Where did the Swedes come from?


There are numerous geographical studies, archaeological findings, historical accounts and written evidences which confirm much of Scandinavian history.  Most of the written history begins after 600 AD.  The little written evidence of Scandinavian history from 100 BC to about 600 AD comes from contemporary writers of history, like Tacitus and Jordanes. However, the lack of written history prior to 100 BC does not diminish the provocative past of the Scandinavians.  A reconstruction of the history of these years has been attempted by many scholars.  Most of these attempts come from the interpretation of archaeological finds in view of contemporary European history and culture (Europeanization of history), often disregarding a wider perspective.  Some of these reconstructions contradict one another, do not fit all the facts very well, or are invalidated by new discoveries.  Modern day academicians, perhaps well educated and sometimes arrogant, will scoff at the notion that their views can be challenged.  Such opposition will only bring attention to disregarded clues from ancient times.  As such, this article should not be considered history strictly in the academic sense.  The conclusions here can be attributed to well studied authors, researchers and historians.  Other information comes from scholarly works, opinion, legend, mythology, professional historiography, and from the analogy of circumstances and evidences too compelling to ignore.

In pursuit of a more accurate evaluation of Scandinavian history, some historical questions will have no easy answers.  For example, who were the Svear and Daner people who lived in the Baltic region (Denmark and southern Sweden) in the BC era?  Who were the Erul people who lived in the Baltic region at the same time?  Were they all kin from tribes of Thracians?  This document proposes some answers.

There is strong evidence that Swedish predecessors were migratory Thracians, an aggressive refugee “boat-people” who first came from the ancient city of Troy.  Located in northwest Asia Minor (present-day northwest Turkey), the ruins of Troy were discovered in 1870.  In the period beginning about 2500 BC, Troy was populated by an “invasion of peoples on the sea” according to the Egyptians.  These people were called Thracians by the Greeks, and were early users of ships, iron weapons and horses.  Troy (also called Troi, Toas or Ilium) was known as a center of ancient civilizations.  Its inhabitants became known as Trojans (also Trajans/Thracians, later called Dardanoi by Homer, Phrygians or Anatolians by others), and their language was Thracian or Thraco-Illyrian.  Evidence shows the city of Troy endured years of war, specifically with Greek and Egyptian armies.  The famous Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and Trojans with their allies.  Troy was eventually laid in ruins after 10 years of fighting with the Greeks, traditionally dated from around 1194 to 1184 BC, and is historically referred to as the Fall of Troy.  The city was completely devastated, which is verified by the fact that the city was vacant to about 700 BC.

Thousands of Trojans left Troy immediately after the war, beginning about 1184 BC.  Others remained about 30 to 50 years after the war, when an estimated 30,000 Trojans/Thracians suddenly abandoned the city of Troy, as told by Homer (Greek writer/poet, eighth century BC) and various sources (Etruscan, Merovingian, Roman and later Scandinavian).  The stories corroborate the final days of Troy, and describe how, after the Greeks sacked the city, the remaining Trojans eventually emigrated.  Over half of them went up the Danube river and crossed over into Italy, establishing the Etruscan culture (the dominating influence on the development of Rome), and later battled the Romans for regional dominance.  The remaining Trojans, mainly chieftains and warriors, about 12,000 in all with their clans, went north across the Black Sea into the Mare Moetis or “shallow sea” where the Don River ends (Caucasus region in southern Russia), and established a kingdom called Sicambria about 1150 BC.  The Romans would later refer to the inhabitants as Sicambrians.  The locals (nomadic Scythians) named these Trojan conquerors the “Iron people,” or the Aes in their language.  The Aes (also As, Asa, Asas, Asen, Aesar, Aesir, Aesire, Æsir or Asir) soon built their famous fortified cityAesgard or Asgard, described as “Troy in the north.”  Various other sources collaborate this, stating the Trojans landed on the eastern shores with their superior weaponry, and claimed land.  The area became known as Asaland (Land of the Aesir) or Asaheim (Home of the Aesir).

Some historians suggest that Odin, who was later worshipped as a god by pagan Vikings, was actually a Thracian/Aesir leader who reigned in the Sicambrian kingdom and lived in the city of Asgard in the first century BC.  He appointed chieftains after the pattern of Troy, establishing rulers to administer the laws of the land, and he drew up a code of law like that in Troy and to which the Trojans had been accustomed.  Tradition knows these Aesir warriors as ancient migrants from Troy, formidable fighters who inspired norse mythology and as the ancestors of the Vikings.  They were feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and thus quickly dominated the northern trades using the Don river as their main route to the north.

Historians refer to the Aesir people as the Thraco-Cimmerians, since the Trojans were of Thracian ancestry (click here for Thracian origins).  The Cimmerians were an ancient people who lived among Thracians, and were eventually absorbed into Thracian culture.  Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus noted about 440 BC that the Thracians were the second most numerous people in the world, outnumbered only by the (East) Indians, and that the Thracian homeland was huge.  Ancient maps describe the region as Thrace or Thracia, present-day southeast Europe and northeast Greece.  Thracian homelands included the Ukrainian steppes and much of the Caucasus region.  According to Flavius Josephus, Jewish & Roman historian in the 1st century AD, the descendants of Noah’s grandson Tiras were called Tirasians.  They were known to the Romans as Thirasians.  The Greeks called them Thracians and later Trajans, the original people of the city of Troas (Troy), whom they feared as marauding pirates.  History attests that they were indeed a most savage race, given over to a perpetual state of “tipsy excess”, as one historian put it.  They are also described as a “ruddy and blue-eyed people.”  World Book Encyclopedia states they were “…savage Indo-Europeans, who liked warfare and looting.”  Russian historian Nicholas L. Chirovsky describes the arrival of the Thracians, and how they soon dominated the lands along the eastern shores of the river Don.  These people were called Aes locally, according to Chirovsky, and later the Aesir (plural).

Evidence that the Aesir (Iron people) were Trojan refugees can be confirmed from local and later Roman historical sources, including the fact that the inner part of the Black Sea was renamed from the Mare Maeotis to the “Iron Sea” or “Sea of Aesov”, in the local tongue.  The name remains today as the Sea of Azov, an inland sea in southern European Russia, connected with the Black Sea.  The Aesir were known for their fighting with iron weapons.  They were feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and thus quickly dominated the northern trades, using the Don river as their main route for trading.

The Aesir people dominated the area around the Sea of Azov for nearly 1000 years, though the surrounding areas to the north and east were known as the lands of the Scythians.  The Aesir fought with the Scythians for regional dominance, but eventually made peace.  They established trade with the Scythians, and even strong cultural ties, becoming united in religion and law.  The Aesir began trading far to the north as well.

The land far north was first described about 330 BC by the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia.  He called the region “Thule,” which was described as the outermost of all countries, probably part of the Norwegian coast, where the summer nights were very short.  Pytheas translated Thule as “the place where the Sun goes to rest”, which comes from the Germanic root word “Dhul-” meaning “to stop in a place, to take a rest.”  Pytheas described the people as barbarians (Germanic/Teutonic tribes) having an agricultural lifestyle, using barns and threshing their grains.  These people had already established trade with the Aesir who later began migrating north around 90 BC from the Caucasus region, during the time of Roman expansion in Europe.  The Germanic/Teutonic tribes first made a name for themselves about 100 BC after aggressively fighting against the Romans.  Not much is known about the Germanic tribes prior to this.  When writing the “Gallic Wars,” Julius Caesar described encounters with those Germanic peoples and distinguishes them from the Celts.  During this time period, many Germanic tribes were migrating out of Scandinavia to Germany and the Baltic region, placing continuous stress on Roman defenses.

Migrating groups were normally smaller groups of different people or tribes, often following a strong leader.  The “nationality” of the leaders would usually appear as the nationality of the migrating group, until later when the group was separated again.  The migrations could take place over several decades, and often when the Germanic tribes were mentioned in the written sources, the Romans had only met raiding groups occupying warriors or mercenaries operating far away from their people.

Around the same time, about 90 BC, the Aesir began their exodus from the Black Sea/Caucasus region.  Their arrival at the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia has been supported by several scholars and modern archaeological evidence.  As told by Snorri Sturluson (a 13th century Nordic historiographer) and confirmed by other data, the Aesir felt compelled to leave their land to escape Roman invasions by Pompeius, and local tribal wars.  Known as Thracian warrior tribes, the aggressive Indo-European nomadic Aesir came north, moving across Europe, bringing all their weapons and belongings in their boats on the rivers of Europe, in successive stages.  Historians note that Odin, who was a very popular Thracian ruler, led a migration about 70 BC with thousands of followers from the Black Sea region to Scandinavia.  It is also told that another Thracian tribe came along with them, a people called the Vanir (also Vaner or Vans).  Odin’s first established settlement became known as Odense (Odin’s Sanctuary or Odin’s Shrine), inspiring religious pilgrimages to the city through the Middle Ages.  These tribes first settled in present-day Denmark, and then created a power-center in what is now southern Sweden.  About 800 years later during the Viking era, Odin, the Aesir and Vanir had become gods, and Asgard/Troy was the home of those gods�the foundation for Viking religion.  The Aesir warrior gods, and the religious deities of Odin (also Odinn, Wodan, Woden, Wotan Vodin) and Thor, were an integral part of the warlike nature of the Vikings, even leading them back down the waterways of Europe to their tribal origins along the Black Sea and Asia Minor.

Aesir became the Old Norse word for the divine (also, the Old Teutonic word “Ase” was a common word for “god”), and “Asmegir” was the Icelandic term for “god maker”�a human soul on its way to becoming divine in the course of evolution.  The Vanir represented fertility and peace gods.  Not unlike Greeks and Romans, the Scandinavians also deified their ancestors.  The Egyptians adopted the practice of deifying their kings, just as the Babylonians had deified Nimrod.  The same practice of ancestor worship was passed on to the Greeks and Romans and to all the pagan world, until it was subdued by Christianity.

Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda (Norse history and myths) about 1223 AD, where he made an interesting comparison with the Viking Aesir gods to the people in Asia Minor (Caucasus region), particular to the Trojan royal family (considered mythological by most historians today, regrettably).  The Prose Edda is one of the first attempts to devise a rational explanation for mythological and legendary events of the Scandinavians.  Unfortunately, many historians acknowledge only what academia accepts as history, often ignoring material that might be relevant.  For example, Snorri wrote that the Aesir had come from Asia Minor, and he compared the Ragnarok (Norse version of the first doom of the gods and men) with the fall of Troy.  Sturluson noted that Asgard, home of the gods, was also called Troy.  Although Snorri was a Christian, he treated the ancient religion with great respect.  Snorri was writing at the time when all of Scandinavia (including Iceland) had converted to Christianity by 11th century, and he was well aware of classical Greek and Roman mythology.  Stories of Troy had been known from antiquity in many cultures.  The Trojan War was the greatest conflict in Greek mythology, a war that was to influence people in literature and arts for centuries.  Snorri mentioned God and the Creation, Adam and Eve, as well as Noah and the flood.  He also compared a few of the Norse gods to the heroes at the Trojan War.

The Aesir/Asir were divided into several clans that in successive stages emigrated to their new Scandinavian homeland.  Entering the Baltic Sea, they sailed north to the Scandinavian shores, only to meet stubborn Germanic tribes who had been fighting the Romans.  The prominent Germanic tribes in the region were the Gutar, also known as the GutaGutansGauts,Gotarne or Goths by Romans.  These Germanic tribes were already known to the Aesir, as trade in the Baltic areas was well established prior to 100 BC.  The immigrating Aesir had many clans and tribes, and one prominent tribe that traveled along with them were the Vanir (the Vanir later became known as the Danir/Daner, and subsequently the Danes, who settled in what is now present-day Denmark).  However, the most prominent clan to travel with the Asir were the Eril warriors or the “Erilar,” meaning “wild warriors.”  The Asir sent Erilar (or Irilar) north as seafaring warriors to secure land and establish trade (these warriors were called “Earls” in later Scandinavian society, then became known as JarlarEruls and Erils or Heruls andHeruli by Romans, also Eruloi or Elouroi by Greek historian Dexippos, and Heruler, Erullia and Aerulliae by others).  The clans of Erilar enabled the Asir clans (later called Svi, SviarSvea, Svear or Svioner by Romans) to establish settlements throughout the region, but not without continuous battles with the Goths and other migrating Germanic tribes.  The Eruls/Heruls eventually made peace with the Goths who ruled the region.  The tribes of Svear, Vanir, and Heruli soon formed their own clans and dominated the Baltic/Scandinavian region.  The Gothic historian Jordanes (or Jordanis), who was a notary of Gothic kings, told about 551 AD that the Daner were from the same stock as the Svear, both taller and fairer than any other peoples of the North.  He called the Svear, “Sve’han.”

The Svear population flourished, and with the Heruls and Goths, formed a powerful military alliance of well-known seafarers.  The Svear and Heruls then gradually returned to their ancestral land, beginning in the 2nd century AD.  Sometimes sailing with the Goths, they terrorized all of the lands and peoples of the Black Sea and parts of the Mediterranean, even the Romans.  They were the pre-Vikings.  Roman annals tell of raids of Goths and Heruli in 239-266 AD in the territory of Dacia (where the Danube river runs into the Black Sea).  Having built a fleet of 500 sailing ships, the Heruls completed their raids in 267-268 AD, and controlled all of the Roman-occupied\ Black Sea and parts of the eastern Mediterranean.  There are several accounts about how the Herul warriors returned to ravage the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, alone and together with the Goths.  The Romans noted that “the Heruls, a Scandinavian people, together with the Goths, were, from the 3rd century AD, ravaging the Black Sea, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean.”  While the the Romans called the Scandinavian region “Thule” (after Pytheas), the Greeks called it “Scandia” (from ancient times), and others called the area “Scandza.”  The term Scandia comes from the descendants of Ashkenaz (grandson of Noah in the Bible).  Known as the Askaeni, they were the first peoples to migrate to northern Europe, naming the land Ascania after themselves.  Latin writers and Greeks called the land Scandza or Scandia (now Scandinavia).  The peoples in that region would be called Scandians or Scandinavians.  Germanic tribes, such as the Teutons and Goths, are considered the descended tribes of the Askaeni and their first settlements.

The first time Thule (Scandinavia) was mentioned in Roman written documents was in the 1st century (79 AD) by the Roman citizen Plinius senior.  He wrote about an island peninsula in the north populated by “Sviar,” “Sveonerna” or “Svearnas” people, also called “Sveons,” Svianar,””Svetidi or Suetidi” by others.  Later in 98 AD the learned civil servant Cornelius Tacitus wrote about northern Europe.  Tacitus writes in the Latin book Germania about tribes of “Sviones” or “Suiones” (Latin Sviones was derived from Sviar) in Scandinavia, who live off the ocean, sailing in large fleets of boats with a prow at either end, no sail, using paddles, and strong, loyal, well-armed men with spikes in their helmets.  They drove both the Goths and Lapps out of Scandinavia.  Archaeological finds have provided a vivid record of the evolution of their longships from about the 4th century BC.  Tacitus further wrote, “And thereafter, out in the ocean comes Sviones (also “Svionernas” or “Svioner”) people, which are mighty not only in manpower and weaponry but also by its fleets”.  He also mentions that “the land of Svionerna is at the end of the world.”  In the 2nd century (about 120 AD) the first map was created where Scandinavia (Baltic region) could be viewed.  Greek-Egyptian astronomer and geographer Ptolemaios (Ptolemy of Alexandria) created the map, and at the same time wrote a geography where he identified several different people groups, including the “Gotarne,” “Heruls,” “Sviar” and “Finnar” who lived on peninsula islands called “Scandiai.”  During the Roman Iron Age (1-400 AD), evidences are convincing for a large Baltic seafaring culture in what is now Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Estonia.

Many clans of Aesir and Germanic peoples were united by settlements.  For example, the Aesir clan Suevi (also Suebi) settled among Germanic peoples in a region called Swabia (named after themselves), which is now southwest Germany.  Those clans became known as the Alemanni, first mentioned about 213 AD after attacking the Romans.  Called Suevic tribes by historians, they formed an alliance for mutual protection against other Germanic tribes and the Romans, and retained their tribal designation until the late Middle Ages.  They settled as far south as present-day Spain and Portugal.

By the 5th century, the Aesir Heruls were in great demand as soldiers in the Roman Imperial Guards.  The Romans were impressed with the war-like Heruls, and recruited them to fight as mercenaries in the Roman Army.  About 459 AD Bishop Hydatius (Idacius) of the Roman province of Gallaecia (present day Spain and Portugal) wrote that the Heruls were Vikings (from Viking raids on the coast of Spain).  Herul factions were making settlements throughout Europe, fighting and battling everywhere they went.  Their pay in gold coins tell of their Scandinavian history, even battling Attila the Hun.  In the late 5th century, the Heruls formed a state in upper Hungary under the Roman ruler Cæsar Anastasius (491-518 AD).  Later they attacked the Lombards, but were beaten, according to Greek-Roman author Prokopios (born at the end of the 5th century).  He was a lawyer in Constantinople and from the year 527 private secretary to the Byzantine military commander Belisarius on his campaigns against the Ostrogoths.  Prokopios says by the early 6th century (about 505), the remaining Heruls in upper Hungary were forced to leave.  Some of them crossed the Danube into Roman territory, where Anastasius allowed them to settle.  Historians mention that remaining clans of Heruls (Herulians) sailed northwards, back to Thule to reunite with their Svear brethren.  Prokopios noted that there were 13 populous tribes in Thule (the Scandinavian peninsula), each with its own king.  He said, “A populous tribe among them was the Goths, next to where the returning Heruls settled.”  Prokopios also mentions that “the Heruls sent some of their most distinguished men to the island Thule in order to find and if possible bring back a man of royal blood.  When they came to the island they found many of royal blood.”

Evidence of their existence during this time period can be found on the frequent appearance of runic inscriptions with the name ErilaR “the Herul.”  While it is thought that the ancient Scandinavian alphabet, called futhork or runes, is of Latin origin, the evidence suggests that it was used far to the northeast of Rome where Roman influence did not reach.  The runes are a corruption of an old Greek alphabet, used by Trojans along the northwest coast of the Black Sea.  From examples of Etruscan, Greek, and early Roman scripts, it is not difficult to see that earlier runes resemble archaic Greek and Etruscan rather than Latin.  The Heruls used runes in the same way their ancestors did, which have been discovered throughout Europe and Scandinavia.  Scandinavian sagas tell us that the Scandinavian languages began when men from central Asia settled in the north.  Sometime after 1300 AD runes were adjusted to the Roman alphabet.

The Heruls brought with them a few Roman customs, one being the Julian calendar, which is known to have been introduced to Scandinavia at this time, the early 6th century AD.  When the Heruls returned to join again with the Svear in Scandinavia, the Svear state with its powerful kings suddenly emerges.  Their ancestors were the warring bands of Aesir (sometimes called Eastmen) who became known as the Svear or Suines.  They became the dominant power and waged war with the Goths, winning rule over them.  By the middle of the 6th century, the first all-Swedish kings emerged.  This royal dynasty became immensely powerful and dominated not only Sweden but also neighboring countries.  Gothic historian Jordanes writes of the Suines or Suehans (Sve’han) of Scandinavia, with fine horses, rich apparel and trading in furs around 650 AD.  The Swedish nation has its roots in these different kingdoms, created when the king of the Svenonians (Svears) assumed kingship over the Goths.  The word Sweden comes from the Svenonians, as Sverige or Svearike means “the realm of the Svenonians”.  The English form of the name is probably derived from an old Germanic form, Svetheod, meaning the Swedish people.

By the 7th century, the Svear and Goth populations dominated the areas of what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway.  However, the term Norway came later.  Latin texts from around 840 AD called the area Noruagia, and Old English texts from around 880 AD used Norweg.  The oldest Nordic spelling was Nuruiak, written in runes on a Danish stone from around 980 AD.  The Old Norse (Old Scandinavian) spelling became Nordvegr, meaning “the country in the north” or “the way to the north,” and the people were called Nordes.  All of the names were given by people south of Norway to signify a place far to the north.  The people of Norway now call themselves Nynorsk, a name decided by linguists in the 1880s.  The name Denmark originated from the people called the Vanir (or Vaner) who settled the region with the Aesir in the first century BC.  The Vanir were later called Danir (or Daner), and eventually Danes.  By the 9th century AD, the name Danmark (Dan-mörk, “border district of the Danes”) was used for the first time.  In Old Norse, mörk meant a “forest,” and forests commonly formed the boundaries of tribes.  In Modern Danish, mark means a “field,” “plain,” or “open country.”   Hence, Denmark once meant  literally “forest of the Danes.”  During this period, their language Dönsk tunga (Danish tongue) was spoken throughout northern Europe, and would later be called Old Norse or Old Scandinavian during the Viking period.  Old Norse was spoken by the people in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and parts of Germany.

The ancestor of all modern Scandinavian languages, beginning with the Germanic form, was developed from the languages of the Aesir (Thracian tribes) and Goths (Germanic tribes).  When the Aesir integrated with the people of the lands, their families became so numerous in Scandinavia and Germany that their language became the language of all the people in that region.  The linguistic and archaeological data seem to indicate that the final linguistic stage of the Germanic languages took place in an area which has been located approximately in southern Sweden, southern Norway, Denmark and the lower Elbe river which empties into the North Sea on the northwest coast of Germany.  Germanic tribes began arriving in the area about 1000 BC.  Later, the Aesir brought their language to the north of the world, to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.  The future rulers of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland trace their names and genealogies back to the Aesir.  The most ancient inscriptions in Old Norse/Scandinavian are from the 3rd and 5th century centuries AD, with other inscriptions dating up to the 12th century.  They were short signs written in the futhork runic alphabet, which had 24 letters (though many variations were used throughout the region).  By the end of the Viking era (11th century AD), the Old Norse language dialect varieties grew stronger until two separate languages appeared, Western Scandinavian, the ancestor of Norwegian and Icelandic, and Eastern Scandinavian, the the ancestor of Swedish and Danish.  Many Old Norse words were borrowed by English, and even the Russian language, due to expansion by Vikings.

The next Svear conquests began in the early 8th century.  By 739 AD the Svear and Goths dominated the Russian waterways, and together they were called Varyagans or Varangians, according to written records of the Slavs near the Sea of Azov.  Like their ancestors, the Svear lived in large communities where their chiefs would send out maritime warriors to trade and plunder.  Those fierce warriors were called the Vaeringar, which meant literally “men who offer their service to another master”.  We later know them by their popularized name, theVikings.  Thus began the era known as the Viking Age, spanning more than 300 years from about 700 AD to 1066 AD.  Once again the Svear began returning to the places of their Thracian ancestors in the Caucasus region, sailing rivers which stretched deep into Russia and the Black Sea, establishing trading stations and principalities.  They often navigated the Elbe river, one of the major waterways of central Europe.  They also navigated, as a primary route, the Danube river, a vital connection between Germany and the Black Sea.  Their ships were the best in all of Europe�sleek, durable and could travel by both sail or oars.  To the east of the Elbe they were known as Varangians, and west of the Elbe they were called Vikings.  Many called them Norse, Norsemen or Northmen�those from the Scandinavian countries, which consisted of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  In northern France they would later be called Normans, eventually recognized as the rulers of what became Normandy.  In England they were known as Danes, although some may well have been from Norway, where they became rulers of the Danelaw.  Vikings raids in western Europe and the British Isles are noted in this Old English prayer:  “A furore Normannorum libra nos, Domine” (From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, Oh Lord).

Vikings never called themselves Vikings.  Unlike Varangian, the term Viking probably originated from Frankish chroniclers who first called them “Vikverjar” (travelers by sea), Nordic invaders who attacked the city of Nantes (in present-day France) in 843 AD.  The word “vik” or “vic” (from “wic”) meant river estuary, bay or fjord in Old Norse (a popular avenue for attack), and later meant “one who came out from or frequented inlets to the sea”.  Viking and Varangian eventually became synonymous, meaning “someone who travels or is passing through,” whether merchant, mercenary, or marauder.  Their activities consisted of trading, plundering and making temporary settlements (see Viking Routes).  Finnish peoples referred to the Swedish voyagers as RuotsiRotsi or Rus in contrast with Slavic peoples, which was derived from the name of the Swedish maritime district in Uppland, called “Roslagen,” and its inhabitants, known as “Rodskarlar.”  Rodskarlar or Rothskarlar meant “rowers” or “seamen.”  Those Swedish conquerors settled in eastern Europe, adopted the names of local tribes, integrated with the Slavs, and eventually the word “Rusi,” “Rhos” or “Rus” came to refer to the inhabitants.  The Arab writer Ibn Dustah wrote that Swedish Vikings were brave and valiant, utterly plundering and vanquishing all people they came against.  Later, the Arabic diplomat Ibn Fadlan, while visiting Bulgar (Bulgaria) during the summer of 922 AD, saw the Swedish Vikings (Rus) arrive, and he wrote:  “Never before have I seen people of more perfect physique; they were tall like palm trees, blonde, with a few of them red.  They do not wear any jackets or kaftaner (robes), the men instead wear dress which covers one side of the body but leaves one hand free.  Every one of them brings with him an ax, a sword and a knife.”  Their descriptions mirror the physique, dress and armor of Trojan warriors�the Viking ancestors.  The various ancestors of the Vikings included the Thracian tribes (Asir) and the Germanic tribes (Goths).

The Vikings included many tribes and kingdoms from around the Baltic Sea, including the Svear from Sweden, the Norde from Norway, the Danes from Denmark, the Jutes from Juteland (now part of Denmark), the Goths from Gotland (now part of Sweden), the Alands from Åland (now part of Finland), the Finns from Finland, and others.  The Svear Vikings traveled primarily east to the Mediterranean (what is now Russia and Turkey), where they had been returning regularly since leaving the region 900 years earlier.  Subsequent Viking raids and expeditions covered areas deep into Russia, the Middle East, Europe and America, ending in the 11th century (about 1066 AD) after the introduction of Christianity around the year 1000 AD.  Dudo of Saint Quentin, a Norman historian, wrote between 1015 and 1030 AD “The History of the Normans” where he called the Vikings “cruel, harsh, destructive, troublesome, wild, ferocious, lustful, lawless, death-dealing, arrogant, ungodly and more monstrous than all the rest.”  When Christianity ended the Viking Age, kingships and provinces of Sweden combined to form one country.  The dominant king during the Viking Age was from the Erik family of Uppsala.  One of the first Swedish monarchs in recorded history was Olof Skotkonung, a descendant of the Erik family.  Olof and his descendants ruled Sweden from about 995 to 1060 AD.  Sweden’s first archbishop arrived in the 12th century (1164).

Sweden’s expansion continued during the 12th and 13th centuries through the incorporation of Finland into the Swedish kingdom after several crusades, promoted by the Catholic church.  There was a struggle for power between the Sverker and Erik families, which held the crown alternately between the years of 1160 and 1250.  However, during this period the main administrative units were still the provinces, each of which had its own assembly, lawmen and laws.  It was first during the latter part of the 13th century that the crown gained a greater measure of influence and was able, with the introduction of royal castles and provincial administration, to assert the authority of the central government and to impose laws and ordinances valid for the whole kingdom.  In 1280 King Magnus Ladulås (1275 – 1290) issued a statute which involved the establishment of a temporal nobility and the organization of society on the feudal model.  A council containing representatives of the aristocracy and the Catholic church was set up to advise the king.  In 1350, during the reign of Magnus Eriksson(1319 – 1364), the various provincial law codes were superseded by a law code that was valid for the whole country, and Finland became part of the Swedish kingdom.

In 1389, through inheritance and family ties, the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united under the rule of the Danish Queen Margareta.  In 1397, the union of the three Scandinavian countries concluded under her leadership lasting 124 years. The whole union period, 1397 – 1521, was marked by a whirlpool of conflict, and provoked a rebellion which in 1521 led to the seizure of power by a Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, who was elected king of Sweden in 1523.  The foundations of the Swedish national state were laid during the reign of Gustav Vasa (1523 – 1560).  The position of the crown was strengthened further in 1544 when a hereditary monarchy was introduced.  Before that time the country had been an elective monarchy, and the aristocracy had been able to assert itself every time the throne fell vacant.  The church was turned into a national institution, its estates were confiscated by the state and the Protestant Reformation was introduced in several stages.

Swedish Dragoon
Swedish Dragoon (mounted infantryman) from
the late 1600’s (after the 30 Years War)

Since the dissolution of the union with Denmark and Norway, Swedish foreign policy had aimed at gaining domination of the Baltic Sea, and this led from 1560 onwards to repeated territorial battles with Denmark and Norway.  The efforts of the higher nobility to take back power from the successful Swedish kingships (1560 – 1632) failed in the long run, and the crown was able to maintain and strengthen its position.  In 1630 Sweden entered the historical “30 Years War” (1618 – 1648) with an attack against Germany for more control more of the Baltic region.  With little success, Sweden left the war in 1634, but continued battling with Denmark and Norway for regional superiority.  Sweden finally defeated Denmark and Norway in the two wars of 1643-45 and 1657-58, becoming a leading Lutheran power.  These wars were partly a result of Sweden aggressively expanding its borders through occupation.  For example, from 1563 to 1658, Jämtland (region in west Sweden bordering Norway) was occupied several times until it was conquered from Norway in 1658.  The people of Jämtland were called “the new Swedes”, a term still used today.  These victories led to Sweden becoming a great power in northern Europe, having control of most of the Baltic region, including continued rule over Finland.  The country even founded a short-lived colony in what is now Delaware in North America.  Sweden’s defeat in the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) against the combined forces of Denmark, Poland and Russia, lost most of its provinces along the Baltic Sea and was reduced to largely the same frontiers as present-day Sweden.  Finland was finally surrendered to Russia in 1809.  To this day, much of western Finland is populated by Swedes, and several cities have both a Swedish and Finnish name with about 8% of Finland’s population speaking Swedish.

Swedish CrownIn 1810 Sweden succeeded in obtaining Norway, which was forced into a union with Sweden in 1814 after a short war.  This union was peacefully dissolved in 1905.  Since the short war fought against Norway in 1814, Sweden has not been involved in any war and has also since the First World War pursued a foreign policy of nonalignment in peacetime and neutrality in wartime, basing its security on a strong national defense.Swedish Flag Nonetheless, Sweden joined the League of Nations in 1920 and the United Nations in 1946, and within the framework of these has taken part in several international peacekeeping missions.  A new form of government was adopted in 1974 where all public power was derived from the people, who were to appoint the members of Parliament in free elections.  Parliament alone was to pass laws and was entitled to levy taxes.  The government was appointed by and responsible to Parliament, and the King was still the head of state, but his functions are reduced to purely ceremonial ones.  Sweden continued to grow as an economic power throughout the 1980’s, and in January of 1995 joined the European Union (EU).  Now in the new millennium, Sweden is controlled by a Social Democratic government, and the monarchy of King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Dates:
BC means “Before Christ” which is equivalent to BCE “Before Common Era” (some say “Current” era).
AD means “Anno Domini” (in the year of our Lord) which is equivalent to CE “Common Era”.

Where did the Finns come from?

The Finns probably originated from somewhere between the middle Volga and the Ural mountains (middle western Russia).  Four thousand years ago a few tribes of hunters and fishermen settled there.  Those tribes were destined to become the European branch of the Finno-Ugric people.  Those people groups set off in opposite directions.  The future Hungarians went south, while the Finns moved northwest where, about 500 BC, one can find traces of their first settlements along the southern coast of the Baltic.  Finnish people are of Finno-Ugrian stock, mainly of western origin (Indo-European) as well as those of the other nations which were proceeding northwards in pre-historic times.  For example, they are loosely related to the Baltic and Germanic people groups, and are closely related to the Estonians across the Gulf, the Magyars who settled in Hungary, and the Siberians in Russia.  Prior to the 14th century, only the most Southwestern part of the country was known as “Finland” and its inhabitants as Finns.  Finnish people consisted of different tribes like Karelians, Tavastians and Finns who are the ancestors of today’s Finnish population.

There is a rock base beneath Finland, part of a great land mass called the Finno-Scandian shield, the oldest and most unyielding stone in the world.  The retreating ice age left behind over 30,000 islands and more than 60,000 lakes.  In many places the land is swamp and lake, bog and marsh.  Finland, in fact, means “the land of fens, or swamps” and the Finns call themselves and their country “Suomi” (soo-wah-mee), “suo” meaning bog or marsh.  In the Middle Ages, the country was commonly called Österlandet (Eastland) or Finland, and the southwestern part became Finland Proper.  Finland is the name used in most languages.

Osterholm

REFERENCES

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Snorri Sturluson, (c. 1179-1241)
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Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241),
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