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Le Secret des Vikings is a pseudohistorical work by the French author Joël Supéry. According to Supéry, the Scandinavian attacks against the Frankish Empire were carried out not by raiding adventurers looking for gold and silver but by armies applying a military strategy.

In AD 795, long before the start of the Danish invasion proper in 840, Scandinavians were present in Asturias, on the northern shore of Spain, where they fought with the local king against the Moors. In 799, the Franks attacked them in Noirmoutier ; in 812, a Viking fleet was seen off Perpignan on the Mediterranean Sea. In AD 816, Northmen were in Pamplona fighting together with a Navarrese army against the Moors. In 823 and 825, their presence was recorded on the Ria Mundaka in Biscaya. According to Supéry, the intention of these Vikings was to create a commercial route to the Mediterranean Sea, then the centre of the world's trade.

The main western European trading route between the south and the north was the Rhine-Rhône axis. The Franks initiated a form of commercial blockade in an effort to weaken the Danish kingdom. The Danes therefore decided to create their own route to the south along the Frankish coast. On this route they met the Moors, who were the masters of the Strait of Gibraltar. As this course was deemed too risky, they decided to reach the oriental markets by crossing the Pyrenees, passing through Mundaka (Guernika), Pamplona and then Tortosa, which was the main slave market in Europe.

In 840, the Danes began their attacks on the Frankish Empire – not on the Seine but on the Adour. Gascony fell under their complete control as early as 844. The leader of the invasion, Björn Ironside, became the ruler of the area and gave his name to Bayonne (originally "Björnhamn"). Hastein had occupied Noirmoutier in 843. In 845 Asgeir began to settle in Saintonge (Taillebourg) in Aquitania. Effectively, by 845 all the lands around the Bay of Biscay were under Danish control.

The Danish war in the north of France began with two objectives: to weaken the power of King Charles the Bald and to prevent the Franks from attacking in the south. In 858, having crushed the Frankish kingdom, Björn concluded a treaty with Charles the Bald whereby the Danes were formally granted all the country south of the river Garonne, an area which was thereafter no longer mentioned in the Frankish annals.

In the following year, Björn forced the king of Navarre to make a treaty allowing the Danes to cross Navarre to reach the river Ebro and Tortosa. He then sailed with Hastein to the Mediterranean Sea. While Hastein set about disorganizing trade in the Rhine valley and Italy, Björn attacked Constantinople, after joining up with the Swedish Varyags who had come across Rus. He obtained a commercial treaty from the Byzantine Emperor intended to attract trade away from the Rhône to the Ebro. In 863, Dorestad in Frisia, the Franks' main commercial centre on the Rhine, was definitively destroyed. The first Viking war was over: the Danes had set up a new trade network in place of an older and opposing one.

Then a new war began: the Danish chiefs tried to emulate the success of Björn in Gascony and to create their own overseas kingdoms. Northumbria, Mercia, Frisia, Aquitaine, Bretagne and Normandy were all affected by these attempts to found Scandinavian settlements.

Gascony stayed under the Vikings’ control for 140 years. Their army was finally defeated in 982 by forces from Gascony, Périgord and Navarre. The Gascons of Nordic origin were allowed to stay in the country which had become rich under their rule, but they were condemned not to mix with other communities, becoming (according to one legend) the despised and ostracized Agotes or Cagots. Yet their continuing presence in the Biscay area may help to explain why the Basques have so many traditions (such as whale hunting) with possible Nordic origins, and perhaps why they are said to have reached America one hundred years before Christopher Colombus.



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