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Harald Hardrada: Battle of Nisa 1062 AD

Harald Hardrada: Battle of Nisa 1062 AD


This video is sponsored by Vikings: War of Clans. Build, plan and conquer in the game that lets you choose your own play-style. What kind of leader will you be as you work towards pitting your nation against others? Played by over 20 million people around the world, Vikings lets you write your own history. Click on the link in the description below and not only will you be supporting our channel but you will begin your conquest with a defensive shield and an extra 200 gold, to secure your legacy! It is the year 1033. Four years have passed since the defeat of exiled King, Olaf Haraldsson, near Stiklestad. The battle was a botched effort by Olaf to reclaim his kingdom that cost him his very life. With his supporters either dead or scattered, his remaining family sought refuge at the court of their ally, Kievan grand prince Yaroslav. Among his exiled relatives were his only son and heir (though illegitimate), 8 year old Magnus and his half-brother Harald Sigurdsson who at the age fifteen fought and was wounded alongside Olaf at the disastrous battle. Over the next three years, Harald won local renown in the military service of Yaroslav. He proved his valour and skill in various feuds against the grand prince’s opponents such as the Pechenegs, Finnic tribes and even Byzantine Empire. Though he climbed to the rank of captain, Harald quickly grew restless with the limited possibilities of serving in Kievan Rus. In 1035 he, along with a skilled retinue, left the service of Yaroslav and ventured south eventually reaching the walls of the mighty city of Constantinople, known to the Vikings as Miklagard. There he managed to find employment as a mercenary to the emperor, Michael IV. Whilst in the service of the empire, Harald saw military action in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean where his Norse naval skills were well utilised fighting Arab pirates. According to sagas, he also visited the Holy Land where he played a part in the signing of peace treaty between Emperor Michael and the Fatimid Caliphate. Over time, Harald moved through the ranks of the Byzantine army and eventually became a member of the renowned Varangian Guard which at the time consisted of many Norse mercenaries. As a commander, he took part in the Roman expeditionary force invading the Emirate of Sicily. Yet again Harald proved his cunning and ability, capturing Arab strongholds and giving rise to near-fantastical tales of his exploits. He even supposedly once faked his own death to get into a city in order to assault his enemies by surprise. Although the success of the Byzantine Empire on Sicily was short-lived, Harald always ensured that he was well rewarded for his victories, lining his own pockets. Over the years serving the emperor, he amassed a significant amount of wealth, all of which was sent to his friend Yaroslav in Kiev for safekeeping. Gaining renown within the Varangian Guard brought Harald into close contact with the Byzantine court and its affairs. His employer, Michael IV, gained the position of emperor through his marriage to Empress Zoe and earned a certain amount of independence as a ruler. But as is often the way, things changed. In 1041 Michael died. And without his benefactor, Harald found himself embroiled in the political power struggle that followed. True or not, several stories arose surrounding Harald including his imprisonment for either defrauding the throne, defiling a noblewoman or simply just for murder. It was also rumoured that he was involved in the blinding of the successor, Emperor Michael V. Clearly, courtly intrigue was far too dangerous for Harald’s liking, so he departed for his homeland of Norway… to start a civil war. He had heard of the death of King Canute and wanted to see if he could leverage this to his advantage. He made a hasty escape from Constantinople, as the new emperor forbade him and his men from leaving, but before returning to Norway, he first took his battle-hardened retinue through the Black Sea back to Kievan Rus. He reunited with his old friend, Yaroslav, promptly married his daughter and reclaimed his amassed riches. With his wealth secured, he departed for Scandinavia and in 1046, arrived in Sweden. Upon his arrival, he learned that not only was Cnut dead but so too were all his sons. The creator of the North Sea Empire had left no other heirs. What was more; Denmark and Norway were ruled by young Magnus the Good, Olaf’s bastard son and Harald’s nephew. This was a problem. Harald had ambitions of becoming king but Magnus was considered a popular ruler and his claim to the throne was far stronger than his. Nevertheless, Harald made the decision to challenge his nephew for the throne. He allied himself with another royal claimant, Sweyn Estridsen, Canute’s nephew, who unsuccessfully fought Magnus for control over Denmark. To undermine Magnus’s rule and display their dominance, they embarked on a campaign of raids along the Danish coast. Their constant harassment of the coastline eventually yielded results as Magnus proposed a political compromise. He offered Harald, and Harald alone, joint-rule over Norway. Magnus would continue to rule Denmark but also be regarded as overlord of the entire realm. Harald was reluctant to break his pact with Sweyn, who was excluded from this arrangement, but eventually accepted the deal with his nephew. It was an uneasy rule between Harald and Magnus with the two seldom able to cooperate. Harald was on the brink of taking up arms once again against his nephew but a year after their accord, Magnus suddenly died. The path to ruling the entire realm suddenly opened for Harald. But even in death, Magnus had one last card to play to spite his uncle. Magnus had named Harald’s betrayed ally, Sweyn Estridsen, as his successor to rule Denmark. This came as a shock to Harald. Immediately he launched naval attacks on the Danish coast as he had done before. But he struggled to maintain a foothold in Denmark. As soon as Harald returned to Norway after an attack, Sweyn stormed in and reclaimed his lost territory. The stalemate between the two lasted for nearly 12 years and took a great economic toll on both rulers. It was not without major victories for Harald. In 1049 he captured and burned Hedeby, a large Norse trade centre situated in southern Denmark. Still, neither side could truly overcome the other through this conflict. But Harald refused to stop. It was during this time that he earned his famous nickname, Hardrada, hard ruler. It was not until 1062 when things finally changed. Whether pushed by his people or simply exhausted by the constant attacks, Sweyn conceded to facing Hardrada in a final decisive battle. The agreed upon place would be at the mouth of Nisa river in Halland to settle things once and for all. On the 9th of August 1062, Hardrada sailed his fleet of 300 ships to the appointed spot at mouth of the river Nisa. But when he arrived, Sweyn’s fleet was nowhere to be seen. Believing Estridsen had a change of heart over the battle, Harald dismissed half of his ships, mostly consisting of farmers and inexperienced militia, back to Norway. He then prepped the remaining fleet to resume raiding the Danish coast. But as evening arrived so too did Sweyn’s fleet, having no doubt heard that half of the Norwegian fleet had departed. Estridsen had double the number of Harald’s forces but Hardrada refused to flee. Years of raiding had hardened the Norwegian navy and his were the better warriors. Hardrada ordered his longships to be roped together with his own drekar in the centre. Ships on the flanks remained untied and were led by Norwegian Jarl, Haakon Ivarsson. Though Sweyn mirrored Hardrada’s tactic and also lashed his ships together, he placed his second-in-command, Jarl Arnesson at the centre. Encouraged by his superior numbers, Estridsen took the initiative and slowly rowed forward to engage. When they got close enough, both sides traded volleys of arrows hoping to gain an early advantage. It took some time, but eventually Hardrada shortened the distance and clashed with Estridsen’s line. As the sun dipped below the horizon, fierce melee broke out. As the battle raged through the night, it seemed like neither side could gain the upper-hand. Although out-numbered, Harald’s men proved their mettle and fought the Danes in a bloody deadlock. As the battle raged on, Hardrada slowly realised that if the encounter continued as it was, he would not win. The numbers were simply against him in spite of his superior troops. But if he could not crush the Danes from the front, he would need to take them from the side. He commanded Jarl Hakon to manoeuvre his detached longboats around the battle line and attack the Danish flank. Hakon quickly overwhelmed the smaller enemy vessels on the left and applied massive pressure to the side of the Danish line. This move turned the tide of the battle. Soon Hardrada’s men started clearing the first line of Danish vessels which eventually resulted in a general retreat. The majority of Sweyn’s retinue were able to escape. The Danish King himself was taken aboard Jarl Hakon’s ship but Hardrada’s commander either didn’t recognise him or simply decided to free him, sending him to the shore. More likely, it was the latter as Hakon once served under Sweyn. Either way, Estridsen was able to escape the slaughter. As great as this victory was for Hardrada, battling through the night and winning against superior numbers, his efforts had gained him nothing. Sweyn along with the majority of the Danish fleet had escapedand Harald’s fleet had suffered losses. He was no closer to actually claiming Denmark. Weeks later, Hardrada discovered that Hakon had helped Sweyn and he ended up exiling the jarl that all but won him the battle of Nisa. The status quo persisted. Hardrada assaulted the Danish coasts for two more years but to no avail. His feud against Sweyn Estridsen could not be won. And due to the economic harm his constant campaigning brought on his kingdom, he finally agreed to sign a peace treaty ending all hostility between the two kingdoms. Even in death, Magnus had won. But Hardrada did not dwell on this as his attention was now drawn to new conquests, specifically to the shores of England. But that’s another story.

100 thoughts on “Harald Hardrada: Battle of Nisa 1062 AD

  1. You sort of skip the Sicilian and southern Italian campaign as well as Syrian. The true mastermind was the byzantine Strategos Georgios Maniaces who Harald was under

  2. Just wanted to thank you for teaching me. Even though this is a YouTube video, it's very insightful and utterly fascinating. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

  3. Yaroslav"s dauther name sounds like Elizaveta, Olisava, Ellisiv, Ellisif, Elisabeth,not sure which one is the right one.

  4. Nothing says Harald would have lost if they remained fighting head on at stalemate, the battle could have gone either way or most likely a draw.

  5. Us Greeks have a pantheon of heroes larger than life (… larger than many lives actually) including the greatest man in whole of known (most possibly uknown too) human history, Alexander the Great (… and he was only slightly better than his father! LOL!). Still we know to recognize value when we see it in others : Harald Hardrada was a man larger than life – what a life story! Came down from Sweden without much to claim everything from his life and came back a millionaire and became a king – a real inspiration for the classic Conan the Barbarian book! A cross between Achilles, Ajax and Odysseus!

    Mentioning the Iliad, though we can't verify it, it is almost sure that living for years in Constantinople he came to know the story of the Iliad. There is an intersting story on that :
    When campaigning with the Eastern Roman Imperial army in South Italy and Sicily, there was a city in central Sicily, a christian one but which was allied to the Arabs, resisting Imperial re-conquest. It was extremely well fortified on a hill with high walls and it was difficult to reach with siege machinery. The situation was desperate as resources were fast dwindling. Then Harald thought of a trick : he fainted death by injuries of battle! His Varangians contacted the city informing them that his last wish was to not be buried in a random burial out in the fields but rather in the cathedral's cemeterty inside the city he failed to take. The city's envoys even got to see some "Harald Hardrada" dead corpse (possibly a dead Varangian that roughly resembled Harald, wearing his armor and insignia). The city council saw it as an honor to have such a great hero buried in their city and then of course that would also mark the end of the siege!
    Tough luck! The small unit of 100 Varangians that came in town proceeded as a funeral march until the point they examined well the main gate and how many guards where there so just before they started closing the gate, they gave the signal and took out short swords they were hiding in their underwear (stupid locals had not searched them outside the walls!) taking the guards by surprise! A sizeable unit of the Greek army plus the rest of Varangians were all ready and prepared hiding nearby and with the signal they rushed out of their hiding spots and got in the town to support the few Varangians that bravely stood their ground against the counter-attacking opponents. It was all over quickly.

    … if I remember correctly it was said that Harald Hardrada was indeed inside the coffin and at the signal for attack, he jumped out, "rising from the dead" (!!!!!), sword in hand, I mean how cool is that! What a guy! Sweden used to produce such men, what happened to Swedes today?

  6. "Think I'll be going back home now." "Arghhh, see the family, settle down eh?" "Oh, oh no, I'm going to start a civil war. =)" = Boss

  7. Anyone looking at this comment, we need a movement about Harald Hardrada's body, he founded the city of Oslo for godsake. Apparently its buried underneath a street sewer system in Trondheim. It hasn't been excavated and exhumed yet. Its like the Norweigians don't take pride in their history and culture, if we wait too long his body could be lost forever. http://sciencenordic.com/norway-should-also-dig-its-%E2%80%9Ccar-park-kings%E2%80%9D

  8. Harald really screwed up Norway. They had peace and prosperity under Magnus, but noooooo, Harald just HAD to have his own throne.

  9. Cool. A naval battle. Let's have some more like that. Something different. Maybe even something with airplanes or submarines or something. Not that I don't like the regular ones. They're cool too.

  10. Vikings Blood Sacrifices to Odin Did Gave Them This Bloody War Genes. If they Conquest Invaded South America Shall they Would be the Same Mayan Apocalypto Custom.

  11. Did the Viking kingdoms such as Denmark, Normandy, Norway, etc have formal navies or was there no formal distinction between Army and navy?

  12. why Sweyn didn't try to flank from the outset? If the infographic mirrors actual numbers, it looks like he boasted just about a 2:1 advantage..wouldn't it make sense to mount the pincer before risking to lose superiority?

  13. THis guy is so awesome, why Vikings focused on a semi-myth like Ragnar Lothbrok, when real historical characters are twice more badass? XD
    And I thought that Harald Hardradra was just a random nordic king, what a fool :p

  14. @8:40 How did Sweyn's ships row forward to engage, upstream, after the ships were lashed together? I guess it might be possible, but seems like a pain to row upstream with the ships lashed together. It would seem easier to sail upstream after the ships were lashed together.
    Also, didn't they have oil and fire back then? This battle could have been won easily with greek fire or a molotov cocktail. Maybe just axe the enemies hull a couple times. But that wouldn't have been noble and brave, better to just fight man to man. After all you need to die before you are 40 to get to Valhalla before you are to old to fight.

  15. 1:44 It's at that point I saw Duklja. During the reign of the Dukljan king Bodin, Montenegro was at the height of its power.

  16. Could you please cover some battles between Dacia and the Roman Empire, or maybe between the Romanian Kingdom and the Otoman Empire ? There are some that are worth it.

  17. Harald's death at the battle of stamford bridge is often considered the end of the vikings. He was such a mercenary legend that his death ended an entire legacy

  18. The broad stroke of history forgets all of the normal people who were killed as the elite ruling class murder anything that gets in the way of their path to power. Europe has a problem with rich people wanting to force their will on everyone else even to this day. This isn't the first yellow vest revolt, it's just the most yellow.

  19. I grew up diving for golfballs in "Nissan". Some rivers in Europe are great, but Nissan is one shitty little stream. I guess in a rowing boat you could cross it with five or ten "rows". However it transforms into lakes as is common in the Swedes landscape. There are few marches or moores. But there is one called :"the great moore" and upon which many sought refuge. Enemies would simply sink to their death or not find their way. So a city called "Värnamo" was formed there. The name stems from Värn (protection) a (on) mo (moore).

  20. Funny enough, Harald and Sweyn's children would marry each other. If they couldn't conquer each other's thrones, then they could at least breed into them.

  21. This channel is a perfect addition to what Sabaton are doing with their music!
    Sabaton often focus a bit more on myth and heroic legend, while BazBattles has a great grasp of the details.
    No we add Iron Maiden for the overall view and we have the perfect history lesson!

  22. The river Nisa or "Nissan" as it is called, floats directly by my house! There are tales describing how wounded warriors can still be heard on the beaches to this day. Nice to see my own home here. Also, Rotorp, as you can see on the map, still exist to this day!

  23. As a dane, this was so difficult to follow because of the odd pronounciations of names. I don't know the danish king by the name Sweyn, I know him by his real name, Svend den Yngre

  24. Harald Hardrada reminds me of Pyrrhus of Epirus, great general, super famous, died from self-inflicted failure, but one of the reasons he fought in so many wars is that he had more ambition than he had luck or talent. Maybe it's because the video skipped over his time as a Byzantine mercenary but for all his fighting he didn't achieve any solid goals, except maybe making himself rich, and had to settle for less than what he set out to get.

  25. When naval tactics consisted of crashing together giant rafts and basically having a land battle, it really puts into perspective how terrifying a weapon Greek fire was.

  26. Hi..
    Please create a Didgori battle 50 000 georgians against 400 000 turkey..

    It was a great fight 1125 Ad

  27. Holup. Vikings tells me Ragnar did the “I’m dead so let me in” trick, the internet tells me it was Bjørn, and you tell me it was Harald

  28. Harald was accused by several chroniclers that he had stolen the treasure of Roman Imperators from Constantinople.

  29. Harald was foolish. He should never have betrayed Swen. They could have worked together to take England and even the Holy Roman Empire

  30. Between 6:33 and 6:40 thats exactly how the AI plays with me, i strike, i capture, he avoids battle and when i leave, he comes get what i captured

  31. MAKE A MOVIR ABOUT HARALD HARDRADA and if there is already one make a recent one

  32. Do you have a video about harald going to England? I'm about to go look into it but I would love to see your animations tell the story

  33. Damn, dude was a bad ass. Wonder if he knew the Normans were coming for England as well, if he did probably hoped the normans and saxons fought first so they'd fight the victor.

  34. Hey man love your work. Just wondering if you could maybe do some more videos on battles between ecgbert, Alfred the great and more of the viking kings etc 8th 9th 10th century. Battles of edington englefield, Reading, ellandun, cynwit. Just to name a few

  35. Hardrada will literally fight Muslim invaders in Antioch, Cyprus, Sicily and southern Italy. But the one battlefield he ran away from, was the court of Constantinople.

  36. Correction of name spelling in the title: "Hardråde" or "Hardraade" or you could get away with "Hardrade" if it was part of an email address. But the last letter is definitely E and not A, no matter what Wikipedia tries to tell you.

  37. all the ancient Europeans cry out loud when they see how spineless we have become, how we let us be conquered by islam and give all away

  38. One of the things that most impressed me is the fact that the Kievan king gave back his cash. I was waiting for a stab in the rear maneuver.

  39. Can u do the battle of bayang here in the philippines? Where moro stop the invasion of foreign hostile.. one of the best story and battle happen here in south philippines

  40. When you learn about 1066 and the Norman Conquest, you just see Harald as that other guy who lost to the English right before they themselves were defeated by William. I didn't know that he was this incredible warrior who lived an amazing life, and was probably the ultimate badass of the day. Thanks for the awesome video!

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