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From the eighth to eleventh century raiders, conquerors, and
colonists from Denmark and Norway plundered the British Isles. This
period is known as the Viking Age. In 789 A.D., the Vikings
launched the first attack on Britain. By 877 A.D. the Norsemen
gained control of two thirds of Britain. The Vikings were finally
driven from England in 1085 A.D. Prior to the Viking raids, the
Anglo-Saxons began minting a new type of silver coin. The coin was
much finer and more atractive than earlier Saxon coinage. These
silver coins were called 'pennies.' The major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms
of East Anglia, Kent, Mercia, and Wessex struck these silver
pennies. In England native rulers paid Viking raiders 'Danegeld' or
bribes of large sums of silver coins to leave them in peace. Small
lead weights with Anglo-Saxon silver pennies on top were used to
weigh payments in coinage. Once the Vikings began settlement in
England in the late ninth century, they began to issue coins of
their own. The Vikings produced silver pennies. The adoption of
Anglo-Saxon coinage was political and cultural as much as economic.
Barbarian invaders like the Vikings looked at the more civilized
people they invaded and wanted to be like them. In the Middle Ages,
issuing of coins was one of the established rights associated with
Christian kingship. The Anglo-Saxons themselves adopted coinage
soon after converting to Christianity. The Vikings did the same.
The early Viking coins types were imitations of established
Anglo-Saxon coins. The silver penny of East Anglia is a copy of an
Anglo-Saxon coin of St. Edmund Memorial penny; the obverse shows
Alpha with inscription; the reverse shows a cross with inscription
(S960). All of the coins in this set are legal replicas of original
coins. The link between issuing coins and Christian kingship is
clear in the coinage of Viking rulers in England. The coins struck
in Viking held England, called 'the Danelaw,' carry both Christian
and Viking pagan symbols. The Cunnetti silver penny of the Northern
Danelaw silver penny of Cnut on the obverse CNVT REX with a cross
and crosslet; the reverse shows EMBRAICE CIVITAS with a small
crosslet (S987). A Northern Danelaw penny of Siefred shows the
obverse of SIEVERT REX with cross and crosslet; the reverse shows
EMBRAICE CIVITAS in contractions (S980). Not all designs of Viking
coins are exclusively Christian. The Viking coin of Olaf
Guthfrithsson of York displays a bird on the obverse inscribed
ANLAF CVNVNC (Old Norse for King Olaf). The reverse shows a cross
(S1019). The bird is often identified as Odin's raven. It could
also be an eagle, the symbol of John the Evangelist. The image
appeal to both Christian and pagan alike. The York silver penny of
Eric Bloodaxe obverse displays ERIC REX in two lines with sword
between; reverse with small cross (S1030).
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