The New Student's Reference Work/Northmen

For works with similar titles, see Northmen.


North′men or Norse′men was a name applied in the middle ages to the seafarers who came from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and then to those of Norway only.  Their passion was sailing and war, and to satisfy it they sailed in all directions to discover and plunder.  In plain words, they were pirates, who, during the summer months, visited other lands and preyed upon them, or lay in wait in river mouths or behind islands for vessels to attack and pillage.  Their age may be divided into two periods, the first lasting to the middle of the 9th century, devoted to murder and plunder, and from then to the 13th century, given to permanent conquest in Ireland, South Italy, England and France.  The first attack was made upon Wessex, in England, in 787, and reached France about the end of the century, and up to 850 they committed most terrible depredations.  In 859 and 860 a large fleet entered the Mediterranean and ravaged Spain, Mauritania and Majorca, spending the winter at the mouth of the Rhône, to begin the attack on Italy in the spring.  Thus they subsisted on the entire seaboard of Europe until Charles the Simple concluded a peace, by which they were allowed to settle in France, and gave them the territory between the Channel, the Seine and the Ept, on the condition that they fought for him and became Christians.  The name of Normandy was given to this district, and the Northmen living in it were called Normans.  They ruled here from the 10th to the 13th century, when it was taken from them by the king of France, the most illustrious of their dukes being William who became king of England in 1066, with the title of William the Conqueror.  The Normans adopted the language and manners of the French, and changed their heathen rites for the Christian religion.  The Norsemen, early in the 9th century, had opened the route to the White Sea by rounding North Cape, and before 1222 had many times sailed up the northern Dwina.