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The Northmen of the Fiords

The "Migrations of the Peoples" were not yet over. The rise and spread of Islam was one of the greatest events in world history, in the period A.D. 6OO-8OO. The raids and conquests of the Northmen in different parts of the world was one of the greatest movements in the following period, 8OO-11OO.

The wanderings of these Vikings, or men of the creeks, extended over a period of 300 years. They were the most daring seamen; their long ships entered almost every river and sea of Europe; and such terror did they spread that to the Litany of the Church was added the prayer, "From the fury of the Northmen, Good Lord, deliver us!"

They made settlements in Russia, to whom they gave a king; in Iceland, where they built up the wonderful literature of the Sagas; and in Greenland. They probably discovered a New World across the Atlantic, though it was lost again to sight for nearly 500 years. They plundered all the coasts and many of the coastal towns of Europe.

In England, after many such raids and battles, they made peace with Alfred the Great at Wedmore (878). Later, they gave her three Danish kings, including Canute, who was lord of a great Scandinavian Empire.

In France they sacked Paris (845), and then their chief persuaded the Frankish king to allow them to settle on the Seine, with Rouen as their capital. Thus arose the duchy of Normandy (9II). From Normandy, a hundred years later, came William "the Conqueror" (1066), to win England for Norman barons and bishops.

Thus from pirates the Vikings went on to be great conquerors and colonizers. They proved themselves one of the most adaptable people the world has ever known. They adopted the language, ideas, and customs of the lands where they settled, and enriched all that they received. England they made into a strong united nation after the divided rule of the Anglo-Saxon kings. They governed well in Sicily and in Malta. In France they were soon the most enterprising of its peoples, and they made this rich old province of the Roman Empire the home of chivalry.