Moderation and Restraint During Conflict as Ideal Behavior in High Medieval Scandinavia and Iceland

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It has been argued that across the medieval period, European elites increasingly attempted to distinguish themselves from those of a lower status not only on the basis of their political and material power, but also through the adoption of social markers. This chapter considers one social marker which has been of particular interest to those working on medieval elite warrior culture, namely, the practice of moderation and restraint during conflict. It provides a new perspective on this topic by using a comparative method to investigate the extent to which moderation and restraint were viewed as positive behaviors for elite men to display during conflict in high medieval Denmark, Norway and Iceland. It argues that in Norway and Denmark, moderation and restraint are shown to have been ideal qualities for elite men to possess. In contrast, sources for thirteenth-century Iceland do not present elite men as either aspiring towards or meeting this ideal. Instead, elite men are praised for their skill in legal matters and negotiations. This reflects the important role legal processes played within the continuation and resolution of conflict in Iceland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNordic Elites in Transformation, c. 1050–1250
Subtitle of host publicationLegitimacy and Glory
EditorsWojtek Jezierski, Kim Esmark, Hans Jacob Orning, Jón Viðar Sigurðsson
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781003097143
ISBN (Print)9780367562816
Publication statusPublished - 07 Oct 2020


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