On August 10, 991 A.C.E., near Maldon, on the Blackwater river, ( at the time called Panta ), was fought a battle between the English, ( Anglo - Saxons ), and an invading force of Norwegian warriors, ( Vikings ). Some sources suggest it was Olaf Tryggvason who led the Vikings, but the evidence is murky at best. ( Only one manuscript of the Anglo - Saxon Chronicles says it was the Norwegian Olaf Tryggvason . The Anglo - Saxon forces were led by an Earl named Byrthnoth, also spelled, Brithnoth, who served during the reign of King Athelred the Unready.
It is estimated that between two to four thousand Vikings landed on what is now called the Northey Island Causeway. This causeway at low tide becomes a land bridge from the island to the shore. It says in the Liber Eliensis that the Anglo Saxon Byrthnoth, "was neither shaken by the small number of his men, nor was he afraid of the numbers of his enemies. Most sources and historians believe that the two forces were actually fairly equal in numbers. It is said that the leader of the Vikings, ( Olaf ? ) called across the causway to the mainland and spoke to the Anglo - Saxon Earl. He is said to have told him that if he was paid in gold he would sail away and cause no harm to their countryside of their people. Byrthnoth is said to have replied, " We will pay you with spear tips, and sword blades. "
As the battle began the Viking forces could not make any progress across the land bridge, obviously they attacked at low tide, because Byrthnoth had blocked their way with his army. According to the Anglo - Saxon Chronicles, Olaf asked Byrthnoth to allow his warriors to cross the land bridge, which Earl Byrthnoth allowed. I find this as a historian to be an almost impossible tale to believe, and I think the Vikings simply overwhelmed them in battle, and pushed the Anglo - Saxons out of their way. Would the Spartan 300 have allowed the Persians to just walk through the pass they were guarding ? No ! Things like that only happen in stories, not in real life. The fighting was fierce by all accounts, and went on, as did most battles in those days, for hours and hours, and usually broke down into individual combats. According to one source the battle was lost when a man named Godric fled the battlefield riding Byrthnoth's horse. When the English forces saw this they thought it was Byrthnoth who was fleeing which made many of the English lose heart and flee as well. There may be some truth to this part of the tale. If someone other than Byrthnoth fled on his horse it probably meant that Byrthnoth was injured, or possibly even dead. In ancient battles many armies would flee if their commander had been killed.
After a long and bloody battle the Vikings finally overwhelmed the Anglo - Saxons, and defeated them. Byrthnoth's body was eventually found on the battlefield without his head. Lying by his side was his gold hilted sword. He died a warrior's death protecting his king, his homeland, and his peoples, and that is the way that history should remember him and in most respects that is the way that he is remembered to this day in England.
The clergy in England quickly advised King Aethelred to pay off the Vikings, and the king, who probably was like his name, "unready", agreed to pay the Vikings 10,000 pounds of silver to leave his lands in peace. This is the first time in recorded history that Danegeld was paid to Viking raiders in England. It would of course not be the last time because paying off the Vikings just brought them back time and time again !
Next : The Battle Of Maldon : From the Anglo - Saxon Chronicles.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !