Here begins the prologue of the monk Theodoricus to his account of the ancient history of the Norwegian kings (1)
To his lord and father, the most reverend Eysteinn, archbishop of Niðaross (2), the humble sinner Theodoricus pledges the obedience owed by a subject, and the support of prayers.
I have deemed it worthwhile, noble sir, to write down in brief these few details concerning the ancient history of the Norwegian kings, as I have been able to learn by assiduous inquiry from the people among whom in particular the remembrance of these matters is believed to thrive – namely those whom we call Icelanders (3), who preserve them as much celebrated themes in their ancient poems (4). And because almost no people is so rude and uncivilized that it has not passed on some monuments of its predecessors to later is generations (5), I have thought it proper to record for posterity these relics of our forefathers, few though they are. Because it is clear that no established succession of the royal line existed in this land before the time of Haraldr Fair-hair (6), I have begun with him; and I have not done this because I doubted that before his day there were in this land men who, by the standards of the present age, were distinguished by their prowess, since certainly, as Boethius says, 'reputation without authors has effaced those men who were very famous in their own times' (7). To prove this, I shall summon suitable witnesses. Hugh of blessed memory, canon of Saint Victor in Paris, a man most skilled in every branch of learning (8), made mention of our people in his chronicle as follows: 'The Northmen,' he says, 'departed from Nether Scythia' (by which he doubtless means Upper Scythia, which we call Sweden), 'and sailed in their fleet to Gaul, and entering the country by the river Seine, they laid everything waste with iron and flame (9).' Sigebert the monk of Gembloux likewise writes as follows in his chronicle: 'The Northmen,' he says, 'a most horrible Nordic people, sailed to Gaul in their longships, entered the river Loire and penetrated as far as Tours, devastating everything (10)'. It is therefore clear from these accounts, O best of men, that before the days of Haraldr there were in this land men mighty in war, but that, as I have said, a dearth of writers has effaced any remembrance of them. However, the degree of pure truth in my present narrative must be placed entirely at the door of those by whose report I have written these things down, because I have recorded things not seen but heard (11). Moreover, in the manner of ancient chroniclers, I have added digressions in appropriate places which, in my opinion, are not without value (12) in serving to delight the mind of the reader. I have therefore submitted the little document (13) before you to your excellency for examination, since I know that you lack neither the very sound (14) understanding to cut away what is superfluous, nor the good will to approve of what has been set forth correctly.
May almighty God long keep safe your holiness for His holy Church. Fare well.
Here ends the prologue
Here begin the chapter headings of the work which follows
1. On Haraldr Fair-hair.
2. On his son Eiríkr.
3. On the discoverers of Iceland.
4. On Hákon and Haraldr gráfeldr.
5. On Hákon the evil.
6. On the murder of Gunnhildr through the treachery of Hákon.
7. On the same man's deceitful scheming against Óláfr Tryggvason.
8. How on returning to his native land Óláfr brought with him a certain bishop and other churchmen to preach the word of God to the Norwegians.
9. How at his instance the earl of Orkney became a Christian along with all his people.
10. How the plots and deceptions of Hákon were revealed to Óláfr.
11. On his steadfastness in the word of God.
12. How Iceland received the Christian faith through his instigation.
13. What some people say about the baptism of the blessed Óláfr.
14. On the death of Óláfr Tryggvason.
15. On the return of the blessed Óláfr from England to Norway.
16. On the flight of the blessed Óláfr to Russia.
17. On the nature of Charybdis and concerning the Langobards (15) and the Huns.
18. How the blessed Óláfr returned to his country; and on the decrease in size of the bodies of men.
19. How the blessed Óláfr died a martyr in battle.
20. On the lack of agreement in calculating the number of years from the beginning of the world.
21. On Magnús, son of the blessed Óláfr.
22. On the peace treaty between Magnús and the king of Denmark.
23. On the pact which was made between Charles the Great and his brother.
24. How the same Magnús, made king of the Danes, waged war against the Wends.
25. On the return of Haraldr harðráði from Greece.
26. The author's diatribe against the ambitious, and how Chosroes ended his life.
27. How King Magnús shared the throne of Norway with his paternal uncle; and on Magnús's death.
28. How King Haraldr led an expedition against England, was defeated in battle and died.
29. On his son Óláfr.
30. On Magnús berfœttr (16), and a brief account of the portents which preceded the death of Charles.
31. On the deeds of Magnús berfœttr.
32. On the death of the same Magnús, and on his sons.
33. On King Sigurðr and his deeds.
34. On Haraldr of Ireland.
Here end the chapter headings
Here begins Theodoricus's account of the ancient history of the Norwegian kings
Chapter 1. On Haraldr Fair-hair
In the year 862 (17) after the birth of our Lord, Haraldr Fair-hair, son of Halfdan the Black, became king. He first drove out all the petty kings, and alone ruled all Norway for seventy years (18) before he died. In this book (19) I have set down the count of years which I ascertained by making the most diligent inquiries I could among those whom we in our language call Icelanders. It is well known that they without doubt have always been more knowledgeable and more inquisitive (20) in matters of this kind than all the other northern a peoples, but because it is exceedingly difficult to arrive at the pure truth in such matters, especially where no written authority (21) provides assistance, I by no means wish to pronounce in favour of this date rather than a more certain one, if one can be found, since I keep in mind the words of the apostle to Timothy: 'Shun genealogies and endless questions (22)'; and elsewhere: 'If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom (23)'.
Chapter 2. On his son Eirikr
Haraldr was succeeded by his son whose name was Eiríkr. Because he killed his brothers, Eiríkr earned the nickname 'brothers' bane (24)'. The aforementioned Haraldr had, however, sent one of his sons, whose name was Hákon, to Æthelstan the king of the English, to be fostered there and to learn the customs of the people. On account of the cruelty of his brother and especially of his wife Gunnhildr, the Norwegians recalled Hákon and made him their king. As for Eiríkr, he sailed to England, where he was received with honour by the king; and he lived there until the day of his death (25). He ruled Norway for three years – two years on his own, and the third jointly with his brother (26).
Chapter 3. On the discoverers of Iceland
In the ninth or, as some believe, the tenth year (27) of Haraldr's reign, certain traders sailed to the islands which we call the Faroes, where they were caught in a storm and suffered a long and hard ordeal at sea. Finally they were driven to an exceedingly remote land, which some believe was the island of Thule; but since I do not know I neither affirm nor deny the truth of the matter. They accordingly disembarked and explored round about and even scaled some mountains, but found no trace at all of human habitation. So they returned to Norway and told of the land which they had found; and by praising it greatly they emboldened many others to go in search of it (28). Prominent among these was a man of noble blood by the name of Ingólfr, from the province which is called Hörðaland. He made ready a ship and had with him his brother-in-law (29), Hjörleifr, along with many others. He set out in search of the aforementioned land, found it, and in about the tenth year of Haraldr's reign he is and his people began to settle it (30). And it was then that that land which we now call Iceland began to be settled for the first time, save that a very few people from the island of Ireland, that is Lesser Britain (31), are believed to have been there in ancient times because of certain pieces of evidence – namely books and several utensils of theirs which have been found (32). However, the aforesaid Ingólfr certainly had two predecessors in such an enterprise. The first of these was called Garðarr and the land was at first known as Garðarshólmr after him. The second was called Flóki (33). But that will do concerning this subject.
Chapter 4. On Hákon and Haraldr gráfeldr
Hákon, fosterson of Æthelstan (34) and son of Haraldr, ruled for twenty-five years (35). He was handsome in appearance, vigorous in bodily strength, preeminent in fortitude of heart and mind, and greatly in favour with all the people. He ruled in peace for nineteen years. After that the sons of his brother rose up against him, in the words of Lucan: 'That is a fight for a poor kingdom (36),' and as the same author says in another passage: 'All power will be impatient of a consort (37).' That war between them lasted five years. But in the end they fought a battle at the place called Fitjar on an island which is named Storð. Here Hákon gained the upper hand in the first encounter, but as he pursued his enemies he was unexpectedly struck by an arrow; and some impute this to the evil-doing (38) of Gunnhildr, who had been the wife of his brother Eiríkr.
Once Hákon had met his death in this way, Haraldr gráfeldr succeeded to the throne together with his brothers. He followed the counsels of his bloodthirsty mother, and for twelve years (39) was a severe affliction to the people of Norway. After that, he was killed in Denmark by a certain Haraldr (40) who was the nephew of the king of Denmark. That king had the same name, Haraldr, and he was son of Gormr (41). He later became a Christian, the first of all the kings of Denmark. Haraldr gráfeldr was, in fact, killed as part of a plot of the Danish king who had fostered him. The king was incited to do this, and Haraldr likewise betrayed, by Hákon jarl Sigurðarson, who was nicknamed 'the evil' (42). After the slaying of Tryggvi, father of Óláfr, Haraldr gráfeldr along with his mother and brothers had done many injuries to Hákon, and forced him to search for the infant Óláfr (43). After the death of his father Tryggvi, Óláfr could scarcely find a safe hiding-place on account of the traps set for him by Gunnhildr, who feared that he would succeed to the kingdom in place of her sons. For his father Tryggvi was of royal lineage – he was the son of Óláfr, son of Haraldr Fair-hair – and he had ruled over the inland province which the Norwegians call Upplönd (44).
Chapter 5. On Hákon the evil
Because Hákon, of whom I spoke earlier, received help from the above-mentioned King Haraldr of Denmark, they made a pact between them that every year twenty falcons were to be paid to Haraldr (45); and that Hákon with his army should immediately come to his aid should any exigency of war ever assail the Danish king. Hákon then returned to Norway with a powerful force, and put to flight Guðrøðr, the son of Gunnhildr. He ruled Norway alone for thirty years (46), but without the title of king (47). At that time King Haraldr of Denmark greatly feared the most Christian emperor Otto, whose plan it was to place on him the gentle yoke of Christ – which, in fact, he did (48). It was that same Otto, a most upright man, pre-eminent even among the most illustrious, who conferred more honours and almost more riches on the Church and all the clergy than was expedient, making dukes and earls subject to the Church as her vassals (49). For after that, opulence gave birth to insolence, as can be seen to this very day. For that reason, as one discovers in the Roman History, an angel said to him: 'You have given poison to the Church (50).' Alas, the perpetual discords between rulers and pontiffs offer daily proofs of the truth of that pronouncement. For it is one thing to keep at bay the wickedness of evil men with the sword of secular might, another to correct souls with the rod of pastoral care. That Otto, nicknamed Rufus, was the son of the Otto who was called 'the pious' (51). From the very best of parents came an almost better offspring. But let me return to my subject.
Chapter 6. On the murder of Gunnhildr through the treachery of Hákon
After Hákon returned to Norway, he and Gunnhildr became embroiled in various conflicts and plots against each other, for neither of them was short of cunning malice. She always appeared to yield by feigning flight; he followed in pursuit. In the meanwhile the country was laid waste and many hardships were inflicted upon the whole population. Finally Hákon devised the following scheme. He sent (52) a message to the king of Denmark (who at that time was still a pagan, and so on very friendly terms with him), and asked him to send a letter to Gunnhildr in secret, asking for her hand in marriage. He was to say that Denmark would be fortunate to have such a queen, and that while she had no intention of seeking young men to marry, he was getting on in years himself, and they might well make a good match. Thus, the woman received the king's letter; and transported with joy, and with the credulity that is characteristic of female caprice, she hastened to Denmark. The king had her seized forthwith and drowned in a bog (53). And that was the end of the crimes and evil deeds of Gunnhildr (54).
Once secure in his control of the kingdom, Hákon soon became pre-eminent as a slave of demons and constantly made sacrifices to call upon them for help. Ten years after this he cancelled the treaty which he had made with King Haraldr (55). As an excuse for this breach, he seized upon the fact that the most Christian emperor Otto was exerting strong pressure on the king of the Danes to make him and his entire country submit to Christ – an objective which, with the help of that same Saviour, he fully achieved (56).
Chapter 7. On the same man's deceitful scheming against Óláfr Tryggvason
In the twenty-ninth year of his reign Hákon learned that Óláfr Tryggvason was in England. He was a promising youth, who on his return from Russia, where he had been fostered and assisted by King Valdemar (57), engaged in a viking expedition in Denmark. But after leaving his ships, his enemies cut him off to keep him from returning to them. Forced in this predicament to call upon divine aid, he vowed that he would become a Christian if he were rescued from his present danger. Accordingly, he was set free by divine intervention (58), and having regained his ships, he left for Ireland. He proceeded from there to the Scilly Isles, which are situated beside Greater Britain (59), and there he and all his men were baptized by a venerable man, the abbot Bernard (60). From there he moved into England, where he remained for several years. He changed his name, however, and called himself Ole, because he did not wish it to be known who he was (61).
Now when Hákon learned that he was definitely staying there, he racked his brain to find some way of depriving him of life, because he feared him as almost the sole threat to himself and his heirs. And since he was altogether deceitful he brooded long and hard over what he should do. In the end, he summoned before him Óláfr's own uncles, Jósteinn and Karlshöfuð, the brothers of his mother Ástríðr, and threatened them with death unless they obeyed his commands (62). So he sent them to England along with a certain inveterate traitor named Þórir klakka (63), who had formerly kept company with Óláfr for a time. Not daring to oppose his authority, they promised that they would go, but only on the condition that they might reveal the earl's treacherous plan, though not until Óláfr had come beyond Agðanes to the place called Þjálfahellir (63a). This was of little concern to Hákon, who trusted that his usual stratagems would succeed and that he would as good as have Óláfr in his hands, if he once ventured as far as that, still ignorant of any treachery. And since he was perfectly aware that Óláfr would believe no one but them, he granted them what they asked. So Hákon ordered them to announce to Óláfr that he was dead, that the whole country anxiously awaited Óláfr's return, and that he ought to make haste, lest any unforeseen development should pose an obstacle.
Chapter 8. How on returning to his native land Óláfr brought with him a certain bishop and other churchmen to preach the word of God to the Norwegians
When Óláfr heard what these messengers had to say, he believed them, since they were his own uncles. He hastened to make ready his ships and took with him churchmen – Bishop Sigeweard (64), who was ordained for the specific purpose of preaching the word of God to the heathen, and several others whom he was able to have with him – Theobrand, a priest from Flanders (65), and another priest named Thermo (66); and he also brought some deacons. For that virtuous man had resolved in advance to strive in every way to make that land subject to Christ, or else not to rule a people utterly heathen. In this he followed the example of the very wise Jovian (67). When the Roman army at war against the Persians found itself in great peril, he was besought by the soldiers to assume the imperial title, but replied without hesitation that in no circumstances did he wish to rule over heathens (68). By contrast, Julian, that renegade from Christ who from a subdeacon and Christian became a most heinous apostate and persecutor of the Christian name, in the is course of the same campaign against the Parthians, according to the testimony of the blessed Jerome, vomited forth six books against Christ (69). This Julian was led astray by evil spirits, who promised him certain victory in that battle; and to these he sacrificed almost daily not only dumb animals, but also that which is much more agreeable to them – his own body and soul. He had ordered all the ships in which he had sailed there to be burnt in order to incite the hearts of his soldiers to battle, now that hope of withdrawal was removed. But the Lord returned the wickedness of the blasphemer upon his own head (70), for by divine intervention he was pierced through in that same battle, it is not known by whom; and he placed his hand under the wound as the blood gushed forth and made it spurt into the air with this blasphemous cry: 'Thou hast conquered, Galilean' (for this is what he was in the habit of calling our Lord). And with that blasphemous utterance he crossed from temporal death to death eternal (71). Therefore, the Roman army, as I have said, left in an utterly dire predicament, elevated to the emperorship the aforementioned Jovian, a most Christian man and adorned with the noblest virtues, and vowed with one voice that they would become Christians. For Julian had turned many away from the true faith. Once he had assumed power, Jovian managed by dint of the utmost assiduity to lead his army to safety after concluding such a treaty with the Persians as he could in so desperate a situation. He himself, alas, died far too premature a death, for he was not emperor for half a year. But let me return to my subject.
Chapter 9. How at his instance the earl of Orkney became a Christian along with all his people (72)
Now when Óláfr left England he set a straight course for the Orkney islands, and because they are subject to the Norwegian king, he urged Sigurðr jarl, who governed those islands at that time, to become a Christian. And when he prevaricated and voiced objections, Óláfr pressed him still harder. Sigurðr even vowed that he would submit to him as king, if he would not force him to adopt the Christian faith. When he continued to resist for some time, it is said that Óláfr abducted his son, a small boy of three named Þorfinnr (73), from the place where he was being fostered. He swore that he would slay him in his father's sight, and threatened Sigurðr moreover with eternal enmity, if he would not give in. Just as it is written: 'Fill their faces with shame, and they will seek thy name, O Lord (74),' so the earl feared both the righteous wrath of Óláfr and that his son would die. So by believing or, rather, by consenting, he was baptized along with all the people who were subject to him. And once he had been confirmed in the faith, he remained is from then on a faithful Christian, as were all his successors.
Chapter 10. How the plots and deceptions of Hákon were revealed to Óláfr
From here Óláfr hastened on his journey to Norway, and put in first at the island which is called Mostr (75). He later built a church there, the first of all those erected in Norway (76). After this, when he had come beyond Agðanes to the place called Þjálfahellir, he stayed there for one night, although there is almost no harbour there. As yet he knew nothing of the deception and plots of Hákon. But that very night, his uncles came to him and laid bare Hákon's treachery, since they were now freed from the oath which they had sworn to Hákon. They implored him to look without delay to his own good and theirs, and indeed to the good of the whole country. He was troubled, as one usually is in such plight, but committed his whole cause to almighty God, that with His help he might have the strength to carry out what God had already inspired him to undertake. Then that inveterate traitor Þórir klakka, who had gone to England to ensnare him, was put to death there. And the very next day, with the help of God, Óláfr proceeded to the place called Niðaróss. At that time there were only a few huts belonging to various traders there, though now it is the capital of the entire realm (77) – a city gloriously distinguished not only by its metropolitan seat, but also by the relics of the most blessed martyr Óláfr. There a multitude of people flocked to him (78). He was then proclaimed king, and at once set out against Hákon. Hákon, meanwhile, had been abandoned by his own men and, setting hope on flight alone, came to a small farmstead named Rimull (79). There his concubine Þóra hid him and his only remaining slave, whose name was Karkr (80), in a pigsty. When, as often happens to one sad at heart, sleep had stolen upon him, he was stabbed in the throat by that same servant, and died. Afterwards, however, when the slave brought the head of his lord to Óláfr, the king ordered him to be hanged as a reward for the crime he had perpetrated against his lord (81).
Chapter 11. On his steadfastness in the word of God
After this, the king set his mind, with all his strength and the help of heaven, to the task of driving idolatry and demon-worship from the entire country. He was a tireless husbandman in the vineyard of his Lord (82). He pressed his cause with prayers and sermons, reinforcing these at times with threats and intimidation. For he saw that the hearts of the heathens were savage, and that only a strong hand could free them from the age-old, ingrained filth of faithlessness and the more or less inborn devil-worship which they had practically imbibed with their mother's milk. And since they were little moved, he often reinforced words with blows (83), following the example of his Lord, who poured oil and wine into the wounds of the injured man (84), and following too those words of the Gospel: 'Force them to come in, that my house may be filled (85).'
There is a place in the diocese of Niðaróss which is called Mærin. There, it is said, oracular responses were uttered by demons; and Hákon had brought together there a multitude of idols. Therefore, when the king came there, he called before him all those who had been ensnared even more tightly in the fetter of the devil's falsehoods and who in the vernacular are called seiðmenn (86). And because he saw that they were past curing, and lest they do harm to his new plantation, he ordered that they be gathered into the building dedicated to demons and burnt together with the images (87). And people say that they numbered eighty altogether, both men and women.
Chapter 12. How Iceland received the Christian faith through his instigation
When a year had passed (88), the king sent the priest Theobrand to Iceland to preach the word of God. I mentioned above that Iceland is thought by some to be the island of Thule, because of certain similarities between the two places, in particular since daylight is continuous there around the summer solstice, as is night around the winter solstice (89). When he arrived there, he began to preach Christ to them, and although he was assiduous in his efforts, in the space of almost two years (90) he was able to make only a tiny number of converts, on account of the innate obduracy and savage natures of the inhabitants. Foremost, however, among those who accepted the yoke of Christ, were the following (91): Hallr of Síða and all his household, and Gizurr of Skálaholt (he was the father of Bishop Ísleifr, who was the first to establish an episcopal seat in that country, in the church which he himself built and consecrated to the blessed apostle Peter, bestowing on it his entire patrimony) (92); the third was Hjalti from Þjórsárdalr; and the fourth Þorgils of Ölfus (93). Two of these men, namely Gizurr and Hjalti, accompanied Theobrand when he returned to the king. But when Theobrand came before the king, he was rebuked by him for having failed to complete his task. The following summer, therefore, the king sent the priest Thermo, whom they called Þormóðr in their mother tongue. The two men already mentioned also went with him (94), and promised the king that they would work together for the gospel of Christ with all their strength. The grace of the Holy Spirit attended the preaching of this priest to such good effect that in a short time he converted all that barbarous nation to Christ. For they arrived in the country at the time when the public gathering which they call the Alþing was being held there. And when the host of heathens became aware of their arrival, the whole populace ran to arms, because they were of one mind in wishing to take their lives. However, by divine intervention they were so restrained that although it was only a tiny band of Christians who opposed them, they neither could nor dared do them any harm (95). But let what has now been said about these things suffice.
Chaptet 13. What some people say about the baptism of the blessed Óláfr
That he might the more easily make the whole country submit to Christ, King Óláfr therefore married his three sisters to men of high standing (96). He married one, whose name was Astríðr, to Erlingr Skjálgsson; the second to Þorgeirr, a powerful man from the Vík who later burnt Guðroðr Gunnhildarson to death in a house because he intended to seize control of the kingdom from Óláfr (97); the third to Hyrningr, the brother of Þorgeirr. And when he had made all of them accept baptism, he made his way inland, to Upplönd (98). There he came upon Óláfr, who was then a little boy of three, but who later became a faithful martyr of Christ. He was staying with his mother Ásta, for his father Haraldr was then already dead. (Haraldr was the son of Guðroðr sýr (99), whose father was Björn, who was nicknamed 'the trader' and was the son of Haraldr Fair-hair). That Óláfr was the future propitious hope and glory of the Norwegian people. According to some, the king had him and his mother baptized then and there (100); others maintain that he was baptized in England (101). But I, for my part, have read in the 'History of the Normans' that he was baptized in Normandy by Robert, archbishop of Rouen (102). For it is certain that Duke William of Normandy took him with him to help him in his fight against King Robert of France, whose by-name was Capet (he was the son of the most noble duke Hugh Capet), when together with the count of Flanders Robert was preparing to wage war against Duke William. In fact, he was trying to drive William out of Normandy, because his ancestors had wrested that province from the king of France by force (103). But whether Óláfr was baptized in Rouen or in England, it is clear that he was rather advanced in age when he was crowned with martyrdom, as those whom one should trust most in matters of this sort maintain (104). Nor is it any wonder that this could have happened with regard to Óláfr in that land where there has never been a chronicler of ancient events (105), when the blessed Jerome writes the same thing concerning Constantine the Great, son of Constantius and Helena. He notes that some say that he was baptized in Bithynia in advanced old age, others at Constantinople, some at Rome by the blessed pope Sylvester (106). Who has written more truthfully is 'a matter still before the court' (107).
Chapter 14. On the death of Óláfr Tryggvason
In the fifth year of Óláfr Tryggvason's reign, which was also his last, King Sveinn of Denmark, King Óláfr of Sweden, and Eiríkr the son of Hákon 'the evil' went to war against him, and caught him, alas, too unprepared. For it is said that with only eleven ships he engaged in battle against seventy (108). In the end, because the enemy could constantly relieve one another and put in fresh men for those who were wounded (109), our king's army was not so much defeated as worn away (110). His opponents, however, by no means carried off an unbloody victory, for every one of their doughtiest warriors had either fallen in the battle or come away severely wounded (111). Some say that the king then escaped from there in a skiff, and made his way to foreign parts to seek salvation for his soul. Some, on the other hand, say that he plunged headlong into the sea in full armour. I dare not say which of these accounts is the truer. I like to believe only this: that he now enjoys perpetual peace with Christ (112). This battle was fought beside the island which is called Svgldr; and it lies near Slavia, which we in our mother tongue call Vindland (113). In the same battle, Eiríkr swore that he would become a Christian if he obtained victory (114). And he fulfilled his vow.
Now a pact had been made between the kings and Eiríkr to the effect that, if they were able to take the kingdom from Óláfr, each would get a third. Eiríkr accordingly received two-thirds of the kingdom (though, like his father before him, he dispensed with the title of king), because King Sveinn of Denmark conceded his share to Eiríkr for the sake of his daughter, whom he had promised to him in marriage. King Óláfr of Sweden gave his share in fief to Eiríkr's brother Sveinn. Then, after a few years had passed, Sveinn began to envy his brother, because Eiríkr had two- thirds of Norway, while he had but one, and that only as a fief Eiríkr, however, was determined to be just towards his brother, and had no desire to pollute his kingdom with a fratricide. And he reflected at the same time that Sveinn would scarcely be guided by brotherly love in dealing with him in other matters either, as those verses of Lucan put it:
There is no faith between sharers in sovereignty;
and all power will be impatient of a consort (115).
So he departed from his homeland and sailed to England, leaving behind his son Hákon as successor to his realm. Eiríkr ruled with his brother Sveinn for fifteen years. He neither diminished nor extended Christianity, but allowed each man, at least in this respect, to live according to the creed he preferred. He ended his life when he arranged to have his uvula (116) removed by surgery, and died as a result of excessive loss of blood. After he left his homeland, his brother and son ruled for two years.
Chapter 15. On the return of the blessed Óláfr from England to Norway
At that time Óláfr Haraldsson, later to become a martyr of Christ, was in England; and there he reconciled Æthelred with his brothers, and achieved his elevation to the throne (117). King Knútr of Denmark, who was called 'the mighty' (118), afterwards deprived the same Æthelred of his kingdom and forced him to live in perpetual exile (119).
It is said that while in England Óláfr visited a certain hermit (120), a man of great holiness, who foretold him many things – that the Lord would lavish on him the abundance of His grace, and also by what sort of death he would pass from the light of this world to Christ.
In the following year (121) Óláfr prepared to make his way to Norway, with two cargo-ships (122) and well-armed followers – they are said to have numbered (120), all of them in coats of mail. Having made a favourable voyage across the ocean, as a kind of divine omen he put in first at an island which in our mother tongue is called Sæla, and which rendered into Latin is felicitas, 'happiness' (123), without doubt a portent of the king's future sanctity, and a sign that through the good omen of his corning, he brought the hope of eternal happiness to his whole country. From here he sailed to a place which is called Sauðungssund (124), where he remained for a few days. A report then reached him there that Hákon Eiríksson was approaching with two ships, one a small vessel of the type we call skúta, the other a longship (125), of the type the ancients called 'a Liburnian'; whence Horace says:
You will go, my friend, in Liburnian galleys
amid ships like towering fortresses (126).
On hearing this news, Óláfr devised the following trap. Since he was at a very narrow point in the sound, he had his ships stationed one on either side, and ropes stretched between them in such a way that they would be covered by water and the enemy would not detect the stratagem. In this way, the earl and his men could be ensnared there when they least expected it, and might be taken prisoner unharmed and, if possible, without bloodshed. And that is how it turned out. When Hákon arrived, he did not suspect that they were anything other than merchants, and was immediately taken prisoner by the king (127). He renounced then and there his claim to all that part of Norway over which he had had control; and then he went to England.
When Sveinn, Hákon's uncle, heard of the arrival of the blessed Óláfr, he gathered an army and soon set out against him. But King Oláfr – he had, in fact, already received this title from his men, in the manner of the ancient Romans, for among them it was also customary for the army to create the commander-in-chief and bestow the regal title – did not count on help from the men of Þrándheimr, for he knew their fickleness and inconstancy (128), so he withdrew to Upplönd (129), and spent the winter there with his stepfather Sigurðr and his mother Ásta (130). When spring came, they both set out for the Vík, and there gathered an army and hastened to confront Sveinn. At the same time, Sveinn moved quickly to attack them; and they joined in a naval battle at the place called Nesjar (131). When Sveinn was vanquished, he disdained flight and resolved to fall with his men. And he would have done so, had he not been prevented and his ship withdrawn from battle against his will by one of his chieftains, a kinsman by marriage – Einarr þambaskelmir (132), a man of immense vigour, who had married Sveinn's sister Bergljót (133). He advised him to flee and more or less forced him (134) to make his way to Russia (135), where he lived until his death.
Chapter 16. On the flight of the blessed Óláfr to Russia
During the time of Eiríkr's reign, many Christians had turned aside from the true faith. King Óláfr strove by all the means at his disposal to lead these people back to the right path and to show them the way of salvation, to establish churches in those places where there were none, and to endow those which were established (136). In this he strove to appear as the collaborator of that best of men, Óláfr Tryggvason, so that he, as one taught by the spirit of God, might prudently water what his predecessor had gloriously planted. He had laws replete with justice and equity committed to writing m the native language; and to this day these are upheld and venerated by all good men (137). Dogged in his pursuit of justice for all, he persecuted no one, oppressed no one, condemned no one except, to be sure, those whose own wickedness and persistence in evil had already condemned them. In short, in ruling over mortal men his sole aim was to lead them, insofar as it was in his power, to the glory of everlasting life. This was both manifestly confirmed then by the outcome of events, and is no less amply demonstrated daily by the blessings of almighty God which, we believe, are bestowed for the sake of his merits.
The king then married Ástríðr, the daughter of King Óláfr of Sweden. He had formerly been betrothed to the Swedish king's eldest daughter, but when her father's anger became an obstacle, neither of them was able to enjoy the marriage they had hoped for (138). By Ástríðr Óláfr had a daughter named Úlfhildr, whom he later gave in marriage to Duke Otto of Saxony (139).
After this, Knútr, king of Denmark and England, a man who hungered after the possessions of others, called to mind that his father Sveinn had possessed a third of Norway, and at the same time took note that his sister's son Hákon, who was then staying with him, had been driven out of his own country (140). So he began to incite the chieftains of Norway against the king, and to bribe them in secret (141). Among these were Erlingr Skjálgsson of Sóli, Kálfr Árnason, Þórir hundr and numerous others (142); and because Erlingr was the foremost man among them, he assembled an army and closed with King Óláfr in a naval battle, in which he himself fell. And this happened in a place which is called Tunga (143). Erlingr was killed there, though not at the king's will, by one of his own kinsmen, Áslákr fitjaskalli (144).
Afterwards, when the king learned that King Knútr was at hand with an immense force (indeed, his fleet is said to have numbered 1200 ships) (145), realizing that he was not equal to such an encounter, he abandoned his ships and withdrew to the court of his father-in-law (146), King Óláfr of Sweden. From there he traveled to Russia, to King Jaroslav (147). He had married Ingigerðr, to whom Óláfr had been betrothed but whom he was unable to wed, as I mentioned just now. He remained there for one year, and was treated with honour and the utmost courtesy by King Jaroslav. Óláfr committed to his care his son Magnús, a boy of five, born to him by a concubine.
Meanwhile, King Knútr lured to himself all the chieftains of Norway by giving many gifts and promising more if they would be loyal to his nephew Hákon, whom he had brought with him. And after he had taken hostages from those he thought less trustworthy (148), he returned to England. Then, a year later, Hákon proceeded to England to fetch his wife; but on his way back he was caught in a storm and driven into the mouth of Charybdis in that part of the sea which is called Petlandsfjörðr (149) off the Orkney Isles. And there he and all his people were sucked down into that bottomless whirlpool (150).
Chapter 17. On the nature of Charybdis and concerning the Langobards and the Huns
Since I have had cause to mention Charybdis, ancient authors give the following account of its nature. Pliny the Younger (the author of the Natural History and a sage and most learned man), the philosopher Chrysippus, and many others say that the place is a passage-way to the mother-abyss from which the entire torrent of the seas is thought to flow, and therefore no bottom is to be found in it (151). Concerning this abyss it is written in Genesis: 'And all the fountains of the great abyss burst forth (152).' Likewise, Paul the Deacon, a monk of the community of Monte Cassino, who wrote a brilliant history of the province of Pannonia in which he made many useful and no less delightful digressions, gives almost the same explanation of the nature of Charybdis (153). The same author, as a matter of fact, informs us that it was from out of Pannonia that that savage and ungodly people who invaded Italy with the permission of the patrician Narses spread forth (154). At that time they were called 'Longobarbs', from longa barba 'long beard', but now their name has been corrupted to 'Langobards', through substitution of the letter d for b (155). Pannonia, however, has been called Hungary since the time when the Huns wrested it, more or less by force, from the emperor of Constantinople. In order to induce them to cease their pillaging and ravaging of his realm, he gave them the province, though unwillingly, once the previous inhabitants had been moved elsewhere (156). Those Huns, as Jornandes writes in his history (157), burst forth from the Maeotic swamps (158), where Alexander the Great, son of Philip, is said to have confined them (159). They were a half-bestial and utterly godless race, and extremely repulsive in appearance, for in their heads instead of eyes they had, as it were, two holes which seemed to have been filled with the blackest pitch. While still very small children, their cheeks were cut so that even while drinking their mother's milk they might learn to endure wounds (160). When they found an opening in their place of confinement, where a stag had passed through (161), they spread like locusts across the face of the entire earth (162), led by their king Attila. Overrunning every Gaulish province, they filled everywhere they went with pillaging, burning and atrocities, desecrating holy places and laying them waste. It was they who butchered the blessed Nicasius, archbishop of Rheims, and his sister the blessed virgin Eutropia (163), and put the city of Rheims to the torch. Later, when they laid siege to Agrippina, which is now called Cologne, the blessed Ursula, daughter of the king of the Britons, suffered martyrdom at their hands, along with all her companions – an almost unbelievable number of both men and women (164). After they had perpetrated this crime, through divine intervention they were immediately put to flight and the city was liberated through the merits of those most blessed virgins. And the words of Scripture were fulfilled in them: 'The impious man flees though none pursue him' (165); and likewise in what the Psalmist says: 'There fell those who did evil' (that is, in their hearts); 'they were driven out and could not stand (166).'
Chapter 18. How the blessed Óláfr returned to his country; and on the decrease in size of the bodies of men
Thus, when Knútr, king of England, learned of the death of his nephew Hákon, he immediately sent his son Sveinn to govern the kingdom of Norway (167) and at the same time to oppose Óláfr should he decide to return to his homeland. O, the calamitous and insatiable greed of mortal men! O, the very wretched human soul! The more it has dissipated itself on visible things and spreads over 'the figure of this world which will pass away' (168), the more difficult it is for it to be made whole again after this life; and it becomes all the more estranged from God, who is the true sufficiency (169). This is abundantly, even overabundantly, clear in the case of Knútr who, although he possessed two kingdoms, still strove to wrest yet a third from the most just king Óláfr, one moreover to which Óláfr was entitled by ancestral succession.
And when, as it is reported, Óláfr was urged in dreams that it behoved him to return to Norway (170), he bade farewell to Jaroslav and Ingigerðr, and left his own son Magnús there with them (171). He then returned to his father-in-law King Óláfr in Sweden; and he remained there over that year (172). When spring came, with the help of his father-in-law he assembled an army made up in great part of heathens, and he led it through the northern regions into Norway. When the king pressed the heathens to accept baptism and they refused to take on the yoke of our Lord, Óláfr said that he had no need of heathens and godless men, especially when fighting against Christians, and that for him any victory won with the help of evil men would be base. The heathens answered that they were ready to engage in battle and to do anything else which the king might command, but that they would not set this new doctrine above their ancient custom, and would sooner return home. When the king heard this, he allowed them all to depart (173). After this, Óláfr's kinsmen flocked to his support, and with them his brother Haraldlr, who was then a youth of fifteen years, as well as certain other noblemen. Among these were Hringr Dagsson, with his son Dagr, and Finnr jarl Arnason, the brother of Kálfr, who was one of the king's leading adversaries. The king was also followed in every danger by his inseparable companion, Rögnvaldr Brúsason (174).His father Brúsi was the son of Sigurðr, whom I mentioned earlier (175), the first of all the earls of the Orkney Islands to become Christian.
These were men of vigour and strength, much more powerful in body and spirit than people are in these wretched times, although they were still greatly inferior to their predecessors. Pliny the Younger offers the following explanation of this general decline in his Natural History. I cite his own words. 'On the whole,' he says, 'it is more or less plain to see that the entire human race is becoming smaller daily, and that few people are taller than their fathers, as seminal fertility is becoming exhausted by conflagration, the fate to which the age now inclines (176).' Thus Pliny; and this was certainly not unknown to philosophers, for they were aware that earlier there had been a flood and that the present world would end in a conflagration. Lucan, too, no less a philosopher than a poet, says this in addressing Julius Caesar because he forbade the cremation of the dead in war:
If, Caesar, fire should not consume these multitudes now,
It will consume them with the earth, and burn them with the waters of the deep;
There remains for the world a common funeral pyre,
Which will mix stars with mortal bones (177).
For all things on earth are generated through heat and moisture. Those things in which there is an abundance of heat tend to be frailer, thinner and more delicate; and those things in which moisture prevails are thicker, taller and more fleshy. Plato draws attention to this alternation of periods of fire and flood; for he says that at the end of every fifteen thousand years alternately one or the other of these takes place, and that all mankind dies save for a tiny few who escape by some chance, through whom the human race is afterwards restored. This has always been the case and always will be (178). Plato did not, however, mean to suggest that the world is coeval with God; but just as the footprint comes from the foot, not the foot from the footprint, so both the foot and the footprint come from the same source. Likewise the world, through eimarmene (179) (that is the unbroken sequence of time), may indeed imitate eternity, but it can never attain it. Indeed, God is the most absolute eternity, infinite in form, who looks upon everything as present, whereas the world is made varied by alternations and times. That worthy commentator on the holy scriptures, Origen, fell into this error regarding the alternations of the ages. This is, alas, readily apparent in that book which he entitled (греч. текст) (that is, 'Concerning the first things') (180), in which he intermingled many worthless passages from the books of the philosophers which conflict with sound doctrine.
Saint Jerome, also speaking of the decrease in size of the human body, makes mention of the twelve stones which the sons of Israel carried up out of the bed of the river Jordan, when they crossed it dry-shod, just as they had crossed the Red Sea before (181) – whence the Psalmist sings:
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee:
and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back? (182)
For the Lord bade that one man from each of the tribes should carry up onto the river-bank a stone which he could easily lift, as testimony of so great a miracle. And Saint Jerome attests that he had seen these same stones himself, and that one of them was broken by some accident and then bound together again with iron. He says that each of them was of such size that it could scarcely be carried by two men, not because the stones had grown bigger, but because men had grown smaller (183). And indeed it is now almost eight hundred years since the blessed Jerome passed over into the kingdom of heaven (184).
About seventy years ago, the body of Pallas, son of Evander, whom Turnus killed, was discovered at Rome (185). The blessed Augustine says that when Pallas died an image of Apollo wept, through the astonishing cunning of that demon, as if it lamented the fall of this most excellent man (186). A silver vessel was also discovered, placed upon his chest, in which there was a very costly mixture of myrrh and balm. Protruding from this vessel were two golden reeds, the ends of which were fixed into the nostrils of the corpse so that, by virtue of this ointment, the body would remain undecayed no less inside than out. Two engraved lines of verse were also found:
Pallas, son of Evander, whom the spear of Turnus
the warrior killed, lies here in accordance with his wish (187).
When the body was afterwards raised up, with the huge wound under the chest exposed, its height almost equalled that of the city walls. The corpse stood there until, after the balm had been washed away by the rains, it caved in and the bones were committed once again to the earth.
Chapter 19. How the blessed Óláfr died a martyr in battle
And so, after he had assembled what force he could muster in Upplönd, Óláfr turned toward Þrándheimr, for he had heard that Sveinn Knútsson lay in wait for him in the Vík with a powerful army, and for that reason Óláfr gave him a wide berth. But when the people of Þrándheimr had heard of the king's approach, they assembled in the city of Niðaróss as one man against the Lord and against his anointed, young together with old in one wretched faction, that they might attack God's saint (188). Among them were the leaders who mounted the greatest opposition against the king, Þórir hundr and Kálfr Árnason (189). When the king heard that a great host was assembled against him, he sent to meet them Finnr, the brother of Kálfr, whom I mentioned earlier (190). He was to offer the people peace, and make known that the king's mind was favourably disposed and that, forgetful of past offences, he was ready to forgive each person for whatever he had hitherto done unlawfully. He abhorred the shedding of human blood, especially in civil wars, and by no means wished to engage them in battle, if they would acquiesce to his sound admonitions. But the savage temperament of those barbarous men unanimously rejected peace; and rather by far than accept his salutary admonitions, the wretches chose to attack God's saint in hostility. They all therefore hastened to oppose the king and advanced with all speed to the place which is called Stiklastaðir (191). Finnr the king's messenger preceded them, however, and informed 'he king that they were obstinate in their evil intent.
Then the blessed Óláfr, warned by a divine revelation, had a presentiment of his death (192), and it is said that, summoning his steward to him (193), he ordered special alms to be faithfully distributed out of the royal treasury for all those who should fall while bearing arms against him in this battle. For Óláfr was not unmindful of his Lord's commandment:
Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you (194).
Here one may behold with wonder the spirit of our martyr. The fury of his persecutors raged and, struck with a deplorable blindness, they railed against God's saint with savage invective (195); yet he remained unmoved and firmly rooted in Christ, and took pains to provide for the salvation of his persecutors – and this when so hard pressed that anyone might have forgotten even those most dear to him. People throughout the world, I beg you, hear what I have to say. This man, born in almost the remotest parts of the North, among barbarians and savages, see how he shone forth like a star, how humble he was and how sublime, and this not in a slave's condition, but in the exalted rank of king. Consider in what frame of mind he made ready for war, to what he directed his thoughts. His purpose was manifest beyond all doubt and free from any uncertainty – to keep wicked men and criminals from persecuting those who were good; to confirm the things which had been ordained by Christ and, if it could be done, 'of the hardest stones to raise up children to Abraham' (196). That this was most certainly the case is demonstrated by the daily benefactions and the miracles, as frequent as they are extraordinary, which almighty God deigns to perform for the sake of his merits, not only in our part of the world, but wherever anyone faithfully prays for the help of the blessed martyr. Indeed, one can see how devoutly and diligently this blessed man followed in the footsteps of that first standard-bearer of our Saviour, namely the most blessed protomartyr Stephen. Stephen, amid a hail of cascading stones, prayed for those who stoned him (197); Óláfr ordered that alms be distributed on behalf of his own murderers. But in all these things He is to be acknowledged, He praised, He glorified, who at the first calling gave faith, and at the last steadfastness.
When the troops were drawn up, a bold man by the name of Björn bore the standard before the king (198). He was killed at once in the first engagement by Þórir hundr, who led the van against the king (199). This was followed immediately by the fall of the king who, it is said, had received a great wound. Who struck him down, or whether he received one wound or more, I will not be so bold as to affirm, since different reports are given by different people (200); nor do I wish to soothe the ears of others with an obliging lie. But when Dagr, one of the king's captains and his kinsman, saw that the standard had fallen with the king, he manfully raised the banner up, exhorting and entreating his comrades not to let the king's death go unavenged (201), lest their enemies should have dual cause for jubilation – both the slaying of the king and a bloodless victory. Thereupon they all rushed headlong into the fray, breaking two or three times through the enemy line and cutting down a great many men. The battle dragged on until evening, when night separated the combatants (202). At last both sides withdrew, not so much vanquished as exhausted and crippled by wounds (203).
The blessed Óláfr went to his rest on the twenty-ninth day of July, which was then a Wednesday, in the year 1029 after the birth of our Lord, as far as I have been able to ascertain with some degree of certainty (204).
Chapter 20. On the lack of agreement in calculating the number of years from the beginning of the world
It should be understood that in books nothing is as garbled as the calculation of numbers, especially through the fault of scribes, but also through lack of diligence on the part of those doing the reckoning. Therefore, as I stated at the outset, I do not wish to present this count of years as preferable to one which may be more certain. For always and everywhere I seek to avoid strife, especially in such matters as are not at odds with faith. But I should like to relate a few details from the books of ancient authors and their own opinions about the reckoning of years from the beginning of the world until the advent of Christ, and to set forth the diverse calculations of diverse writers.
Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, the first of all those whose writings have come down to us, deduced from the Hebrew verity (205) that the time from the beginning of the world until the birth of our Saviour was 3971 years. Because, however, the same Eusebius was unwilling to disregard altogether the authority of the Septuagint translators (if indeed this was their calculation), he observed that according to them the same period spanned 5199 years (206). Bishop Isidore of Seville posits a figure of 5154 years (207). Bede follows the Hebrew verity, but reckons 19 years fewer than Eusebius, that is, 3952 years (208). Bishop Remigius of Auxerre, a man of profound book-learning, follows Bede, and does not disagree with him by so much as one year (209). Hugh, canon of Paris, however, in everyone's opinion and without any contradiction a most careful commentator, follows in the footsteps of Saint Jerome (as is abundantly apparent in his chronicle) and prefers in all respects the Hebrew verity. According to Jerome, therefore, and the verity which Hugh gleaned with the utmost diligence from Hebrew sources, the number of years from Adam to Christ was 3952 (210). But let these remarks concerning the range of opinion among time-reckoners suffice.
It has been related by several how almighty God soon made known the merits of his martyr Óláfr, by restoring sight to the blind and bestowing manifold comforts on the infirm (211); and how, after a year and five days, Bishop Grímkell (who was the nephew of Bishop Sigeweard, whom Óláfr Tryggvason had brought with him from England (212)) had Óláfr's body exhumed and laid in a fitly adorned place in the metropolitan city of Niðaróss, where it had been conveyed immediately after the battle was finished. But because all these things have been recorded by several (213), regard it as unnecessary to dwell on matters which are already known.
The blessed Óláfr reigned for fifteen years, for thirteen of which he had sole possession of the realm. For during the first year of his reign he warred against Sveinn, son of Hákon the Evil, and drove him out of the country, as I recounted earlier; and during the last year he endured a revolt led by Sveinn, son of Knútr king of both England and Denmark (about whom enough has been said), and the kingdom was in turmoil. But in the register of Norwegian kings, five years of rule are ascribed to this same Knútr and his son Sveinn and his nephew Hákon (214).
Chapter 21. On Magnús, son of the blessed Óláfr
Scarcely had three years passed after this (215) when the Norwegians, moved by belated repentance of the crime which they had committed against the blessed Óláfr, and at the same time unable to bear the tyranny of Sveinn's mother, Álfífa (216), decided to send for the blessed Óláfr's son Magnús, then a boy of ten – seeking at least to restore to the son what they had brutally snatched away from the father. For this mission they chose four men: Rögnvaldr jarl (who, as I mentioned earlier, was a very close friend of the blessed Óláfr), Einarr þambaskelmir (217), Sveinn bryggjufótr (218), and Kálfr Árnason, who had formerly committed acts of great enmity against Óláfr, but then, moved to repentance, strove in every way to restore the king's son to the throne (219). And when these men had come to the court of Jaroslav and Ingigerðr in Russia, where the boy was being fostered, they made known to the king the decision which they and everyone in Norway had made. Queen Ingigerðr was unwilling, and declared that she would by no means give up the boy unless they promised on oath that he would be made king. For she had greatly loved the blessed Oláfr and for that reason had fostered his son most conscientiously. They in turn promised everything demanded of them and more and made ready to depart. And when they returned to Norway they were received with great joy by the entire country; and the boy Magnús was immediately made king with the approval of the whole population.
Chapter 22. On the peace treaty between Magnús and the king of Denmark
And so, when Sveinn Knútsson heard of the people's devotion to King Magnús, uneasy about his own position, he returned to Denmark and in the same year ended this present life (220). And his father Knútr, king of England, also departed from the affairs of this world in that same year. Not much time had passed after this when King Magnús, mindful of the wrongs which the Danes had perpetrated against the kings of Norway, assembled a fleet and sailed for Denmark. He reached the islands which we call Brenneyjar (221), where he was confronted by Hörðaknútr (222), the son of Knútr and brother of Sveinn. Whereupon the leading men, seeing that the two kings, still immature, could easily be swayed in any direction, and that they themselves would more likely bear the blame for anything the kings might do amiss, fell back on the more sensible plan of negotiating peace. They entered into a pact in which the following condition was stipulated: that whichever of the kings should first depart from this world without an obvious heir (that is, a child of his own body) the one remaining should gain both kingdoms without any opposition. And thus they parted from one another not only in agreement, but actually as the best of friends (223).
Chapter 23. On the pact which was made between Charles the Great and his brother
This treaty was not unlike that concluded by Charles (who on account of his glorious victories and exemplary character was afterwards called 'the Great') with his elder brother Carloman. Two years later, however, this Carloman put off his mortal form, leaving behind his two sons, and his widow took them and with female inconstancy fled to King Liutprand (224) of Italy – which greatly displeased Charles. This king of the Langobards did great harm to the Roman Church, going so far as to besiege our lord the pope, confining him in Pavia. Placed in such a desperate situation, our lord the pope sent a written appeal to Charles, the king of Francia, for he had heard that he was a youth of noble disposition. He appealed to the king to come to the aid of the Church in its hour of need, and wrote that one could have no greater obligation than to support one's mother when she was in distress; that it behoved him as a Christian king to obey the supreme pontiff who, placed in the greatest danger, awaited his coming day and night; and that he should attend to the matter with all haste, for their stores of food would soon be exhausted. Although Charles had at that time been planning an expedition against Saxony (which was then still devoted to idolatry), on receiving this letter, he assembled an army with astonishing speed, for all his nobles were threatened with a grisly penalty should anyone stay behind after the king's departure (225).
With unbelievable and unexpected speed he crossed the Alps – so that that line of Lucan's might very fittingly apply to him:
Now with rapid course had Caesar crossed the Alps (226).
He appeared without warning; no report at all of his approach had preceded him; and with his troops in battle array he encircled the king of the Langobards, so that by a strange and extraordinary turn of events, no escape route was left open to the very man who had previously confined others. When this became known in the city, it was filled with the greatest rejoicing; the gates were thrown open and the citizens boldly attacked their enemies. With Charles hemming the enemy in from without while the townspeople attacked from within, the entire army of the Langobards was overcome and subjugated. The king himself was led in chains before the feet of our lord the pope. He was handed over not to a tribunal but, as he had so often deserved, to the vilification of the mob.
King Charles asked of our lord the pope what he commanded to be done with the prisoner. The pope answered simply: 'I bear a spiritual sword, not a physical one (227); it is enough for me if the Church is given back her authority and patronal rights, and those things which are Saint Peter's are restored to him. It is up to you', he continued, 'my most dear son, to decide whether the title of "king" should continue to exist in Italy; for Constantine the son of Helena renounced that title in honour of our Lord Jesus Christ and bestowed it as a perpetual right on Saint Peter and the Roman pontiff (228).' And so King Charles deposed the king of the Langobards, and banished him to Vienne – restoring to him, however, his wife and children and an adequate amount of money, and treating him mercifully and with kindness. And so from that time on the Roman Church was freed from the tyranny of the Langobards through the perseverance and assistance of the most Christian king, Charles, some three hundred years after the Langobards first invaded Italy (229). But let us return to Norway.
Chapter 24. How the same Magnús, made king of the Danes, waged war against the Wends (230)
Not long after the agreement mentioned above had been concluded between the two kings, Magnús and Knútr, this same Knútr died without an heir (231). When he learned of this, King Magnús assembled a fleet and sailed to Denmark. There he was received with honour by the leading men of the kingdom, who had been party to the aforementioned treaty; and he was raised to the throne. When news of this reached the ears of Sveinn, the son of Úlfr and Ástríðr (the sister of King Knútr of England) (232), he gathered an army and met Magnús in a naval battle (233). But he was soon defeated by Magnús and fled.
While these events were taking place, the Wends, whom we in our mother tongue call Vindir, descended upon Denmark in unbelievable numbers (234), covering the face of the earth like locusts (235). That race is pagan and hostile to God, savage men of the wild who live by pillage. Indeed, they made it their custom to harry Denmark constantly with plundering raids; but on this occasion they met with an especially good opportunity for attack, because there was un-rest in the realm. When King Magnús learned of this he was alarmed, for he neither had time to assemble an army nor thought it safe to contend with a few men against such a multitude. Yet it seemed intolerable that the country should be ravaged under his very nose. While the king was in this anguished state of mind, it is said that the blessed Óláfr, his father, appeared to him the following night and told him to put his faith in God, for it was as easy for Him to give a victory to few as to many. He said that Magnús should go into battle the next day, and that victory, through God's mercy, would not be denied (236). And so, strengthened by this vision, the following day King Magnús proceeded bravely into combat. He marched under the standard which had been his father's, and carried in his hand Óláfr's double-bladed battle-axe, which was broken in the fight which followed, and is now preserved in the cathedral of Niðaróss (237). And so, all the mightier, he fell upon the enemy and laid most of them low. The rest, with the help of God, he put shame-fully to flight. This battle was fought in the place called Hlýrskógsheiðr (238).
After this, there were various clashes between Sveinn and Magnús, and they fought several battles in different places, of which these were the greatest: one at Helganes (239), another at Áróss (240), and there were a good many (241) besides, but since it is tedious to dwell on each of these in turn, let us move on to other matters.
Chapter 25. On the return of Haraldr harðráði (242) from Greece
Realizing that he could not stand up to Magnús's forces, Sveinn withdrew from the country. But the king pursued him with his fleet, and put in at the place called the Eyrarsund (243). One day while they were waiting there, they saw a ship approaching, more beautifully fitted out than is usual, for the entire sail was of gleaming purple (244). The king, amazed at this unusual sight, immediately sent messengers to ask who they were and where they were coming from. The king's messengers received the reply that this was Haraldr, brother of King Óláfr of Norway, on his way from Greece. Haraldr's crew, in turn, asked who was the commander of the fleet which they saw in the harbour. They answered that he was the blessed Óláfr's son Magnús, king of Denmark and Norway. When Haraldr heard this, he went immediately to visit his nephew, by whom he was received with honour, as was fitting; and he stayed there for some days.
But when Magnús asked Haraldr whether he would help him to bring the kingdom of Denmark under his rule, to which he was entitled on just grounds, Haraldr is said to have answered that he would rather ask Magnús to share with him the kingdom of Norway, to which he was entitled by hereditary right. When King Magnús had given him an amicable reply (for he had a peaceable and good-natured disposition), one of the king's counsellors, Einarr þambaskelmir (245), thinking to himself that the words of each party did not issue from a wellspring of equal goodwill, remarked that it seemed just that, if King Magnús were to grant half of Norway to Haraldr, then he should likewise share with Magnús the money which he had brought back from Greece; for Magnús was in dire need of money, having spent huge sums on his continual military campaigns. Haraldr took this answer badly and retorted that he had not exposed himself to perils in foreign lands to amass wealth in order to enrich the retainers of his nephew Magnús. Einarr answered him, 'You should know, then, that wherever I can, I shall stand in the way of your gaining the throne.' This remark, as the outcome of events proved, caused the death in this world of Einarr and his son, for both were afterwards killed by Haraldr.
Enraged by this answer, Haraldr left the king and set out for Norway (246). When the reason for Haraldr's departure from Magnús became known to Sveinn, he immediately followed after him, promising him half of Denmark if they could get Magnús out of the way.
Chapter 26. The author's diatribe against the ambitious, and how Chosroes ended his life
O truly wretched longing for glory! O pitiable and pitiful and, as it is described by the philosophers, truly blind ambition, which tramples things divine and human, which dishonours nature and renders devoid of self-control any-one whose mind it has once invaded. It was this which armed Absalom for the murder of his father, that he might obtain the kingdom through parricide (247). And, to mention a pagan example, it was ambition which drove Pharnaces, son of King Mithridates of Pontus (who for forty years had waged war against the Romans) to besiege his own father, confined in a city (248). When Mithridates had addressed his son for a long while from the highest wall of the city, desiring to move him to mercy, and he saw that Pharnaces was inexorable, he is said to have cried out: 'O ancestral gods, if you exist at all, grant that Pharnaces too may implore his own sons with the same entreaty as I have made, and not be heard.' After this he descended from the battlement and gave poison to all his concubines and sons and daughters. Then he also swallowed poison; but its force had no effect upon him, because of the countless potions with which he had frequently strengthened his internal organs against the same contagion, as a safeguard against murder at anyone's hands. In the end, when the wall was broken down, he stretched out his neck to his executioner (249). As Lucan says of this:
…scarcely ended by barbarous poison (250).
Pliny the Younger writes about this king in these words: 'Mithridates,' he says, 'king of Pontus, was a very powerful and rich man. He went on waging war against us for forty years with varying results. He was king over twenty-two nations, and gave judicial decisions in as many languages, addressing each group in turn at its assembly without the aid of an interpreter (251).'
This same wretched ambition armed Syrois to murder his father Chosroes. And since I have made mention of this king, I pray that it will not seem burdensome to the reader if a few selections from the Roman History (252) are added here as they are found in the work which is called 'On the exaltation of the Holy Cross' (253), a book in which many streaks of falsehood appear among some true details and which, for that reason, is not accepted by the holy Roman Church. For Pope Gelasius, a man of great learning and authority in God's Church, distinguishes in a brief sermon the apocryphal writings from the sacred canon (254), saying that God's Church has no need of support from falsehood, for it is founded by God, who is truth itself. The blessed Augustine corroborates this in several places with the same sentiment and in almost the same words (255). This same Gelasius includes among the apocrypha the passions of the apostles (except that of Andrew alone), the book of the infancy of Jesus, the book about the birth of the blessed Mary, the itinerary of Clement, the gospel according to Thomas, the gospel according to Bartholomew, and many other texts which it would take a long time to enumerate (256).
But now let us see how this treatise, 'On the exaltation of the Holy Cross', accords with the truth of the Roman History (257). Heraclius (son of Heraclius, the governor of Africa), a very bold military man, was elected as Roman emperor by his soldiers. For six years in succession he marauded through all Persia, and razed to the ground countless cities, and even the most venerable buildings of the ancient kings. He fought a Persian giant on a bridge in single combat, defeated him and hurled him into the river below. And he forced Chosroes himself to flee to the remotest hiding-places in his kingdom. When he had surrendered to complete despair, Chosroes named his son Mardasa king. On learning of this, Syrois, Chosroes' first-born son, bore it exceedingly ill that he should be rejected, since he was entitled to the throne by order of birth; and having won over the military commander Gundabunda, he brought the entire army over to his side. At once he set out in pursuit of his father Chosroes, caught him and, after fettering his feet and neck with massive chains, shut him up in an underground chamber which the king himself had built in a well-concealed spot as a hiding-place for his treasure. Then Syrois gave his commands and said: 'Let him eat gold and silver, for which he impiously slaughtered many and laid waste all the world (258).' And then Syrois committed a crime unparalleled throughout all time, but so it was ordained by divine judgment. For he summoned the viceroys who he knew particularly hated his father, and handed Chosroes over to them for five days, to be maltreated and spat upon and subjected to various outrages. And then at last he ordered the king to be shot to death with arrows, but not before five of his sons were put to death before their father's own eyes. So this was the end of that impious man, the violator of the temple of the Lord and proud beyond human limits. For he had answered Heraclius's envoys, who had come to him to sue for peace, with great pride, saying that either the Christians should relinquish their own religion and join him in worshipping the sun, or else their kingdom would be completely destroyed (259). But God let this arrogance recoil upon the blasphemer's own head. And yet, although Chosroes paid a fitting penalty for his crimes, it was nevertheless abominable before both God and men that what he suffered was at the hands of a child of his own body.
And did not this same wretched ambition drive Domitian, a thoroughly wicked man and practically another Nero, to plot against the life of his brother Titus? This Titus, because of his benign character and innate goodness, was called the delight of the human race. One day, when it was drawing toward evening, he recalled that on that day he had done no one a service, for no one had asked anything of him; and he is reported to have said to his comrades: 'Today I have squandered a day, for I have done no one a service (260).' Titus tried to mollify his brother Domitian with kind words, begging him not to defile himself with the blood of his own brother, for in a short time the supreme rule would be his, and it was not fitting that he should obtain it through such a crime. But these words were, alas, too true, for Titus survived on the throne for only two years, and Domitian succeeded him. And the latter also added this to his crimes, that he instigated the next persecution of Christians after Nero. But let us now pursue our own subject (261).
Chapter 27. How King Magnús shared the throne of Norway with his father's brother; and on Magnús's death
When King Magnús heard that Haraldr his uncle and Sveinn had left for Norway and had entered into an alliance against him, he at once set out after them. But when they heard that the king was on his way, they were afraid to confront him and turned back to Denmark. And so King Magnús, deciding that he could scarcely defend both kingdoms against their aggression, sent a legation to recall his uncle Haraldr. Magnús yielded one half of the kingdom of Norway to him, demanding nothing in return, save that Haraldr should be obliged to join him in defending both kingdoms, while Magnús should nevertheless have sole rule over the kingdom of Denmark.
This agreement between nephew and uncle was settled by a lake in Upplönd (262) in the presence of Bishop Grímkell, Einarr þambaskelmir (263) and many other leading men, who declared absolutely that they were on no condition willing to serve under two kings unless they were bound together by a treaty of peace. They knew perfectly well that any kingdom divided within itself would go to ruin (264); and therefore they made a firm agreement among themselves that whoever would not abide by the peace treaty should be put to death. Concerning this sort of insane dissension Virgil exclaims:
That rulers have for long enough defiled the honourable bonds of peace,
Wretches whom a hideous longing for power has held prisoner –
This I confess I have written of.
It is enough to remember such evils (265)!
Lucan, likewise, says of the same subject:
The frenzy of arms hangs over us;
and the power of the sword will overturn all justice by force;
And execrable crime shall have the name of valour;
And this madness will take many years to pass away (266).
And so, when this peace was settled between uncle and nephew, King Magnús sailed to Denmark and drove out Sveinn, who in the meantime had now subjugated the entire country to his rule. Magnús lived on for only one year after the expulsion of Sveinn (267). And when he sensed that the day of his death was at hand, Magnús sent to Sveinn a man named Þórir, Magnús's half-brother on his mother's side, and restored the throne of Denmark to Sveinn because he was entitled to it by hereditary right (268).
This Magnús, son of the blessed martyr Óláfr, was a man distinguished by goodness, endowed with gentleness, vigorous in warfare, and marvellously skilful in the conduct of public affairs. For these reasons he almost always emerged the victor in any contest; and because of his pleasant nature and generosity he was very popular with all his subjects. Magnús reigned for eleven years, for five of which he ruled over both kingdoms.
Chapter 28. How King Haraldr led an expedition against England, was defeated in battle and died
After him Haraldr, the brother of the blessed Óláfr, reigned for twenty years. He ruled nineteen years on his own, and one year with his nephew Magnús. Haraldr was a vigorous man, far-sighted in his decision-making, quick to take up arms, jealous of what was his and covetous of what was another's; and so he waged many wars against Sveinn, in the hope of wresting from him the kingdom of Denmark (269). But when this met with little success, he prepared an expedition against England, urged on by Tostig, the brother of King Harold of England (270). Tostig promised Haraldr half the kingdom if he drove out his brother, for by hereditary right Tostig was no less entitled to the throne (271).
When Haraldr arrived in England together with the aforementioned Tostig, they made the territory of Northumbria subject to their rule. King Harold of England had at that time gone to Normandy (272); but when he heard of the arrival of enemies, he made a speedy return to England, assembled a huge army and took the invaders unawares. When Harold drew near, most of the Norwegian forces, laden with booty, made for their ships. The remainder, though few, with steadfast courage prepared for battle. 'But what can a few brave men do against so many thousands (273)?' And as King Haraldr himself, mounted on horseback, endeavoured to draw up his battle line, his horse stumbled and he was thrown to the ground; whereupon he is reported to have said: 'Seldom is a sign of this sort an omen of victory (274).' Nor was he mistaken in this unlucky omen, for he fell in that same battle. Tostig, the brother of King Harold of England, who had lured Haraldr there, was also killed, and almost all their army was annihilated. This battle took place in the year 1066 after the birth of Christ. For several days a comet appeared with a glowing red tail; and this prefigured the defeat of the English, which followed immediately afterwards (275).
This Haraldr had performed many bold deeds in his youth, overthrowing many heathen cities and carrying off great riches in Russia and in Ethiopia (which we call Bláland in our mother tongue) (276). From there he travelled to Jerusalem and was everywhere greatly renowned and victorious. After he had travelled through Sicily and taken much wealth by force there (277), he came to Constantinople. And there he was arraigned before the emperor; but he inflicted an amply shameful disgrace upon that same emperor and, making an unexpected escape, he slipped away (278).
Chapter 29. On his son Óláfr
After Haraldr was killed in England, his son Óláfr returned to Norway with the remains of his army. This Óláfr had a brother by the name of Magnús, who ruled alone for one year, while his brother was away on the expedition against England which I have just described. After that, Magnús lived on for only a few years, and left after him one son whose name was Hákon, whom a worthy man named Steigar-Þórir, born to high station among his own people, undertook to foster (279).
After this, Óláfr reigned for twenty-seven years. He was a man dear to both God and men, who made every effort to achieve a state of peace and concord (280). He allowed everyone to enjoy what was his own, but restrained the base behaviour of wicked men by authority alone. He built a basilica in honour of the Holy Trinity in the metropolitan city of Niðaróss, where the body of the blessed martyr Óláfr now rests, just as in the same city his father Haraldr had built a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which may be seen to this day (281). And I would be at a loss to name another of the Norwegian kings, from the time of Haraldr Fair-hair down to the present day, who enjoyed a happier reign than he (282). He died in the Vík, but is said to have been buried in the aforementioned church of Niðaróss which he himself had built (283).
Chapter 30. On Magnús berfœttr, and a brief account of the portents which preceded the death of Charles
Óláfr was succeeded by Magnús, his son by a concubine. His nickname was 'barefoot' (284). He reigned for ten years, one of them together with his uncle's son, Hákon. This Hákon was a promising youth; and he is praised for having removed the taxes hitherto unjustly laid upon the necks of the people of his part of the country (285). When he was subsequently removed from the light of this world by an untimely death (286), Hákon left the throne to his cousin Magnús, who ruled after that for nine years. This Magnús was very unlike his father in character, and resembled more his grandfather, Haraldr (287).
And since I mentioned a little earlier that this same Haraldr had tumbled from his horse and that his death was prefigured in that fall, l should like to recount briefly the portents which preceded the death of the most victorious and most outstanding of all exceptional men, Charles the Great (288). The first portent involved the bridge over the Rhine at Mainz, constructed over a period of eight years (289), and so firmly built that it was thought it would last for ever. But on the very day that it was completed, a cloud gathered over the bridge and a thunderbolt suddenly fell and burnt up the whole structure, so that not so much as a splinter was left standing above the water. The second portent involved the massive portico in Aachen, between the basilica and the palace. One Sunday when the emperor himself wanted to enter the upper church, the entire structure fell to the ground before his feet (290). The third portent involved the ruler's own name, written along the top of a wall in golden letters so large that anyone standing on the floor below could read them with great ease. In the last year of his life, however, this inscription was so effaced that it could not be read at all. The fourth sign which prefigured his death was that while he was riding on a calm day, carrying his lance in his hand, a thunderbolt fell right in front of his horse's feet, throwing it down and the king with it. His lance was also knocked from his hand and thrown a long way off and the saddle-girths were torn apart, but the emperor himself remained uninjured. This happened during Charles's last campaign, which he waged against King Hemming of Denmark (291). Hemming had spoken disdainfully against his imperial majesty, and crossed through the middle of Saxony, a region which after thirty years of continual rebellion Charles had barely, by dint of much sweat and untiring persistence, managed to bend to the gentle yoke of Christ. For the Saxons had on three occasions cruelly put to death the bishops and priests who had been sent to them. So finally, the most merciful emperor, disgusted by their wicked behaviour, sent and had killed all parents, both men and women, who were taller than his sword (292). And when there were only boys remaining, he had bishops and priests ordained for them, who were to teach them the way of eternal salvation, since 'a jar will long keep the scent of what it was once steeped in when new' (293). But when Hemming heard that the emperor was approaching, he went humbly to meet him and received forgiveness.
And although Charles most certainly knew that these signs in some way foretold his death, nevertheless he dismissed them all with manly steadfastness and strength of mind. For the mark of indomitable virtue shone in him, and with that superiority of spirit he disdained both good fortune and bad. And lest any trace of virtue be omitted from this description of his most perfect character, let me add that in making and maintaining friendships he surpassed almost all mortal men; for he made friends readily and took the utmost pains to nurture their friendship. But let us return to our own affairs.
Chapter 31. On the deeds of Magnús berfœttr
And so, after Hákon, the son of Óláfr's brother Magnús, had died, Steigar-Þórir, who had fostered Hákon, was disgruntled that the entire kingdom of Norway should be under the rule of Magnús; so he set up a certain Sveinn Haraldsson as a pseudo-king in opposition to Magnús (294) – as is common practice among the Norwegians. When Magnús learned of this, he immediately set off in pursuit of the fugitive Þórir, and captured him on a small island in the province of Hálogaland. The name of the island was Vambarhólmr (295) and there Magnús hanged him together with another chieftain by the name of Egill, an upright and very eloquent man (296). But the Sveinn just mentioned escaped.
After this, Magnús prepared an expedition against Gautland, where he wished to retake three territories, the names of which are Dalr, Höfuð, and Véar (297). He said that these territories had anciently belonged to the kings of Norway, but had been seized by violence by the kings of the Gautar; and so he wanted to reclaim them by force of arms if no alternative was offered. As Lucan says:
…to the man bearing weapons he grants everything (298).
And yet Magnús accomplished little in this first campaign. In the second, he did in fact engage in battle; but he was beaten and fled alone, accompanied only by his companion, Ögmundr Skoptason (299). Peace was, however, negotiated through the good offices of the king of the Gautar Ingi Steinkelsson (300), a most excellent man, who also gave his daughter Margareta to Magnús in marriage, and made the aforementioned territories over to him, calling them a dowry (301).
At that time there were many noble men in Magnús's army, among whom Sigurðr ullstrengr (302) was the foremost no less for his prowess than for his nobility. He afterwards built a renowned cloister in honour of both the blessed Benedict and the most precious and invincible martyr of Christ, Laurence, on a tiny island which lies off the metropolitan city of Niðaróss (303).
After that, Magnús went to the Orkney Islands, which were part of his kingdom. Magnús was a restless man who coveted the property of others and set little value on his own. He harried Scotland and Cornwall (which we call Bretland) with pillaging and carried out viking raids. In the latter place he killed Earl Hugh of Cornwall (whose nickname was 'the stout') when he offered resistance (304). With the king at that time was Erlendr, earl of Orkney, along with his most excellent son Magnús, a promising youth of eighteen. Frequent miracles bear witness to the greatness of his merit in the eyes of God (305). There were also many others: Dagr, the father of Gregorius, Viðkunnr (306) Jóansson, Úlfr Hranason (the brother of Sigurðr, who was the father of Nikulás whom the baleful tyrant Eysteinn killed in the city of Niðaróss) (307), and many more.
Chapter 32. On the death of the same Magnús and his son (308)
With his ships laden with much booty, King Magnús returned to Norway. Then after an interval of a few years, he again made ready a fleet, and with his usual restlessness of spirit returned to Ireland in the hope of conquering the whole island. However, after winning control over part of the island, hoping that the rest might be conquered with ease, he began to lead his army with less caution, and fell into the same trap as his grandfather Haraldr in England. For when the Irish, prepared to die for their country, had gathered a whole host, they cut off any avenue of retreat to the ships, attacked the enemy fiercely, and brought down King Magnús (309). Part of his army fell there with him; the rest made their way back to the ships as best they could.
Magnús left three sons – Eysteinn, Sigurör and Óláfr (310). On his way to Ireland, he had brought Sigurðr with him (311) to the Orkneys. After his father died he returned to Norway and was elevated to the throne along with his brothers. Oláfr, cut off by a premature death, was removed from the light of this world in the third year after the death of his father (312). And all Norway mourned him, because he had been well liked by all on account of his gracious manners and agreeable speech. After his death, his two brothers divided the kingdom between them. After he had ruled the kingdom for twenty years, however, Eysteinn departed from human affairs (313); and his brother Sigurðr alone ruled all Norway for seven years.
Eysteinn was a paragon of honesty who governed himself no less than his subjects with moderation and wisdom. He was a king who loved peace, an assiduous manager of public affairs, and above all a fosterer of the Christian religion. For this reason he built a monastery in honour of Saint Michael the Archangel beside the city of Bergen, as one can still see to this day (314). In fact, he built buildings which were of great benefit to the kingdom in very many places – for example, the palace at Bergen, which was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, though made of wood, and which has now almost collapsed from excessive age. He also built the port at Agðanes, to the great benefit of sailors (315); and in this he imitated Augustus Caesar (316), who built the port of Brundisium, which was destined to benefit almost the whole world. Likewise, the same Augustus ordered public roads to be laid out at vast expense for the benefit of the entire empire, through places which had previously been impassable and full of swamps. On that public highway he wished there to be such general peace in honour of the emperor, that if any thief, murderer, or sorcerer were caught on it, he should suffer no injury whatsoever, so long as he remained there (317). That this was an established practice is amply corroborated by the writings of the ancients.
Chapter 33. On King Sigurðr and his deeds
Among the many outstanding deeds which King Sigurðr performed, one thing in particular is remembered with words of praise: that he voyaged to Jerusalem with his fleet in the seventh year after that city had been freed from the tyranny of the Persians by the grace of God (318). He is praised for having razed to the ground many cities of the heathens on that expedition. Among these, he even took from the heathens Sidon, the most renowned city of the province of Phoenicia, and restored it to the Christians (319). He also captured, through cunning no less than force, a mountain-side cave which was full of robbers who plagued the entire region, and so freed the country from their depredations (320). He performed many bold deeds, and was honoured by King Baldwin (321) with numerous gifts, the foremost of which, and the one rightly to be placed before all the rest, was a piece of wood from the Lord's cross (322). And so Sigurðr returned home with great glory from this expedition, while his brother Eysteinn was still alive.
At that time Sigurðr was deservedly counted among the best of rulers, but later only among those who were middling. Some say that his mind became deranged because he drank some poisonous concoction (323). But let those who maintain this answer for their own words. I, for my part, leave it an open question.
Chapter 34. On Haraldr of Ireland
At this time a certain Haraldr came to King Sigurðr from Scotland (324), and said that he was his brother, that is to say the son of King Magnús nicknamed 'barefoot'. And he was stubborn in requesting that he be permitted, according to the laws of the land, to prove what he said. So King Sigurðr ordered him (more harshly than fairly as it seemed to some) to walk over nine red-hot ploughshares, contrary to ecclesiastical decision (325). But assisted by God, as it is believed, he showed himself unburnt.
A few years after that, King Sigurðr put off his human form (326). And here I too shall end this little document of mine, since I deem it utterly unfitting to record for posterity the crimes, killings, perjuries, parricides, desecrations of holy places, the contempt for God, the plundering no less of the clergy than of the whole people, the abductions of women, and other abominations which it would take long to enumerate. All these things so flooded in, as if in one cesspit, after the death of King Sigurðr that the satirist may seem to have alluded to our nation in particular when he said:
Straightway, all evil burst forth into this age of baser vein;
Modesty and truth and faith fled the earth,
And in their place came tricks and plots and snares,
Violence and cursed love of gain (327).
Indeed, Lucan advises that one should conceal the crimes of one's own people, when he says:
Turn away, my mind, from this phase of the war
and leave it to the shades;
Let no age learn from me in my poetry of evils such as these,
nor of the full licence of civil war (328).
Rome, about what you did in this battle,
I shall be silent (329).
I have touched upon these few details concerning our forefathers to the best of my ability, though with an inexpert pen, and treated not what I have seen, but what I have heard (330). For this reason, if anyone should condescend to read this, and should perhaps be displeased that I have arranged this account as I have, I beg that he should not accuse me of falsehood, because I have learned what I have written from the report of others. And let him know that I would assuredly have rather seen someone other than myself act as the chronicler of these events, but since to date this has not happened, I preferred that it should be me rather than no one (331).
Here ends Theodoricus the monk's account of the ancient history of the Norwegian kings