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Downloads Home » Stronghold Crusader: Invasions » The Historical Battle of Maldon (991 AD)

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The Historical Battle of Maldon (991 AD)

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File Details
Map Size: 300x300 (Medium)
Difficulty: Normal
I usually make fictional maps of fantastic places and scenarios. I admit my Dungeons & Dragons background influences. But, once in a while I will break down and do a historically accurate map just to have a change. I lived in this part of England for three years, and really enjoyed exploring all the (real) history in that country!

The Historical Battle of Maldon (991 AD)

Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, an Anglo-Saxon Earl, and his men take on the plundering Vikings, and their leader Olaf Tryggvason, when they land at Northey Island in Essex and try to collect a Danegeld.

On the southeastern shores of present day England, just north-east of London, is the town of Maldon (Old English: Maeldune). Today the town of Maldon is a safe place with: National Trust protection of the battlefield, the nearby Newham Green housing development, and modern bridges to span the swirling waters of nearby Blackwater Bay and it’s marshy inlets. One thousand years ago, this was not the situation.

In 991 AD, the Vikings were plundering East Anglia. Tough Norsemen raiders were pouring out of their shallow drafted longships and attacking Anglo-Saxon towns up and down the coast. If a Anglo-Saxon town's leadership didn’t pay the Vikings a "Danegeld" (large ransom for peace, paid in gold and silver), then their town was sacked and burned. The Vikings were also renowned for looting the dead bodies of fallen foes and other atrocities (decapitation being popular). During the period just before the Battle of Maldon, the Saxons suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the marauding Vikings. The situation had become desperate. In August of 991, the Vikings raided the interior town of Ipswich and then moved back to the swampy coast to camp at Northey Island (just offshore of Maldon). The Vikings anchored their longships on the eastside of the island (lest they be needed to beat a hasty retreat to the North Sea and back home).

Enter Byrhtnoth.

In 991, there were few people interested in keeping written records of historical events. The monks at Ely Abbey (now Ely Cathedral) kept a record called the Liber Eliensis, the ‘Ely Book’. Records kept by the monks tell of Earl Byrhtnoth battling the Vikings on two occasions (once 4 years earlier on a bridge where he and his army wiped them out). After that first defeat, the Vikings, ashamed and wanting vengeance, sent a personal message to Byrhtnoth saying: "if he would not come and fight them, then they would consider him a coward."

The most complete accounting of the battle outside Maldon in 991, can be read in the famous poem, “The Battle of Maldon”, written by a Saxon poet a short time after the battle. This poem immortalized Byrhtnoth and his unsuccessful efforts to beat back the Vikings. Without the poem, Byrhtnoth’s eventual defeat at Maldon would have only amounted to a tiny footnote of a loss (in a series of losses) to the Vikings during this period of history. I am including the English translation of the poem in the zip file for this map. Enjoy.

Byrhtnoth learned of the Viking camp on Northey Island and swiftly raised a small army of militia (including his own nephew, Wulfmaer). They soon marched along the old Roman road from Colchester to Maldon. When they arrived, they could see the longships and Viking camp on the island and prepared for battle. Northey Island (still to this day) is accessible only at low tide, and only by the narrow causeway. Byrhtnoth’s army crowded on the mainland side of the causeway, while the Vikings sat on the island side (the distance was recorded at the time at 120 yards, it is now wider due to erosion). Because the swirling high tide covered the causeway and prevented access to the island, a battle did not immediately take place. Instead insults and threats were shouted from both sides, while both armies waited for the tide to go out and reveal the causeway. A Viking spokesman/translator screamed for the Saxons to pay the Danegeld in gold. Byrhtnoth replied that instead of gold and silver, the Saxons would be paying in spears.

The tide slowly started to go out, and eventually some Vikings tried to make it across. Three Saxon warriors (Byrhtnoth’s nephew, Wulfmaer, was one of these three fighters) held the causeway with sheer ferocity, quickly cutting down any Viking who tried to climb up that side. These early deaths led to an impasse. Seeing no way to cross without huge losses, the Viking leader began pleading with Byrhtnoth to let the Vikings cross the causeway and to fight a “fair” battle against his forces on the mainland side. It is unknown why Byrhtnoth let the Vikings traverse the causeway. Some historians say it was because Byrhtnoth was supremely confident in his forces (since they won last time). Some say that Byrhtnoth had some retribution of his own to deliver (he was formally challenged and accepted, instead of being labeled a coward). The Vikings were allowed to wade across the causeway unimpeded. Once across they coldly arrayed themselves in battle formation on the bank the Saxons had just defended, and made ready to attack. The Saxon army moved to the wheat fields which surround the causeway, and awaited the inevitable.

Arrows, axes, and spears filled the air (Beadscur, or Battle Shower, is the old name for a incoming missile barrage) as the Vikings grimly charged the Saxons. As the first blood started to flow, the Vikings then unsheathed their swords and stormed headlong into the Saxon lines. The bulk of the Viking force went after Byrhtnoth himself and his household guards. Wulfmaer was also targeted singly and cut down early in the battle.

After suffering several wounds that would have killed a normal man, Byrhtnoth’s sword dropped from his hand, and the Saxon leader fell back into the arms of two accompanying warriors. Then a Viking landed a killing blow on Byrhtnoth, cutting off his head. After Byrhtnoth’s death, the remaining Saxons (including Byrhtnoth’s own men) chose dishonour and fled the battlefield, taking with them most of the evidence (helmets, swords, spears, buckles ect) of the battle. Byrhtnoth’s headless remains were left to rot on the field. Fortunately, the monks of Ely Abbey secreted away his body and buried it on the Abbey grounds (its still located at the present day cathedral). During construction in the 1700's, the burial crypt of Byrhtnoth was opened and body was estimated to be 6 foot 9 inches tall when he was alive. This measurement is questioned because the corpse has no head, only a large ball of wax placed by the monks in 991.

Despite the fact that the Saxons lost the Battle of Maldon, it is a significant event because the Saxons caused enough losses to slow the Viking force from rampaging across the countryside as they pleased. If the Saxons hadn’t put up a fight at Maldon, then the Vikings might have sacked many more major towns. The battle also clearly illustrates that the Anglo-Saxons (at least Byrhtnoth) were a proud (and maybe a little overconfident) people. They held on in some form until William the Conqueror took a shot at England in 1066, but that is another map and another story. Olaf Tryggvason (the Viking commander who won at Maldon) went on to London and was repelled in another great battle. He went home and sat on the throne as Olaf I of Norway, dying on Sept 9, 1000.

Im including links to great sites on Battle of Maldon in the zip file, along with the prementioned poem, some maps of the area, and some pictures.


-To rate or not to rate, that is the question.
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AuthorComments & Reviews   ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )
Stratego Hi Lollard,

what a funny map! I never saw such a crazy and entertaining creation, though I finished it very quickly within ten minutes or so after having checked the basic situation... review will come soon!


Stratego ;-)
File Author
Thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoyed the map.

Sir Steele fun fun fun! i just wanted to play a ship map! let me download!
File Author
Thanks Sir Steele, I had fun making it too.

Map Design5.0
Playability: 4
WOW! I loved playing this map. Infact I think I loved playing all Lollards maps! :D The only reason for a deduction here is that the game feels a bit easy. Begginners to intermediate may find the map challenging, but more advanced players will find it too easy. Its extremely fun though, and the gold and armour add a bit of a challenge to aquire, as the stockpile and granary are hard to access. This is perfect for making the end of the map just as much of a challenge as the start. Excellent!

Balance: 3.5
Unfortunatley I had to deduct a couple of points here, because the map is simply too easy to win. If there were either less starting troops for the player or more for the AI I wouldve given a 4 or above for this section. Aside from that the map is fantastic. :)

Creativity: 5
The idea is fantastic, and the map really utilizes the full potential of the map editor. What more can I say, other then Superb!

Map Design: 5
This map design is brilliant, and easily deserves a 5. The shallow watery marshlands are cleverly done, and the overall layout is perfect, as it gives you a real militia camp feel. Brilliant!

Story/Instructions: 5
The Storyline easily deserves a 5. The author has obviously done his research, and has implemented all the relevant data. Fantastic!

Additional Comments:
ANOTHER great map from Lollard! :D keep up the great work. Maps like yours make stronghold crusader never get boring ;)

Ps. If you have time could you please rate one of my other maps, preferably one or more of the tellahran crossing maps (But you can rate them all in one if you like :P, I actually meant to make them a pack, but then forgot and posted the first one seperatly). Thanks for rating Dawn Assualt aswell, your comments are helpfull as usual :)

[Edited on 10/11/05 @ 06:28 AM]

File Author
I knew people would think its too easy. In the actual battle the Saxons held their own against the Vikings for a while...

When we playtested it we had a side bet on who could have the most macemen left at the end. The record was 26 LEFT for while but then I got 31 LEFT once. People could post their best score of macemen left at the end of the Battle of Maldon - to see who is the best Viking Commander! Just post it as a comment on here.

Skaarj WOW! really?? Im not that good I only managed 14 leftover macemen.
Grisha Very very cool map :)
Good job, really like the ship =)
Sir Hugh
This is a fun map, but I always came 1 gold below the required amount. How do I obtain more?
File Author
Recycled stone is gained by deleting the bow and aft tie ups on the longship. Delete enough to make one stone appear on the stockpile and then sell it. How many macemen did you have left?


[Edited on 10/25/05 @ 02:45 PM]

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