On 10/13/2011 8:06 PM, T Neill wrote: "Someone e-mailed Janet and me asking for help
debunking a myth that Vikings burned their ships before a raid to prevent retreat. Here is our reply. Heavy on the snark but perhaps good for a laugh. Research those myths before you pass them on, folks!"
"Dear Person Who Asked –
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Ask her where is her evidence that they
burned their ships upon landing?
For one thing, it’s absurd on its face.Viking raids were snatch and run. Not snatch and then twiddle their thumbs on the beach loaded down with loot they have no way of moving.These guys weren’t stupid. They were vastly outnumbered in England, Scotland and Ireland when the raids started. If they’d stuck around with no method of retreat, the locals would have ganged up and killed them dead.
King Æthelread wouldn’t have been so Unræde and King Ælfred wouldn’t have needed to be so Great if the Vikings had conveniently cut off their own retreat.Their very success was because they could jump back in their ships and raid somewhere else faster than word could spread they were there.Come on, apply some rudimentary tactical logic. Even we know this stuff and we don’t even play a soldier on TV!This isn’t military policy from an organized State; it’s biker gangs raiding under-defended gold-studded monasteries.
Which then morphs into the Danish Mafia running a protection racket in Danegeld. For much of the Viking age, they’d threaten to invade then allow themselves to be bought off to go away. King AEthelred the Unrede (Ill-advised) paid thousands of pounds of silver in Danegeld. Can’t take that home if they’d burned their ships.
In 865 a great army of Vikings invaded England and stayed for years, raiding up and down both the Eastern coast of England and the western coast of Europe. Can’t do that if they burned
their ships. Some stayed and settled in the Danelaw in England. Some were offered land in France to stop them sacking Paris. (Northman’s Land--Normandy)
There’s one hundred years between the beginning of the Viking raids and the Danelaw being settled. What did they do in all that time with their ships burned?Run from village to village chased by the whole of the Fyrd?A bit tiring carrying all that loot I should think.
The Vikings used their ships as transport so why burn them? Even if they won, they’d want
to keep them for future raids, going home, and trading. Few Vikings were only raiders. Most were also traders as opportunity presented itself. Viking is a job description not an ethnic designation. Vikings raided. They didn’t settle. They took their loot home and raided and traded more. Can’t do that if they’ve burned their ships.
Other Norse settled and even they wouldn’t burn their ships. They needed them for trade and
transport. York, Dublin, Cork, etc. were all trading towns that relied on trade from unburned ships for wealth.
Take the Battle of Maldon. The Vikings in that battle had been raiding along the Essex
coast before winning that battle. (A classic case of the English snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.) The Vikings wouldn’t have been able to raid along the coast and get to Maldon if they’d burned their ships when they landed.
If they burned their ships (to force themselves to stay) then how did they go home to bring their wives and kids back to settle? Raiding ships aren’t meant to hold cattle and goods. Knars (a wider sort of ship) hold cattle and goods for settling. But word has to get back to Norway or Denmark
for Wives and kids and cows to come over to the conquered land. Need an unburned ship for that.
Let’s see. King Harald Hardrata of Norway invaded England in September of 1066. He came with over 300 ships and the remnants of his army only needed 24 ships to return to the Orkneys and
overwinter before returning the rest of the way to Norway. Well known historical data. The remnants wouldn’t have been able to get back to the Orkneys if they’d burned their ships.
The first recorded Viking raid in England was on the Monastery of Lindisfarne in 793 ad.
Lindisfarne is an island and the raiders didn’t stick around. Two months later the Monks were writing to the King and complaining about the raid. These raids were followed by Jarrow (794) and Wearmouth (794), and Iona (795, 802 and 806). These raids were exclusively for money—if the Vikings burned their ships, how did they take the money away? And where did they take it to? Plus, Iona is an island.
Building a ship takes time--hundreds of man hours--and skill. And money. Why burn a very valuable asset?"