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Cruelty and Barbarians

30 March 2013
Ancient history

The Smithsonian has a fascinating article about Viking ritual killing – did it happen, as some historians obviously wallow in the gore, or did it not, an increasing tendency of academia is to deny Viking atrocities – see http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2013/03/the-vengeance-of-ivarr-t… … basically, Ivarr is supposed to have took awful revenge on Aella, king of Northumberland, as a result of him being responsible for the killing of his father. I will spare the gory details but what was regarded as fact is very often, nowadays, subject to revision. An incredible amount of accepted history has been turned upside down on its head. Modern scholars living in a rather cosy environment seem to find it increasingly difficult to envisage the nature of barbarity. Viking raiders were really merchants and farmers, not bloodthirsty savages ravaging in the name of a barbarian godhead. Monks in monasteries, surrounded by books and prayers, deserved their fate, hacked to pieces by men with swords and axes. Christianity had attempted to convert the pagans and brought disaster on their own heads.

Barbarity is cruel – whether it is Vikings, the Huns, the Mongols, Apache or Comanche. Nothing unusual about it. Still, another generation of historians will take us full circle and we'll be back to the bloodthirsty Vikings, a temporary phase in the civilising process. An interesting read.

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