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1018: The Year in Review

This year would see its share of political intrigue and military conflict – England would see itself becoming more connected to Europe, while a French monk warned of a new threat against the Catholic Church.

Cnut expands his power

1018 saw the fortunes of Cnut Sweynsson continue to rise. The Norse warlord had completed his conquest of England in the previous year, and had been busy consolidating his power and eliminating English rivals. He would now levy a massive tax on the country, raising £72,000 plus another £10,500 just from London. The chronicler Henry of Huntingdon remarked about the taxes: “So severe a taskmaster did the justice of God inflict on the English.”  Cnut used this money to pay off his army and send most of them back to Scandinavia, although he retained 40 ships and their crews as a standing force in England.

This same year Cnut sailed back to Denmark, where his brother Harald II had just died. Cnut would assume the Danish throne, the second piece in his establishment of a North Sea Empire that would eventually also include Norway.

The Battle of Vlaardingen

Several battles were fought across Europe during the year 1018, but perhaps none with more lasting importance than the conflict that took place in the Frisian town of Vlaardingen. The local ruler, Dirk III, Count of Holland, was in rebellion against Emperor Henry II over issues of taxation and the occupation of lands claimed by other local lords. Henry sent an army under the command of the Duke of Lower Lorraine against Dirk and his “Frisian pirates”, and on July 29th it reached Vlaardingen. The imperial forces were considered to be far superior to the Frisians, but as the Duke moved his forces in place to attack Dirk, the battle took an unexpected turn. Albert of Metz explains what happened next:

When it seemed to the duke that it would be difficult to cross this area with a large force, he ordered that the men bearing his banners turn back and halt in a flat space that was surrounded by a ditch. Then, if the Frisians wished to fight, he would have a better ability to receive them. But when the banners of the duke’s army began to withdraw, a most evil man, a kinsman of the pirates, shouted loudly in the midst of the least experienced men in the army, saying that each man should take care of his own life. The duke, he claimed, had withdrawn in flight from the battle after being pressed by the attack of the Frisians against the first rank. As this false rumor flew through the army, the men all turned in flight and were struck by such fear that they hurled themselves into the river, even though there really was no pressure.

Learn more about the Battle of Vlaardingen from Medieval Warfare magazine

As the Imperial forces fled, the Frisians attacked, turning the battle into a rout, with the Duke of Lower Lorraine being captured.  Dutch historians have viewed the Battle of Vlaardingen as the beginning of political independence for the region, the first step in what would be the creation of The Netherlands.

The Heretics

This year would see the rise of a new threat against the Catholic church in Western Europe, at least in the eyes of the chronicler Adhemar of Chabannes. He reported about the beginning of a heretical movement that emerged in southern France:

Manichaeans appeared throughout Aquitaine seducing the people. They denied baptism and the Cross and every sound doctrine. They abstained from food and seemed like monks; they pretend to be chaste, but among themselves practice every sort of vice. They were messengers of Antichrist and caused many to turn away from the faith.

What Adhemar was seeing was part of a broader religious movement that had been emerging in Western Europe since the turn of the millennium. New ideas about the Christian faith were challenging the Church, which would soon lead to conflict and attempts to repress various ‘heretical’ movements.

Other events of 1018

The year would be a good one for the Byzantine Empire, with their armies winning two battles. At Dyrrhachium they defeated and killed the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Vladislav, bringing to an end the the First Bulgarian Empire. Meanwhile, a Byzantine army in Italy defeated Melus of Bari at the Battle of Cannae. The battle is noteworthy as the first time Norman mercenaries were being employed in southern Italy – by the end of the eleventh-century the Normans had taken control of most of this region.

The Caliphate of Cordoba would see more turmoil as its caliph would be assassinated on 22 March 22nd. His successor would only hold the throne for a few months before he to was ousted and murdered. They were not the only leaders to meet untimely ends – in Ireland King Bran mac Morda of Leinster was overthrown by rivals, while in Wales Aeddan ap Blegywryd, Prince of Gwynedd, would be killed in battle along with four of his sons.

Not everything that happened in 1018 was violent – on January 30th a peace treaty was concluded between Emperor Henry II and Bolesław I, Duke of Poland, which ended sixteen years of war. The Polish ruler used this period of peace to devote his attention elsewhere – he intervened in a succession struggle in Kievan Rus’, supporting one of its claimants. On August 14th Polish troops, supported by German and Hungarian mercenaries, captured the city of Kiev.

Lastly, Herman of Reichenau only noted one thing in his chronicle for the year 1018: “In Constance, after the death of Bishop Lambert, Rudhard received the bishopric and ruled for almost five years.”

You can find a List of state leaders in 1018 from Wikipedia



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