Battle of Hafrsfjord

Battle of Hafrsfjord

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The Battle of Hafrsfjord
Hafrsfjord
Hafrsfjord is a fjord or bay located in the municipalities of Stavanger and Sola in Norway. Stretching 9 kilometres. Hafrsfjord fjord is bounded by Tananger, Sola and Madla...

has traditionally been regarded as the battle in which western Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 for the first time was unified under one monarch.

The national monument of Haraldshaugen
Haraldshaugen
Haraldshaugen is a national monument in Haugesund, Norway. The monument was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway's unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I of Norway .Haraldshaugen was unveiled on July 18, 1872 by Crown Prince Oscar in...

 was raised in 1872, to commemorate the Battle of Hafrsfjord. In 1983, the monument and famous landmark of The Swords in the Rock
Sverd i Fjell
Sverd i fjell is a commemorative monument located at the Hafrsfjord fjord, just outside the city of Stavanger in Norway.The monument was created by sculptor Fritz Røed from Bryne and was unveiled by king Olav V of Norway in 1983. Three very tall swords are planted into the rock of a small hill...

 was designed by Fritz Røed
Fritz Røed
Fritz Røed was a Norwegian sculptor. He is most associated with his work, Sverd i fjell, the commemorative monument which symbolizes the unification of the nation of Norway. -Biography:...

 and raised at Hafrsfjord in memory of the battle.

Significance


Although most scholars currently tend to regard the unification as a process lasting centuries, rather than being the result of a single battle, the Battle of Hafrsfjord ranks high in the popular imagination of Norway. It was the conclusion of King Harald I of Norway
Harald I of Norway
Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair , , son of Halfdan the Black, was the first king of Norway.-Background:Little is known of the historical Harald...

's declaration to become the sole ruler of Norway. This battle may well have been the largest in Norway up to that time and for a good while after.

It was formerly believed that this battle was the decisive event in the unification of Norway. According to Snorri's saga, King Harald controlled large parts of Norway's southeast portion before the battle; but other sources claim that the eastern portion of Norway was under the Danish king. The Battle of Hafrsfjord marks the final crushing of opposition from Norway's southwestern portion (primarily Rogaland
Rogaland
is a county in Western Norway, bordering Hordaland, Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder. It is the center of the Norwegian petroleum industry, and as a result of this, Rogaland has the lowest unemployment rate of any county in Norway, 1.1%...

, but also chieftains from the Sognefjord area). This made it possible for King Harald to subdue the country and collect taxes from a large part of it. Later historiography regarded him as the first legitimate King of Norway. Many of the defeated who would not submit to Harald's rule emigrated to Iceland (q.v.).

Chronology


The traditional dating of the event, 872, is a 19th century invention. The exact year of the battle is likely to be unknown. This is due to lack of sources, and partly because the Christian calendar was not introduced at the time. The sagas follow the convention of counting the number of winters passed since an event.

In the 1830s, the historian Rudolf Keyser counted the number of years backwards from the battle of Svolder (AD 1000) in Heimskringla
Heimskringla
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson ca. 1230...

, dating the battle to 872. Keyser's chronology was popularized by the works of the historian P. A. Munch, and by that time still unchallenged, this year was chosen for the millennial celebration of the unification of the Norwegian state in 1872. In the 1920s, using similar methods as Keyser but highly critical to the reliability of the sagas, the historian Halvdan Koht
Halvdan Koht
Halvdan Koht was a Norwegian historian and politician representing the Labour Party.As a politician he served as the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1935 to 1941. He was never elected as a member of the Parliament of Norway, but was a member of Bærum municipal council in 1917–1919 and...

 dated the battle to about 900. For the next fifty years, this chronology was regarded by most scholars as being most likely. In the 1970s, the Icelandic historian Ólafia Einarsdóttir concluded that the battle took place somewhere between 870 and 875. However still disputed, most scholars will agree that the battle took place during the 880s.

Sources


The only contemporary source to this event is from a lay written by Þórbjörn hornklofi
Þorbjörn hornklofi
Þorbjörn Hornklofi was a 9th century Norwegian poet. He was the court poet of King Harald Fairhair.-Bibliography:*Glymdrápa - A drápa on King Harald.*Hrafnsmál/Haraldskvæði - Another poem on King Harald using the málaháttr metre....

(Modern Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

: Torbjørn Hornklove) shortly after King Harald "Fairhair"
Harald I of Norway
Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair , , son of Halfdan the Black, was the first king of Norway.-Background:Little is known of the historical Harald...

 beat his enemies. The lay is very simple, dramatic and illustrative (The first part is translated into English here):
Heyrði þú í Hafrsfirði, Did you hear in Hafrsfjord
hvé hizug barðisk how hard they fought
konungr enn kynstóri the high born king
við Kjötva enn auðlagða; against Kjotve the Rich
Kjotve the Rich
Kjotve the Rich was a king of Agder, then a petty kingdom in southern Norway, in the late 800s. Kjotve was the father of Thor Haklang . Kjotve lead the western Norwegian kings against Harald Fairhair at the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Defeated by Harald, Kjotve fled; many of his allies were killed in...

.
knerrir
Knarr
The Knarr is a Bermuda rigged, long keeled, sailing yacht designed in 1943 by Norwegian Erling L. Kristofersen. Knarrer were traditionally built in wood, with the hull upside down on a fixed frame, then attaching the iron keel after the hull was completed. The hull planks were manufactured with...

 kómu austan,
ships came from the east
kapps of lystir, craving battle,
með gínöndum höfðum with gaping heads
ok gröfnum tinglum. and prows sculpted.


The most well-known source of the battle is Harald Fairhair's saga in Heimskringla
Heimskringla
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson ca. 1230...

written by Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

 more than 300 years after the battle took place. Snorri gives a vivid and detailed description of the battle. (Although historians continue to debate the historical accuracy of Snorri's work):

News came in from the south land that the people of Hordaland
Hordaland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark and Rogaland. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county administration is located in Bergen...

 and Rogaland
Rogaland
is a county in Western Norway, bordering Hordaland, Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder. It is the center of the Norwegian petroleum industry, and as a result of this, Rogaland has the lowest unemployment rate of any county in Norway, 1.1%...

, Agder
Agder
Agder is a historical district of Norway in the southernmost region of Norway, corresponding to the two counties Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder. Today, the term Sørlandet is more commonly used.-Name:...

 and Thelemark
Telemark
is a county in Norway, bordering Vestfold, Buskerud, Hordaland, Rogaland and Aust-Agder. The county administration is in Skien. Until 1919 the county was known as Bratsberg amt.-Location:...

, were gathering, and bring together ships and weapons, and a great body of men. The leaders of this were Eirik king of Hordaland
Eirik King of Hordaland
Eirik King of Hordaland was a king of Hordaland, then a petty kingdom in southern Norway, in the late 800s. Eirik was the father of Gyda. Eirik lead the first attack against Harald Fairhair at the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Defeated by Harald, Eirik fell; many of his allies were also killed in the...

; Sulke king of Rogaland, and his brother Earl Sote: Kjotve the Rich, king of Agder, and his son Thor Haklang; and from Thelemark two brothers, Hroald Hryg and Had the Hard. Now when Harald got certain news of this, he assembled his forces, set his ships on the water, made himself ready with his men, and set out southwards along the coast, gathering many people from every district. King Eirik heard of this when he same south of Stad; and having assembled all the men he could expect, he proceeded southwards to meet the force which he knew was coming to his help from the east. The whole met together north of Jadar, and went into Hafersfjord, where King Harald was waiting with his forces. A great battle began, which was both hard and long; but at last King Harald gained the day. There King Eirik fell, and King Sulke, with his brother Earl Sote. Thor Haklang, who was a great berserk, had laid his ship against King Harald's, and there was above all measure a desperate attack, until Thor Haklang fell, and his whole ship was cleared of men. Then King Kjotve fled to a little isle outside, on which there was a good place of strength. Thereafter all his men fled, some to their ships, some up to the land; and the latter ran southwards over the country of Jadar.

See also


  • History of Norway
    History of Norway
    The history of human settlement in what is present day Norway goes back at least 11,000 years, to the late Paleolithic. Archaeological finds in the county of Møre og Romsdal have been dated to 9,200 BC and are probably the remains of settlers from Doggerland, an area now submerged in the North Sea,...

  • Battle of Svolder
    Battle of Svolder
    The Battle of Svolder was a naval battle fought in September 999 or 1000 in the western Baltic Sea between King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway and an alliance of his enemies...

  • Battle of Stiklestad
    Battle of Stiklestad
    The Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 is one of the most famous battles in the history of Norway. In this battle, King Olaf II of Norway was killed. He was later canonized...


Other sources

  • Krag, Claus
    Claus Krag
    Claus Krag is a Norwegian educator, historian, and writer. He is a noted specialist in Old Norse philology and medieval Norwegian history. Krag earned his Cand.philol. in 1969...

    18. juli 1872 Et hus med mange rom (Arkeologisk museum i Stavanger, Stavanger. 1999)
  • Masdalen, Kjell-Olav Fra Lindesnes til Rygjarbit (Aust-Agder-Arv: 2006)
  • Forte, Angelo with Richard Oram and Frederik PedersenViking Empires (Cambridge University Press. 2005)

External links