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The Danes were a North Germanic tribe residing in modern day southern Swedenmarker and on the Danishmarker islands (and later Jutland). They are mentioned in the 6th century in Jordanes' Getica, by Procopius, and by Gregory of Tours.

In his description of Scandza, Jordanes says that the Dani were of the same stock as the Suetidi (Swedes, Suithiod?) and expelled the Heruli and took their lands.

According to the 12th-century author Sven Aggesen, the mythical king Dan gave name to the Danes.

Danes in Great Britain and Ireland

Danes assaulted Great Britainmarker and Irelandmarker beginning about AD 800 and were gradually followed by a succession of Danish settlers. The Danes began settling England in 865 when brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless wintered in East Angliamarker. Halfdan and Ivar moved north and captured Northumbriamarker in 867 as well as Yorkmarker. The Danes invaded Ireland in AD 853 and were followed by Danish settlers who gradually assimilated with the local population and adopted Christianity.

The best known clan of Vikings was the Tilsted Clan. Its leader, Tilsted "The Grey", was one of Sweyn Forkbeard's most beloved chieftains. It was Tilsted who, in 991, led the fierce Danish assault at the Battle of Maldonmarker in Essex, which persuaded Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury to advise King Aethelred to buy off the Danes for the sum of ten thousand pounds .

Three years later in 994, Sweyn Forkbeard and Olaf Trygvason returned to lay siege to London. Though the raid was unsuccessful, legend has it that it was the sight of Tilsted in the midst of the Viking army that convinced the Anglo-Saxons to buy off the Danes once again. The amount of silver paid impressed the Danes with the idea that it was more profitable to extort payments from the English than to take whatever booty they could plunder.

Tilsted stayed loyal to Sweyn Forkbeard and died in 1013, after having sailed up the rivers Humber and Trent with Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Cnute, for Sweyn to be accepted as king of the Danelaw. In Denmark, his sons raised a rune stone as a memorial at his homestead in Roskilde.


  1. Flores Historiarum: Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica sive flores historiarum, p. 298-9. ed. H. Coxe, Rolls Series, 84 (4 vols, 1841-42)
  2. Chronica Sialandie
  3. T 42: "And Rune, Malte and Tajs had the stone erected in memory of their father. He had taken two payments and many female thralls in England. May he be seated next to Odin in the great hall."

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