Olaf Haraldsson used the sword to gain control over Norway. (Illustrating Photo: Museum of Cultural History)
Today, exactly 999 years ago, was the Battle of Nesjar which is considered the first accurate dated event in Norwegian history. According to Snorri’s Kings Sagas, Olaf Haraldsson (Olaf the Holy) on Palm Sunday 25th of March 1016 AD did beat Earl Sweyn nearby Larvik in Eastern Norway.
“The earl maneuvered the fleet past Grenmar (Langesundsfjord) and docked at Nesjar”, Snorri writes.
The 21-year-old Olaf overcame a number of the most powerful Norwegian chieftains and took an important step in the long process towards the Christianization and unification of Norway.
Despite his young age, Olaf already had long experience as mercenary. As a teenager, he went to the Baltic, then to Denmark and later to England. Skaldic poetry suggests that in about 1014 he led a successful seaborne attack where London Bridge was pulled down, and London and the English throne was brought back to Æthelred the Unready by removing Canute.
After being baptized in Rouen, Olaf Haraldsson returned to Norway in 1015 and declared himself king, which led to many years of unrest and civil war.
Snorri writes in the saga about Olaf and his men who met Earl Sweyn and a peasant army at Nesjar that Earl Sweyn’s army was the largest, but Olaf’s soldiers were professional and most of them wore body armor. This protection probably was a decisive factor for the outcome. The peasant army’s weapons and tactics were not sufficient developed to beat Olaf’s better-equipped and trained soldiers.
Olaf Haraldsson was killed on 29 July 1030 in the Battle of Stiklestad in Trøndelag where the king’s army met another large army mainly consisting of peasants, and he was killed by a cut on the left side of the neck where his armor did not protected him.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog