If you’re watching the hit TV show Vikings, or have been playing Assasin’s Creed: Valhalla, you may have been wondering whether or not the Siege of Paris is based on facts or was just made for entertainment.
After all, the city of love is one of the most popular cities in the world, it would really make great entertainment to have been included in TV shows and games.
So did the Vikings really attack Paris? The answer is yes. The siege of Paris was chronicled by Abbo Cernuus, a Neustrian Benedictine monk who was present during the Viking’s siege.
Viking’s First Attack on Paris
The Vikings set out to invade Paris in March of 845 with a fleet of 120 sheets and around 5,000 men led by the legendary Viking warrior "Reginherus" whom we know as Ragnar Lothbrok.
On their way to the city, the Vikings attacked Rouen, a city in France, and were met by a small Frankish force that they easily defeated. According to the chronicles, the Vikings took 111 Frankish (French) men and hanged them on an island on the Seine to honor the Norse God, Odin, and incite fear amongst the Franks.
The Vikings reached the city of Paris on March 29, 845, looted the city, and attack one village after another. Failing to defend the city, King Charles II paid a ransom of 7,000 livres to Ragnar Lothbrok in exchange for leaving the city.
The Viking’s Return
Determined to stop the Viking raids, the Edict of Pistres ordered bridges to be built across the river in 864. The Grand and Petit Pont controlled the entry and exit of ships in and out of the Seine which made it difficult for Vikings to penetrate.
The Vikings, led by a Danish Viking Sigfred, sailed to West Francia in November 885 with 300 ships and thousands of warriors and demanded tribute. After their tribute was denied, they began their siege, first, by attacking the northeast tower with catapults, mangonels, and ballista.
After several failed attempts, the Vikings decided to withdraw and set up camp on the right side of the riverbank. The Vikings then took a different approach by weakening the foundation of the bridge and attacking the city with siege equipment.
After another setback, the Vikings again came up with a different approach and decided to fill the riverbanks with debris and dead bodies in an effort to flood the river. Then, they sent three large burning ships to burn the bridges which weakened the bridge’s foundation even more.
On the 6th of February 886, the rain caused the river to overflow and damage the bridge allowing the Vikings to penetrate. The Vikings attacked and looted Paris once again.
Sigfred and his men eventually left Paris in April 886 for 60 pounds. Rollo decided to stay with his men and eventually married a noblewoman named Poppa of Bayeux naming him the first Duke of Normandy.
Despite some of the events in Viking TV shows and games being exaggerated for entertainment purposes, many of the events happened in real life as written in chronicles and sags. A good example of this is the Vikings’ attack on Paris which is well documented.