Item Description
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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