Valhalla? Season 2 foe explained

*WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Vikings: Valhalla season 2*

After season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla explored the events taking place in England and Norway during the early 11Th century, the show’s newly released second season has certainly expanded its horizons.

After fleeing from Norway following the fall of Kattegat, Leif and Harald are tasked with escorting a boatload of precious cargo from Novgorod to the great city of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.

However, the journey promises to be a dangerous one as Harald’s uncle, Yaroslav the Wise, warns that a faction known as the Pechenegs has blocked the main trade route to their destination.

Understandably, fans of Vikings: Valhalla have been left with plenty of questions about the Pechenegs but just who were they and what happened to them in real life?

Harald and Leif encounter the Pechenegs in Vikings: Valhalla season 2

The Pechenegs are first mentioned in episode 2 of Vikings: Valhalla’s second season as Leif and Harald arrive in Novgorod to seek aid from Harald’s uncle, Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, in his efforts to claim the throne of Norway.

Yaroslav refuses, however, as he wishes to continue trading with Canute’s empire while the trade route to Constantinople is being blocked by the raiding Pechenegs.

But Harald is given a lifeline when Lord Vitomir tasks Harald with escorting a precious cargo past the Pechenegs.

Harald and Leif join up with a small group of travelers, including a blind Pecheneg named Kurya, on a slaving boat owned by a man named Gestr and they set out across the frozen lands of south-eastern Europe.

As the season progresses, more details about the Pechenegs come to light and it’s revealed that Kurya is the disgraced brother of the Pecheneg Khan.

By episode 7, the surviving crewmembers encounter the Pechenegs first-hand as the boat runs aground after cascading over a waterfall and Harald is taken prisoner – forcing Leif and the group to mount a daring rescue in the Pecheneg camp, only escaping by the skin of their teeth after the Khan’s forces arrive.

Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix

Who are the Pechenegs in Vikings: Valhalla?

The Pechenegs were a real group of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia whose homeland was located between the Aral Sea (an enormous lake that has since almost totally dried up) and the Syr Darya River in modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Throughout their existence, the Pechenegs were a people constantly on the move across the steppes of south-eastern Europe, and by the time of Vikings: Valhalla in the early 11Th century, they had settled in what would be Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria in today’s world.

Whenever they settled somewhere new, the Pechenegs would send raiding parties against their neighbors, making the region a highly unstable one during the time period, hence the worry about the expedition to Constantinople as it means traveling straight through Pecheneg territory.

However, during the 9Th and 10Th centuries, the Pechenegs allied themselves with the Byzantines and would fight against other tribes from Kyvian Rus, a huge state that encompassed a number of eastern European and Slavic countries.

One Pecheneg Khan named Kurya (not the same as the Kurya in Vikings: Valhalla) is said to have betrayed the Prince of Kyiv, Sviatoslav I, in a later campaign against the Byzantines and after killing him used his skull as a chalice.

Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix

What happened to them in real life?

Like the Vikings, the Pechenegs are no longer around today as a series of military defeats and population displacements drove them into extinction.

The Pechenegs’ most costly defeat came at the Battle of Levounion in 1091 when they were annihilated as an independent force by an army made up of Byzantine and Cuman troops under the command of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.

Alexios I recruited the surviving Pechenegs and resettled them in Moglena, (Macedonia today) but they were attacked by the Cumans again in 1094.

Over the following decades, the Pechenegs began assimilating into other tribes in the area of ​​Romania and Bulgaria, earning their final mention as a group in 1168 as members of Turkic tribes.

Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix | Bernard Walsh

Vikings: Valhalla season 2 is available to stream now on Netflix after releasing on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

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