Sunday, October 18, 2015

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 those who fought for the losing side of Harold. 

The core of Harold’s army was a corps of household troops named the housecarls.  They fought with the Norwegian/Viking battle ax, sometimes 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.  Where they were opposing Norman invaders (the Normans had invaded and made a kingdom in Sicily and were seeking to expand their reach).  According to those same sources, certain of the troops who had fought as mercenaries for William (now the Conqueror) in England in 1066 now faced off against the now Varangian  former housecarls of Harold. 

Normans versus Saxons, this time in Albania.  Not everyone stayed close to home.

Today is as well the anniversary of one of the greatest sacrileges of all time, that being the ordering of the destruction in 1009 of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem under the orders of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. 

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