Home DH-Debate
15. Who Were the Jaets?
17. The Qi Dan People

16. Danes, Goths and Wends in Scandinavia

The Wends and Denmark.

Mythological Time

Odin was the ruler of the Asia men, who settled on the island of Fyn. He was a great army man, Snorri wrote.

Thus Snorre lists Odin's ancestors: "His famous ancestor was Thror, whom we call Thor, his son was Loridi, his son was Ejnridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Moda, his son Magni, his son Seskef, his son Bedvig, his son Atra, his son Itrmann, his son Heremod, his son Skjaldun, who is called Skjold (Shield), his son Bjaf, his son Jat, his son Gudolf, his son Finn, his son Frallaf and he had the son Vodin, who was Odin."

The Royal family on the balcony of the castle Amalienborg
The Royal family on the balcony of the castle. - The Danish kings and Queen Margrethe are directly descended from the Aesirs.

Here we are actually told that Odin is descended from Thor. It's the opposite world! In the rest of the Norse mythology Thor is the son of Odin!

It is because that "Odin" was originally a title, not a name.

In another Indo-European language, Russian, the word odin means the number one. Something similar it may also have meant in the Danes original East Indo-European language. Odin meant the supreme leader, the first, number one. It can be Odin, the nameless, the greatest among gods; It can mean Odin, the All Father, the ultimate, original ancestor. But it can also mean Odin, the leader of the Danes, who was the king and commander, who settled on the island of Fyn and gave name to the city of Odense. Odin was a title, a kind of king. This may be why, very few personal names contained the word "Odin".

Odin on Sleipner
Odin, the leader of the Gods, on his eigth legged horse Sleipner - Icelandic drawing from the ninteenth century.

This last Vodin was "Odin", namely king and the leader of the men from Asia, who settled on Fyn. His family tree shows that he was the rightful "Odin", as he actually descended from the gods. Such as the Danish kings still do also today. The Queen Margrethe and the crown prince Frederik are descended directly from the Aesir kings from the Middle World, and it gives them the right to the throne - and the duty.

This Odin, the leader and supreme military commander of the Aesirs, should not be confused with Odin, the leader of the Gods, or Odin, the Allfather, the first and original ancestor.

Both the Xiongnu and the Danes had fled from the eastern steppe due to the progressive climate deterioration. They both had sought refuge in Europe. In Europe, the Xiongnu became known under their real name, as they called themselves, "Hun".

All the peoples of Asia had suffered from Xiongnu's attacks, entire peoples had been driven from their original homeland, like the Yuezhi people was in 176 BC. The Danes were such a people, who had sought a new beginning in Scandinavia, but they still remembered their enemies from the Eastern Steppe.

Saxo Grammaticus skrev Gesta Danorum
Saxo Grammaticus wrote Gesta Danorum, which means the Feats of the Danes.

Saxo tells, how the Danish king Frode came into confrontation to the Huns. Frodes Norwegian scout and close adviser, Erik, revealed that Frode's hunnish queen was cheating her husband. She was apparently quite difficult to control. Frode repudiated her and thus arosed the anger of the powerful king Hun of the Huns. All the Gothic and Wendish kingdoms around the Baltic then learned, that the Huns would use this excuse to subjugate also this part of the world. Two years had king Hun devoted to his preparations for the campaign, it was known.

In their distress the Gothic and Wendish kingdoms turned to the Danes, asking them to be in charge of them all in the fateful war that would come. It was known that the Danes were great warriors and that they were traditionel enemies of the Huns from their homeland in Asia. Furthermore, the kings of the Danes descended directly from the gods in Asgard.

First, the Danes and their allies beated the enemy fleet. Saxo tells that the enemy, "the Ruthenians", (perhaps russians, it is said), more had their strength in numeric abundance than in bravery, and the small band of heavy-handed Danes were victorious. When king Frode's ships should sail home, they encountered an unprecedented obstacle. The sea was littered with corpses and bits of shields and spears. Against the land army of the Huns king Frode used the scorched earth tactic, Saxo says. Only after the Huns had been weakened, split and divided, king Frode took up battle against the ancient enemy. When the fighting had lasted for seven days, king Hun was killed in battle, and the rest of the Huns surrendered. So far as one in three days could ride, the ground was littered with corpses.

The name "Danmark" means the border area of the Danes, like the "Spanish Mark" ment the Spanish frontier area. It was because the total area of the Danes were Scandinavia and the land around the Baltic Sea and the specific area Danmark was the border area against the German-Roman Empire.

Beowulf is received at the Danish court
Beowulf is received at the Danish court.

I think that "Dan" originally may have ment "people", representing a relatively small group of individuals of a particular lineage, who have their own customs, their own leaders and possibly their own language or dialect. Then the term "Danes" would have a similar meaning as exampelwise the "Wends", meaning a group of several peoples or tribes, each with their own name, but never the less sharing common culture and origin. Just like the Wends means a group of slavonic tribes specifically named Obotritter, Polaber, Vagrer and so on.

This idea I base on that in the ancient past there seems to have been many different Danes, such as West Danes, Spear Danes, Half Danes and so on (See Flemming Rickfors - link below) following the ancient anglo-saxon poems Widsith and Beowulf. Moreover in Asia, from where many migration peoples came, the word Dan seemed to have been used as "people" or a special kind of people, for example in Qi Dan and Dan Xiang. Furthermore, these migrations people in Asia, who also conquered North China, must have left their mark in the Chinese language. In modern Chinese "dan" can mean "egg", i.e. a specified quality, which is well defined bounded to the rest of the world (by the egg shell).

Helmold of Bosau used in his Wend Chronicle in general the term Danes (Danorum, Dani and other inflected forms) to describe the peoples, who live in Denmark.

But in his opening chapter about the differences between the Wends he writes: "The Hungarian people were once exceedingly brave, energetic warriors, feared even by the Roman Empire. For after the Huns and the Danes had raged, the Hungarians broke rampaging in and crushed and torn to bits and pieces all neighbouring kingdoms". ("Ungarica gens validissima quondam et in armis strennua, ipsi etiam Romano imperio formidolosa. Nam post Hunorum atque Danorum strages tercia Ungarorum desevit irruptio, omnia finitima regna vastans atque collidens.")

Helmond seems in this context to understand the term Danes as a collective term for all migratory peoples, who were not Huns.

The Outline of a Country Named Denmark Shows up in History

The outline of a country called Denmark emerges in history thanks to Ottar and Wulfstan's travel reports from maybe about 850 AC to very latest 899 AC. Ottar traveled from Skiringssal in Norway to Hedeby in Slesvig, and Wulfstan traveled from Hedeby to the merchant town Truso in the Vistula delta.

Ottars travel report says:

"Ottar said: South of Skiringssal a vast sea intersects into the country. It is wider than any man can see over. And on the other side first comes Gotland and then Sillende. This sea stretches hundreds of miles into the country.

And he told that he in five days sailed from Skiringssal to the merchant city, called Hedeby. It lies between the Wends, Saxons and Angles, and belongs to the Danes.

When he sailed to there from Skiringssal, he had to portside Denmark, to starboard the open sea for three days, and then, two days before he came to Hedeby, he had to starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands. In these regions the Angles lived before they came to this country. And in those two days he had to portside those islands which belong to Denmark."


Ottar's and Wulfstan's journeys following kong Alfred's Osorius
Ottar's and Wulfstan's journeys following king Alfred's Osorius. - The outline a country called Denmark from about 850 AC to 900 AC.

It is obvious that Ottar sailed south from Norway for three days first with Halland and later Sjælland to portside and the waters of Skagerak and Kattegat to starboard. Having rounded the peninsula Røsnæs, he sailed out on the sea to the south-west and soon he got sight of land, which was the characteristic cliff of Fyens Hoved, which was part of, what he called Gotland.

Then he sailed south having Fyn to starboard and with "the islands which belong to Denmark" to portside. The strait between the islands Langeland and Ærø is quite shallow, and it must have been even more shallow a thousand years ago, therefore I think, he went on sailing with Ærø to portside. Then "the islands which belong to Denmark" will be Langeland and Ærø, noting that they are in plural. "He had to his starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands", i.e. the Funen archipelago and behind, what he called Gotland.

After passing the western tip of Ærø, he would have land in sight that is Als, which he called Sillende, since only locals would know that Als is an island.

Lille Bælt at Fredericia, Strib and Middelfart
Lille Bælt at Fredericia, Strib and Middelfart - It looks like the mouth of a river.

He then sailed south with Als and Slesvig to starboard, passed Flensburg Fjord and found the entrance to the narrow Slien fjord, and he went through this to Hedeby. Here he had the county Angel to starboard, as he said.

Now most will probably argue that the term Gotland meant Jutland, and he therefore went down through the Lille Bælt.

For this, I would answer that it is not certain that the name Gotland meant Jutland. Moreover, the narrow part of the Little Belt at the cities Strib and Middelfart most of all looks like a river mouth. Which captain would take his ship with a precious cargo that route if not necessary? Further, it is not a shortcut. Eventually, if he went down through the Lille Bælt, he would not have had "many islands" to his starboard.

Wulfstan's travel report says:

Wulfstan said that he traveled from Hedeby and that he was in Truso in seven days and nights, and the ship went all the way under sail.

Wendland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark.

So we had Bornholm to port, and they have their own king.

So after Bornholm, we had the countries named first Blekinge, Møre, Øland and Gotland to portside, and these countries belong to the Swedish.

And we had Wendland to starboard all the way to the Vistula river mouth. Wistula is a very big river that separates Witland from Wendland. Witland belongs to the Estonians."


A knar, a type of ship from the Viking Age
A knar, a type of ship from the Viking Age, well suited for transport of commodities.

Ottar and Wulfstan's reports have different characteristics. Ottars report is a navigation description, a sort of algorithm, which describes how to sail along this and that coast having it to the port or starboard. Wulfstan is more the experienced sailor, standing at the railing, pointing toward the horizon and says that out there lies Blekinge, Møre, Øland and Gotland, though he cannot not see these countries from his route along the coast of Wendland.

But Wulfstan confirms that Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania all belonged to Denmark, but not Blekinge and Bornholm.

Denmark Unites

The little rune stone in Jelling was raised by king Gorm den Gamle. It says: "Gorm king made this runes after Thyra his wife, Denmark's beauty." Thyra must have been a princess from Denmark, as she is referred to as Denmark's beauty and the Jelling monarchy was originally not Denmark.

The big Jelling rune stone
The big Jelling rune stone.

Around the year 965 AC Gorm's son, king Harald Bluetooth, erected the big rune stones in Jelling. The inscription reads: "King Harald made do these runes after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother - that Harald who won for himself all Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians."

The stone says that king Harald of the Jutland and Funen kingdom also won supremacy in Denmark, which then consisted of Halland, Scania, Zealand, a number of other islands and Hedeby. Harald also mentions his mother Thyra. Denmark, with its capital in Lejre on Zealand was an old and glorious kingdom, which enjoyed great prestige. However the Jutland newcomer, Harald Bluetooth, succeeded to become king of Denmark, by referring to his mother, who was of royal Danish blood. Maybe also a little military persuasion has ben necessary, the reports do not tell.

During the reigns of Harald Bluetooth, his son Svein Forkbeard and his son Cnut the Great a fantatic activity was sparked in the now united kingdom. The defence dyke, Dannevirke, in Slesvig was reinforced, all over the country the very charateristic circular fortresses Trelleborg on Sjælland, Aggersborg and Fyrkat in Jylland, Nonnebakken on Fyn and another Trelleborg in Scania. In addition, the fortress Jomsborg was built in Wendland near the mouth of the river Oder. This stronghold was the home of an elite military force, the Joms-Vikings. During the reign of Harald Bluetooth a 760 m. long and 5 m. wide wooden bridge was built over the Vejle River Valley at Ravning Enge.

Trelleborg on Sjælland A segment of the Ravning Enge bridge
Left: Trelleborg on Sjælland - one of five circular Viking fortesses built during the reign of Harald Bluetooth and Svend Forkbeard.

Right: A segment of the Ravning Meadows bridge. - with its length of 760 m. the bridge was not passed before the building of the first bridge over Lille Bælt in 1935. The Ravning bridge was constructed of segments and had a uniform building throughout its length. The bridge spans are located between supporting bars with a spacing of 2.4 meters. Each set of supports consists of 4 large vertical poles. The roadway had a width of almost 5 meters

Adam of Bremen wrote about Harald Bluetooth's death: "In Harald's last days the Danes revolted against the king, under leadership of his son Svend. "Harald took refuge in Jomsborg, which Adam of Bremen described as the most important trading city in Wendland, founded by Harald Bluetooth himself. Here he died from his wounds. His corpse was brought to Denmark, and he was buried in the Holy Trinity Church, which he himself had built, in Roskilde.

Note that he was not laid to rest in Jelling as his parents. Now it was namely a real Danish king, who had died, and he was buried in the original Denmark.

Fyn
Fyn.

In many ways it can be proved that Jutland-Fyn and Zealand-Scania originally have been organized differently. It includes the ancient Jutland syssel-division, the early division of bishop areas and the distribution of kongelev and patrimonium.

The medieval Danish kings had two kinds of possessions, namely the property that belonged to the royal office (kongelev) and the royal family's inherited land (patrimonium). On the basis of Valdemar's Jordebog (an ancient journal of real estate ownership) the locations of the two kinds of possessions have been plotted. On the island of Fyn the patrimonium of the royal family was most dense, but also with high density in East Jutland and Slesvig. The real estates belonging to the royal office were scattered all over the country, but with highest density East of Store Bælt.

Hence one can conclude that primarily Fyn, Slesvig and East Jutland was the royal family's original homeland, however they took over the eastern Danish areas as an intact (Danish) kingdom inclusive the the royal kongelev, which belonged to that kingdom.

Heimskringla by Snorre Sturlason
Heimskringla by Snorre Sturlason

The historical sources for the Viking Age and the time before have to be found in the works of Snorre, Saxo, Aggesen and in monestary chronicles and many other scattered notes from all over Europe, and they contradict very often each other. We must face that it is very difficult to achieve sure knowledge, before someone invents a time machine.

Snorre Sturluson told that the Aesirs came from Asia. The asia-men he called them. Their leader was Odin. It is obvious to assume that they settled on Fyn and gave name to the city of Odense. Later they moved to Jutland, in order to be closer to the newly conquered Jutland regions. King Gorm managed to marry a Danish princess from the ancient Skjoldunge (Shield Cub) lineage in Lejre. It was his hope that his sons thereby could be entitled to the distinguished Danish throne. Therefore he called his firstborn son Cnut Dana-ast. It is easy to see that it means Cnut dana - as - kin (æt in old danish). Dana from his mother and As from his father's kin.

Since Thyra enjoyed such a prominent role, it seems logical that the firstborn son got a name from the father's lineage, namely Canute or Cnut, as the Englishmen write it, the second son received a name from his mother's lineage, namely Harald; think about the ancient king Harald Hildetand, Klak Harald and others. But as we all know, it happened so that the eldest son was killed during a viking raid in Ireland or England, and the second son became king.

One can hear ethnic englishmen complain that the Scots, Welsh and Irishmen are assigned a number of good qualities as etnic groups, while an ethnic englishman is only a blank sheet. Welsh belong to the original uncorrupted natives of the British Isles, the Irish are cheerful and musical, the Scots are brave, robust and thrifty, but the ethnic English are just some "english bastards". It's because it was the English, who won. It is from them the power emanates, and in order to win the loyalty of the subdued peoples it was necessary to assure them that they also had many good qualities.

So it was in Denmark. Saxo flows over with praises of the bravery of the Zealand inhabitans, and we must constantly listen to that the Jutlanders are strong and tough, but about the men from Funen, there is a strange silence. It is because, from the very beginning the power radiated from the island of Fyn.

The Viking Age

The army, which Svein Forkbeard led out against England in 1013, was recruited from the whole of the reign of the Danes. Danes, Goths and Wends from the whole Baltic region and Scandinavia took part. Far up in Sweden runestones have been erected for men, who received Danegeld in England with Cnut, the son and successor of Svend.

Cnut the Great in medieval English document The kingdoms of Cnut the Great.
Left: Cnut the Great in medieval English handwritten document.
Right: The kingdoms of Cnut the Great.

The young man Godskalk addressed king Cnut the Great, and asked for help, as the Saxons had killed his Wendic father Pribinev. He must have thought, it was a perfectly natural place for a Wend to ask for justice.

However, England was lost just as fast, as it was taken. Already in 1042 an english king, Edward the Confessor, was elected.

Also in 1042 the newly converted Danes chose Magnus, son of the new Catholic saint Olav, as a king. He was by then already king of Norway. This sparked five years of civil war, as he was challenged by Svend, who was the son of Cnut the Great's sister, Estrid, and thus a member of the ancient Danish royal lineage.

The Oseberg vikingship from Norway Coin with a portrait of Cnut the Great
Left: The Oseberg vikingeship from Norway.
Right: Coin with a portrait of Cnut the Great - made in the city of Lund during his reign.

Already the following year 1043 some Wendish tribes revolted against the new Danish-Norwegian king and went up Jutland. It looks a little odd that some small Wendic peoples alone decided to attack Denmark and Norway.

They must have expected that the Jutes would have joined them in a fight against the unjust king. As you will recall from the history, the Wends did not recieve Christianity as fast as the Danes did. They may have felt or have been urged to feel that they were free to rebel, as the new king and son of a Christian saint was not a member of the ancient royal family, to whom they were expected to show loyalty.

The new king, Magnus, stopped the Wends in the battle on Lyrskov Heath with a Danish-Norwegian army. It is said that it was from this victory, he got his surname "the Good".

The battle on Lyrskov Heath is not mentioned in Helmold of Bosau's Wend Chronicle, though it should have taken place not far from his hometown Lubeck, only a hundred years before his time. There ought to have been old men, who could tell him anecdotes about the famous battle.

Helmold of Bosau was a priest and history writer, born ca. 1120 and died ca. 1180.

The Middle Age

The reign of Magnus the Good gave notice of the long lasting periods of chaos and civil wars, which took place through the whole Middle Age.

The killing of Cnut the Holy in the church of Odense - painting by Christian Albrecht von Benzon.
The killing of Knud the Holy in the church of Odense 1086 - painting by Christian Albrecht von Benzon 1843.

The chaos started in the reign of Magnus in 1042 and continued through most of the reigns of Svend Estridsen and his sons until the time of Valdemar the Great in 1157. Svend Estridsen sons seemed politically split in two parties, but the exact content of their disagreement is not known.

When king Niels' son Magnus killed Knud Lavard in Haraldsted Forest, it triggered an open civil war, which largely continued until Valdemar had defeated his rivals, Svend and Knud.

But already during the reign of Valdemar Sejr's son Erik Plovpenning the situation deteriorated again. Erik tried to improve the kingdom's finances, but he only got the contemptuous epithet, "Plovpenning", and later he was killed by his brother Abel, who became king, but quickly lost his life in an military expedition against the Frisians. In the reign of his little brother Cristoffer an open strife between king and church broke out, the king arrested the archbishop Jacob Erlandsen in 1259. Christoffer was reportedly killed by poison in the altar wine the same year, when he received the bread and wine representing Jesus flesh and blood from abbot Arnfast from the Ryd Monestary.

The danish king Erik Menved arrested in 1294 Archbishop Jens Grand for treason and threw him in a gloomy dungeon under Søborg Castle. Erik Menved created a brief interregnum in the chaos, which thereafter continued, until the Enthronement of Valdemar Atterdag in 1340 after the period without king.

We can only guess the basic cause or causes of the long lasting strife and civil wars. It may be that many newly converted Danes were very eager in their support of the Christian faith, in the same way as we can see the muslims behave today with regard to their religion. The new Christians may have felt that they really belonged to the international community of Christians and the state of God much more, than they belonged to a heathen and old fashion concept about a danish people.

The new Christians may have felt that the kings and the whole royal institution really was some pagan stuff from the backward times before Christianity, which stood in the way of their soul's salvation.

Very much like many modern Danes feel that the whole concept about a people, a king and a motherland, indeed is some outdated backward stuff from the mediaval time before the modern holy values like Democracy, Human Rights and Tolerance towards other races and religions were invented.

The ruins of the fortress of Hammershus on the northern point of the island Bornholm Stubberup Village church on Hindsholm of the island of Funen
Left: The ruins of the impressive fortress of Hammershus on the northern point of the island Bornholm - Hammershus was built by the archbishop, financed by the danish peasants contributions to the church around year 1200. Also the king had a fort on Bornholm, however smaller, located in the middle of the island named Lilleborg, but it was stormed and destroyed by the archbishop's armed men with big bloodshed in 1259.

Right: Stubberup Village church on Hindsholm at the island of Funen. - During the whole middle age, also in the periods of chaos and civil wars, numerous stone and boulder churches were erected.

But there has always been a core in the Danish people, who remained loyal to their own culture, their fatherland, king and their history, also in the old days. They stood firm against the exstreme supporters of the new international values, and this contradiction was the cause of the chaos and civil war - we can imagine.

The kingdoms of the danish kings in the age of the Valdemars
The reign of Valdemar the Great and his successors from 1157.

But back to the middle Age after the reign of Magnus the Good.

With small lull in between the period of civil wars continued for hundred years, until finally all Danes supported the king Valdemar the Great in 1157. He and his successors extended the area ruled by the Danish kings along the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Many kings send armies to the present northern Germany in order to stand up to their responsibility as protectors of the Wends and curb the Saxon advance. Valdemar Sejr often led war in Vendland. He was in the head of an army of armored knights in the battle of Bornhøved (1227), but to the harm for the Danes and Wends he suffered defeat.

King Erik Menved (1274 - 1319) regained temporary the influence in the Wendish area by diplomatic means and by financing some popular plays and tournaments.

The hero Niels Ebbesen and his men make their escape
The hero Niels Ebbesen and his men make their escape after the killing of the bald count.

Under the danish rule the Wendish peoples along the southern coast of the Baltic sea started to develop their trade and their cities, which would become the Hanseatic League.

However the kings ran short of money and pawned countries and islands one by one to rich German counts and the Swedish king, and in 1332 Denmark had become completely dissolved, and there was not even a king any more. Obviously many Danes did not like very much to pay taxes to the Crown and the state, but they always paid their ontribution to the church it seems. At least numerous stone and boulder churches have been erected during the whole of the Middle Age.

The hero Niels Ebbesen sparked a rebellion by killing the German Count in the city of Randers in 1340. A tough king of the ancient lineage named Valdemar Atterdag reestablished piece for piece Denmark from the ashes.

The Scandinavian Kalmar Union - ruled by Margrete 1.
The scandinavian Kalmar Union - ruled by Margrete 1. and later Erik of Pommerania.

From 1388 to 1439 the three kingdoms Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united under Valdemars daughter Queen Margrete 1. and her successor Erik of Pomerania in the Union of Kalmar. She ruled an enormous empire stretching from the northern tip of Norway to Holstein and from the russian border in Finland to Greenland.

Her able successor Erik of Pomerania was elected as king of the Union, but after some years rejected by all the three kingdoms one by one, and thus the union effectively fell apart.

Eric was the grandson of Margrete's sister. He was son of Duke Vartislav of Pomerania, his original name was Bugislav.

The later Pope Pius 2. described Erik of Pomerania as follows: "Eric of Pomerania had a beautiful body, reddish yellow hair, a ruddy face and a long slim neck. - Alone, unaided and without touching the stirrups he jumped on a horse, and he draw the attention of all women, especially the empress, with the feeling of love's longing."

In his official correspondence he carried the title "Erik, by God's grace king of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Wends and Goths, duke of Pomerania."

The duke of Slesvig and the count of Holstein had led open war against Denmark, and Erik wanted to incorporate these two provinces more effectively in the kingdom. However, they were supported by the Hanseatic League and partially of the German emperor, and Erik had little luck in the war, he initiated against them. The nobles in Sweden and Norway did not want to pay the taxes that were necessary to wage the war, which led to their rejection of Erik as king. Basicly, they wanted a king of the union, who was king only in name.

The Wars Between Sweden and Denmark

The next more than three hundred years was the scene of numerous, bloody and bitter wars fought between Sweden and Denmark.

A Swedish peasant rebellion against the Danish union king opened The Union Wars 1434-1523 . After seven years of open war the Danish Kristian 1. was recognized as king of the Nordic Union in 1455.

Again a Swedish rebellion broke out in 1463, and a danish army was totaly beaten in 1471 in the battle of Brunkebjerg north of Stockholm, by a swedish army led by Sten Sture. However the Danish king Hans returned with an army of German mercenaries and won victory in the Battle of Rotebro also near Stockholm. Then he was recognized as king of Sweden.

Again in 1501 a swedish rebellion broke out, and the rebels seized the city of Stockholm. The Hanseatic city of Lubeck joined the fight against the Danes in 1510. However already in 1512 they had got enough and made peace.

The Stockholm blood bath.
The Stockholm blood bath. It must be Christian 2. who supports his head with his hand. - drawing of unknown origin

Again in 1517 a rebellion took place in Sweden; several danish armies were not able to quell the unrest. But king Christiern 2. succeded in 1520 to reestablish the Nordic union by military force. He seized the swedish capital Stockholm in 1520 with his army of Scottish and German mercenaries. Initially the swedish people seemed quite satisfied with the change. But then Christiern unwisely broke his promise of safe passage and accused 82 swedish noblemen for witchcraft and thereafter beheaded them. Even more fatal became his decision to collect heavy taxes from the common swedish people in order to make them pay for his expensive military campaign. A swedish uprising drove Christiern out of Sweden in 1523.

The Seven Year War 1563-1570 between Denmark and Sweden broke out because of a dispute about the right to have the three crowns (of the union) in the royal coat of arms. Initially a danish army seized the stronghold of Älvsborg at Goteburg.

The danish and the swedish royal coat of arms.
Modern versions of the central shields of the danish and the Swedish royal coat of arms. Both shows the three crowns symbolizing the nordic union. In the danish shield they are shown in the lower left corner together with the symbols for Greenland and Faroe Islands. In the Swedish shield they are shown twice and take up half of the shield. In modern time it had been brought forward that the three swedish crowns symbolize the three original Swedish kingdoms Svealand, Östra and Västra Götaland.

A danish navy fleet under Herluf Trolle won victory in a sea battle between Øland and Gotland. The experienced danish general Rantzau routed a numerically superior Swedish army at Axtorna near Falkenberg in Halland. A peace was concluded by payment of a compensation of 150.000 daler to Denmark.

The Kalmar War 1611-1613 broke out because of a dispute about the rights to trade with Russia. Denmark was victorious in a battle near Kalmar. A peace was concluded and Denmarks right to the monopol in the Russia trade were confirmed.

As Duke of Holstein Christian 4. joined the Thirty Years War 1618-1648 between Catholics and Protestants in Germany. However, his Protestant army were almost annihilated in the battle at Lutter am Barenberg in 1626. The Swedish king Gustav Adolf then took over the role as the Protestant leader; the Swedes had greater success, as they were effectively supported by a France under Cardinal Richelieu.

Christian 4 's participation in the German war was the beginning of Denmark's historic downturn, that reached a low in 1864.

In The Thorsteinson war 1643-1645 it became really sinister. Holstein, Slesvig and the whole of Jylland was taken by swedish troops under general Thorsteinson and merciless plundered. Another Swedish army attacked Scania, but was defeated at Malmø. Holland send a fleet to support Sweden, but it was destroyed by the danish navy at Lister Dyb. However the danish navy could not match a united Swedish-Dutch fleet at Fehmern, only two Danish ships came out of the battle. In the end a peace was concluded in Brømsebro and Denmark was forced to give away Gotland, Øsel, Halland and the Norwegian provinces Jämtland and Härjedalen.

Carl Gustav and the Swedish army go over the ice - painting by Johan Filip Lemke
Carl Gustav and the Swedish army go over the ice - painting by Johan Filip Lemke.

In The First Carl Gustav War 1657-1658 Denmark wanted to take back, what was lost. The Swedish were busy with war in Poland, and the chance should be there, we thought. However, "The Little Ice Age" had began. The winter turned out to be unusually cold, and all the the danish waters became totaly frozen. The Swedish king Carl Gustav lost any interest in Poland and turned immediately against Denmark. He and his veterans marched over the ice from island to island and soon they showed up in front of the walls of Copenhagen. The Danish troops were completely unprepared for this development and king Frederik 3. asked for peace negotiations. In the peace of Roskilde Denmark was forced to give away Scania, Blekinge, Bornholm and the Norwegian provinces Bohuslen and Trondheim. This war was a complete disaster, the lost parts of the kingdom all belonged to the original homelands of the Danes and Norwegians.

However Carl Gustav soon regretted that he did not wipe out Denmark-Norway completely, when he had the chance. Already after half a year he again opened a siege of Copenhagen and thus began The Second Carl Gustav War 1658-1660. The situation was desperate for the Danes; the city walls were manned with students and family fathers, the king Frederik 3. declared that he wanted to "die in his nest". However Holland turned their coat to support of the Danes; they sent a much needed rescue fleet to Copenhagen. A cold winterday in February 1659 the Swedish troops made their all out assault on the walls of the city. The attack failed completely, several thousands swedish soldiers lost their lives, while the danish losses were insignificant. A new peace was concluded and Norway got the Trondheim Len back and Denmark got the island of Bornholm back.

The battle at Lund in Scania - 1676
The battle at the city of Lund in Scania 1676 - In total there were 9,000 killed soldiers of which the 6,000 were danish. The Swedish were victorious thanks to their superior cavalry.

But Denmark had lost some of her ancient land and were decided to take it back. Danish troops opened The Scanian War 1675-1679 by seizing Swedish cities in Northern Germany and the island of Gotland. The battle at the city of Lund in Scania was the most bloody ever fought between Swedes and Danes. In total 9,000 men lost their lives of which the 6,000 were Danes. The Swedish turned out victorious thanks to their superior cavalry. In a navy battle in Koege Bugt south of Copenhagen the Swedish navy were totally beaten by the danish navy led by admiral Niels Juul. The swedish lost 20 ships with 3,000 sailors; the losses of the Danish navy were a few hundreds. However France interfered and threatened to enter the war to support their Swedish ally. Denmark was then forced to give up all their conquest.


Tordenskjold ain Marstrand
Tordenskjold in Marstrand.

The Great Nordic War 1700-1720 lasted 20 years, however with a 9 years armistice in between. It was fougth all over, in the Swedish parts of Northern Germany the cities of Stralsund and Wismar were taken by the Danes and their Preussian and Russian allies. A Swedish army seized Kristiania (Oslo) in Norway, but they soon had to retreat as the Norwegian hero Tordenskjold had destroyed their supply fleet at Dynekilden. Swedish armies led by the warrior king Karl 12. attacked Norway in both north and south. However Karl 12. was shot during the siege of the fortress Frederiksten whereupon his soldiers lost their taste for war and retreated to Sweden. The bold hero Tordenskjold and his naval units took the Swedish stronghold Karlsten at Marstrand by cunning. He let his small force march in front of the Swedish position in such a way that the same soldiers showed up many times, which - according to legend - made the Swedish commander to believe that the Danish force was much larger, than it really was. Hence the term "Tordenskjolds soldiers" exampelwise about an association where the same persons only show up to all events.

The England Wars

The battle of Copenhagen - 1 The battle of Copenhagen 1801 - 2 Left: The battle of Copenhagen 1801. A Danish block ship in battle with an English warship - oil painting by Mølsted.
Right: The battle of Copenhagen - Lieutenant Willemoes was in command of block ship no. 1, which did great damage to the English ships - oilpainting by Mølsted.

During the Napoleon Wars Denmark-Norway did their utmost to stay out of the fightings. Nevertheless we were attacked by the Englishmen in the Battle of Copenhagen - 1801 . Together with Russia, Sweden and Prussia Denmark formed a so-called armed neutrality pact. The intention was to support each other in the rights to trade with any country and anybody, regardless of the wars England led. This perceived the British as a threat, and therefore in 1801 they sent a large fleet to Copenhagen under Admiral Parker with Horatio Nelson as second in command in order to destroy or capture the Danish navy. Since it was so early on the year, the Danish ships were not rigged. The Danish defence was based on a line of block ships arranged outside the harbour of Copenhagen. The fight was fierce and in the end the British had to give up to penetrate the defence and make peace. The Danish losses were about 1,700 killed sailors, while the British had only a few hundred dead. A Swedish rescue force from Karlskrona did not arrive in time for the fight.

The bombardment of Copenhagen - painting by Lorenz Rugendas
The bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807- The British fleet were 24 navy ships, 22 smal ships and transport ships with in total 30,000 men, mostly englishmen and germans. - painting by Lorenz Rugendas.

Again until 1807 Denmark-Norway continued their efforts to stay out of the fightings. The army had taken position in Holstein in order to defend the country against Napoleon if neccessary; however Copenhagen was again attacked by the the Englishmen, who wanted to take in their possession the powerfull Danish navy, just in case. After a heavy Bombardment of Copenhagen - 1807 the crown prince, the later Frederik 6., decided to surrender. It was the first time in modern times that deliberate and targeted terror against the civilian population was used in warfare. It was a day of sorrow, when the englishmen sailed away with the navy. This unjustified english attack pushed Denmark-Norway to chose the side of the loosers in the rest of the Napoleon wars.

Following the loss of the navy a big quantity of gunboats were bulit in the port cities of Denmark and Norway. They were large rowing boats equipped with one or two guns. The gunboats were fast, flexible and independt of the wind direction. They attacked and boarded numerous British ships, and then ship and cargo were sold to the highest bidder.

Danish-Norwegian canonboats attack an English warship
Danish-Norwegian canonboats attack an English warship - oilpainting by Mølsted

In 1812 Napoleon attacked Russia, which then allied with Sweden and England. Russia promised the Swedes that after the war they should have Norway as a substitute for Finland. They also invited Denmark to take part in the anti-French alliance, but however made the pre-condition that we voluntarily ceded Norway to Sweden. This was of course refused and Denmark-Norway fought the rest of the war on French side.

By the peace-treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark had to cede Norway to the Swedish King; Denmark was allowed to keep Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

However the Norwegians rebelled against their new Swedish masters and elected the Danish crown prince, Christian, as Norwegian king. But the Norwegian resistance was quickly defeated by Swedish troops.

The Slesvig Wars

In 1849 Denmark changed the government system to democracy. The new democratic politicans came to power already in 1848 and they launched imediately an uncompromising nationalistic policy in words, but however did not dare to collect taxes to support such a daring policy with the neccessary funds to the millitary.

The Duchies Slesvig and Holsten
The Duchies Slesvig and Holsten.

The duchies of Slesvig and Holstein had been ruled by the danish kings for many hundred years, they were a natural part of the danish kingdom. However many of the inhabitans in this part of the country had taken up speaking German, perhaps because they found it more noble and more international.

Just in these years the German Romantic movement won great support in all the former states of present Germany. The meaning of this popular movement was precisely to gather all German-speaking people in one single great nation. "Deutchland uber Alles" (Germany above all) was their motto.

Among the German-speaking inhabitants of Slesvig and especially in Holstein, the idea spread, that they should be liberated completely from their historical connection to Denmark, achieve independence and in the long run be a part of a new large German-speaking Germany. In romantic circles in the German states it was regarded as something of a matter of course.

The German philologist Jacob Grimm, who was one of the driving forces in the Romantic Movement, wrote in his "Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache": "When the big federation has been formed, why should not the obstinate peninsula (Jutland) be added to the mainland - As soon as Germany reorganizes herself, Denmark may impossible excists as before."

It was such modern dreams that stirred up the mood in a large part of the predominantly german-speaking population in Holstein and in less degree in Slesvig.

As one of their very first government actions the new democratic politicians in Copenhagen decided that the Duchy of Slesvig should be integrated directly into the kingdom of Denmark. It was an unwise provocation against the prevailing mood in the duchies, and the new politicians had not made any plans about, what was needed to handle a reaction.

The Royal guard in battle at Isted 1850
The Royal guard in action in the battle at Isted 1850.

The German-speaking parts of the population of the duchies declared immediately their independence of Denmark, formed their own government and organized an army. Volunteers from all over present Germany came streaming to their support. They took by surprise the unprepared Danish fortress of Rendsburg and opened thus the First Slesvigian War 1848 - 1851 . Prussia and the whole German Confederation instantly came to their support and sent an army of 32,000 men led by General Wrangel, who met an numerical inferior Danish army of 10,000 men at the city of Slesvig led by Colonel Læssøe. The Danes made an organized figthing retreat to the island of Als, from where they later made several successful counterattacks led by Colonel Schleppegrell.

In the battle of Slesvig a Prussian army force was attacked near Husby by the Danish Sixth Dragoon Regiment, who captured their guns. A Prussian officer gave this description of the fight:

Colonel Schleppegrell in the battle of Isted, here he was killed in action. Squadron of 6. Dragonregiment in battle at Husby 1848
Left: General Schleppegrell in the battle of Isted, where he was killed in action.
Right: Sixth Danish Dragoon Regiment in battle at Husby 1848 - painting.

"In Schleswig, all fields and roads are lined with planted earth dikes, which here are called "Knicks". These living walls are often so high that you can not see a carriage behind them, and from such a fenced side road, which was directly in front of our shooters, flew suddenly a squadron of the Sixth Danish Dragoon Regiment forward, turned onto the main road and rushed straight away on our two battalions.

In front rode the Captain, his name was Würtzens, then came four officers in a line, then the Danebrog banner and following the whole squadron, swinging swords high in the fastest gallop. They dusted, whistled and rattled as a whirlwind passing us on the road, and the shooters, who on the general's hint had saved themselves behind the hedges, did not have a thought of firing, but were really somewhat taken aback, as you call it. When they had come to their senses and realized that after the regulations and common sense, however, they ought to have been shooting, the Wild Hunt had stormed past and went straight on at Lieutenant Petzel's howitzers, which had just been arranged for transport in order to advance. These of course again had to be made ready for fight, but the Danish were already upon them, before it could happen.

However did our shooters come to their senses and began to bombard the Danish in the back and in the side. Their banner sank, a young Danish officer, Mr. von Vedel, was taken prisoner. What came out of the whole chaos, rushed back at least as fast as they had come, but this time not without unpleasant side comments from our shooters behind the fences. Where ever you looked, were captured, killed and wounded, and when one had in mind with which courage and bravery the riders galloped forward to the attack, it made one extremely sorry that they got so badly away, because the attack was really the most beautiful, you could see, especially because the officers rode in front and themselves gave the best example. But the guns, yes - the Danish saved them, while we trembled for the dragoons."

The sortie from Fredericia - 1849
The sortie from Fredericia - 1849.

The city of Fredericia was besieged by the Germans and Holsteiners. Thanks to the Danish superiority at sea it was possible to concentrate danish forces in the besieged city, make a sortie and defeat the enemies in the battle at Fredericia. In this battle the Norwegian-born general Olaf Rye was killed in action.

In the battle of Isted 1850 the Holsteiners and their German supporters were finally defeated. In this battle 3,800 Danish soldiers and 2,800 enemies were killed. Among the dead were general Schleppegrell and colonel Læssøe.

The great powers, England, Russia, France, Austria and Prussia signed the London Protocol in 1852, which established the status quo. The duchies were still to be ruled by the Danish king, but they may not be connected together or connected closer to Denmark.

The troops return back to Copenhagen in 1851 after the First Slesvigian war
The troops return back to Copenhagen in 1851 after the First Slesvigian war.

The new politicians celebrated the whole thing as a great national victory. But actually everything was, as it had been before, they took their unwise decision to incorporate the Duchy of Schleswig in the kingdom of Denmark. The war had just contributed to sharpen the contradictions between Danish and German speakers in the duchies.

In November 1863 the danish parliament adopted the so-called November Constitution, which was a common constitution for Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig, but however not for Holstein. Thus, Denmark had broken the London Protocol and opened the door for a German revenge in the Second War of Schleswig - 1864

The Danish politicians' decisions were influenced by romantic dreams and wishful thinking. It was thought that we would get military assistance from Sweden-Norway, should it come to a war with the German states. Politicans imagined that other great powers would intervene in favor of Denmark. There was an exaggerated confidence in the capability of the Danish soldiers. The democratic politicians had not made any significant military preparations or secured actual support from other great powers.

Under command of general de Meza the army had taken up positions at Dannevirke, a historic Danish defence dike against enemies from south. The dike was by the politicians and the general population considered as a safeguard against the Germans.

German plan to bypass the Danevirke position Danevirke to day - 2010
Left: German plan to bypass the Danevirke position - The moors against west were frozen and the narrow fjord Slien could be passed by other means.
Right: Danevirke to day - 2010 - The first parts of the dike were built about 600 AC.

The truth was that the 40,000 Danish soldiers were too few to defend such a long position (approx. 25 km ex. moors and fjord). Furthermore, the marshes on the right flank were frozen, the narrow fjord was not yet frozen, but could be passed by other means. The position could be bypassed easily. The Danish soldiers were armed with old-fashioned muzzle-loaders, while the Prussians and Austrians had modern breech-loader rifles. The Danish guns were too few and small and had too short range.

The Germans crossed the river Eider 1. of February 1864. Their army consisted of 6,000 Saxons, 6,000 Hannoverans, 35,000 Prussians and 35,000 Austrians.

Most likely there was a reason why the Germans chose to attack in the assumed most cold time of the Year.

After a few outpost fightings it soon became clear that the Dannevirke position was untenable. The army would be surrounded and destroyed. The night before the Germans planned surrounding offensive were to be launched, the Danes quietly and successfully initiated the retreat from Dannevirke.

Dybbøl windmill after the final assault 18. of April 1864 - Prussian photo
The Dybbøl windmill shot to pieces after the final assault 18 of April 1864 - Prussian photo.

The main force of the Danish army then went into position in a half-finished system of defence ramparts at Dybbøl.

The politicians in Copenhagen were furious that de Meza had the army pulled back from the, according to their view, impregnable Dannevirke. De Meza was dismissed and replaced by General Gerlach.

The Prussians used the war against Denmark to test new forms of warfare. The Danish defenders were fixed in their shelters with a constant artillery bombardment, while their engineering troops digged trenches ever closer to the Danish positions.

It became increasingly clear that also the Dybbøl position was untendable. The generals pleaded the politicians to be allowed to retreat and thus keeping the army fairly intact. It was every time rejected for political reasons.

On 18. of April came the final assault. A six-hour artillery bombardment shot the defenses to pieces, while the defenders suffered heavy casualties. Then the Prussians moved the artillery shelling further into the Danish hinterland, and a force of 12,000 attackers ran toward the southern danish defences, while Preussian military bands played from the trenches. The fight was tough but short, and before long the Danish units was fleeing.

Dybbøl after the final attack the 18. of April 1864 - Prussian photo
Dybbøl after the final attack the 18. of April 1864 - Prussian photo.

Only a bold counterattack from 8. Brigade made it possible to save most of the army down to a bridgehead at the tip of the Sundeved Peninsula. From there the remains of the Danish army were transferred to the island of Als.

However, in the middle of the night on 29. of June the Prussians invaded Als and quickly overcame the demoralized Danish defenders, who retreated to the island of Fyn.

At the peace in Vienna on 30. of October, Denmark had to give away the duchies of Slesvig, Holstein and Lauenburg to Prussia and Austria. Thus we lost almost 40% of our population and area.

Denmark had become a tiny state of only 1.7 million inhabitants.

After the German defeat in World War I, the Versailles conference decided to give one third of Slesvig back to Denmark in 1920 after a referendum.

The Sound Due

The king of the Nordic Kalmar Union Erik 7. of Pommern, introduced in 1429 the Sound Due, which all ships passing the narrow danish water of Øresund headed for the Baltic Sea or back had to pay. We don't know his motives, perhaps he wanted to finance the fight against pirates. He looked upon the Baltic as an inland sea in the reign of his Union of the three kingdoms.

The sound due remained in effect through more than four hundred years until 1857. In all that time it was an significant income for the Danish kings. In some periods it could make up up to two thirds of the income of the crown. Fredensborg, Rosenborg and all other castles and other beautiful buildings erected by Christian 4. were financed by the Sound Due.

The size of the fee varied over time, but a typical payment was 1-2% of the cargo value.

Ships waiting to pay their due outside the castle of Kronborg at the city of Helsingør
Ships waiting to pay their Sound due outside the castle of Kronborg at the city of Helsingør

When we want to take a ship through the Panama or the Suez canals, we have to pay a fee, which is quite reasonable, as it had cost a lot of money to dig through such masses of land and rocks. But the Øresund had so to say digged itself, the king of Denmark did not have any costs. All the payments collected were close to pure profit.

The seafaring European powers hated the Sound Due very much. We must face that it was a kind of highly organized and accepted sea robbery. We collected the money over the barrels of the cannons of Kronborg without really to give anything in return.

Many historians think that the Sound Due caused Denmark to miss important international support and good-will in critical moments of history, and this was one of the main reasons to the decline of the power of Denmark through history.

The famous Danish historian Palle Lauring wrote in his book "Denmark in Scania": "Øresund, wonderfull Øresund, The stream filled with herring, ships, money and blood. Here we during five hundred years squeezed money out of skippers from all over the world. In return we gave Scania, Halland, Blekinge, Gotland and Øsel. Additionally, what we generously delivered of Norwegian land. No matter to how much you will calculate the five centuries of customs revenues, it was a bad deal."

To this we can add a bit of alternate history. If Christian 4. had bought some canons and trained some soldiers for the money instead of building castles, the history could have been different.

Modern Time and Refleksion

Until mid the nineteenth century, the Danish king still ruled many countries and kingdoms, Schleswig-Holstein, Lauenburg, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland.

In the Second World War Denmark was occupied by the Germans in five years. During that time we were unable to have contact with the North Atlantic parts of the kingdom, which were occupied by British and American troops. Under these circumstances Iceland decided in 1944 to achieve their independence from the kingdom of Denmark.

Only Margrethe 2. has finally abandoned the nominal ambitions to regain sovereignty over the Nordic and Baltic region. She has renounced the ancient title, "The Wends and Goths." She is in general ruler of a single modern nation only.

Modern Denmark is basicly what has been left of the Reign of the Danes after that Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland have won independence, and the Wendish areas, Øsel, Gotland, Scania, Halland, Blekinge, Estonia, Holstein, South-Slesvig and several other areas have been conquered by neighbouring states.

However the subjects of the Danish Queen, the modern etnic Danes, are still descendants from the Aesirs, the Danes and the Jotuns, who came from Asia in ancient times, and from the Gothic and other peoples, who lived in the country, before they came.

Christianity has for hundreds of years stressed, that the important thing is whether you are a Christian believer or not. Therefore in medieval time everybody got Christian names, inspired by the Bible. From which pagan people a man had retrieved his genes, the church regarded as completely irrelevant, and therefore it has been forgotten during the course of history.

Actually the Danes was the only one of many peoples from the plains of Eurasia, who in the long run had some success with the emigration to Europe. The Alans, Goths and Huns, all that peoples have disappeared during the course of history as independent peoples. Just as the Xiongnu, Xianbei and Qi Dan have disappered in Asia. There is no country called Alani or similar, there is a "Hungary", but some say that the Hungarians believe themselves, that the name is a bit of mistake.
The Eighth brigade's counterattack at Dybbøl the 18. of April 1864. Painting by Vilhelm Rosenstand from 1894. Frederiksborg Museum.
The Eighth brigade's counterattack at Dybbøl the 18. of April 1864. Painting by Vilhelm Rosenstand from 1894. Frederiksborg Museum.

The Wends and Denmark

Danish Connections with the Abodrittes

Mural showing Knud Lavard in Sct. Bendts Church in Ringsted Mural showing Knud Lavard in Sct. Bendts Church in Ringsted.

The young man Godskalk addressed king Cnut the Great and asked for help, as the Saxons had killed his Wendish father knes (meaning Prince or king) Pribinev of Abodrits. He must have thought it was a completely natural place for a Wend to seek justice.

With Danish help, he returned and killed his enemy Ratibor, whom, we must believe, was supported by the Saxons. Godskalk married later a daughter of the danish king Svend Estridsen. He was killed in 1066 by knes Kruto of the Wagrians, another Wendic tribe, as a reaction against his attempt to Christianize the Wends. Godskalk was followed as knes by his son, Henrik Godskalksøn. When the latter died in 1127 the Abodrittes elected his cousin Knud Lavard as knes. He was knes for four years, until he was killed in Haraldsted Forest in 1131. The Abodrittes then elected one from their own people, Niklot, as knes, he was a believer of the old Wendish gods. In cooperation with Henrik Löwe of Saxony Valdemar the Great in 1160 launched an expedition against the Abodrittes, here Niklot was killed. His son Pribislav received his father's country as a fief of Denmark.

Map of Wendland
Map of Wendland showing different wendish tribes and peoples.

Following Saxo the Wendish piracy against the Danish coasts escalated during the reign of king Niels. In connection with the choice of Knud Lavard as the border Earl of Slesvig it is told that the Wends raveged the Danish coasts and in particular the area around the river Eider and Slesvig worser than before. Nobody dared to oppose the king of the Wends, Henrik Godskalksøn. This was the reason why the position as border earl in Slesvig stood vacant.

Knud Lavard offered personally king Niels to take over this perilous task. He spoke to king Niels: "You know best, whether I have produced results as a warrior. Danes! Cultivate just your land completely out to the coast, if you will! Place your houses so close to the water, as you please! And stay away from the waves yourselves! - For I will protect you against the pirates."

However, Knud Lavard was killed in Haraldsted Forest some years later.

Chaos in Denmark

Helmold's Wend Chronicle says that the situation deteriorated further during the reign of Erik Lam: "For when Erik, called Erik Emune, was killed, there were three royal candidates left, namely Svend, son of the same Erik, and Valdemar Knudsøn and Svend Magnussøn. But since they were still only children, it was on the assembly of Danes decided, that a certain Erik, called Erik Lam, should be their guardian. He was a peaceful man, and he would have ruled the country that was him trusted in calmness, if he had been able to resist the furious attacks of the Wends. The attacks by Wendish robber gangs were at that time more numerous than usual. But when Eric noticed that the day for his death approached, he called on the three royal youths, and he called together a council of nobles and appointed Sven as king, and said that Valdemar and Knud had to be satisfied with their heritage from their fathers. And when he had arranged this, he died."

The blood party in Roskilde
The blood party in Roskilde - Svend invited his fellow kings Knud and Valdemar to a party in Roskilde. While they listened to a German singer, Svends men broke in and tried to kill his rivals. Knud was killed, but Valdemar escaped in the darkness and confusion.

During the period that followed seemed the raids of the Wends to become increasingly worser to reach a peak during the civil war between Svend, Knud and Valdemar. Saxo wrote: "At this time, Denmark was a country in disintegration; at home the civil war raged, and from outside the pirate scourge reached new heights." According to Saxo, the country was on the verge of collapse: "At that time the pirates had free rein, and the whole way from Vendsyssel to the Eider all villages in eastern Jutland were abandoned and all fields uncultivated. In East as well as South Sjælland was a desolate, deserted landscape. The peasants were gone, and in their place the robbers had settled, as if they were at home. On Fyn the pirates had left nothing but a small flock of inhabitants."

Helmold's Wend Chronicle explains why: "The Danes are namely always plagued by domestic wars, and they have no power to lead wars abroad. For Svend, the king of the Danes, strengthened true enough his position in the kingdom by his lucky victories and by the emperor's authority, but he tormented his people cruelly, and therefore God avenged on him by giving his life an unhappy ending. For when Knud his rival, noticed how the people murmured against Svend, he called on Valdemar, who was Svend's cousin and assistant and connected with him by giving him his sister in marriage. And when he was certain that this man would help him, he renewed his vicious attacks on Svend."

Absalon destroys Svantevit
Svantevit were one of the Wend's important gods. - Absalom destroys Svantevit after the conquest of Arkona - painting by Lauritz Tuxen

Helmond also remarked: "Erik reigned in Denmark and begat a son named Svend with a mistress, Thunna. But Knud had also a son, the noble-borne Valdemar. And Magnus had his son Knud. These shoots of the royal lineage lived then among the Danish people and fought one another, lest they would one day should get out of habit and become arrogant. They are only worth something in their internal wars." "But events unfolded so that Valdemar became the one king of Denmark. He overcame the Wends on Rugen and later anywhere in Wendland in cooperation with Duke Henrik Löwe of Saxony. His son Knud 6. continued the raids against the land of the Wends. There after the Wends everywhere converted to Christianity, and their raids against the Danish coasts ceased.

The Wends make Havoc

It can not be explained away that the Wends committed widespread piracy on the Danish coasts. Saxo tells it in abundance, but also they admit it themselves.

Radegast was one of the Wendish gods
Radegast was another of the important Gods of the Wends - however this one is a fake, but perhaps he never the less gives an ide about the god Radegast - Regionalmuseum Neubrandenburg zeigt spektakuläre Falschungen aus dem 18 Jahrhundert.

In Knes Pribislaw's speach to a Saxon bishop in 1157 he places the responsibilty for the piracy on the invading Saxons, who have forced the Wendish people to "turn their backs to the dry land, go to the sea and dwell and build on the waves. Is it our fault, that when we have been driven out from our native land, we are compelled to disturb the peace on sea and take our travel food from the Danes or the merchants who are sailing on the ocean? "(Helmold).

Pastor Helmold also wrote in the same chronicle around 1170: "Denmark consists in general of scattered islands surrounded by sea. They are difficult to protect against pirate attacks, because there are many peninsulas, which are well suited as hiding places for the Wends."

Saxo is not blind to the fact that they probably had learned the piracy profession from the Vikings, he tells about the time of Harald Bluetooth and Sven Forkbeard "On that time was widespread piracy in this country, while it was rare among the Wends. But it began to spread to them also, because the pirates in Julin cultivated the activity of their homeland on the homeland itself and harassed very most the Danes with the means, which they themselves had taught them."

Reconstruction of Wendish ship
Reconstruction of Wendish ship.

Most likely some will argue that all that with the havoc done by the Wends only is political propaganda from Saxo supporting Valdemar the Great and Absalon to justify their imperialistic policy. But the pirates' lootings may also be supported by other arguments.

On Falster unusually many burried treasures have been found from this particular period. The owners had burried them in times of troubles, but have not been able to pick up their treasures after the unrest. Lymoseskatten contained silver and 393 coins from Germany and England. The silver treasure from Vålse contained 6.5 kilogram of silver, such as coins, jewelry and broken silver. The treasure from Gundslevmagle contained among other things, a unique Byzantine silver cross.

Øm Monestary Chronicle notes that the bishop of Aarhus, Svend, gave large stretches of land in Jutland to the monastery, but that it was worthless because it was too close to the sea and was exposed to the heathen pirates' assault. The English bishop Thomas of Beckett's saint vita tells that Wends had intercepted a gift for Valdemar from his father in law.

The island of Lyø has quite excellent farmland, But Valdemar could hold his tragic hunting here, because the island was still uninhabited.

The Wends in Denmark

Wends have lived in Denmark, at least on the islands of Lolland, Falster and Møn, and most likely their descendants still live here. Even in modern times we have personal names of Wendic origin, for example Tove and Preben, Tove was the name of Svend Forkbeard's Wendish queen, and Preben comes from the Wendish Pritbior.

A rune stone in the cemetery of Tillitse Church
A rune stone in the cemetery of Tillitse Church - originally built into the church wall. It says: "Eskil Sulkesøn let this stone erect after him self. Always it will stand, while the stone lives, this inscription which Eskil did. Christus and St. Mikkel help his soul." Moreover: "Toke made these runes after his stepmother Thora, a noble woman." On the stone is also a cross.
It contains four Nordic personal names and a clear Christian symbol. It may be erected by those, who lived there, before the Wends came and gave the village their own Wendish name.
We love to imagine all sorts of harmonic and peaceful coexistence, but if there had been peaceful coexistence, then the newcomers would have respected the original Nordic name of the village.

On the island of Lolland many place have names of Wendic origin, Binnitse, Billitse, Krambes, Tillitse, Kuditse, Ulitse, Revitse, Vaagese, Glukse, Mullese, Kramnitse and Kobelitse.

On Falster only one settlement has a genuine Wendic name, namely Korselitse. The other place names of possible Wendic origin on this island are all names on mounds, springs and similar.

At the small Fribrødre River just south of the city of Stubbekøbing the remains of a small shipyard has been found that with great probability is Wendic. The Wendic ships were more flat-bottomed than the danish, the mast boar had a special design, they used moss for tightning between planks, and the sheerstrake planks were fastened with wooden nails. A dendrochronological tests of a ship's planks showed that the tree has been cut between 1050 and 1055. In field books from 1682 the place is called "Pri Brødres Agre". A known Wendic field name is "Prybrode", where "pry" stands for "at", and "brod" for "ford".

On the island of Møn exist the place names Tøvelde, which in 1257 was called Tubald, Pølsegave, named Polzeghaart in 1370, Rejse named Regidse in 1550, and Golse, all of Wendic origin.

In the dialekts of the southern islands has been found one word only, that can be attributed to Wendic, namely to "kampe" which means to bathe, wash one self, registered at South Falster.

I think that such danish words as "gast" (sailor on a sailship) and "knægt" (lad, boy, young man) may also be of Wendic origin.

A rune stone was found as recycled building block in the walls of the church in Sønder Kirkeby on Falster. It says, "-ser erected this stone after his brother As- and found death on Gotland. Thor bless these runes." It makes probable that the Danes came to Falster first and the Wends arrived later. The Wends may be accepted as Christians, it was probably the only thing that mattered in the Middle Age. The fact that they recycled a runestone in the building of the church wall shows, how little the newly converted Christians regarded the history and the ancestors.

Saxon Terror against the Wends

It must also be considered quite certain that the Wendic complains, that they were persecuted and terrorized by the Saxons, were justified.

Helmold's Wend Chronicle says: "But mostly the Wends raged because of the Saxon occupation. They broke their chains and ravaged at the border to Holstein, and the village Faldera was devastated because of the almost daily looting of people and cities."

Heinrich Löwe and his wife Mathilde from England
Heinrich Löwe and his wife Mathilde from England.

And elsewhere in the Chronicle: "But Henrik, who was the Duke, was always moving quickly with weapons in hand, and secretly he collected a army of Holsteiner and Stormarner in the wintertime and invaded Wendland and attacked those, who came in his way, and who were a thorn in the eyes of the Saxons, and knocked them down with a heavy hand in all the countries around Plön, Lütjenburg, Oldenburg and the whole area beginning at the river Saale, and ends at the Baltic Sea and the river Trave. They ravaged the whole country in one stretch, galloped along and took the loot and set on fire, except in the cities that were fortified with ramparts and moats, which required a major effort."

"But because the land was deserted, he (Duke Adolf) called out to all countries, to Flanders and Holland and Utrecht and Westphalia and Friesland, and invited anyone, who owned only a little land to come with their families and get the very best land, vast fields, rich in crops, with abundance of fish and meat and suitable for grazing. And he said to the Holsteiners and Stormarns: "Did you not subdue the land of the Wends, did you not buy it with the death of your brothers and fathers? Why do you then come as the last ones to take it in your possession? No, come as the first ones, and move over to live on this land, which anybody must wish for, and cultivate it and take part in its pleasures, for you deserve the very best of it, you, who have taken it out of enemy hands".

Wendland was not a virgin prairie, it was already populated, and if there was room for immigration, the Saxons must somehow have predisposed the people living there before.

The Sanctuary Fortresses Guldborg and Borrebjerg on Langeland

The sanctuary fortresses Guldborg and Borrebjerg on Langeland The sanctuary fortresses Guldborg and Borrebjerg on the island of Langeland.

Langeland Museum has conducted excavations on the castle hill Guldborg and in the sanctuary fortress of Borrebjerg.

On Guldborg have been found evidence for a dramatic slaughter of at least 25 men, women and children.

A man about 25 years and a girl about 13 years were rapidly buried under a thin layer of soil, a horse's skin with skull and legbones had been hanging over the dead. The defence ramparts gate and parts of the wooden stockade bore traces of having been burnt down during the fight. There were many remnants of coffin hardware, amber and glass beads, others jewelry and some coins. It could be shown that those other killed had been left where they fell in a very long time, maybe more than a year. At a later clean-up their bones had unceremoniously been shoveled together. Together with the remnants of the victims belongings and other rubbish the scattered bones have been used as fill up in a lightly submerged access road through the ruined port and at the burned down stockade.

The youngest coin was minted during the reign of Erik Emune. The massacre of Guldborg can therefore not have taken place before the late 1130's, but may indeed be set to about 1140 - 1150.

The findings are commonly interpreted as follows: The Christian Danish residents of Langeland had together sought refuge behind the ramparts on Guldborg, as they were attacked by a large crowd of Wendic pirates. The pirates slaughtered the defenders. They sacrificed two captured Danes to their pagan gods and then left the place in a great hurry without plundering the corpses. Since Langeland by this time was completely empty for inhabitans, the corpses were left on the ground for many months maybe a year, before some people arrived to on the place and used the scattered bones to fill up some holes together with other rubbish.

It is clearly a very unsatisfactory explanation. The medieval Danes were deeply Christian, and it was unthinkable that they would not bury their dead fellow christians in consecrated soil.

Horse skin with skull and footbones hanging on a pole
Horse skin with skull and footbones hanging on a pole.

We can provide another explanation, which fits better with the findings: After several years of pirate attacks Langeland is more or less uninhabited. Pressed by the Saxon terror some Wendic families settle for a new home on the almost uninhabited island. A group of Christian Danish men decide, that this is too much, first the Wends come as pirates and drive out the Christians Danish residents, and then come the pagan Wendish settlers and take the country in possession. They decide to make an endlösung and surround the Guldborg rampart system, where the Wendish settlers have sought refuge. In their life's distress the besieged sacrifice two from their own group and a horse to their pagan gods and bury them quickly. But it is of no use, the attackers break through and mercilessly slaugther the Wendic settlers. They do not bother about looting. The corpses are allowed to to lie, where they fell. For a long time the locals avoid to enter the fortress of fear of ghosts. After more than a year, the skeletons are shoveled together and used for fill up some holes together with the remains of their belongings and some other rubbish; they were only pagans.

The excavation of the sanctuary fortress Borrebjerg shows a similar scenario. Twice the castle's defenders have been overwhelmed and slaughtered. Their bodies were both times allowed to lie until most of the flesh had rotted away, and then the remains were shoveled together. Skeletal remains of the first defenders were used as filling in an improvement of the defence dike.

We remember Saxo's remark about Svend Grathe on the island of Fyn: "When king Svend Grathe cleared Fyn for Wends, he and his men fought for so long and so hard, that they toiled the skin of their palms and finally swung the swords with the bloody meat in their hands."

Place Names which Starts with Vind- or Vend-

It has been suggested that such place names that contain Vind-, Vinde- or Vend- as first syllable, this meant Wend- so would Vinde-by mean Wend-by and Vinde-rød betyde Wend-rød. It is about such place names as Vindeby, Vindemark, Vindbyholt, Vindeballe, Vinde Helsinge, Vindelev, Vindeltorp, Vinderød and of course the excavation site Vindeboder at Roskilde, not to mention Vendsyssel.


A vender
Pöttinger rotor vendere.

When you search in "Google Advanced - language: danish" after "Vendere" (meaning "Wends" in danish), you will get some ads for a type of agricultural machinery, which can "vende" ("turn" og "reverse" in danish) grass and hay and the like. I think that word describes the original meaning of the term "Wend" (Vender in Danish), so that the word denotes people, who are "turned" or should we say "reversed" in the sense that they do everything differently, have different customs, different language and may look different. Like for examplewise, we might think that Chinese are doing everything opposite.

With this meaning of "Wends" (Vendere) the inhabitans of Vendsyssel avoid to descend from the Wends, only their ancestors have in some way been different. The same goes for all other Vinde-, place names, they tell only, that those who lived here were somewhat odd in one way or another.

The Wends had most likely called themselves something like "Sorbs" or "Serbs", like other slavonic peoples did.

Peaceful relations between Denmark and Slavic Peoples

The havoc of the Wends lasted probably from the reign of king Niels until some years into Valdemar the Great's. This means from about 1100 to about 1170, we can believe. Of course, it can have begun before, but we have no information about it.

Runestone in Sønder Vissing church
Runestone in Sønder Vissing church - It says: Tove, Mistivi's daugther, Harald the Good, Gorm's son's wife, let make runes after her mother.

Prior to the time of havoc of the Wends there was of course a period when Vikings made havoc in the the Baltic Sea, among other places in Wendland. For example, we remember that the Norwegian king Olav Tryggvason were killed in the battle of Svold about the year 1000 against Erik Jarl of Norway with help from Svend Forkbeard and Olof Skotkonung of Sweden. What business did Olav Tryggvason really have at the island Svold? Well, according to Heimskringla he was on his way home from a viking raid in Wendland; most likely to fetch a fresh supply of "trælle" (slaves).

During the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages the royal families were associated by kinship ties across the Baltic Sea.

On the rune stone in Sønder Vissing church in Jutland we can read that Harald Bluetooth was married to Tove, daughter of the knes of the Abodrits, Mistivoi.

Svend Forkbeard, Harald's son, married a Polish princess. Knud Lavard and Erik Emune married the sisters Ingeborg and Malmfrid, daughters of the Grand Duke Mistislav of Novgorod. Valdemar the Great married Sophia of Russia.

Many Danish kings were named Valdemar. The name comes from the Russian Vladimir or Woldomir, meaning "Ruler of the World" or "World's Peace". Valdemar the Great was named after his great-grandfather on the mothers side, Grand Duke Woldomir of Kiev.

In 1184 Knud 6., Waldemar's son, won supremacy of Pomerania, henceforth he called himself king of the Wends. The title king of the Wends were included in the Danish royal title, until Queen Margrete abolished it in 1972.


Flemming Rickfors has in "Asernes Æt Verasir" digged completely thoroughly all issues related to Goths, Vandals and Burgunds, it seems that any document, image or map, which can be related to the subject, have been considered: Reidgotaland - Gutisk-Andja Burgunder og Vandaler - Asernes Æt - Verasir (danish).

In Jorgen Marcussen's website on "Maritim Historisk information" is very accurate information about Goths, Vandals and Lombards: Goter, Vandaler og Langobarder - Maritim historisk information (danish)

Flemming Rickfors also has a very thorough treatment of Attila, king Frode and the Huns: Høvding Atli til Húngarð - Attila og Hunnerne - Asernes Æt - Verasir (danish)

And he has also analyzed the origin of "Dan": Daner - Danir - Hvem er og var Danerne? (danish)

Helmond af Bosau's Wend Cronicle is available in danish in beautiful set up: Crassus

See also: Vender Leksikon - Venner og fjender (danish)

And also: Vendere og Danmark - Åbent Seminar - pdf (danish) From South Danish University. It is very useful and informative.

At Tidslinie - Dansk Militær Historie (danish) can be found a complete list of the wars, in which Denmark had participated.

Hos Kong Gorms Saga - Middelalderstudier (danish) in a very comprehensive, unbiased and logical way Kristian Andersen Nyrup treats the early Danish history and the creation of Denmark.

At Historisk leksikon og kildesamling - Institut for Historie og Områdestudier - Aarhus Universitet (danish) can be found more than 450 articles and 500 sources.

The line of Danish kings can be found at: Royal Lineage - The Royal House

Here are some films from BBC Learning, which deals with the mapping of the Y kromosomet, the Vikings and their raids and settlements in England, Scotland, Ireland, surrounding islands and Normandy:

Blood Of The Vikings - 1 - First Blood.
Blood Of The Vikings - 2 - Invasion.
Blood Of The Vikings - 3 - The Sea Road.
Blood Of The Vikings - 4 - Rulers.
Blood of The Vikings - 5 - Last Of The Vikings.

To top of page

20130210
Passed W3C Validation