25 October 2015

The original New England

This is actually a really cool bit of history.

And it does shed some interesting light on the Crimea that may run against the grain for a fair number of observers. Byzantine Greece was, at one point in England’s history, a welcoming landing-site for English refugees from the Norman conquest, and the Crimea in particular was host to towns with names like Susaco, Londina and Vagropolis. And this came about because the Saxon adventurers under Sigurðr of Gloucester had heard that Constantinople was under siege, and made haste to come to the martial aid of the Byzantine Emperor. At this point, of course, one good turn deserved another: Sigurðr and his men were welcomed into the Varangian Guard, and were apparently given land to colonise on the Crimea.

It seems rather ironic, then, that in the 19th century, the British Empire would, on that very same ground, be fighting against the Byzantine Greeks and the Russians who had done her exiled subjects this good turn. Further adding to the irony, it would be doing so alongside the selfsame French and Normans (by that time, of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia) who had made life for the Saxon inhabitants of Britain such a misery in the 11th that they had to set out to sea in the first place.

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