VOCABULARY FROM THE AMBROSE SAGAS

    
        

A-Viking: Go raiding.

Aegir: Was the god of the sea. He was a personification of the ocean. He caused storms with his anger and it was said a ship went into "Aegir's wide jaws" when it sank.

Aifor: Means 'ever fierce'. It is a cataract on the Dnieper River.

Ahl Al-Kitab: "People of the Book."

Al-Fustat: Cairo

Ambat: Female Viking thrall or slave.

Angelisc: The name the Angle-Saxons had started to call themselves.

Angleland: For my purposes, it's England.

Anglish:  English.

Arlena: This is a fictitious port in Southern Benevento.

Asgard: is the home and citadel of the gods. There were many magnificent palaces there; the most magnificent being Valhalla.

Atheling: An ATHELING was a royal prince. The Saxon kings were chosen from amongst their ranks by the WITAN, or council.

Black Arrow: One of King Alfred's small and fast courier boats.

A Blood Debt was a debt caused by the killing or injury of someone. The kin were required to wage a vendetta, or accept monetary compensation.

Blood Eagle was a method of torture and execution. It was performed by cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled wings, and pulling the lungs out.

Bodkin: An arrow with the head of a long, thin squared metal spike, made for penetrating armor.

Bondi: Was a truly free and land-holding farmer. From this class came many of the traders and hunters, sailors and raiders.

Bone Payment: A fine for injuring or killing someone.  

Bones: Dice.


Bookland: Land given to the Church in perpetuity to support it.


Boss: a round, convex or conical piece of material at the center of a shield, generally made of metal.

A Bower: A room off the Great Hall for Saxon notables.

Breeks: Pants

Bretwalda: or over-king, was one of the kings of the various Angle, Saxon, or Jute kingdoms who was so much more powerful than the others that he was officially recognized as being the 'chief' king of the entire island.

A Buckler is a shield.

Burh: A Saxon fortified Great Hall, which belonged to an Ealdorman or the king.

Caltrop: An iron ball with four spikes placed so that one is always projecting upwards. It is used to impede horses or infantry.

Cataphract: The Byzantine heavy cavalry.

Chalke: It is a monumental vestibule leading into the Imperial Palace grounds. Its roof & doors were made of gilded bronze, its ceilings were covered with mosaics, and its walls and floors were dressed with various fine marbles.

Cherson: The major Byzantine port on the Crimean peninsula.

Churl: A peasant. His property was guaranteed, but he had to farm and provide military service.

Circitor: Byzantine non-commissioned officer.

Compurgation: A Saxon man accused of a crime could try to clear himself by asking others to come forward and swear that he is innocent.

Constantinople: The capital and chief city of the Byzantine Empire. A city of possibly half a million people, it was heavily fortified. It was also a very important trading center. The Vikings just called it 'big city, or Miklagard.

Coracles were bowl-shaped Irish boats that were made of interwoven laths covered with leather. They were clumsy but very light.

Crannog: It was an artificial island built in a shallow lake, partly for defensive purposes. They were first built in Ireland in the early Christian era, and were presumably an import from Scotland, where they had been built for a long time.


Crescent: Ironically, the moon and crescent symbol was that of Christian Constantinople, which the Turks usurped when they took the city in 1453. Only after that did it become synonymous with Islam. I have therefore used it some seven centuries early.

Cynwith:  Now known as Countisbury Hill.

Danegeld: Is a payment to the Danes so that they would leave the land in peace. It was reportedly first paid in 865 by the Ealdormen of Kent.

Dardenelles: The narrows at the southern end of the Sea of Marmara.

Djellaba: A long hooded garment with full sleeves.

Djinni: in Moslem legend, a spirit that can assume human or animal form.

Dragon Ship: The largest Viking warship, it was up to 160 feet in length, and had up to 72 oars. It could carry a crew of up to 300.

Dreng: Young warriors without land who reside with their lord.


Dromon: The major Byzantine warship.

Dubh-galls: Dark foreigners, or Danes

Duguo: The proven warriors who have been allotted land by the king. They are expected to answer the king's summons at the head of their own household troops.

Ealdorman: A nobleman next in power to the royal princes. The Saxon kingdom of WESSEX was divided into shires, and an Ealdorman was in charge of each SHIRE. It was the Ealdorman who called out the FYRD, or local militia.

Eig is 'island'.

Einvigi: An unregulated duel, fought with any weapons and in any location.

Eparch: the acting governor of the city of Constantinople.

Exarch: Commander or governor of an exarchate (province).

Euxine Sea: Black Sea

Fidla: A Viking fiddle.

Finn-gall: A 'fair foreigner', or Norwegian. The Danes were called Dubh-galls, or 'dark-foreigners'.

Francia Occidental: Is the eastern partition of Charlemagne's former empire. It most closely corresponds with France.

Francia Orientalis: Is the western part of Charlemagne's former empire, divided by the treaty of Verdun, 843.

Frankland: The land of the Franks. Under Charlemagne, this included modern France, and Germany, and a good portion of the rest of Western Europe.

Frisian:  Were sea-faring traders who were located on the mainland coast just south of Viking territory. One of their main cities was Wyk Te Duurstede.

Freedman: Generally a thrall who had bought his freedom, he was still somewhat dependent on his former owner to champion him.

Fyrd: Militias made up of thanes and churls. For every five hides of land, one fyrdman, mounted and armed, was obliged to answer the call-to-arms.

Gastald: In the duchies of southern Italy, local rulers were called gastalds. These officials were in charge of the local law-courts, led the city army, and administered the royal lands in the city's territory.

Gate of the Sun: Alexandria's eastern gate.

Great Army: Viking army of Danes which landed in England in 865. They pillaged and conquered much of England.

Ghutra: A traditional piece of cloth folded and used as a head covering.

Greek-fire: A volatile substance that burns fiercely and could not easily be put out. It gave the Byzantine navy a tremendous advantage.

Greens and the Blues: The Blues and the Greens were political factions in Constantinople that wielded great power and had an intense rivalry.

Hersir: A minor Viking nobleman.

Hlaut: Sacrificial blood.

Hide (of Land): It varied in size, but was generally considered to be enough to support a single family.    


Holmgard: Viking name for Novgorod.


Holmgang: A ritualized duel.


Iblis: The devil.


Inner Sea: Mediterranean Sea.


Jarl: Important Viking land-owners, they acted as priests and judges.


Jorvik: Jorvik is actually the city of York. In this story, I use Northumbria and Jorvik interchangeably to represent the Northumbrian Vikings, whose capital is Jorvik.

Jutes: The Jutes were, with the Angles and the Saxons, the three major Germanic tribes to have conquered Roman Britain. The empire of Wessex was made up of people from all three of the original tribes.

Kafir: A man unwilling to submit himself to Allah; an unbeliever.

KARVE: Viking utility craft with a draft of less than three feet.

Kathisma is the Emperor's Royal Box.

Kentarchos: Captain of a Byzantine ship.

Khagan: Khazar King.

Khan: Leader.

Khazars: A strong nomad tribe that was quite supportive of trade, and controlled the territory where the Dnieper River enters the Black Sea.

Kiev: was a town just north of the open steppes on the Dnieper River. It was apparently seized by Dir and Askold sometime soon after 860 A.D.; after the death of three brothers who had ruled there.

Kismet: is fate, destiny, or 'the will of Allah'.

Knarr: is a short, deep-keeled and beamy vessel that could carry up to 15 tons of cargo. Unlike most Viking vessels, it relied mainly on sails rather than oars. 

Kvasir's Blood is a term for poetry. Odin was supposed to have stolen the ‘sacred mead of poetry' which was brewed from the blood of a wise god - Kvasir.

Kumis: Fermented mare's or camel's milk.

 Long Gallop or Long Ride: A technique Ambrose and Polonius used to seize Carnarvon. With multiple mounts, the riders start a fast ride towards the target from far away. By changing horses and posting scouts in advance to ambush any couriers, they attempt to outride any news of their approach, thus achieving complete surprise.

Loki: He is the god of mischief, who liked to play tricks.

A Long-ship was a Viking sea-going vessel somewhat smaller than the dragon ship. It was up to a hundred feet in length, and carried up to 200 crewmen.

Lundonwyc: A Saxon settlement of craftsmen and traders just upstream of the depopulated London.

Maghrib: North Africa.

Maghrib Al-Adna: The near-west  North Africa, comprising present-day Libya and Tunisia.

Maghrib Al-Ausat: The middle-west of North Africa, comprising modern-day Algeria.

March: A MARCH is a border region; one that may need to be defended.

Missus Domincus: A Frankish 'king's messenger' whose duty it is to supervise provincial administration.

Matins: Morning prayer.

Medusa: A winged female creature whose hair consisted of snakes. To view the Medusa's head was to be turned to stone.

Miklagard: or NEW ROME is the Byzantine capital of Constantinople.

Mjollnir: Thor's hammer.

Moot:  is a gathering of men who both acted as a court, and could impose fines.

Narvesund: The Viking name for the Straits of Gibraltar.

Night: The Saxon day began at sunset, and they counted nights instead of days when referring to a period of time.

Norn: Supernatural beings who were often represented as three maidens who wove the fate of men.

Norse: Norwegian.

Novgorod: A town where legend has it that Rus settlers were invited (circa 860 A.D.) to come and rule, in return for their military protection.

Odin: Viking god of wisdom and war.

Offa's Dyke: Built between 757 and 796 AD., the major earthworks was built as a barrier to prevent the Welsh from attacking into Mercia, or at least provide warning.

Onager: A Roman-style rock-throwing catapult that uses the force of twisted rope to hurl a single beam against a padded cross-beam.

Great Army: Viking army of Danes which landed in England in 865. They pillaged and conquered much of England.

Outer Northern Sea: The ocean by Norway.

Pecheneg: A Turkish tribe of nomads.

Perun: The Slavic god of thunder and lightening.

Pig-Stickers: Polonius had been trying to teach the mounted Saxons the lance skills of the heavy cavalry of the Russian Steppes. He had helped the Varangians of Kiev and of the Dnieper River Valley fight off a massive invasion of these fierce warriors. Though victorious, Polonius had learned to respect the steppe-warriors' skills. He had seen at first hand the shock value of their ferocious charge.

Pontus Euxinus: Is the Black Sea.

Primogeniture: The right of the first-born male child to succeed his father as king.

Qahwah: The Arabic name for coffee. One story I came across suggested that the coffee bean was first 'discovered' by a goat herder in Ethiopia, circa 850 AD. It is thus not impossible that some beans may have made it to Alexandria some seventeen years later.

Quarrel: A crossbow bolt or short, heavy arrow.

Ragnar's Sprouts refers to Ubbi, Halfdan, and Ivar the Boneless, the men who led the Great Army to Britain. They were the children of the powerful Danish chieftain Ragnar, who earlier had himself invaded England and France. Legend had it that he was killed in Northumbria by being thrown in a pit of snakes.

Ragnarok: The time when the giants were supposed to come and destroy the world as men knew it.

Ran's Nets:  the wife of Aegir, she was the sea goddess of storms. She was reputed to collect drowned people in her net.

Rath is a farm-stead consisting of a house and sometimes out-buildings, surrounded by a circular wall with only one narrow entry point. This was a typical family dwelling of the time.

Rus: I am presuming that Dir, Askold, and the majority of the warriors were Rus. When I am sure that I am referring specifically to a Rus warrior, migration or leader, I will use 'Rus'. I use the word 'Varangian' to refer to any combined forces, even if the majority of them is composed of the Rus tribesmen.

Sax: A Viking long knife.

Scramasex: A Saxon dagger.

Scotti were an Irish tribe who from Roman times raided (and eventually settled) in Scotland.

Scutatus: Byzantine heavily armed and armored infantry.

Seven-night: For the Anglo-Saxons, each day began at sunset. Thus, a week before was a 'seven-night ago.'

The Seven Cataracts were on Dnieper, and they were a major problem for boats going up or down river.

Shieldburg: Turtle formation.

Shire: A portion of a kingdom ruled by an ealdorman.

Sigrblot: The first of three Viking celebrations. It took place in early summer and signified the beginning of the warm season.

Skagerrak: The narrow area between the coasts of Denmark and Sweden.

Skald: professional Viking storyteller.

Skjaldborg: Viking shield-wall.

Souterrains were generally found in most ring-forts. They were stone tunnels that led under the walls to secret exits.

Sun Tzu: Refers to the book - The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. This text was written some time between the fifth to the third century B.C.

Sun-Stone: The mineral Cordierite, which can show the direction of the sun on cloudy days.

Svinfylka: or ‘boar's snout'. It was a arrow-shaped mass of warriors who would press forward and try to break an enemy shield-wall.

Testudo: An armored siege engine, with a top to protect from missiles fired from above.

Thane: An Anglo-Saxon minor nobleman.

Thermopylae: was the Greek pass where the Spartan King Leonidas and 300 soldiers bravely held off the Persian army of Xerxes in 480 BC.

Thing: The Viking assembly of free men that acted as a council.

Thrall: Male Viking slave.

Thor: The son of Odin and the god of thunder.

Torque: A band of metal worn around the neck.

Tourmarch: Commander of the Byzantine fleet, or admiral.

Tun: Town.

Ulema: Expert on Islamic sacred law.

Ull: The Norse god of archery and the hunt. He was called upon for help in duels.

Valhalla: is the hall of Odin where the most heroic Viking warriors slain in battle drink and feast each night, until Doomsday, when the dead warriors would fight at the god's side.

Valkyries: "Choosers of the Slain" are beautiful young women who scout the battlefields, choose the bravest of the slain, and take them to Valhalla.

Varangian: I use it to mean the various Viking tribes that traveled the Russian rivers. The Rus were but one of the Varangian tribes.

Varangian Sea: The Baltic Sea.

Vespers: Evening prayer.

Victory-maker was the name of the priceless foreign-made sword Canute had given his young thrall when Ambrose was still a captive in Denmark.

Viking Sea: Baltic Sea.

Vill: Village.

Vitchev: is a hill 35 miles south of Kiev that overlooks the Dnieper River. It was at one point fortified and used as a warning-post against attack. It was also the location where the ships gathered in spring before their perilous trip across the open steppes.

Weapons-Master: The title given Phillip by Saxon kings in recognition of his great fighting prowess.

Wergeld: Money paid as compensation for injury inflicted on another.

The Witan, or Council, had the right to choose the next king from amongst any of the royal ATHELINGS, or princes. The usual tradition, however, was for the council to choose the eldest son.

Wyk Te Duurstede: A major port of the Frisians. While conquered by the Franks and then attacked by the Vikings, it was still considered to be a major port in Alfred's time. It was also involved in the slave trade.

Wyking Lo, or 'Viking Meadow", is now known as Wicklow.