221 – Alfred and Guthrum: The Price of Peace

When we left off, Guthrum had marched into the heart of Wessex without being noticed, lead his forces right past Alfred’s hold in Winchester, and seized the Royal tun of Wareham. In response to this, Alfred raised the Fyrd, marched upon the southern port town, and besieged it. Now all of our surviving sources are silent on how long this siege lasted. Alfred may have tried to end it quickly, but it’s just as likely that he and his army camped on the edge of Wareham for a very long time and that Guthrum’s army was running low on supplies. Looking at the record, our best guess is that the siege lasted until winter and only came to a conclusion in either in the end of 876 or early 877, but this is one of those details we will never know for sure.

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  1. You mentioned in previous episodes that Viking armies were often slowed down when they were carrying loot from raids; given the urgent speed with which they left Wareham, is there any suggestion that they left any part of the Danegeld behind? Or was it paid in a form that was easily portable?

    1. That’s a great question. I don’t know. Unfortunately, we generally don’t know what the full price of these early Danegelds was. But many times the Danes wanted to be paid in hack metal, which would be very portable and could be split among the warriors. So I would assume it would be much easier to transport than furnishings, artwork, livestock, etc.

  2. Another excellent episode. I’m really getting into source analysis woven into narrative!!! I agree with your analysis of the cultural mistranslations that Guthrum exploited so effectively. I don’t think he necessarily believed Guthrum but I’m not sure what else Alfred could have done militarily. Regardless, he definitely misjudged the speed and ferocity of Guthrum’s betrayal.

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