Sverri Sigurdsson is one of those historical figures who life reads more like a novel than a real life. He was raised on the Faroe Islands, and trained to be a priest, but when he was 24 his mother returned from a pilgrimage to Rome and told Sverri that his real father was King Sigurd II of Norway, who had been killed by his elder brother and co-ruler twenty years before. Sverri, who was not suited to the priesthood, decided to return to Norway to try and claim the throne. At first he had no success, but he then joined up with an existing group of rebels, and took them from a band of around seventy into a force that was able to win him the throne. However he doesn’t appear to have been terribly popular, and had to keep fighting against rebellions for much of his reign. Much of the information we have about him comes from Sverris Saga, which was largely written during his lifetime, and with quite a lot of input from him, so is inevitably biased in his favour. However this does also mean that we probably get fairly accurate reports of some of his speeches and his own motives, which is rather rare for rules from the twelth century.
The articles on Sverri cover a wide range of topics, from his origins to his key battles, the production of the saga to his civil wars. Away from the theme there is a look at the myth of the sword of the Volsungs, and a myth about an endless battle fought on a Scottish island.
Away from the Vikings there is a rather timely article on warfare during the Black Death looking at the impact it had on fighting and the French attempts to recover from the disaster at Crecy, an examination of the multi-national nature of the armies of the Abbasid Caliphate, focusing on their most effective units, and the siege of Scutari, an epic defence of the city against the Ottomans, but one that was undone four years later when the city was surrendered to them.
Coming to Norway - Humble beginnings, bold dreams
The Battle of Fimreite - A grand victory during an hour of need
Sverrir the guerrilla fighter - ‘The hungry louse bites the hardest’
Norse mythology and warfare - The gods who need fighters
Sverris Saga - A subtle and strongly ideological narrative
The Norwegian freeman soldier - Sverri’s men and chessmen
Birkebeiner versus Bagler - Sverri’s right to the throne is challenged
The sword of Volsungs - The Blade did not shatter or break
Warfare during the Black Death - As if struck by a lethal arrow
Warriors of the Abbasid Caliphate - Diversity in medieval Islamic armies
The Siege of Scutari, 1474 - The Ottoman Empire versus Venice