Siege of Paris (885-886)

Siege of Paris
Date25 November 885 – October, 886
Locationon the Seine at Paris, France
ResultFrankish victory
Combatants
FranksDanes
Commanders
Odo, Count of ParisSigfred and Rollo
Strength
200 men-at-arms30,000
The Siege of Paris of 885 to 886 was a Viking siege of Paris, then capital of the kingdom of the West Franks. It was, in hindsight, the most important event of the reign of the Emperor Charles the Fat and a turning point in the fortunes of the Carolingian dynasty and the history of France.

The siege is the subject of an eyewitness account in the Latin poem Bella Parisiacae urbis of Abbo Cernuus.

Background

The Vikings (especially the Danes in the British Isles and other Norsemen in continental Europe), were the primary menace affecting European rulers in the late ninth century, the middle of the Viking Age. They had carved out a Danelaw in England and were ruling the Rus from Ladoga and Novgorod. Their depredations had come as far as the Mediterranean, they harassed Christian and Moslem alike, in the coastal plains and navigable rivers of France, Spain, and Italy. The worst hit areas in the vast but feeble Carolingian Empire were in the Low Countries and the adjacent regions in Gaul and Germania, areas where many navigable rivers offered access.

In 845, the Vikings rowed up the Seine and attacked Paris. This they did again thrice more in the 860s, each time leaving only when the acquisition of loot or bribes was acceptable to them. In 864, by the Edict of Pistres, bridges were ordered built across the Seine at not only Pîtres, but Paris, where two were built: one on each side of the Île de la Cité. These would serve admirably in the siege of 885. The chief ruler in the region around Paris (the Île-de-France) was the duke of Francia (also count of Paris), who controlled the lands between the Seine and Loire. Originally this was Robert the Strong, margrave of Neustria and missus dominicus for the Loire Valley. He began fortifying the ancient capital and fought the Norsemen continuously until his death in battle against them at Brissarthe. His son, Odo, succeeded him and continued the fortification of Paris.

Meanwhile, West Francia (the kernel of modern France) suffered under a series of short-reigning kings until Charles the Fat, already king of Germany and Italy, became king. Hopes were raised with this reunification of Charlemagne's empire, but a year after Charles' succession (884), the Vikings launched the most massive attack on Paris yet.

The Siege

Sigfred, leader of the Danes, had demanded a bribe from Charles, but had been refused. He promptly led 700 ships up the Seine carrying more than 30,000 men. Paris at this time was a town on an island. Its strategic importance came from the ability to block ships' passage with its two low-lying foot bridges, one of wood and one of stone. Not even the shallow Viking ships could pass Paris because of the bridges. Odo prepared for the arrival of the Vikings, by fortifying the bridgehead with two towers guarding each bridge. He was low on men, having no more than 200 men-at-arms available to him. He did have the aid of his brother, Robert, two counts, a marquis, and Joscelin, abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

The Vikings arrived on 25 November 885 and began by asking for tribute. This denied, they settled in for a siege. On 26 November, the Danes attacked the northeast tower with ballistae, mangonels, and catapults peppering the tower with arrows and stones. They were repulsed by boiling oil, however. That day, all Viking attacks were repulsed and during the night, the Parisians constructed another storey on the tower.

On 27 November, the Viking attack included mining, rams, and fire this time, but to no avail. On this day, the Abbot Joscelin valiantly entered the thick of the fray with a bow and an ax. He planted a cross on the outer defences and exhorted the people, his flock. His brother, Ebles, too, joined the fighting.

For two months, the Vikings dug in, making trenches and provisioning themselves off the land. In January 886, they tried to fill the river shallows with debris, plant matter, and dead animal and human (executed prisoner) bodies so as to get around the tower with their infantry, but no success met them, again. This they continued for the next two days, but on the third day they set three ships alight and guided them towards the wooden bridge. The burning ships sank before they could set the bridge on fire, but the wooden construction was nonetheless weakened. On 6 February, rains caused the river (filled with debris from the Viking attempts of weeks earlier) to overflow and the bridge supports gave way. The bridge gone, the northeast tower was now isolated with only twelve defenders inside. The Vikings asked the twelve to surrender, but they refused. Therefore they were all killed.

The Vikings left a force behind, but mostly went ahead, beyond Paris, to pillage Le Mans and Chartres. At this time, Odo successfully slipped some men through Norse lines to go to Italy and plea with Charles to come to their aid. Henry, Count of Saxony, Charles' chief man in Germany, marched to Paris. The besieged then sallied forth and took many supplies. The morale of the besiegers was low and Sigfred asked for sixty pounds of silver. He left the siege in April. Rollo, the other leader, and his men stayed behind.

In May, disease began to spread in the Parisian ranks and Joscelin, the great morale-booster and fighting churchman, died. Odo himself then slipped through Viking-controlled territory to petition Charles for support: Charles consented. Odo fought his way back into Paris. Charles and Henry of Saxony marched northward. Sadly for the besieged, Henry died en route.

In summer, the Danes made a final attempt to take the city, but were repulsed. The huge imperial army arrived in October and scattered the Vikings. Charles encircled Rollo and his army and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the defenders down the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of silver as promised.

Aftermath

The Parisians and Odo refused to let the Vikings down the Seine, and the invaders had to drag their boats overland to the Marne. When Charles died in 888, the French elected Odo as their king. Odo's brother was later elected king as well. Throughout the next century the Robertians, descendants of Robert the Strong, fought the Carolingians for the French throne. Their duchy (France) gave its name to the kingdom (later France) and the Carolingian Empire was never again reassembled.

Source

  • MacLean, Simon. Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century: Charles the Fat and the end of the Carolingian Empire. Cambridge University Press: 2003.
  • Davis, Paul K. Besieged: 100 Great Sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo. Oxford University Press, 2001.
November 25 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

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Seine, see Seine River (disambiguation). For the old Seine département, see Seine (département). For a kind of fishing net, see seine (fishing).


Seine
The Seine viewed from the Eiffel Tower.
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Ville de Paris

City flag City coat of arms

Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur
(Latin: "Tossed by the waves, she does not sink")

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro.
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Motto
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem
"La Marseillaise"


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Franks or Frankish people (Latin: Franci or gens Francorum) were West Germanic tribes first identified in the 3rd century as an ethnic group living north and east of the Lower Rhine.
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Dane may refer to:
  • People with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity, whether living in Denmark, emigrants, or the descendants of emigrants.
  • Members of the Danish ethnic minority in Southern Schleswig, a former Danish province.
  • Anyone whose mother tongue is Danish.

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Odo (or Eudes I) (c. 860 – January 1, 898) was a king of the Franks (888 - 898). He was a son of Robert the Strong, count of Anjou, and is sometimes referred to as duke of France and also as count of Paris. His family is known as the Robertians.
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Sigfred was the name of a number of kings ruling the present territory of Denmark.
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Rollo (c. 860 - c. 932) was the founder and first ruler of the Viking principality in what soon became known as Normandy. He is also in some sources known as Robert of Normandy.

The name Rollo is a Frankish-Latin name probably taken from Scandinavian name Hrólf (cf.
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882 883 884 - 885 - 886 887 888
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Viking, also called Norseman or Northman, refers to a member of the Scandinavian seafaring traders, warriors and pirates who raided and colonized wide areas of Europe from the 8th to the 11th century[1]
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Ville de Paris

City flag City coat of arms

Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur
(Latin: "Tossed by the waves, she does not sink")

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro.
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Western Francia was the land under the control of Charles the Bald after the Treaty of Verdun of 843, which divided the Carolingian Empire of the Franks into an East, West, and Middle. It is the precursor of modern France.
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Holy Roman Emperor (German: Römischer Kaiser, Latin: Romanorum Imperator) was the elected monarch ruling over the Holy Roman Empire, a Central European state in existence during the Middle
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Charles the Fat (Latin: Carolus Pinguis[1]; 13 June 839 – 13 January 888) was the King of Alemannia from 876, King of Italy from 879, Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles III
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Carolingian dynasty

Pippinids
  • Pippin the Elder (c. 580–640)
  • Grimoald (616–656)
  • Childebert the Adopted (d. 662)
Arnulfings
  • Arnulf of Metz (582–640)
  • Chlodulf of Metz (d.

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Motto
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem
"La Marseillaise"


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Latin poetry was a major part of Latin literature during the height of the Latin language. During Latin literature's Golden Age, most of the great literature was written in poetry, including works by Virgil, Catullus, and Horace.
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Abbo Cernuus ("the Crooked"), Abbo Parisiensis, or Abbo of Saint-Germain was a Neustrian Benedictine monk and poet of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. He was born about the middle of the ninth century.
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Dane may refer to:
  • People with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity, whether living in Denmark, emigrants, or the descendants of emigrants.
  • Members of the Danish ethnic minority in Southern Schleswig, a former Danish province.
  • Anyone whose mother tongue is Danish.

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British Isles<nowiki />

The British Isles in relation to mainland Europe

Geography <nowiki/>
Location Western Europe <nowiki /> <nowiki />
Total islands 6,000+<nowiki />

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As a means of recording the passage of time the 9th century was the century that lasted from 801 to 900.

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Viking Age is the term denoting the years from about 800 to 1066 in Scandinavian History[1][2][3]. The vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare.
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