The Varangians : Royal Guards And Mercenaries.

by Daniel Russ on November 25, 2016

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When Vikings migrated eastwards they went as traders, or they went as raiders. When they happened upon a settlement they gambled whether it would be better to do business or do warfare. That said, one of the things that mercenaries look for is employers. If they came upon rich people with a poor army, they offered their services, or they took what they wanted. It was a great business model and by the 9th century Swedish kings had made it deep into what is now Russia. The Vikings were either establishing trade routes and trade posts, or they were oppressing people they wanted to subdue.


Kiev was basically a Viking trading port and military garrison that blossomed while the Vikings were inter marrying with the Slavic royalty. Here ship builders, metal-smiths, food sellers were establishing a civilization where previously was found a stone-aged settlement. The Vikings still had not found the people they wanted to fight for, people who could pay them handsomely and on time. The Slavs called Vikings Varangians, which meant a union trade worked or mercenary. With few exceptions, the Varangian Guards were some of the most successful warriors in history. The rulers in the burgeoning Kiev dynasty in Rus often recruited Hungarians, Turks, Georgians, Armenians, Arabs, Slavs, Normans, and Lombards, a sort of rainbow army of nations. Few of these groups won in battle as often as the Varangians and none were more feared.


Byzantine Emperor Basil II himself sought out an elite group of guards comprised of Varangains. The warriors were under the purview of the Russian Emperor Vladmir. In exchange for his sister Anna, Basil received a contingent of guards and helped make the battle blooded contingent the heart of his army.


While used in battles like conquering and retaking Sicily from Arabs or he defeat of Bardas Phokus at Chrysopolis. Wielding their long axe, or bows and arrows, the Varangians outclassed everyone on the battlefield they met, and became the go-to body guards of Byzantine royalty. The Vikings tried assaulting Constantinople many times and couldn’t overcome the walls and the terrain. They discovered a better relationship with Byzantines as their Pretorian guards. Younger and experienced seafaring Varangians even hunted don pirates for the Byzantine warlords. At the Battle of Beroia, an elite group Varangians Guards attacked a rival ruler, John the Beautiful, even though they were far outnumbered on the battlefield. But their prowess was so impressive, their reputation alone sent the entire opposing army running for their lives.








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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Louis October 19, 2017 at 5:08 am

After 1066 quite a few of them were actually Saxons, fleeing from a Norman overrun England.

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