Viking Imperialism

We called in at Gripsholm Slott on our way back from Värmland. They’ve re-erected this Viking-age runestone in the gardens there. The inscription reads (I’m told; my Old Norse is not quite up to it): 

‘This stone was set up by Tola in memory of her son, Harald. He was Ingfar the Far-traveller’s brother. They fared like men, far after gold. And in the east gave the eagle food. They died southward, in Serkland.’

‘Serkland’ is apparently the land of the Saracens. ‘Giving the eagle food’ means to kill people. So much for Kajsa’s claim that the Swedish Vikings were just peaceful traders, unlike those pesky Danes. 

In fact Swedish history is full of ‘imperialism’, if you look for it. After the Vikings there were settlements in North America and West Africa, a slave-colony in the Caribbean (Sweden abolished colonial slavery long after Britain), significant European conquests during the Stormaktstiden (have I spelled that right?), a Svenska Ostindiska Companiet, based in Göteborg, just like the English one; the acquisitions (somehow) of Finland and Norway, and then of course IKEA. Most of that, of course, was before the woke-ish Social Democrats got in.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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2 Responses to Viking Imperialism

  1. marieclausen says:

    Oh, indeed. And then there was the slave trade (the slaves being mostly from the Baltic states) and the infamous forced Christianization of Finland. We all learn about these things at school. But most notably there was Stormaktstiden (yes, you spelled it right, but there’s no need for the definite article in front of the world as the suffix -en replaces the English ‘the’), which literally means the Time of the Empire (stormakt means empire). Most manor houses in Sweden will be found to contain things (paintings, candlesticks, mirrors, even baptismal fonts) taken from wealthy householders in Poland, Germany, and other territories held by Sweden then.
    And finally we have the national anthem, the second verse of which reads “du tronar på minnen från fornstora dar då ärat ditt namn flög över jorden. Jag vet att du är och du blir vad du var…” (I assume you learned this by heart for your citizenship test/ceremony, but if not Kajsa – or Google – can translate it for you). Hearing Swedes sing this loudly and proudly puts paid to any notion that they/we are content to be known only for cheap furniture and safe cars.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kajsa tells me she never sang the second verse! Only the first, which she tells me is about nature. And incidentally the second verse of ‘God Save the Queen’ is equally embarrassing.
      Does ‘stormakt’ really mean ’empire’? I’ve always understood it (literally) as ‘great power’. You can be a Great Power without being an imperial one. Theoretically.
      Sorry about the definite article – I did know that about the -en and -et suffixes.
      We visited several wonderful Värmland churches. Unimpressive outside, but beautiful inside. Does that mirror the Swedish national character?

      Liked by 1 person

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