Skip to content

The Return of the Dreaded Vikings in Andalusia

My previous answer produced a detailed account of the first Viking attack on Andalusian shores in the year 844 CE; this article, however, will focus on the later Viking expeditions to Iberia. As a first point, I want to point out that both this article and the other article regarding the first Viking attack on Iberia equate to roughly a fifth of the context I have written in my private book compositions – the level of detail surrounding these events is extraordinary, so I summarized as much as possible for this blog.

Secondly, do check out the first answer I wrote on the 844 CE Viking expedition if you haven’t read it already.

The Andalusian Legacy II:

The Return of the Dreaded Vikings in Andalusia

The Second Viking Expedition to Spain
(April 859 – March 860)

The mighty Vikings, fierce warriors of the North and Baltic seas, descended once more upon the Western coast of Andalusia with a fleet of 62 ships. But this time, they encountered a more formidable opponent – the vigilant Muslim patrols who cruised the Mediterranean from the coast of France to Galicia. After a minor chase, the Muslims brazenly hunted and captured two of the Viking’s ships loaded with precious treasures of gold, silver, prisoners, and provisions, and brought them to the port of Beja on the western coast of Iberia. Despite this setback, the Vikings’ relentless spirit did not falter. They sailed south along the coast and reached the mouth of the river by Seville, where they faced the powerful Emir Mohammad I of Cordoba (r. 852 to 886 CE), who rallied the surrounding provinces and districts to join the Hajib, Isa ibn Hasan, in defense. But the Vikings, with their bloodthirsty nature, could not be deterred. They quickly left the river mouth and sailed to Algeciras, where they seized the city and burned the grand mosque before crossing over to Africa to cause chaos and destruction on unsuspecting inhabitants of Nekor (Nachor), killing many Muslims and enslaving those who couldn’t flee. They then returned to the coast of Spain, landed on the coast of Todmir, and marched to the fort of Orihuela, where they successfully captured it, solidifying their reputation as fierce and unstoppable marauders.

Vikings Carrying their Loot after a Miscellenous Raid

These relentless marauders of the sea then set sail for their base in the Loire, in France, to spend the winter. There, they imprisoned and enslaved the city’s inhabitants and plundered vast amounts of treasures. But as they returned to the coast of Iberia, fate dealt them a harsh blow – more than 40 of their ships were lost in a raging storm. The Andalusian Muslims, led by the powerful Emir Mohammed I, advanced to do battle with them on the coast of Sidona where the Vikings reportedly lost two more ships to Mohammed’s superior navy, and those ships were said to be laden with great riches. The remaining Viking fleet fled and went on their way. But the Vikings were not known to go down without a fight; they fought fiercely, killing and martyring many Muslim fighters. They then sailed to Pamplona, where they imprisoned the king, Garcia of Navarra, and ransomed him for a sum of 90,000 dinars. They then sailed back through the strait of Jabal Tarik and made their way to Italy before heading off further east to Alexandria. According to some accounts, on the way to Italy, they attacked the islands of Majorca, Formentera, and Minorca, slaughtering the entire populace. They then sailed on to Greece, and after a three-year expedition, they finally returned home to their fatherland in the far north. Out of the 62 ships they had arrived with, the Viking expedition is said to have returned home with just 20 ships. From that point on, significant attacks on Muslim Spain were discontinued.

Third Viking Expedition to Iberia
(964 – 966 CE)

On June 23, 966 (1st of Rajab, 355 A.H), the Caliph Hakam II received a letter from Kaser abi-Danis in Alcacer (in Portugal today) that sent shivers down the spine of the inhabitants. The ruthless Vikings were spotted sailing in the western seas with just 28 ships, but that was still enough to make the people uneasy given the Vikings’ past atrocities. The reports that kept coming in were of how the Vikings were pillaging and plundering their way across the land until they had reached the plain of Lisbon. The Muslims in Lisbon, fiercely determined to protect their land and avoid the devastation that occurred more than a century ago, decided to take the fight to the Vikings. Many Muslims were killed and martyred in the fight, while at the same time, Muslim sources reported that a good number of Vikings met their demise as well. The Muslim fleet sailed out of Seville and attacked the Viking fleet in the river at Silves, emerging victorious, putting several Viking ships out of action, freeing many Muslim prisoners aboard them, and killing a great number of Vikings. The remaining Vikings fled; afterward, Cordoba was informed of every movement made by the surviving enemy ships until, as Ibn Idhari put it, “God sent them away.” In that same year, the caliph Hakam II commanded his admiral, Ibn Futais, to return to the river at Guadalquivir in Cordoba and build ships exactly like the Vikings’; the caliph devised a clever stratagem in the hopes of tricking the Vikings into believing they were their own ships.

Fourth Viking Expedition to Iberia
(968 – 971 CE)

Sampiro of Leon’s account tells the tale of a Norman fleet of 100 ships, led by the fierce King Gundered, that landed in Galicia in the 2nd year of Ramiro III (968 CE). Like a massive flood, they swept across the land, plundering towns and villages, leaving destruction in their wake, and not a single Galician army could stand in their way. The raiders took an enormous amount of treasure and prisoners with them as they conquered Galicia. They then set their sights on the holy shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela, which was filled with riches at the time; they docked their fleet in Arosa Bay and marched inland. Bishop Sisenand, upon hearing of the atrocities committed by the invaders, became furious and led the charge against them at Fornellos on March 29, 970 CE, but was killed in a heated battle. The holy shrine of St. James was overrun as well, and the Normans controlled the country for another three years.

Despite the killing and enslavement of many Christians during their occupation, as the Normans were loading up all their loot on their ships, a multitude of men thirsting for revenge, attacked them by surprise near Ferrol, where their ships were docked, under the command of Gonsalo Sanchez, count of Galicia. The battle was brutal, but Gonsalo emerged victorious, killing King Gundered, along with many of his warriors, and taking the rest as prisoners. The Christian prisoners were set free, and the entire Viking fleet was burnt to ashes, putting a temporary end to their reign of terror.

A Wide Map Showing Viking Voyage Origins from 800-1000 CE

But, according to Ibn Idhari’s account, some Vikings managed to survive the devastating defeat in Galicia, for at the start of Ramadan in the year 360 A.H (July 971 CE), the “Majus Alordomani” (aka, an army of the Northmen), as Ibn Idhari calls them, were spotted on the sea, with the intention of launching an attack on the western coast of Andalus yet again. The Sultan, in response, commanded his admiral to quickly head over to Almeria, take the fleet there to Seville, and collect every squadron across all the Andalusian ports to the west. Ibn Idhari’s account stops here, as it is believed that the Andalusian fleet was too powerful to fight, and the Vikings, recognizing this, departed and were never heard from again. The Vikings’ attempt at forming a Normandy in Iberia, as they did in northern France, turned out to be a failure. Nonetheless, today, three villages near Coimbra in Portugal are called Lordomao (pronounced Lordoman), which the Spaniards referred to as the Vikings (they also called them Nordoman, Lordoman, Nortman). Thanks to the fierce defense put up by the Iberian defenders, the Vikings turned their attention towards less well-defending countries. Galicia, on the other hand, struggled for quite some time before they permanently rid their coasts from the scourge of the Northman.

Thank you for reading – I advise you to read Ibn Idhari’s chronicles for an expanded account surrounding these events. Fair fortune to you.