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Paris is everything you told me it would be... and I am bound and determined to conquer it.

Ragnar to Athelstan's spirit, To the Gates!

The Siege of Paris is a military engagement that is part of the Norse Invasion of Frankia. It depicts the confrontation between the Viking Army led by Ragnar Lothbrok and the army of West Francia. The event takes place in Season 3 Episodes 8-10, To the Gates, Breaking Point, and The Dead.

Prelude

The Siege of Paris takes place in 804 AD. The Viking Army, led by Ragnar Lothbrok and six other earls, including Lagertha, sailed from Kattegat for West Francia.

The Vikings arrive at the mouth of the Seine River, thanks mostly to a polyglot wanderer named Sinric. Soon after their arrival outside Paris, the Vikings set up camp and Ragnar organizes a war council that brings together all the leaders. He decided to let Floki be in charge of the attack, to the surprise and reluctance of some of the other earls. Floki has constructed huge siege towers to climb the walls of the city from the river. The Viking Army is comprised of at least 100 longships and 2,000 warriors. Meanwhile, in Paris the people gather to pray with their emperor for their survival and the safety of Paris.

The Battle

First Assault

The Vikings begin advancing down the Seine River towards the main walls of Paris. Inside the city, Count Odo and Count Roland are cooperating to ensure their defenses will be able to hold off the Vikings.

By this time, Lagertha, Siegfried, and Kalf have arrived at the main gates leading a party of around four hundred warriors. With them are war machines manned by Erlendur's men. The Franks prepare to stand their ground with crossbowmen well defended behind arrow slits. Then, the Vikings bring a battering ram carried by a dozen warriors to break open the gates, with archers placed to cover the ram's advance. Lagertha's warriors are forming a shield-wall to protect them during their slow advance towards the gate. At Lagertha's signal, the archers shoot and the Franks return fire that seems to slow the pace of the battering ram. The Franks' arrows continue raining down on the Vikings, resulting in many casualties. The ships are slowly turning into position for their assault.

The battering ram finally reaches the gate and beings weakening the door. Count Odo is forced to consolidate his soldiers. As the Vikings begin pouring out of their ships, they are met with a rain of arrows and bolts. Rollo, Ragnar, Björn, and Floki begin advancing fiercely towards the siege towers. Lagertha and her warriors continue ramming the gate, but it doesn't yield. To try and speed up the ram, the Vikings use Erlendur's war machines. These tools are two sharp, metallic spikes linked to ropes and pushed by horses to break the gate. Many warriors are killed while trying to attach the ropes to the horses. Björn orders the warriors to climb again and again while archers shoot towards the Frank soldiers. The Vikings continue to suffer massive casualties due to the unceasing volley of arrows and bolts, one even nearly catches Ragnar. The Franks are also suffering heavy losses. Princess Gisla sees this and convinces the bishop to bless the Oriflamme, the sacred banner of Saint Denis, so that it can be uses to boost morale.

A soldier informs Count Odo that the Vikings are progressing at an alarming rate on the ramparts. The bloody battles rages on with more and more Vikings climbing the siege towers. Count Odo and Princess Gisla both arrive at the ramparts when the Frankish soldiers are starting to truly despair. She presents the Oriflamme to the soldiers and declares, "Soldiers! Citizens of Paris! Behold the Oriflamme. Behold the sacred flag of Saint-Denis. Behold the sacred flag of Frankia. Behold, soldiers of Christ. That wherever the Oriflamme is, no quarter is to be given to our enemies. Soldiers, show no mercy. Fight on! Fight to the death!" At this sight, the Franks are reenergized and begin fighting back with real power, managing to see the Vikings off the walls.

Lagertha's group continues to suffer heavy casualties as the Franks throw huge stones on the battering ram, but they manage to destroy the gate. To their surprise no Frankish soldiers await them. Rollo kills a man who is hesitating about climbing the tower. Floki sees dozens of dead bodies skewered with bolts, and a huge cauldron of boiling oil drops one the siege towers and the Vikings climbing them. The Frank archers shoot flaming arrows that set the towers on fire.

While Lagertha's warriors begin running across the bridge leading into the city, she is stopped by Kalf who senses a trap. Indeed, the doors of the city opens and the Vikings are met with a volley of arrows and bolts from crossbows and ballistae, causing severe losses. The remaining survivors run down to the safety of the outside door while trying to avoid more arrows. Rollo starts climbing the ladder on a tower, slaying Franks when he reaches the top, but he is fought off and pushed into the river below. Björn also begins climbing a tower, with Ragnar coming behind him. The two start making their way onto the ramparts, but Ragnar is pushed back and suffers a terrible fall from the ramparts into the river. As he falls, he catches a glimpse of Björn's body pierced by two arrows in his back. Floki, meanwhile, is caught in a fanatic dream of some sort inside a burning tower. By this point nearly all the siege towers have caught fire and the Vikings begin a disordered retreat.

Second Assault

The Vikings remain at their encampment, mourning their losses and slowly starting to recover. Ragnar, still very weak from his fall, watches from a distance as Lagertha puts her own plan into action. Backed by a group of hand-picked shield-maidens, she swims across the Seine River under the cover of darkness. She scales the walls and then with incredible stealth, kills all the guards in the covered bridge. Even after the alarm is raised, Lagertha manages to open the gates and let the Norse army in. To provide a distraction for Lagertha, her shield-maidens set fire to the main gates. They succeed, but are all killed in the process.

The warriors who had been hiding in the small huts next to the gate start pouring through the door. As they run onto the bridge, Count Odo launches a huge, spiked-wheel contraption that rolls towards the Vikings and crushes them. As Count Odo begins to order his soldiers to bring back the machine, Rollo jumps over it and puts a spike in front of it to stop it moving, thus singlehandedly disabling it.

The remaining Vikings then resume running towards the awaiting Frankish soldiers and the battle begins. The Vikings are again met with volleys of bolts and arrows, but they manage to fight their way into the Frankish ranks. Princess Gisla is evacuated by Count Roland for her safety. Count Odo's forcers are reinforced with dozens of fresh soldiers who join the fight, making it even more difficult for the Vikings to push through.

Realizing they are outnumbered and ceding ground, Rollo orders the retreat. While attempting to flee, Earl Sigfred and Sinric are captured. Once again the Vikings have failed to enter the city. Earl Sigfred is sentenced to execution and is beheaded, while Sinric manages to convince the Franks that he is not on the side of the Vikings and is willing to be on theirs. The siege continues though, with the people of Paris trapped inside the walls of the city.

Final Assault

Although the Franks have managed to defend their city, a mysterious plague has been spreading in Paris and its citizens are starving and dying. A severely weakened Ragnar privately offers to bargain with Count Odo. Count Odo begs Emperor Charles to discuss terms with the Vikings in order to end the siege for the sake of the people. Charles relents and the two sides agree to meet. During the negotiations, Count Odo offers large amounts of gold and silver, but Ragnar won't accept them. Instead, he makes it clear that he is dying. He demands to be baptized, explaining that he wants to be reunited with his Christian friend Athelstan in the afterlife. The stunned Franks agree. He is then baptized as the confused and angry Vikings watch.

Upon the death of Ragnar, Björn informs the Franks that Ragnar's final wish was to have a Christian burial and to be buried within the walls of the city. The Franks agree to grant the requests. So Björn and six unarmed men carry Ragnar's coffin into the cathedral. As the bishop goes to begin blessing the coffin, a very much alive Ragnar suddenly jumps out of the coffin. He kills the bishop and takes Emperor Charles hostage, only to release him and grab Princess Gisla as a hostage. He forces the guards the open the gates of the city. Björn and the six men grab weapons that had been hidden inside the coffin. Björn then leads an all out assault upon Paris and the city is sacked and raided by the Vikings.

Aftermath

The Siege of Paris is a challenge like nothing before for the Vikings. Ragnar and the six other earls, including Lagertha, struggled to breach the walls of the city. Both Ragnar and Björn suffered serious injuries for the first time. The result of Ragnar's ingenious strategy to fake his own death and be baptized and buried within the city results in the sacking of Paris. After the sacking of the city, most of the Vikings leave West Francia for home. But a small party, led by Rollo, will remain at their riverside camp as settlers. Emperor Charles is determined to gain the favor of the settlers in order to protect his land from future raids. He meets with Rollo and offers him lands, a title, and Gisla's hand in marriage in exchange for defending Paris against any future attacks from Ragnar.

In History

In reality, the events depicted in the Siege of Paris were two separate historical events. The first event was a quick and successful siege of Paris that occurred inn 845 AD, led by Ragnar Lothbrok. The Vikings breached the city walls, raided and sacked Paris, and were subsequently paid off with around 2,570 kilos (5,665 pounds) of silver and gold. It was Charles the Bald (Charles II) who was emperor at this time, not Charles III (Charles the Simple). The second event was a much longer and ultimate failure siege in 885-886 AD, led by Rollo, Sigfred, and Sinric. The Vikings attempted to storm the city several times using elaborate siege weaponry. It is during this siege that the city was defended by Cont Odo.

The fake funeral that Ragnar stages is based on the 859/860 AD historical account of Björn Ironside and a Viking named Hastein's trick to enter the Italian city of Luna (now Luni) by staging a funeral for Hastein and claiming he had converted to Christianity.

Trivia

  • This battle scene is the longest, most ambitious one in the show's run thus far. It lasts for a full thirty minutes and the action is non-stop.
  • It takes ten men to throw Ragnar off the walls.
  • Earl Sigfred single-handedly pulls down the gates of Paris, something that even two draft horses couldn't do.

Gallery