army with some of its most famous cavalry,  and the city of Augusta Treverorum was home for a time to the family of Germanicus, including the future emperor Gaius (Caligula).  During the Crisis of the Third Century, the territory of the Treveri was overrun by Germanic Alamanni and Franks and later formed part of the Gallic Empire.

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altbburg

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altburg

The name Treveri   has been interpreted as referring to a “flowing river” or to “crossing the river”. Rudolf Thurneysen proposes to interpret it as a Celtic trē-uer-o, followed by Xavier Delamarre with the element trē < *trei ‘through’, ‘across’ (cf. Latin trans) and uer-o ‘to cross a river’, so the name Treveri could mean ‘the ferrymen’, because these people helped to cross the Mosel river. They had a special goddess of the ford called Ritona and a temple dedicated to Uorioni Deo. treuer- can be compared with the Old Irish treóir ‘guiding, passage through a ford’, ‘place to cross a river’. The word uer- / uar- can be related to an indo-European word meaning ‘stream’, ‘river’ (Sanskrit vār, Old Norse vari ‘water’), that can be found in many river-names, especially in France : Var, Vire, Vière or in place-names like Louviers or Verviers. The city of Trier (French: Trèves) derives its name from the later Latin locative in Trēverīs for earlier Augusta Treverorum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treveri

The Treveri tribe was described by early Romans as the most renowned of the Belgae tribes who were referred to as being part of the Gauls.

Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgae

According to the Roman consul Aulus Hirtius in the 1st century BCE, the Treveri differed little from Germanic peoples in their manner of life and savage behaviour.  The Treveri boasted of their Germanic origin, according to Tacitus, in order to distance themselves from “Gallic laziness” (inertia Gallorum). But Tacitus does not include them with the Vangiones, Triboci or Nemetes as “tribes unquestionably German”.  The presence of hall villas of the same type as found in indisputably Germanic territory in northern Germany, alongside Celtic types of villas, corroborates the idea that they had both Celtic and Germanic affinities.  The Germanic element among the Treveri probably arrived there in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.   Strabo says that their Nervian and Tribocan neighbours were Germanic peoples who by that point had settled on the left bank of the Rhine, while the Treveri are implied to be Gaulish.

Jerome states that as of the 4th century their language was similar to that of the Celts of Asia Minor (the Galatians). Jerome probably had first-hand knowledge of these Celtic languages, as he had visited both Augusta Treverorum and Galatia.  Very few personal names among the Treveri are of Germanic origin; instead, they are generally Celtic or Latin. Certain distinctively Treveran names are apparently none of the three and may represent a pre-Celtic stratum, according to Wightman (she gives Ibliomarus, Cletussto and Argaippo as examples).

Before Ceasar’s invasion, the central city of the Treveri was at a place named  Titelberg.  Titelberg  is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people. The site thus provides telling evidence of urban civilization in what is now Luxembourg long before the Roman conquest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titelberg

800px-Titelberg_01 800px-Titelberg003 800px-Titelberg018

 

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

 The Treveri had a strong cavalry and infantry, and during the Gallic Wars would provide Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. Under their leader Cingetorix, the Treveri served as Roman auxiliaries. However, their loyalties began to change in 54 BCE under the influence of Cingetorix’ rival Indutiomarus. According to Caesar, Indutiomarus instigated the revolt of the Eburones under Ambiorix that year and led the Treveri in joining the revolt and enticing Germanic tribes to attack the Romans. The Romans under Titus Labienus killed Indutiomarus and then put down the Treveran revolt; afterwards, Indutiomarus’ relatives crossed the Rhine to settle among the Germanic tribes.  The Treveri remained neutral during the revolt of Vercingetorix, and were attacked again by Labienus after it. On the whole, the Treveri were more successful than most Gallic tribes in cooperating with the Romans. They probably emerged from the Gallic Wars with the status of a free civitas exempt from tribute.

In 30 BCE, a revolt of the Treveri was suppressed by Marcus Nonius Gallus, and the Titelberg was occupied by a garrison of the Roman army. Agrippa and Augustus undertook the organization of Roman administration in Gaul, laying out an extensive series of roads beginning with Agrippa’s governorship of Gaul in 39 BCE, and imposing a census in 27 BCE for purposes of taxation. The Romans built a new road from Trier to Reims via Mamer, to the north, and Arlon, thus by-passing by 25 kilometres the Titelberg and the older Celtic route, and the capital was displaced to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) with no signs of conflict. The vicinity of Trier had been inhabited by isolated farms and hamlets before the Romans, but there had been no urban settlement here.

Following the reorganisation of the Roman provinces in Germany in 16 BCE, Augustus decided that the Treveri should become part of the province of Belgica. At an unknown date, the capital of Belgica was moved from Reims to Augusta Treverorum. A significant layer of the Treveran élite seems to have been granted Roman citizenship under Caesar and/or Augustus, by whom they were given the nomenJulius.

During the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, and particularly when Drusus and Germanicus were active in Gaul, Augusta Treverorum rose to considerable importance as a base and supply centre for campaigns in Germany. The city was endowed with an amphitheatre, baths, and other amenities,  and for a while Germanicus’ family lived in the city.  Pliny the Elder reports that Germanicus’ son, the future emperor Gaius (Caligula), was born “among the Treveri, at the village of Ambiatinus, above Koblenz“, but Suetonius notes that this birthplace was disputed by other sources.

Towards the end of the first century ad, the Treveran elite noblemen made the mistake of joining in a revolt against Rome. The revolt was quickly put down  and more than a hundred rebel Treveran noblemen fled across the Rhine to join their Germanic allies; in the assessment of Jeannot Metzler, this event marks the end of aristocratic Treveran cavalry service in the Roman army, the rise of the local bourgeoisie, and the beginnings of “a second thrust of Romanization”.  Camille Jullian attributes to this rebellion the promotion of Reims, capital of the perennially loyal Remi, at the expense of the Treveri.  By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, representatives of the old élite bearing the nomen Julius had practically disappeared, and a new élite arose to take their place; these would have originated mainly from the indigenous middle class, according to Wightman. This would have been a Roman way of eliminating feelings of loyalty or heritage to the ancient Treveri tribe and replacing it with loyalty to Rome.   The Treveri tribes also suffered from their proximity to  the Rhine frontier during the Crisis of the Third Century. Frankish and Alamannic invasions during the 250s led to significant destruction, particularly in rural areas; given the failure of the Roman military to defend effectively against Germanic invasion, country dwellers improvised their own fortifications, often using the stones from tombs and mausoleums.  While these smaller rural concentrations of Treveri were being decimated by that Germanic invasion, the city of Augusta Treverorum was becoming an urban centre of the first importance, overtaking even Lugdunum (Lyon). During the Crisis of the Third Century, the city served as the capital of the Gallic Empire under the emperors Tetricus I and II from 271 to 274. The Treveri suffered further devastation from the Alamanni in 275, following which, according to Jeannot Metzler, “The great majority of agricultural domains lay waste and would never be rebuilt”. It is unclear whether Augusta Treverorum itself fell victim to the Alamannic invasion.  Other  historical sources state that the city was destroyed during that time and that Emperor Diocletian recognized the urgency of maintaining an imperial presence in the Gauls, and established first Maximian, then Constantius Chlorus as caesars at Trier; from 293 to 395, Trier was one of the residences of the Western Roman Emperor in Late Antiquity. It’s position required the monumental settings that betokened imperial government.

 Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

My personal thought on these events is to wonder if Rome’s failure to protect those outlying Treveri was actually part of some plan to better eliminate those more distant and possibly less loyal groups. In a way, these events led to a more complete demise of the original Treveri tribes and people who would look at themselves as Treveri first and Roman citizen second.  As for the city of Augusta Treverorum falling victim to the invasions,  it seems to have recovered quickly. Those residents that survived the attack would from that point on  be Roman and Christian in their loyalties and beliefs.  From 285 to 395, Augusta Treverorum was one of the residences of the western Roman Emperor, including Maximian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II, Valentinian I, Magnus Maximus, and Theodosius I;  from 318 to 407, it served as the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the mid-4th century, the city was counted in a Roman manuscript as one of the four capitals of the world, alongside Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.   New defensive structures, including fortresses at Neumagen, Bitburg and Arlon, were constructed to defend against Germanic invasion. After a Vandal invasion in 406, however, the imperial residence was moved to Mediolanum (Milan) while the praetorian guard was withdrawn to Arelate (Arles).

 

A mint was immediately established by Constantius, which came to be the principal mint of the Roman West.  A new stadium was added to the amphitheater, to stage chariot races. Under the rule of Constantine the Great (306–337), the city was rebuilt and buildings such as the Palastaula (known today as the Constantine Basilica) and the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen), the largest surviving Roman baths outside Rome, were begun under Constantius and completed c 314 constructed.  by his son Constantine, who left Trier in the hands of his son Crispus. In 326, sections of the imperial family’s private residential palaces were extended and converted to a large double basilica, the remains of which are still partly recognisable in the area of the Trier Cathedral (Trierer Dom) and the church “Liebfrauenkirche“.  A demolished imperial palace has left shattered sections of painted ceiling, which scholars believe once belonged to Constantine’s young wife, Fausta, whom he later put to death.

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Basilica of Constantine

Basilica of Constantine

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

trier basilica

trier basilica

03-23 Trier Cathedral Ceiling

Trier Cathedral ceiling

03-23 Trier Cathedral Interior

Trier Cathedral Interior

The Constantine Connection

From Constantine’s time in Trier onward, the city was the seat of the Gallic prefecture (the Praefectus Praetorio Galliarium), one of the two highest authorities in the Western Roman Empire, which governed the western Roman provinces from Morocco to Britain. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397. It became a city of great importance and occasionally, great scandal- as in the events surrounding it’s Royal household.  I am not going to go into Constantine’s early life or his climb to the level of Emperor… this is long enough as it is!

Constantine’s share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured his control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father’s rule, and ordered the repair of the region’s roadways.  He soon left for Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in Gaul, the Tetrarchic capital of the northwestern Roman Empire.  The Franks, after learning of Constantine’s acclamation, invaded Gaul across the lower Rhine over the winter of 306–307 AD.  Constantine drove them back beyond the Rhine and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and Merogaisus. The kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of Trier’s amphitheater in the adventus (arrival) celebrations that followed.

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old roman baths in trier

Public baths (thermae) were built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were built to rival those of Rome.   Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city. To the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. Constantine sponsored many building projects across Gaul during his tenure as emperor of the West, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles).  According to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution,  and a way to distinguish himself from the “great persecutor”, Galerius. Constantine decreed a formal end to persecution, and returned to Christians all they had lost during the persecutions.

Because Constantine was still largely untried and had a hint of illegitimacy about him, he relied on his father’s reputation in his early propaganda: the earliest panegyrics to Constantine give as much coverage to his father’s deeds as to those of Constantine himself.  Constantine’s military skill and building projects soon gave the panegyrist the opportunity to comment favorably on the similarities between father and son, and Eusebius remarked that Constantine was a “renewal, as it were, in his own person, of his father’s life and reign”. Constantinian coinage, sculpture and oratory also shows a new tendency for disdain towards the “barbarians” beyond the frontiers. After Constantine’s victory over the Alemanni, he minted a coin issue depicting weeping and begging Alemannic tribesmen—”The Alemanni conquered”—beneath the phrase “Romans’ rejoicing”. There was little sympathy for these enemies. As his panegyrist declared: “It is a stupid clemency that spares the conquered foe!”

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Let’s set aside the rest of Constantine’s achievements and accomplishments and look at his personal life a bit. His personal residence became the city of Augusta Treverorum so naturally much of his personal life took place there. In the year 303 he married his first wife, Minervina and had one son, Crispus by her. In 307, he set her aside as part of a treaty or alliance with  Roman Emperor Maximianus and agreed to marry Maximianus’s daughter, Fausta.   In 310 Maximian died as a consequence of an assassination plot against Constantine. Maximian decided to involve his daughter Fausta, but she revealed the plot to her husband, and the assassination was disrupted. Maximian died, by suicide or by assassination, in July of that same year.

sculpture/bust of Fausta

sculpture/bust of Fausta

Empress Fausta was held in high esteem by Constantine, and proof of his favour was that in 323 she was proclaimed Augusta; previously she held the title of Nobilissima Femina. However three years later Fausta was put to death by Constantine, following the execution of Crispus, his eldest son by Minervina, in 326. The two deaths have been inter-related in various ways; in one, Fausta is set jealously against Crispus, as in the anonymous Epitome de Caesaribus, or conversely her adultery, perhaps with the stepson who was close to her in age, is suggested. Fausta was executed by suffocation in an over-heated bath, a mode of assassination not otherwise attested in the Roman world. David Woods offers the connection of overheated bathing with contemporaneous techniques of abortion,  a suggestion that implies an unwanted, adulterous pregnancy according to Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson.

The Emperor ordered the damnatio memoriae of his wife with the result that no contemporary source records details of her fate: “Eusebius, ever the sycophant, mentions neither Crispus nor Fausta in his Life of Constantine, and even wrote Crispus out of the final version of his Ecclesiastical History (HE X.9.4)”, Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson observes.   Significantly, her sons, once in power, never revoked this order.  Her sons became Roman Emperors: Constantine II, reigned 337 – 340, Constantius II reigned 337 – 361, and Constans reigned 337 – 350. She also bore three daughters Constantina, Helena and Fausta. Of these, Constantina married her cousins, firstly Hannibalianus and secondly Constantius Gallus, and Helena married Emperor Julian.

 

The reason for this act remains unclear and historians have long debated Constantine’s motivation. Zosimus in the 5th century and Joannes Zonaras in the 12th century both reported that Fausta, stepmother of Crispus, was extremely jealous of him. She was reportedly afraid that Constantine would put aside the sons she bore him. So, in order to get rid of Crispus, Fausta set him up. She reportedly told the young Caesar that she was in love with him and suggested an illegitimate love affair. Crispus denied the immoral wishes of Fausta and left the palace in a state of a shock. Then Fausta said to Constantine that Crispus had no respect for his father, since the Caesar was in love with his father’s own wife. She reported to Constantine that she dismissed him after his attempt to rape her. Constantine believed her and, true to his strong personality and short temper, executed his beloved son. A few months later, Constantine reportedly found out the whole truth and then killed Fausta.

This version of events has become the most widely accepted, since all other reports are even less satisfactory. That Fausta and Crispus would have together  plotted treason against Constantine is rejected by most historians, as they would have nothing to gain considering their positions as favourites of Constantine. In any case, such a case would not have been tried by a local court as Crispus’ case clearly was. Another view suggests that Constantine killed Crispus because as a supposedly illegitimate son, he would cause a crisis in the order of succession to the throne. However, Constantine had kept him at his side for twenty years without any such decision. Constantine also had the authority to appoint his younger, legitimate sons as his heirs. Some reports claimed that Constantine was envious of the success of his son and afraid of him. This seems improbable, given that Constantine had twenty years of experience as emperor while Crispus was still a young Caesar. Similarly, there seems to be no evidence that Crispus had any ambitions to harm or displace his father. So while the story of Zosimus and Zonaras seems the most believable one, there are also problems relating to their version of events. Constantine’s reaction suggests that he suspected Crispus of a crime so terrible that death was not enough. Crispus, his wife Helena and their son, also suffered damnatio memoriae, meaning their names were never mentioned again and deleted from all official documents and monuments. The eventual fate of Helena and her son is a mystery. Constantine did not restore his son’s innocence and name, as he probably would have on learning of his son’s innocence. Perhaps Constantine’s pride, or shame at having executed his son, prevented him from publicly admitting having made a mistake.

It is beyond doubt that there was a connection between the deaths of Crispus and Fausta. Such agreement among different sources connecting two deaths is extremely rare in itself. A number of modern historians have suggested that Crispus and Fausta really did have an affair. When Constantine found out, his reaction was to have both of them killed. What delayed the death of Fausta may have been a pregnancy. Since the years of birth for the two known daughters of Constantine and Fausta remain unknown, one of their births may have delayed their mother’s execution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fausta

 Constantine eventually removed himself from the city of  Augusta Treverorum  in later years and spent his later years in Constantinople, which he considered his capital and permanent residence. He died there in 337.  Constantine had known death would soon come. Within the Church of the Holy Apostles, Constantine had secretly prepared a final resting-place for himself.  It came sooner than he had expected. Soon after the Feast of Easter 337, Constantine fell seriously ill.   He left Constantinople for the hot baths near his mother’s city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern shores of the Gulf of İzmit. There, in a church his mother built in honor of Lucian the Apostle, he prayed, and there he realized that he was dying. Seeking purification, he became a catechumen, and attempted a return to Constantinople, making it only as far as a suburb of Nicomedia.  He summoned the bishops, and told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, “performed the sacred ceremonies according to custom”.  He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Pascha (or Easter), on 22 May 337.

Saint Helena’s connection

After Constanine’s death, the city of  Augusta Treverorum  once more became a royal or imperial residence. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397.  From 367, under Valentinian I, Trier once more became an imperial residence (lasting until the death of Theodosius I in 395) and remained the largest city north of the Alps. It was for a few years (383 – 388) the capital of Magnus Maximus, who ruled most of the western Empire.   Besides Constantine’s heirs and successors retaining close ties to the city of Trier, one other person of his family did as well. That would be his Mother, Helena! No discussion of Rome’s connection and tie to Trier would be complete without a mention of Helena and her gifts to the city.  Apparently, she was  so fond of the city that in later years, her head would return to reside there?

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Helena’s head relic in the crypt of Trier cathedral

Saint Helena ( c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperorConstantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great. She is an important figure in the history of Christianity and the world due to her major influence on her son and her own contributions in placing Christianity at the heart of Western Civilization. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross

Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder_-_Saint_Helena_with_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project

Helena’s birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city “Helenopolis” after her death around 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.  The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace.  There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine  and a Helenopolis in Lydia.  These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine’s mother.  G. K. Chesterton in his book ‘A Short History of England’ writes that she was considered a Briton by the British, a tradition noted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae reports that Helena was a daughter of the British King Coel.

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine.  Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.  Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius‘ “Breviarium,” record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as “stable-maid” or “inn-keeper”. He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a “good stable-maid”.   Other sources, especially those written after Constantine’s proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.   There is great debate over her actual marital status with Constantine’s father, Constantius.  Some would assert that she was his legitimate wife, others assume that she was most likely his concubine or common law wife. What ever the case, she gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February around 272.  At the time, she was in Naissus (Niš, Serbia).   In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian’s daughter under his command. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married).  Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.

Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the Roman Empire in 306 by Constantius’ troops after the latter had died, and following his elevation his mother was brought back to the public life in 312, returning to the imperial court. She appears in the Eagle Cameo portraying Constantine’s family, probably commemorating the birth of Constantine’s son Constantine II in the summer of 316.  She received the title of Augusta in 325 and died around 330 with her son at her side. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Helena, outside Rome on the Via Labicana. Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned, next to her is the sarcophagus of her granddaughter Saint Constantina (Saint Constance). Her skull is displayed in the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany.

Helena's sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Helena’s sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.   Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace’s private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This has been maintained by Cistercian monks in the monastery which has been attached to the church for centuries.   According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

Early British and Anglo-Saxon history claimed that Helena was Briton.  In Great Britain, later legend, mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon but made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, claimed that Helena was a daughter of the King of Britain, Cole of Colchester, who allied with Constantius to avoid more war between the Britons and Rome.  Geoffrey further states that she was brought up in the manner of a queen, as she had no brothers to inherit the throne of Britain. The source for this may have been Sozomen’s Historia Ecclesiastica, which however does not claim Helena was British but only that her son Constantine picked up his Christianity there.  Constantine was with his father when he died in York, but neither had spent much time in Britain.

The statement made by English chroniclers of the Middle Ages, according to which Helena was supposed to have been the daughter of a British prince, is entirely without historical foundation. It may arise from the similarly-named Welsh princess Saint Elen (alleged to have married Magnus Maximus and to have borne a son named Constantine) or from the misinterpretation of a term used in the fourth chapter of the panegyric on Constantine’s marriage with Fausta. The description of Constantine honoring Britain oriendo (lit. “from the outset”, “from the beginning”) may have been taken as an allusion to his birth (“from his beginning”) although it was actually discussing the beginning of his reign.

 

Before we leave the “blessed” St. Helena and her contributions to Trier, I have some last blasphemous thoughts on the woman… First of all, there are a few theories and speculations that she may have been involved or partially responsible for the death of daughter in law, Fausta.  It has been said by some that it Helena who suggested the means of death for Fausta. From all accounts, Constantine was quite close, possibly overly attached to his Mother and would have listened to her advice. Add to Fausta’s immoral actions, the fact that she may have lied about Crispus and thereby been responsible for his fate. Prior to this event, there had never been any hint of ill feelings, disloyalty or mistrust between Constantine and Crispus. From all accounts, he seemed to be a much beloved and trusted son, and most likely- grandson. All I am suggesting is that the most saintly Helena may not have been so saintly in some of her own actions and feelings! That supposed Saintliness of this woman brings me to my last thought on her and Constantine. Interestingly and conveniently, it is also around this time that Helena is sent off on her tour of Christian lands.

Constantine and his Mother were, for much of their lives, pagans who did not discover or convert to Christianity until their later years.  Constantine was one who, for the most part used the religion to his benefit or advantage. In his earlier years he promoted tolerance towards them mainly in order to keep the peace in his lands. That persecution business was a bloody, messy and expensive affair- best to avoid it if at possible. When it came to the point where Christianity was becoming quite popular and hard to control, he decided to take matters into his own hands… he chose to embrace it and thereby gain some control over it.  One evidence of his using it to his own advantage and not necessarily being quite so firm in his inner beliefs was his refusal to be baptized until the end of his life.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. In this way, what ever he had done prior to his baptism and acceptance of the one true God could not be used or held against him- either by God or by the earthly Christian Church!  He spent many of his years as ruler trying to convince the Christians that he was on their side in order to gain control of the situation and the church. Constantine was an ultimate power broker and would have used any means within his personal arsenal, including his family… which his previous actions in dealing with wife and son proved.

 

Imagine if you will, this scenario… Constantine as Augustus of Rome is dealing with this whole Christianity situation and has to come up with some plan to really seal the deal in convincing the world of his sincerity. His Mother, Helena is residing at the family home with not a whole lot to do… She’s a highly devoted Mother- possibly overly devoted as Constantine is her only child. Besides all of his headaches of running the empire, he has a much younger wife and family to contend with as well. Helena is most likely not one to just sit idle, content or peaceful in her retirement years. She may be bored, and possibly a bit of an interfering Mother in law? Helena meddles in the family affairs one too many times and the result is disaster for the entire family- especially daughter in law Fausta and grandson Crispus. Shortly after all of this mess, Helena sent off on an extended vacation of sorts. Now, this whole sordid affair would have not put the family in such a good light with the Christians whom Constantine was trying to impress. He needs to make some serious amends and do something of such a great and grand level that the Christians are going to forget all about his messy little family scandal.

What he does is actually quite genius in terms of Public Relations repair.  Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.  His act of sending his Mother off on this extended vacation/shopping trip was beyond successful in a variety of ways.  First, it got Helena out of his hair for awhile so he could focus on immediate damage control. It showed and promoted the idea that Helena was a pious Christian woman and that if  there was any doubt about her involvement in the scandal, she was willing to do pilgrimage to atone for her possible sins. Everyone completely forgot about that mess with Fausta and Crispus when Helena returned home a few years later laden with truly spectacular gifts for the Church.  Those gifts included everything from parts of the “True Cross”, pieces of Jesus’ tunic, to nails of crucifixion, earth from the holy land and rope that held Jesus to the cross.  Helena’s public relations tour proved even more successful than Constantine could ever have imagined or hoped for. Her gifts are viewed by some scholars as the introduction of idol worship and the beginnings of the mass marketing scheme of Relics! All of Constantine’s and Helena’s past indiscretions were quickly swept under the rug as the Church began to realize just how much wealth these gifts could bring if promoted in the right way.

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end and Trier’s end could easily have come with the demise of the Roman Empire at the end of the fifth century. Roman Trier had been subjected to attacks by Germanic tribes from 350 onwards, but these had been repulsed by Emperor Julian. After the invasions of 407 the Romans were able to reestablish the Rhine frontier and hold northern Gaul tenuously until the end of the 450s, when control was finally lost to the Franks and local military commanders who claimed to represent central Roman authority. During this period Trier was captured by the Franks (possibly in 413 and 421), as well as by the Huns under Attila in 451. The city became definitively part of Frankish territory  in 475. It is important to note here too that upon the city becoming a Frankish one, the name would have changed from Augusta Treverorum to Treves- the French or Frankish name for the city.  As a result of the conflicts of this period, Trier’s population decreased from an estimated 80,000 in the 4th century to 5,000 at the beginning of the 6th century. This change of rulers and decrease in population did not reduce Trier’s importance or value and it did not bring about the end of Trier.

map with Treves marked

By the end of the 5th century, Trier was under Frankish rule, first controlled by the Merovingian dynasty, then by the Carolingians  As a result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which the grandsons of Charlemagne divided his empire into three parts, Trier was incorporated into the Kingdom of Lorraine (Lotharingia). After the death of Lothair II, ruler of Lorraine, Trier in 870 became part of the East Frankish Empire, later called Germany, under Henry .  Because of it’s connection to Helena and the early church, Trier was a valued and important Christian city for the devoutly Christian empires over the next centuries.  When Constantine promoted tolerance and allowed for Christianity’s acceptance, he in some ways laid the foundation for Trier’s survival and revival in the later Frankish empire years.  The Frankish empires would eventually found a great many more  abbeys and monasteries within the city. And, the Frankish would add to the relics kept there as well.  Benedictine abbey St. Matthias in the south of Trier. Here, the first three bishops of Trier, Eucharius, Valerius and Maternus are buried alongside the apostle Saint Matthias.  This is the only tomb of an apostle to be located in Europe north of the Alps, thus making Trier together with Rome in Italy (burial place of St. Peter the apostle) and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (tomb of St. James) one of three major places of pilgrimage in Europe.   By early in the 10th century, Trier would become somewhat of a Papal city in that it was under the direct control and guardianship of  the Archbishops. In 902,  The Archbishop of Trier was, as chancellor of Burgundy, one of the seven Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a right which originated before the 12th century, and continued until the French Revolution. From the 10th century and throughout the Middle Ages, Trier made several attempts to achieve autonomy from the Archbishopric of Trier, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1212, the city received a charter from Emperor Otto IV, which was confirmed by Conrad IV. In 1309, however, it was forced to once again recognise the authority of the Archbishop, who was at that time the imposing Baldwin of Luxembourg, son of the Count of Luxemburg.   The Church deemed Trier as a highly valued commodity and would go to great lengths to keep it under their jurisdiction and control.

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

881 vikings set sights on Treves

Of course, we now already know of Trier’s importance and value to the church due to it’s connections to Constantine and Helena, but what might cause the Church to take such steps as to putting the city under it’s direct control, authority and protection? Ahhhh for that, you would have to know the events taking place during the years leading up to that control, those years that spelled disaster for so many cities. Those years would of course be the years of Viking raids, which so many of you are most interested in. I do want to take a moment here to note my appreciation for those of you have stuck through all of this extensive ancient history just to get to the part about the Vikings!

During the mid 800s, the Danes and Northmen offered Frankish residents some reprieve from raids as they were busy in their attempts to conquer England.  Around 880, Alfred the Great was successful in brokering a treaty with Guthrum and peace was temporarily achieved in England. This event sent many of the Danes back across the sea to areas of Frankish domain. Where previously, they were content with quick grab and go ship raids, this time they returned as landsoldiers and were equipped with horses.   Flanders took heavy blows  (Gent, Terwaan, Atrecht, Kamerijk).  Louis III  defeated the Vikings in 881  near Saucourt at the river Somme. This battle was described in the Song of Ludwig (Ludwigslied). According to the Fulda Annals Louis’ army killed 9.000 Danes. Consequence of this was that the Vikings returned to Flanders and Dutch Limburg. From Asselt (north of Roermond) they raided towns in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and Limburg (Liége, Tongeren). In their attack on  Trier they were resisted by the bishops Wala and Bertulf of Trier and by count Adelhard of Metz.  Following the Trier example other cities began to defend themselves effectively. While Trier did survive  the attack in 881, much of the city (including most of the churches and abbeys) was destroyed. Because Trier’s Bishops were so instrumental in the city’s resistance and defense, they were probably looked on with much favor by the Pope and by one  Carolingian Emperor who may be familiar to us as Vikings fans and followers. That would be Charles the Fat, not be confused with Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple… all of whom in combination probably make up the character of Charles in Hirst’s version of Viking history!

Charles the Fat (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles III, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne and was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire.  Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876 following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.  Usually considered lethargic and inept – he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy – he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the famous siege of Paris in 885. Nevertheless, contemporary opinion of him was not nearly so negative as modern historiographical opinion. Purchasing peace back then was a fairly common and acceptable means of dealing with the Vikings and avoiding all out war with them.

The 885 siege of Paris referred to here would have been the siege that involved Rollo in history along with the leader of the attack, a man named Sigfred. According to historical accounts, In 885, a huge fleet led by Sigfred sailed up the Seine, for the first time in years, and besieged Paris. Sigfred demanded a bribe again, but this time Charles refused. He was in Italy at the time and Odo, Count of Paris, sneaked some men through enemy lines to seek his aid. Charles sent Henry of Saxony to Paris. In 886, as disease began to spread through Paris, Odo himself went to Charles to seek support. Charles brought a large army and encircled the army of Rollo and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the attackers up the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of promised silver. Charles’ prestige in France was greatly diminished.  What is important in this above account is the mention that Sigfred demands a bribe again. This would suggest or imply that Charles was already familiar with Sigfred and had dealt with him previously.  It is that previous involvement that leads us  back to the lowlands and Trier.

We need to go to back to the Viking attacks of 881 which included the attack on Trier in order to find that previous connection to Sigfred and perhaps even Rollo as well if Rollo was traveling with Sigfred’s raiding parties for any length of time. Reminder here- this is the Rollo of history, not Hirst’s version of Rollo!

In the early 880s, the remnants of the Great Heathen Army, defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun in 878, began to settle in the Low Countries.  Charles held an assembly at Worms with the purpose of dealing with the Vikings. The army of the whole of East Francia was assembled in the summer under Arnulf, Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Count of Saxony. The chief Viking camp was besieged at Asselt. Not long after Charles opened negotiations with the Viking chiefs, Godfrey and Sigfred. Godfrey accepted Christian baptism and agreed to become Charles’s vassal. He was married to Gisela, daughter of Lothair II. Sigfred was bribed off. Despite the insinuations of some modern chroniclers, no contemporary account criticises Charle’s actions during this campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Fat

Godfried choose to stay. He became a vassal of the emperor and, after being baptized, married Gisela, daughter of Lothar II, the first king of Lorraine. Siegfried was paid off with 2.000 punds silver and gold and took off to the north with 200 ships. The emperor Charles felt threatened by Godfried and his (Godfried’s) brother in law Hugo (who was Gisela’s brother). In June 885 Godfried was invited for talks in Spijk, near Lobith. This turned out to be a conspiracy and Godfried was murdered. Hugo was made blind and transferred for the rest of his life to the monastery of Prüm. Here the monk Regino wrote the story of his downfall.

http://www.viking.no/e/netherland/index.html

In looking at these two events, we can now see the connection between Sigfred and Charles. We can also see a reason why Sigfred may have chosen to attack Paris in 885… possibly partially for revenge on what had happened to his partner, Godfried, and perhaps with the assumption that Charles would again pay him off to leave. In that assumption, Sigfred was partially correct- it just took longer than expected.  The attack began in November of 885 and dragged on until around May of 886. Both sides suffered great losses- more from illness than actual fighting. Morale was low on both sides.   Sigfred decided to cut his losses. He asked for 60 lbs of silver and left the siege in April. Rollo and his men remained and continued the battle through the summer when Charles finally returned, not to fight but to encourage Rollo and his army to move on to Burgundy which was in revolt at the time and would provide much easier conquest. When Rollo finally decided to leave France the next spring, Charles paid him 700 lbs of silver which he had promised the earlier summer. I would assume or guess that Charles just needed additional time to come up with the payment so he sent Rollo off to greener pastures while he set about collecting the money to get rid of him.  It was shortly after these events that Charles and the Carolingian dynasty began to fall apart! Odo would eventually get his chance at ruling (it would not last long!) Another Charles would take the throne, and Rollo would return for another more successful campaign… as far as we know, Sigfred retired somewhere to enjoy his shares of plunder and riches.

Trier survives and prospers under protection of the Church whether they want to or not!

 

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Trier cathedral

Trier Cathedral

 

 

Trier survived the Viking attacks and the fall of the Carolingian Dynasty as well by remaining attached to the church and the Holy Roman Empire though it made numerous attempts to disentangle itself and gain independent autonomy. In retrospect looking back at all of the turmoil of the medieval years, they were probably better off being under that protection of the Church and Papal authorities. It allowed the city to prosper well into the middle ages and beyond.  In 1309, Archbishop Baldwin of Luxemburg was given control of the city and although he was extremely young at the time, only 22, he was the most important Archbishop and Prince-Elector of Trier in the Middle Ages. He was the brother of the German King and Emperor Henry VII and his grandnephew Charles would later become German King and Emperor as Charles IV. He used his family connections to add considerable territories to the Electorate of Trier and is also known to have built many castles in the region. When he died in 1354, Trier was a prospering city.

The city would remain prosperous and under  control of the church and Holy Roman Empire until the 1600s when the  Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648),set in motion more than two centuries of warfare for Trier as well as other parts of what is now Germany. From that point on, Trier would find itself besieged and battled over. During the thirty years war it was occupied several times by French troops. They besieged and occupied Trier in 1632, 1645, 1673 (the French Army stayed until 1675 and destroyed all churches, abbeys and settlements in front of the city walls for military reasons; the city itself was heavily fortified).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Trier

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the visit to ancient Trier and learned something more about it’s many connections to history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vikings: To the Gates from the French side

 

 

Before we head back to the gates of Paris, a few general items of interest!  First is an excellent interview with Clive Standen on his role as Rollo and his insights on the show in general! It’s a great interview and he points out some of the same things that I try to make clear here.

Clive Standen4

Clive Standen4

rollo in fur

Rollo

 

Here is an excerpt from the interview where he discusses dealing with limited, sometimes boring historical facts and weaving them into an interesting story as it applies to Rollo’s history and story. 

The Vikings were very oral culture so much of the history of them was written by a lot of the cultures that they came into contact with and, in many cases, conquered, and was written long after that contact. So since they didn’t really document their society in the way we normally expect, any show or any kind of narrative that portrays them has to fill in some pretty big gaps, and I was just wondering if you give me some insight into how that happens on this series. Is that something that Hirst talks to you guys about, how he chooses to flesh the history out and how aware are you of when something is more strictly historical versus when he’s using narrative license?

Sometimes you get the best stories from the sagas. This is a time when there was no TV, and entertainment was based around stories and some of the sagas are larger-than-life. But you can base a story on a saga which gives you something that was written about the time or if not, very close to the time.

But the thing is that Michael–and we are all the same page with this—just as the Vikings didn’t really write much down, as you said, and the history was written by the invaded, there are a lot of historians that have got different agendas as well. Just looking at Rollo: there are four or five different people writing on Rollo. Dudo of St Quentin was one of the biggest writers of the history of Rollo. He was writing 400 years after the events; he was also writing for the (then) Duke of Normandy who he was trying to write a lineage for and protect that lineage and somehow conveniently talks—or glides over– certain aspects of Viking society. Dudo has an agenda to try to make Rollo an impressive historical figure.

So sometimes what we can take from history is we can take the actual events and the things that make this figure famous in history and the things they actually accomplished but the real person, for an actor and a script writer, you’ve got to dissect that and flesh it out. So you have to take some sort of artistic license in the character. But you know it is fascinating to think that we know where someone ended up and the big plot points of how they got there from the history books, but as an actor and writer–it’s very hard to explain—you have the A and the Z but you have to fill in the B and C and D, everything in between. It’s up to the actor to fill in the middle and to make it a full story where you can actually take everybody’s different accounts and try to build on that.

I don’t know if I making any sense at this point. I’m just trying to make the point that you can’t just read Wikipedia, read a little bit about Rollo, and then go “That’s not the Rollo history because I read it on Wikipedia. There’s a greater thing happening when you start to get all of the stories and documentation together and then you yourself have to pick apart what was the propaganda what someone’s agenda and look more deeply is. Which is what we should do on social media as well when people start reading people’s posts and likes and you assume something is true because someone has posted it without thinking what someone’s agenda was in posting it. It’s no different when you start researching history.

http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/vikings/245382/vikings-season-3-interview-clive-standen

If you follow along this theory and line of thinking, it would apply to the character of Gisla as well. When you looker further and deeper into the limited information about this Gisela, you have to think to yourself, Why is there not more information on this woman? Who made the decision way back in the past to basically erase her from history and leave doubt as to whether she even existed. Some have suggested that Michael Hirst should have went with the story of Poppa, Rollo’s concubine or Dane wife- that she would be more interesting and closer to historical facts. I disagree. I think the story of Gisla and what might have or could have happened with her makes for a far more interesting story. Gisla also gives Hirst the tie in to Paris and to Charles. I think we need to look at Gisla as a combination of Poppa and Gisela.  Personally, I can’t wait to see Hirst’s version of hers and Rollo’s story!

 

Our next bit of  interest is the preview for this week’s episode in which Ragnar makes his status clear to everyone. Also for those who might be concerned about Floki, he is still around! Obviously, a few people have pissed Ragnar off by possibly questioning his decisions or his authority. 

If you watch the beginning of the video, you see a group swimming under the bridge of Paris… in a historical account of Ragnar Lodbrok’s siege of Paris, there is mention of how they did eventually set a bridge on fire by burning boats underneath it!

If anyone thought that this siege would be simple or quick and that our Vikings would easily win, they will be sadly mistaken. The sieges of Paris were well documented and they were long drawn out battles with neither side truly being able to claim victory. Yes, Ragnar’s group did manage to get into the city and even occupy it for a time so I suppose you could consider that a victory of sorts. The Vikings eventually withdrew from the city after being paid off by the Franks. I have already covered much about the historical attacks on Paris and their results in a previous post on the Importance of Rollo. You can read that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/vikings-the-importance-of-rollo/

Now on to our current topic, The gates of Paris and beyond. I say beyond because as usual, there is so much else going besides the truly epic battle! I did cover much of the lead up to this battle and the wall portion of it in the last post concerning Floki’s bout with hopefully temporary madness… https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/vikings-the-madness-of-floki/

As I mentioned in the last post, you really need to watch the episode to truly appreciate the entire battle. My assorted pictures and recaps do not even begin do it the credit it so well deserves. It was a massive undertaking on all parts!

inside Paris

Let’s look at how the people of Paris reacted and survived,  from the lowliest of poor serfs to the one sitting at the top one his throne the entire time while his daughter fought his battle for him! First of all, when Count Odo and his minions announce closing time for the City, they are deadly serious! If you were out there milking your cow, weeding your garden, doing your laundry or what ever else you might have been so concerned about that you didn’t bother to pay attention and run like hell for those gates, so sorry for you…Cause no matter how hard you bang on that gate you’re not getting in! We’ll say some nice prayers in your name after the siege is over…

Count Odo giving last orders to his men

Closing time at the gates of Paris

Closing time at the gates of Paris

Noooooooooooooo don't leave us out here to be slaughtered people begging for mercy to be let in

The gates were firmly closed and we can only hope that maybe those poor stragglers found somewhere to hide out of the way. Because, really our main intent is to get into the city, not worry about poor defenseless serfs… unless they make the mistake of getting in our way! If any of them are left alive after the battle, we’ll pick them up on our way out- but only if they’re young women and children- sorry but those are who bring the most gold on the slave market.

the city of Paris behind it's walls and gates  where are those poor stragglers!

the city of Paris behind it’s walls and gates where are those poor stragglers!

What was going on inside the city? As one could easily imagine, all out panic was taking over for most of the residents. They all gathered in the church for protection and prayer…

they arrive prepare yourselves inside the city chaos reigns as well among the citizens

the masses have gathered in the church for protection and prayer

the masses have gathered in the church for protection and prayer

Where was their mighty ruler during the entire time of the raid? Ahhhh yes, that supreme ruler of all was in his great hall, sitting alone on his throne hiding behind that bizarre mask again. Those damn masks are beginning to bug me. They seem to be a recurring item of some importance but I can find no detail, description or explanation of such a ritual anywhere? If anyone figures it out, please let me know so it doesn’t end up driving me nuts! Anyway, this time I think he is literally hiding behind the mask so if anyone wanders in, they won’t see him shaking and crying like a baby!

while terror reigns outside the king sits on his throne alone the king in his strange mask

The question has to be asked here. Is this man really as pathetic as he’s looking so far? Well, he does have the one thing going for him… he is the King, even if he is turning out to be a milk toast, puppet type King.  As far as who he is in history, he seems to be a combination of Charles the Fat, Charles the Bald and Charles the Simple. It should be pretty clear from their various nicknames, how their citizens felt about them by this point in history. This was towards the end of their particular dynasty, the Carolingian dynasty and frankly the people were a little tired of  all of them. I believe our King Charles is portraying some of the characteristics given to Charles the Fat who was described as spineless and incompetent. It really makes not much difference, by this time in history they were all similarly regarded and could have been interchangeable! As I said, he is the King and even if he is generally a puppet being used by others, if he should come up with his own lame idea in the future and decide to implement, no one can really stop him. And, he most likely will come up with his lame plan to pay the Vikings off to get rid of them.  For the moment though, he is sitting on his throne cowering while his daughter Gisla takes charge!

Gisla watched the Vikings arrive but would not stand by idly waiting for their destruction.

gisla watches the pagans come gisla watches in fear gisla sees the boats arrive

Gisla knows her people need a leader and they need inspiration. They’re certainly not going to get it from her Father, and I think she has a thought in her mind to show Odo up as well… She goes to the one place that she knows her people will take guidance and inspiration from. She goes to the church because her people are devoutly religious and they will be inspired by their faith. During this time, the Christians were devoted to their relics of faith. They firmly believed in the miraculous powers of such relics, despite the fact that most of said relics were fakes that the church approved of and even encouraged at times for the amounts of followers and wealth they brought to the church. Very rarely there might be some actual documented proof of a miracle or divine vision surrounding such articles, and really all it took was for one person to suddenly recover from illness, win a losing battle or such to inspire people to believe in the miracles of Christ and his Saints.

Gisla has one such relic close at hand… she has the Sacred Banner of St. Denis, the Oriflamme!

the sacred banner of saint Denis in the church Gisla resorts to her own inspiration for her people

Just what is the Oriflamme, the Banner of St. Denis and why would her people be so willing and ready to fight for it?

100px-Oriflamme_svg

Battle_of_Poitiers oriflamme

Battle_of_Poitiers oriflamme

The Oriflamme (from Latin aurea flamma, “golden flame”) was the battle standard of the King of France in the Middle Ages. It was originally the sacred banner of the Abbey of St. Denis, a monastery near Paris.  In French, the term “oriflamme” has come to mean any banner with pointed ends; by association with the form of the original.

The Oriflamme was mentioned in the eleventh-century ballad the Chanson de Roland (vv. 3093-5) as a royal banner, first called Romaine and then Montjoie.  According to legend, Charlemagne carried it to the Holy Land in response to a prophecy regarding a knight possessing a golden lance, from which flames would burn and drive out the Saracens.  This suggests that the lance was originally the important object, with the banner simply a decoration, but this changed over time.

When the Oriflamme was displayed on the battlefield it indicated that no quarter was to be given, its red colour being symbolic of cruelty and ferocity.

Although the azure ground (from the blue cope of St. Martin of Tours) strewn with gold fleur-de-lis remained the symbol of royalty until the 15th century, the Oriflamme became the royal battle standard of the King of France, and it was carried at the head of the king’s forces when they met another army in battle. In the fifteenth century, the fleur-de-lis on the white flag of Joan of Arc became the new royal standard replacing both the symbol of royalty and the Oriflamme on the battle field.

Gisla heard the story of how the banner was sacred because it presumably had been dipped in the blood of St. Denis…

Paris Cathédrale_Notre-Dame Portail de la_Vierge. St. Denis

Paris Cathédrale_Notre-Dame Portail de la_Vierge. St. Denis

According to Christian tradition, Saint Denis  is a Christian martyr and saint. In the third century, he was Bishop of Paris. He was martyred, with his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius, in connection with the Decian persecution of Christians, shortly after 250 AD. Denis is said to have picked his head up after being decapitated, walked ten kilometres (six miles), while preaching a sermon of repentance the entire way, making him one of many cephalophores in hagiology. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as patron of Paris, France, and as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis

The medieval Christians believed and practiced  mysticism and what they considered Holy magic or miracles just as firmly and as passionately as the Norse did with their Pagan religion. To them, yes there might be only one true God but there were any number of Holiest Saints whom they believed held almost as much power as their God. So, it really was not all that different from the Norse belief in many Gods for different purposes. If they all could have seen it in this way, things would have been so much easier!

Now, back to Gisla and her plan…

Gisla kind of backed the Bishop into a corner and forced him to bless her Banner in front of all of the citizens in the church so they would know the importance of it. Really, how was he going to say no to such a blessing with all of those people waiting?

not wanting to risk a riot in his church the bishop goes along with gisla's request

Then she did the most courageous thing that proved her worthy of leading and eventually caught the attention of one Rollo… She took that blessed banner and marched to the top of the wall where the fighting was at it’s worst and bloodiest. She spoke to the men, encouraged them and raised the Banner of St. Denis over them to remind them of what they fought for and why. This young woman was not a milk toast whiny woman, in her own way she was a warrior! She believed in her people, in her country and she would stand with her men and face the battle whether others agreed or not, such as Count Odo…

When Gisla arrived on the wall, I have a feeling that Odo’s thoughts were probably, “Ohhhh Great, WTF is she doing up here! If she gets herself killed, it will be my fault and if she survives, she looks like the hero instead of me!”

Odo is shocked and pissed at the sight of gisla climbing up to the top of the walls

Odo is shocked and pissed at the sight of gisla climbing up to the top of the walls

Gisla will not let fear stand in the way of what she feels she needs to do

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

these men are as inspired by her courage and her speech as the vikings are by speeches of Odin

these men are as inspired by her courage and her speech as the vikings are by speeches of Odin

Gisla did not back down and run to hide behind a mask. She stayed up there on that wall yelling her encouragement and watching the entire battle. She may not have fought with a weapon but she fought with what she had, her words! The men drew strength and courage from her  brave presence there.

Show no mercy fight on fight on for Paris

Show no mercy fight on fight on for Paris

Fight to the Death

Fight to the Death

As I said, she stood up there and watched the whole battle, yelling her encouragement the whole time… her presence did not go un-noticed by the Vikings either. At least one Viking became so thoroughly distracted by the sight of her that he forgot to pay attention to the job at hand.

Gisla has inspired the men to fight with a new vengeance rollo's first sight of gisla

Yes, unfortunately our Rollo was the one completely distracted by the sight of Gisla on the wall…  Gisla was also watching him.

gisla watching rollo intently

rollo makes the mistake glancing up from his battel to see gisla watching him

rollo distracted by sight of gisla

That momentary distraction almost cost Rollo his life… I am pretty sure he will be a little pissed at himself and her for it?

rollo's distraction2

the result of rollo's distraction... he and his ladder are pushed away from the wall rollo's fall rollo's plunge into the water rollo's near death experience so similar to Siggy's demise

No need for anyone to worry… he did survive the fall and I am sure he will be having some words with Gisla about all of this at some later point!

As for the overall battle, we do have to give Count Odo credit. He was in charge and led a well organized and prepared defensive campaign whether we like him or not. He did his job and supervised both the battle at the gates and on the walls. While we are speaking of Odo, let us just have a very quick refresher on who he is in history?

Odo was the eldest son of Robert the Strong, Duke of the Franks and Marquis of Neustria, belonging to the branch known as the Robertians. After his father’s death in 866, Odo inherited his father’s title of Marquis of Neustria. Odo lost this title in 868 when King Charles the Bald appointed Hugh the Abbot to the title, but regained it following the death of Hugh in 886. After 882, he held the post of Count of Paris. Odo was also the lay abbot of St. Martin of Tours.

Odo married Théodrate of Troyes and had two known sons, Arnulf (born probably about 885) and Guy (born probably about 888), neither of whom lived past the age of fifteen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odo_of_France

Historically, Odo was in charge of the defense of Paris during the siege of Paris that took place in 885-886 and involved the Vikings, Sigfred, Sinric and Rollo.

With hundreds of ships, and possibly tens of thousands of men, the Vikings arrived outside Paris in late November 885, at first demanding tribute. This was denied by Odo, Count of Paris, despite the fact that he only could assemble a couple of hundred soldiers to defend the city. The Vikings attacked with a variety of siege engines, but failed to break through the city walls after some days of intense attacks. The siege was upheld after the initial attacks, but without any significant offence for months thereafter. As the siege went on, most of the Vikings left Paris to pillage further upriver. The Vikings made a final unsuccessful attempt to take the city during the summer, and in October, Charles the Fat arrived with his army.

To the frustration of the Parisians who had fought for a long time to defend the city, Charles stopped short of attacking the Viking besiegers, and instead allowed them to sail further up the Seine to raid Burgundy (which was in revolt), as well as promising a payment of 700 livres (pounds; 257 kg). Odo, highly critical of this, tried his best to defy the promises of Charles, and when Charles died in 888, Odo was elected the first non-Carolingian king of the Franks.

 

Odo  What in Heaven's name is all that other racket out there

We have not really discussed the charge of the gates yet but it went much like the battle at the wall. No blame or accusations here against Lagertha and her group. They fought exceptionally well considering the circumstances and had a good plan. They did succeed in getting through the gates with the help of some interesting inventions of slimey Erlandeur’s along with  the additional muscle and horse power of Sigfrid! They were just unprepared for the surprise counter attack planned by Odo’s forces inside the inner gate. There was a great slaughter there when the Viking group became trapped within the hall.

Erlandeur the inventor

back at the gates  why is this scum still standing

back at the gates why is this scum still standing

Sigfrid the giant initializes the next stage of drill bit operation

Sigfrid the giant initializes the next stage of drill bit operation

Sigfrid the extra horsepower

Sigfrid the extra horsepower

 

Ahhh I know we are talking about this mainly from the French perspective but I do feel a need here to point out that one Sigfred was indeed a real historical player in a siege of Paris.  I know I have included some of this information previously but it bears repeating as it does deal with Odo, as well as with Rollo!

Danish Vikings under Sigfred and Sinric  sailed towards West Francia again in 885, having raided the north-eastern parts of the country before. Sigfred demanded a bribe from Charles, but was refused, and promptly led 700 ships up the Seine, carrying perhaps as many as 30,000 or 40,000 men.  The number, the largest ever recorded for a Viking fleet in contemporary sources, originates from Abbo Cenuus. Although an eyewitness, there is general agreement among historians that Abbo’s numbers are “a gross exaggeration,”[8] with Abbo being “in a class of his own as an exaggerator.” Historian C. W. Previté-Orton has instead put the number of ships at 300,  and John Norris at “some 300.”  Although the Franks tried to block the Vikings from sailing up the Seine, the Vikings eventually managed to reach Paris.  Paris at this time was a town on an island, known today as Île de la Cité. Its strategic importance came from the ability to block ships’ passage with its two low-lying foot bridges, one of wood and one of stone. Not even the shallow Viking ships could pass Paris because of the bridges.  Odo, Count of Paris prepared for the arrival of the Vikings by fortifying the bridgehead with two towers guarding each bridge. He was low on men, having no more than 200 men-at-arms available (also according to Abbo Cenuus),  but led a joint defence with Gozlin, Bishop of Paris  (the first “fighting bishop” in medieval literature), and had the aid of his brother, Robert, two counts and a marquis.

The Vikings arrived in Paris on 24 or 25 November 885, initially asking for tribute from the Franks. When this was denied, they began a siege. On 26 November the Danes attacked the northeast tower with ballistae, mangonels, and catapults. They were repulsed by a mixture of hot wax and pitch. All Viking attacks that day were repulsed, and during the night the Parisians constructed another storey on the tower.[17][18] On 27 November the Viking attack included mining, battering rams, and fire, but to no avail. Bishop Gozlin entered the fray with a bow and an axe. He planted a cross on the outer defences and exhorted the people. His brother Ebles also joined the fighting.[17] The Vikings withdrew after the failed initial attacks and built a camp on the right side of the river bank, using stone as construction material. While preparing for new attacks, the Vikings also started constructing additional siege engines.[19] In a renewed assault, they shot a thousand grenades against the city, sent a ship for the bridge, and made a land attack with three groups. The forces surrounded the bridgehead tower, possibly mainly aiming to bring down the river obstacle. While they tried setting fire to the bridge, they also attacked the city itself with siege engines.

Map of Paris in the 9th century (on Île de la Cité)

For two months the Vikings maintained the siege, making trenches and provisioning themselves off the land. In January 886 they tried to fill the river shallows with debris, plant matter, and the bodies of dead animals and dead prisoners to try to get around the tower. They continued this for two days. On the third day they set three ships alight and guided them towards the wooden bridge. The burning ships sank before they could set the bridge on fire, but the wooden construction was nonetheless weakened.  On 6 February, rains caused the river (still filled with debris) to overflow and the bridge supports gave way. The bridge gone, the northeast tower was now isolated with only twelve defenders inside. The Vikings asked the twelve to surrender, but they refused, and were all subsequently killed.

The Vikings left a force around Paris, but many ventured further to pillage Le Mans, Chartres,  Evreux and into the Loire.  Odo successfully slipped some men through Norse lines to go to Italy and plead with Charles to come to their aid. Henry, Count of Saxony, Charles’ chief man in Germany, marched to Paris.  Weakened by marching during the winter, Henry’s soldiers made only one abortive attack in February before retreating. The besieged forces sallied forth and to obtain supplies. Morale of the besiegers was low and Sigfred asked for sixty pounds of silver. He left the siege in April. Another Viking leader, Rollo, stayed behind with his men.  In May, disease began to spread in the Parisian ranks and Gozlin died. Odo then slipped through Viking-controlled territory to petition Charles for support; Charles consented. Odo fought his way back into Paris and Charles and Henry of Saxony marched northward.  Henry died after he fell into the Viking ditches, where he was captured and killed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(885%E2%80%9386)

As I mentioned, things went badly at the gates. The few who survived were lucky to have gotten out of there alive. Lagertha’s survival was due to Kalf’s quick thinking and realizing that it was a trap. He dragged her out of there, while sleazy Erlandeur made his own dash for the back of the crowd!

Lagertha's group realizing they're trapped Lagertha her stubborn self will not listen so Kalf does what he has to and drags her back out of the way. Sleazy erlandeur sees the danger and runs to the back

The Viking group eventually realized they were defeated and chose to retreat in order to fight another day. Inside the walls of Paris, Charles and Odo inspected the remaining carnage left behind. Charles showed his truest distain and his disgust…

King Charles finally leaves his throne after the battle is finished to view the results

King Charles finally leaves his throne after the battle is finished to view the results

 Now that I see them up close they do not appear so threatening why they seem almost human.

Now that I see them up close they do not appear so threatening why they seem almost human.

Count Odo is pleased with himself and of course both he and the King consider this a great success…little do they realize that the Vikings are more determined now than ever-or at least two of them, Ragnar and Rollo are. Both men commented later that they were determined to conquer Paris! Rollo mentioned in discussion with Ragnar about what to do next. Rollo is determined to get back inside that city… perhaps his idea of plunder is flesh rather than gold, flesh as in that of one Gisla?  Ragnar mentioned it in his conversation with his beloved and departed Athelstan!  “I wish you were here.  Paris is every bit as beautiful as you said. I am determined to conquer it now!”

Ohhhhh Damn! I did just mention that Rollo is determined to get back inside that city, didn’t I? Here is new preview of the next episode!

http://www.tvguide.com/news/vikings-rollo-paris-raid/#ooid=RvZDRqdDqWZMk5QQ8Ilxlr_FveB9xvys

 

 

 today we came so close  next time we will not make the same mistakes!

today we came so close next time we will not make the same mistakes!

ragnar to athelstan I wish you were here Paris is every bit as beautiful as you said.  I am determined to conquer it now

ragnar to athelstan I wish you were here Paris is every bit as beautiful as you said. I am determined to conquer it now

 

For the moment though, the Parisians are celebrating their victory. Naturally, Charles and Odo take full credit for this defeat of the Pagans. Charles looks good in his people’s eyes even if he did nothing but hide for the entire duration of the battle. And, if Charles looks good then Odo should reap the benefits of this… or that is his plan anyway. 

charles and Odo take all of the credit for the defeat of the pagans

charles and Odo take all of the credit for the defeat of the pagans

Gisla arrives at the celebration with her sacred banner, then proceeds to congratulate her Father on his great success. Though, when she is paying him such tribute, she seems a bit sarcastic about it… probably knowing full well that he was cowering in the corner while she was out there leading and encouraging his men!

gisla enters with her sacred banner

gisla enters with her sacred banner

gisla is a bit sarcastic in her congratulations of her Father's success

gisla is a bit sarcastic in her congratulations of her Father’s success

gisla encourages the people to give charles his due credit

gisla encourages the people to give charles his due credit

Something else is going on here behind the scenes and I am thinking that Gisla should probably be a little concerned about her future or her fate? Realistically, Gisla is a princess, and  while she is strong willed and determined, she is not in complete control of her future. Her Father, as weak willed as he is, still has the final say in her destiny… Much like Ragnar Lothbrok states in the future, “I am King and I have the final say!”  Odo has already stated openly that he expects to marry Gisla as his reward for this defeat. Charles is wishy washy and now owes Odo big time for this success…

Odo is up to something. He has some other agenda and plan going on behind some backs. While Count Odo is paying lip service and adding his voice to the praise of his King, he seems focused on something or someone else.

odo adds his voice to the tribute but seems focused on something else

odo adds his voice to the tribute but seems focused on something else

Who is this woman? And what does she have going on with Count Odo…

Odo's attention is on this woman.

Odo’s attention is on this woman.

What ever their secret is, they seem to be in agreement on something!

Odo and the new mysterious woman seem to be in agreement on something

Odo and the new mysterious woman seem to be in agreement on something

Ahhhhh if you think the Vikings or the Saxons  are full of intrigue, secret agendas, deceptions and sins, they have nothing on the French! These people may be devoutly holy on the surface but their devious plotting and exploits exceed anything that Ecbert or Ragnar could think of! Personally, I am looking forward to seeing a bit more of their less than holy behaviors in the future!  I know many of you are only concerned about the Viking side of things, but in order for the Viking groups to survive in the future, they will need to know how to maneuver their way through all of these other mazes of  ruling dynasties. Attack, plunder and run only work for so long… then you need to settle down someplace and defend yourself against those new raiders and pillagers who take your place.  As our Vikings have just discovered, they have a lot yet to learn about other places and people. And, as Ragnar says, “It is good to follow Odin but it is better with knowledge!”

 

Now, I have just one last thought for the night and it does not concern France at all. There is one other thing that has happened while we’ve all been in Paris. As most of us know, Porunn has been suffering great difficulties in adjusting to her injury and to her new Motherhood. She has been struggling, trying to hold things together in her mind and heart for some time now. My personal thought is that her struggle has been going for far longer than any of us may realize or comprehend. Perhaps it is due to her years a slave. We do not know what she may have endured during those years that would leave a mark on her mind. In fact, we know very little about her at all other than that she was a slave. Bjorn met her as a teen. Who really knows how long she was a slave, where she came from, who she was before? Does she have a hidden past that she remembers and it ever haunts her? All we know is that as a teen, Bjorn chose her, wanted her, thought he loved her. Maybe he did, but that was young untried love, they have both grown some and I think she knows he doesn’t love her. She may not even truly love him… We don’t really know, what we do know is that she is not coping well with Motherhood. She has finally reached her personal breaking point and left Kattegat without baby Siggy.  She left in the middle of the night with no word to anyone. Aslaug awoke in the morning to a crying Siggy and no Porunn.

in Kattegat someone is wandering

Porunn is wandering on her own somewhat unstable path Porunn takes a last look at the village of Kattegat

Aslaug was puzzled at first and then realized what had happened.  Baby Siggy is now in the care of Aslaug. I think she will be safe and well cared for, and perhaps it is fitting for the child to now be raised by Aslaug. The baby was named after Siggy, who died trying to save the other children of Aslaug.  I hope that Aslaug will care for this little girl with love and realize the significance of this gift the Gods have suddenly given her.

aslaug awakes to a crying baby Siggy aslaug seems to realize what Porunn has done

I do worry and pray for the fate and the destiny of Porunn, who has now become a wanderer.