Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Battle of Dyrrhechium – Don’t I Know You From Somewhere?

The Battle of Dyrrhechium – Don’t I Know You From Somewhere?
     While the story of the Battle of Hastings (October 14) usually continues with a discussion of the Norman-French political and to a certain extent cultural conquest of England, it is interesting to consider the fate of certain of the losers. 
     The core of Harold’s army was a corps of household troops named the housecarls.  They fought with the Norwegian battle ax, often with a shaft of four feet in length.  While it is true that in the Middle Ages it would not be surprising for a person to be born, live and die within a few miles of the same spot, all too often it is assumed that such limited travel was typical.  Likely it was not. 
     After Hastings, some of Harold’s housecarls traveled to Byzantium and there joined the Byzantine Emperor’s Varangian Guard.  According to some sources, some of those housecarls, now as members of the Varangian Guard, fought at the Battle of Dyrrhachium on October 18, 1081, a battle which took place in modern day Albania.  Who were they opposing but Norman invaders?  According to those same sources, certain of the troops who fought as mercenaries for William (now the Conqueror) in England in 1066 now faced off against the Varangians, former housecarls of Harold. 
     Normans versus Saxons, this time in Albania.  Not everyone stayed close to home.

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