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Posts Tagged ‘ancient finances

Announcing “Ancient Finances”, my newest blog

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Silver Roman denarius. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Ancient Finances will explore finances and money during the Viking age and Roman Empire. Lots of posts on other blogs addressing those topics have been cross-posted to the new blog. This includes lots of discussion of the loot Alexander the Great lifted during his rampaging world tour.

I’ve been having loads of fun reading about the Viking age and am intrigued by finances and money during the Roman Empire.

Why a new blog?

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Written by Jim Ulvog

June 16, 2017, 8:37 am at 8:37 am

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Description of Scutum, a Roman Legionnaire’s shield.

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This shield is flat. It is also protected on the edges by metal.  “Shield of Roman legionairies ‘Scutum’, after AD 100. Athens War Museum, replica” by Dimitris Kamaras is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Adrian Goldsworthy provides a good description of a Roman shield, called a scutum, in his book The Complete Roman Army on page 129. A well-preserved shield was found at Dura Europus that dates from the 3rd century.

The shield is 3’ 3” tall by 2’ 8” wide in a curved shape.

It is two inches thick, consisting of three layers of wood glued together.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

June 7, 2017, 9:08 am at 9:08 am

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Logistics for a Viking force in the field – part 2

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A Viking army would need somewhere around 180 tons of grain to feed an army of 1,000 warriors during a 3 month siege. Image Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Let’s take another look at logistics for a Viking army. In about 868, Ivar the Boneless, one of Ragnar Lothbrok’s four sons, fortified Nottingham.

A fun book, The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings by Lars Brownworth, described this campaign and its logistics.

King Burghred of Mercia combined forces with King Athelred of Wessex to deal with the Viking invasion. The allied forces advanced on Nottingham where the Vikings were patiently waiting behind their fortifications.

The Vikings tried to avoid attacking in battle. Instead, their preferred tactic was to draw an attack and then respond with a withering counterattack. They excelled at defense.

Short version of the story is Ivar was better supplied than the Saxons, whose soldiers faded away to go home and take in their harvest.

The siege ended when Ivar accepted an unspecified, though presumably really large bribe, Burghred acknowledged Ivar, and Ivar headed north to York.

The book describes the logistics of surviving a siege.

With 1,000 warriors, an army the size of Ivar’s required 4,000 pounds of flour and 1,000 gallons of water a day. That would be 4 pounds of flour and 1 gallon of water per soldier.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

May 31, 2017, 6:56 am at 6:56 am

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Logistics for a Viking force in the field – part 1

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Viking army in the field would require 4 pounds of grain a day to keep soldiers alive. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Keep in mind as a leader of  Viking force in the field you really don’t want to be the boss of a lot of grumpy, starving soldiers who also happen to be armed with heavy weapons. That is not a formula for a long reign and perhaps not a great plan for a long life.

This is one is a series of posts on this blog talking about ancient finances.

Logistics

I’ve read several comments so far on the logistical needs for a force in the field.

I’ll start with Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual by John Haywood.

The book provides a reference for the goods needed to keep warriors fed. A force of 1,000 warriors would need 2,000 pounds of bread along with 1,000 pounds of meat. For liquids, the book says add about 240 gallons of beer.

Per warrior: That would be about 2 pounds of bread, 1 pound of meat, and 1 quart of beer.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

May 28, 2017, 15:33 pm at 3:33 pm

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How much labor did it take to construct a Viking longship?

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Replica of Viking longship – “The Sea Stallion – Viking Ship” by infomatique is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is another in my series of posts on ancient finances.

Let’s ponder how much time it would take to construct a Viking longship and consider how much of an investment that would be for a community. Any way you look at this, a longship is a major capital asset.

One estimate of time to build a longship

Philip Line, in his book The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750 -1100 written in 2014, provides one framework for the investment in a longship.

I’ll quote and then expand his comment on page 51:

“Experimental archaeologists have estimated that 40,000 working hours may have been needed to produce all the components of a 30-meter longship, consuming the surplus production of 100 persons for a year.”

Surplus production in the Viking context would be the amount of time not needed for subsistence living. In other words the amount of effort a warrior would have after raising enough food to feed his family with enough left over to survive the next winter.

If 40,000 hours is enough time for 100 warriors, that would be 400 hours each. Let’s assume that would be spread over a year except for my assumption that during the worst three months of winter no construction could be done. Since we are talking rough numbers let’s spread that 400 hours over nine months, which would be 44 hours a month, which would be about 11 hours a week.

So 100 warriors working 11 hours a week for 9 months would be needed to construct a longship.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

May 27, 2017, 8:00 am at 8:00 am

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Indicators of prices in Viking era

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Battle axe. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What did it cost to arm a Viking warrior? Without contemporary writing, it is difficult to determine. Several books and articles provide some hints.

Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual by John Haywood provides an entertaining view of Viking life. The book is presented as an unofficial guide to young men considering their future as a raider. Sort of a training manual to get young men ready.

The book provides some approximations for the prices of different weapons, measured in ounces of silver:

  • 1.5 – spear
  • 4-60 – sword, variation due to range of quality
  • 13 – helmet
  • 26 – chain mail coat

Another comment says that at the nicer end, a fancy sword could take a year for a blacksmith to make. So factor in a year of skilled labor for the high-end swords. That would explain the above guess of 60 ounces of silver for the nicest swords.

The book also gives another view of the cost of armament by describing the amount of arms a warrior might carry based on the level of the warrior’s wealth:

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Written by Jim Ulvog

May 2, 2017, 9:16 am at 9:16 am

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Cost of weapons in Northern Europe in mid 7th century

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Illustration of Viking era ax, sword, and shield. (Not sure ’bout that parchment since there is no recovered Viking writing, and in fact their runes were not conducive to written documents.) Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Vikings at War book by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike provides one general frame of reference for cost of arms. The book has several references to a 7th-century Frankish legal text, Lex Ribuaria.

Wikipedia says this document is from the Franks, located in northern Europe, more specifically it was from around what is modern Cologne, Germany. It was written about 630 A.D. It would thus provide a reference point from within Europe about 100 years before the start point of the Viking Age.

My guess is relative pricing of weapons in relation to each other would be sort of somewhat comparable to a few centuries later in the middle of the Viking Age, however, the prices in relation to animals is  probably lower here than in Scandinavia because of the cost of transport.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

April 28, 2017, 7:25 am at 7:25 am

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