Thursday, October 26, 2017

Agrippa and the Roman Navy









One secrets of Octavian's success was his ability to delegate authority, and he had an outstandingly efficient officer in the person of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who had been his comrade as a young man, while training in Illyricum. Agrippa, who had rendered distinguished service in Gaul and contributed to the defeat of Lucius Antonius at Perusia, now proved himself as able on sea as on land. Though Octavian suffered another naval defeat near Tauromenium (Taormina), Agrippa overcame Sextus' fleet at Mylae. This was followed by another victory at Naulochus, which proved decisive. Octavian, by land operations, with the help of Lepidus, had already deprived the enemy of supply centres in Sicily. Sextus fled to Asia, where he was eventually captured and executed at Antony's orders.

Agrippa was noticeably alert to the possibilities of technical innovation. In order to create a suitable naval base for war on Sextus Pompeius, he had cut a canal through the narrow strand which carried the Herculean Way between Baiae and Puteoli, thus linking the inland Lucrine lagoon(Iacus Lucrinus) with the Bay of Naples. A second canal connected the Lucrine waters with those of Lake Avernus beyond. The combined basins provided a training area in which Octavian's fleet could carry out manoeuvres and tactical exercises whenever they desired.

Sextus Pompeius' success had, throughout this war in Sicilian and southern Italian waters, been dependent very largely on his use of war galleys which were lighter and smaller than those manned by his enemies. As in Cassius' attack on Rhodes, we find evidence that the lighter galley was returning to favour and that the tactics of manoeuvre and ramming were being reintroduced against the heavier ships which provided a basis for grappling and boarding. Strategically, the light ship, with its vulnerability to wind and weather was at a disadvantage. But in localized inshore operations, it often proved its tactical value. Where fighting took place in a choppy sea, the light ship could ride the waves and was more flexible in manoeuvre. Sextus had demonstrated this even before Philippi. If by misadventure his vessels were grappled by the enemy, the crews abandoned ship at once by flinging themselves into the water. They were then picked up by friendly lifeboats, which followed the battle collecting anyone who had abandoned ship.


Admittedly, Agrippa used a new type of harpoon (the harpago) which made it easier to grapple the elusive Pompeians, but it is also apparent that he himself was in part a convert to the tactics of manoeuvre and ramming.

The Decision at Actium    

The inevitable war was destined to be fought at sea, because Cleopatra wished it so. Antony seems to have been, as Octavian proclaimed, a slave to her wishes, and the sea at any rate offered the best prospect of speedy flight in the event of defeat. The armed conflict was preceded by dramatic challenges which emphasize the personal nature of warfare at this epoch. Octavian offered Antony a beachhead in Italy, with space for a camp, in order that a pitched battle might be fought there. Antony replied first with an invitation to single combat, then to a pitched battle at Pharsalus on the site of Julius Caesar's victory. Both these offers were refused by Octavian. He had accepted a similar challenge, defining time and place, from Sextus Pompeius five years earlier and had won the decisive battle which followed. But his fleet now consisted largely of light ships, which he was perhaps reluctant to expose to the hazards of the open sea. In any case, he probably crossed in summer when the weather and the sea conditions were favourable, at a time of his choosing.

It is even possible that Octavian's hesitance to fight in Greece was feigned and that he hoped merely to throw the enemy off his guard. Antony, poised against Italy, with sea and land forces at Actium on the Ambracian Gulf in North Greece, was certainly taken by surprise when Octavian's armada arrived on the coast of Epirus, not far north of his own position. He was in every sense unprepared. His fleet was not yet manned. As a desperate ruse, he drew his ships up in line of battle and put out the oars, even where there were no rowers to work them. This bluff was effective and Octavian temporarily withdrew.

However, in the strategic manoeuvring and land skirmishing that followed, Antony was unable to shift the enemy from his position, while Octavian's fleet, under Agrippa, gained important vantage points among the Ionian islands and in the Gulf of Corinth, thus cutting off Antony from his sources of supply in the Peloponnese. Morale among his officers and eastern allies had deteriorated, and among influential deserters to the enemy was Domitius Ahenobarbus, the son of Julius Caesar's officer. But even when the decisive naval battle was imminent, Antony maintained a defensive posture, from which he was drawn only by the threat of encirclement.

Tactics, as well as strategy, reflected a trial of strength between light and heavy ships. Octavian's slender vessels (liburnae, as they were called) were able to manoeuvre in groups of three or four around single galleys of Antony's ponderous fleet, exchanging missiles with them; although fear of being grappled and boarded by the swarms of marines which these leviathans carried deterred them from coming too close. In such circumstances, as one might expect, a decision was not quickly reached. But while Antony's flagship on the right was engaged against Agrippa's squadron, his own centre and left began a mysterious withdrawal. Cleopatra's loss of nerve has been blamed by historians. Her contingent had been anchored in the rear, laden with the treasure on which Antony's war economy largely depended. The Egyptian squadron, taking advantage of a sudden favourable wind, hoisted sail and deserted the scene of the battle. Whatever motives underlay events, Antony certainly followed his mistress in her flight. Most of his fleet, left at the enemy's mercy, in a state of leaderless confusion, was destroyed.

When Octavian invaded Egypt during the following year, Antony and Cleopatra had no prospect of defending themselves. Antony, abandoned by his officers and troops, committed suicide. Cleopatra was captured by Octavian, but contrived to kill herself before she could adorn the conqueror's triumph.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Portrait of a Pirate: John Crabbe (c. 1290–1352)

Battle of Sluys, at which John Crabbe fought, from Froissart’s Chronicles


The world of John Crabbe, 1310–40.
John Crabbe was one of a very few medieval pirates who stood out as extraordinary, independent opportunists. Unlike the majority of these men, he operated without a lifelong base. On the contrary, he sought adventure by serving several different leaders, one after another. To each of them in turn, he could be relied on for very efficient and effective service, while it lasted, but not for consistent allegiance. There was nothing which tied him down.

During the period of thirty-five years when he was active at sea, he served the heads of three states, Flanders, Scotland and England, changing sides twice, as well as living through a period when he fluctuated between Flanders and Scotland. As a result he became one of the most celebrated, the most feared and, in several quarters, one of the most hated seamen of his day. However, in contrast to Eustace the Monk, a similarly independent character, Crabbe managed to live to an advanced age and die of natural causes.

Crabbe was probably born around 1290. His family circumstances went unrecorded, but he came from Muiden (alternatively known as Mude, now Sint Anna ter Muiden), near the mouth of the Zwin, on the left bank of the channel leading from the North Sea towards Damme and Bruges. He therefore grew up surrounded by the busy commercial life of the sea. As a small boy he is most likely to have witnessed with excitement the chaos which attended the arrival of Edward I’s fleet in 1297: if not actually present, he would have heard about that soon enough.

His name first appears in 1305 or ’06 in connection with the violent seizure off La Rochelle of the Waardebourc, a ship belonging to John de le Waarde, a merchant of Dordrecht. This was just one event which reflected a long-running dispute between the counts of Holland and Zeeland on the one hand and the counts of Flanders on the other. The bone of contention was ownership of Walcheren, Noord Beveland and Zuid Beveland, then three separate islands (now united as one) lying between the two mouths of the Scheldt. On this occasion Crabbe and his companions seized 160 tuns of wine and all the other goods on board with a total value of 2,000lt, and kidnapped the crew. Despite determined requests for justice and compensation, de le Waarde received no satisfaction until seven years later, when a treaty was signed between the two opposing sides.

Shortly before 28 May 1310 Crabbe struck again, this time far up the Channel, much nearer his home base. By then he was master of the ship de la Mue (Muiden) and accompanied by a second Flemish ship, he seized a vessel carrying the possessions of Alice, Countess Marshall, the widow of Roger Bigod, hereditary Earl of Norfolk. She was planning to leave London shortly to go ‘overseas’ – which may have meant she was going to Hainault to her father, John de Avennes, one-time count of that province. She had sent her clothes, jewels, gold and silver valued at 2,000l on ahead (into a pirate-infested sea!), only to lose them to Crabbe as her ship approached Wissant. Repeated calls to Robert, Count of Flanders, for return of the goods met with no response for five years, that was until 1315, when the count replied that a number of culprits had been punished. Whether that was true or not, Crabbe himself had evidently escaped some time previously, for by then he was living in a Flemish colony in Aberdeen.

Crabbe’s first phase of living at least part-time in Scotland had begun around 1311, when the Flemings were uniting with the Scots to exploit the continuing enmity between England and Scotland. On 3 September 1311 Crabbe and a collection of men from both Aberdeen and Flanders stole eighty-nine sacks of English wool from two ships sailing together from Newcastle to Flanders. Crabbe then sent the Scots on to sell the wool in Flanders, which may imply that he himself was already outlawed from Flanders. Then, in May 1313, Edward II asked Robert, Count of Flanders, to do justice to English merchants for the robberies committed by John Crabbe and other Flemings, on the understanding that the king would reciprocate by compensating Flemings who had suffered at the hands of English pirates at Crasden and elsewhere since the time of the king’s accession.

The Great Famine of 1315–17 hit all the northern countries, but Flanders probably suffered especially badly on account of its large, concentrated, urban population. The count reacted to the situation by assembling a fleet to send to sea at public expense ‘to acquire victuals for the sustenance of the men … where there is great need and famine’. In other words, this was state-sponsored piracy, and such was Crabbe’s reputation as a fearless and successful pirate that in this state of emergency he was recalled and, having been swiftly pardoned of all his previous wrongdoings, he was made leader of this Flemish fleet. He set sail on Ash Wednesday, 24 February 1316. Five days later they captured two Yarmouth ships on their way home from Rouen laden with provisions. It seems highly probable that other victims followed.

Crabbe was still in the southern area just before Christmas 1316, because then he captured a wine ship in the Downs off Sandwich. The Bona Navis de la Strode (Strood, on the Medway in Kent), with John Springer as master, had probably reached the end of her voyage when Crabbe and his associates attacked and made off with both the ship and the cargo – 86 tuns, 25 pipes of wine belonging equally to two merchants, Aymer de Insula, a merchant of Bordeaux and Arnold Dosyngham, described as a citizen of Bazas, 50km south-east of Bordeaux. The value of the wine was quickly established by the Sheriff of Kent at 788l sterling. Other goods and merchandise belonging to various merchants together with the ship’s tackle and beds and chests and other small belongings of the master were valued at 210 marks. The king immediately ordered the sheriffs of London, Lincoln, Norfolk and Suffolk to arrest various proportions of goods belonging to the Flemings up to this value, allowing 8l per tun and 4l per pipe of wine, and to keep them safely. Three demands met with no response from Robert, Count of Flanders before he eventually replied in April 1318. He was, he said, ignorant of the whole affair. This was greeted with astonishment in England, since it was well known that at that time Crabbe stayed in Flanders whenever he chose, that the count had appropriated the wine for his own use and had already passed the ship on to someone else. It was not until July 1332, sixteen years after the seizure of the ship, that Edward III finally instructed the sheriffs of Kent, Suffolk and Norfolk to produce the sums from Flemish cargoes which they had impounded, so that he could indemnify the merchants and owner in full.

Soon after his capture of the Bona Navis, and apparently banished from Flanders for murder, Crabbe began his second Scottish phase. Ever since the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, bitter fighting had been taking place on the Border, and on 1 April 1318 Berwick-upon-Tweed was captured from the English and became a vital Scottish outpost. Crabbe was certainly living there by August 1319 when the English tried to recapture it. His help in strengthening the town fortifications was invaluable, and he carried on serving the Scots, harrying the English on land and at sea.

A change in his fortunes, however, happened in 1332, coinciding interestingly enough, with the effective beginning of the reign of Edward III. The English destroyed all the ten Flemish ships Crabbe had taken north to the Firth of Tay in response to a request for support by the Scots, and later that autumn he himself fell into their hands during a skirmish near Kelso. Being extremely unpopular with the English, his life was in jeopardy. The parliament which was convened at York in January 1333 was in angry mood, demanding recompense and retribution from this man who had robbed their merchants and hanged their seamen from their own masts for many years past. They demanded that he pay the full penalty, and meanwhile he was to be kept in chains. It was an ignominious beginning to the final, English, phase of his life.

The English were then besieging Berwick, and Crabbe played the only card available to him. Against strong odds, he persuaded Edward III that his knowledge of the defences of that town would be useful. In the event, his inside knowledge and practical help proved so valuable that the king saw fit to pardon him of ‘all homicides, felonies and other offences of which he might possibly be accused, whether on land or sea’. He was also created constable, for life, of Somerton Castle, Lincolnshire. Seen in retrospect, his survival and recovery was remarkable. But his former friends, the Scots in Berwick, were furious at his treachery and apparently vented their wrath by killing his son.

Crabbe continued to provide advice and materials for the English war against Scotland. In March 1335 he assembled a fleet of ten ships, complete with 1,000 mariners and archers, to go to sea to try to prevent French support reaching the Scots. In December 1337 he was to be paid 100s for his expenses incurred while staying in Berwick, and all the engines there were to be repaired according to his specification.

In February 1339 he was to be paid a further 24l for surveying the construction of certain engines and ‘hurdis’, which were either siege towers or wooden galleries to attach to the castle, at Dunbar. This payment seems to have been for clearing up matters prior to his departure, since he was about to set out on the king’s service overseas. That June he was paid for going north with another hundred archers ‘for the defence of the realm’ and, described as the king’s yeoman, he was also allowed 100l to repair his houses at Somerton.

In the meantime, in 1337 war with France had begun. As Edward III was hoping to use the Low Countries as a base for invading France, it was highly important to keep the sea lanes in the North Sea open and free of French marauders. To that intent Crabbe, the former pirate who probably understood more than anybody else about the geography of the Zwin and about navigation in the North Sea, was brought south in the summer of 1339 to work with Robert Morley, a Norfolk knight who had recently been recruited as admiral of the fleet north of the Thames and was to become one of the most able and energetic of naval commanders. It was this somewhat improbable combination of two men who, that year, took a convoy of ships carrying supplies of money, wool and military reinforcements over to Sluys. There they did raid an enemy merchant convoy and took numerous prizes, but they also attacked without discrimination neutral Flemish and Spanish escort vessels which they had been expressly told not to tamper with. To make matters worse, when they returned to the Orwell, they quarrelled over the division of the spoils of their plunder, and the fleet which had only been assembled with difficulty scattered and some of the vessels sailed off, beyond recall.

Edward III was still hoping to take an army across from the Orwell to Flanders, but he suffered repeated frustrations when his hoped-for force of men, supplies and ships failed to materialise. While he was delayed, Philip VI of France was also frustrated, because the Genoese who had added their important support to the French for nearly two years had mutinied and taken their ships back to the Mediterranean. Thus weakened, Philip fell back on the only policy open to him – using those ships which remained at his disposal to block the mouths of the Scheldt. At least the English would not be able to enter and anchor there.

Edward too had only a limited force, and in view of the great risks to the king himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened and strongly advised him to be cautious about going. The king turned to Morley and Crabbe looking for more encouraging support, but he found that their advice confirmed that of the archbishop. In spite of this unanimous advice to the contrary, Edward pressed ahead and on 22 June 1340 sailed out of the Orwell estuary accompanied eventually, but possibly still reluctantly, by Morley and Crabbe. On the afternoon of the next day he reached the coast of Flanders, off Blankenberg. They were within 10 miles of the Zwin, probably within sight of the French galleys, which had been chained together across that estuary.

The most experienced of the French seamen, Barbavera, had pointed out the dangers of a large fleet being shut inside that inlet without room to manoeuvre, but this was a piece of good advice which the French admirals Quiéret and Béhuchet chose to ignore. Having held back until conditions were right, on the afternoon of 24 June, Edward seized the combined advantages of having wind, tide and sun all strategically behind him and went into the attack. The French were indeed trapped inside the estuary, unable to manoeuvre, and by nightfall they had been nearly annihilated by the hail of arrows from English longbows. Both French admirals lost their lives and 190 of the 213 French vessels were captured. Towards the end of the engagement, Crabbe was given forty ships with which to chase a few French ships which had escaped led by a notorious pirate called Spoudevisch.

This victory, which came to be named after the port of Sluys, seems to have marked the end of Crabbe’s maritime career, although subsequently he continued to work on land for the king. He collected taxes, a highly important duty since the Crown was once again bankrupt, and he took into custody at Somerton Castle one of the many important Scottish prisoners taken at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham. His last years seem to have been spent peacefully at his castle, and he died in 1352.

Crabbe was a remarkably gifted man, who combined a high level of skill in seamanship and navigation with equal qualifications as a military engineer. In other words, he was particularly unusual and useful, being an expert in warfare both at sea and on land. He was also an adventurous, independent spirit and a political strategist. In him we see an excellent example of a symbiotic relationship, in which a medieval pirate was able to exploit various rulers to achieve his own ends, while simultaneously those same rulers were using his expertise to further their own objectives.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Ancient Generals: Themistocles: Master of Deception

Ancient Generals: Themistocles: Master of Deception

"All war is deception," said Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage. He was correct, but deception comes in various forms. Deception at its boldest and most dynamic is carried out directly under the enemy's eyes. One might say that the United States pulled off such a deception against Iraq in March 2003.

Greek Fire – Nine Little-Known Facts About The Byzantine Empire’s Most Secret Weapon

Greek Fire - Nine Little-Known Facts About The Byzantine Empire's Most Secret Weapon

As far back as the 7th Century, fighting ships of the Byzantine Empire were dousing enemy vessels with a flaming liquid known by western historians as "Greek fire".

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Viking Battle at Sea: The Battle of Nisa




The Viking Naval Battle of Hafrsfjord 872 AD



Map 2.5. The Battle of Nisa, 1062.
(a) Phase I: From his 70-oar drekkar, King Harald III Hardrada leads a 300-ship Norwegian fleet to an appointed location to battle King Sveinn Estridson’s Danish fleet.
(b) Phase II: The Danes fail to arrive at the rendezvous at the appointed time, leading Hardrada to believe they have refused the challenge. He orders half of his fleet, containing his militia troops, to return home (1). The Norwegian fleet, reduced in number but crewed by Hardrada’s finest warriors, continues on (2).
(c) Phase III: As half of Hardrada’s fleet sails out of sight, the Danes suddenly appear, 300 strong (1). Hardrada prepares to fight, ordering most of his remaining longships to be lashed together side by side (2). Two groups of vessels remain untethered to protect the Norwegians’ flanks (3).
(d) Phase IV: Estridson follows the Norwegian lead and orders the Danish fleet to close up and rope together (1). The Danish king seizes the initiative and orders his fleet to row towards the enemy (2). Hardrada orders his force to follow suit (3), and the two sides slowly close with each other as daylight begins to fade.


(e) Phase V: The opposing lines clash, and the air is filled with arrows as Danish and Norwegian archers ply their deadly trade. The fight continues through the night, and neither side is able to gain a decisive advantage.
(f) Phase VI: The deadlock is broken when one of the Norwegian flank elements under the command of Earl Hakon Ivarsson sails around the main battle and drives off the smaller Danish vessels (1). Several hours later, Hakon reinforces a failing flank (2) and drives back the Danes. The Norwegians offer no quarter and begin to clear the Danish vessels (3), boarding Sveinn Estridson’s flagship last (4). By dawn, seventy of the tethered Danish longships are cleared of opponents and the Norwegians are victorious, though Sveinn Estridson is able to escape.


The primary instrument of Scandinavian overseas aggression was the longship. Long, narrow-keeled and flat-bottomed vessels with beautifully carved arched prows, the first longships carried around thirty-five warriors. They were made of oak using clinker construction (overlapping planks held together with clinch bolts) with a mast amidships and one bank of oars on each side. Controlled with two steering oars, these vessels had shallow draughts making it possible for them to navigate up rivers and along coastlines, giving the Vikings unprecedented strategic mobility. The Gokstad ship, built in the second half of the ninth century, was over 76 feet long and 12 feet wide, and drew less than 34 inches of water, giving it the ability to sail up rivers and estuaries into shallow waters only 3 feet deep. Longships were also easy to beach and portage over short distances using rollers and manpower.

After 1000, the Scandinavians built larger warships, known as drekkars or ‘dragon ships’, capable of carrying perhaps as many as eighty warriors on raiding expeditions, invasions and, curiously, large naval engagements against rival Viking fleets. These larger, taller vessels were particularly suited for the last purpose because, unlike longships, drekkars had high, planked decks fore and aft, from which arrows and spears could be rained down on their opponents’ decks. Apparently difficult to manoeuvre in battle, these medieval dreadnoughts were sometimes lashed together ‘stem to stem and stern to stern’ to create large, floating battlefields of oak, canvas and rope. Often dozens of Viking ships were tied together, with the larger drekkars placed in the middle of the line as a command post for kings and commanders, while unfettered longships protected the flanks of the tethered vessels. A contemporary historian, Saxo Grammaticus, explains the benefits of lashing ships together for combat:

Having ordered the ships in a line, they joined them together with grapples, so that being bound together the fleet might easily ride down any enemy in its path. And when they were brought together for this purpose, they were joined together solidly, for flight or victory, as it would not be possible for anyone to break free from his colleagues. Thus they planned to make their weakness strong by this tactic.

Not built for ramming, Viking ships could not duplicate the tactics of the ancient triremes, and so medieval sea battles usually consisted of closing on an opposing vessel, grappling the two ships together and then fighting in close quarters until one side was defeated, the enemy ship captured or, if damaged, scuttled. In the case of large engagements, one side chose to take the defensive by lashing their ships together, while the attacking navy either moved in on the tethered flotilla as individual ships, grappling, clearing and cutting away ships one by one, or attacked as a tethered armada itself. In these ship-to-ship battles, the Vikings attempted to match larger ships to smaller and favoured missile fire from bows and spears over hand-to-hand shock combat. Because of the nature of this attrition warfare, Viking sea battles tended to drag on far longer than engagements fought on land, often taking hours to conclude.

One such long sea battle took place at Nisa on 9 August 1062 between the fleets of King Harald III Hardrada of Norway and King Sveinn Estridson of Denmark. This was the second battle between the two rival monarchs and seems to have been joined by mutual consent. Hardrada, unhappy about being unable to conquer Denmark despite successful annual raids, hoped for a large decisive victory over Estridson. Having raised a large army from the whole of Norway, Hardrada placed the men on 300 ships, leading the armada from his own seventy-oar drekkar (Map 2.5(a)). He sailed to the appointed spot at the prearranged time and waited for his Danish foe to arrive, but Estridson’s fleet was not there. Believing the Danes had refused battle, Hardrada dismissed the half of his ships containing the militia to return to their farms and prepared for another year of raiding (Map 2.5(b)). Those warriors who remained were the veterans of numerous raids, and some may have fought at Hardrada’s side during his days in Russia and Byzantium. One of the Varangian Guard’s more distinguished soldiers, Hardrada spent most of his twenties in the Byzantine emperor’s employment, rising to become the ‘leader of all of the Varangians’ and then returning to Norway to become king in 1047.

But as half of the Norwegian navy sailed out of sight, the Danish fleet appeared, 300 ships strong (Map 2.5(c)). Refusing to flee from his numerically superior enemy, Hardrada ordered his remaining ships lashed together, placing his own ‘dragon ship’ in the centre of the line. Unfettered longships protected the flanks, including the warships of Earl Hakon Ivarsson. Mirroring the Norwegians, Estridson ordered his warships roped together in a line, his own ship in the centre, and seizing the initiative, rowed against the enemy (Map 2.5(d)). As the tethered Danish line slowly rowed forward, Hardrada ordered his own Norwegian fleet to meet the advancing Danes. The two bound Viking armadas clashed as the sun began to set.

According to both Danish and Norwegian sources, the battle lasted into and throughout the night, with both sides evenly matched (Map 2.5(e)). The prominent role of missile warfare in ship-to-ship combat is evident from a poem written about Hardrada’s prowess as an archer:
Norway’s king was bending
His bow throughout that night,
Raining a shower of arrows
On the white shields of Denmark,
Bloody spear-points opened
Holes in iron armour;
Shields were pierced by arrows
From Harald’s deadly dragon.

Hardrada’s prowess with a bow was not unusual, and Viking sources tell us that numerous Viking heroes died by missile fire, including Harold Bluetooth, King Hakon and, ironically, perhaps Harald Hardrada himself.

The turning point came hours into the battle when Earl Hakon Ivarsson ordered his warships from their flanking position to sail around the main battle group and prey on smaller and weaker Danish vessels (2.5(f)). Hours later, Hakon’s warships buttressed a failing flank, forcing the Danes back. Sveinn Estridson’s warship was the last boarded. No quarter was given and those Danes not killed jumped overboard. By dawn Estridson’s fleet was defeated and no fewer than seventy of the Danish king’s tethered ships had been cleared.

Estridson escaped the slaughter by jumping into the water and swimming for Hakon Ivarsson’s ship. Donning a disguise, the Danish king was brought on board and inexplicably led to shore on Hakon’s order, eventually escaping back to Denmark. Though initially recognized as the hero of the battle, the earl was quickly condemned by the Norwegian king and exiled. Ultimately, the battle of Nisa proved indecisive. Two years later, in 1064, the two kings signed a peace treaty ending years of Norwegian raiding, and King Harald Hardrada looked to the west for new lands to conquer. In 1066 a massive Norwegian fleet set sail for England in the last great invasion of the Viking age.