|San José State University|
& the Gateway
to the Rockies
More than 3000 runes are known from Sweden
-- nearly four times as many as are knowwn from
the rest of the Germanic world put together.
Sven B. F. Jansson
The Runes of Sweden
The ancestors of the Swedes were the northern branch of the migration of Germanic people from the Steppes area north of the Black Sea. The people of the Steppes left elaborate burials for their chieftains which provided genetic evidence of the their relationship with the people of northern Europe.
The more distant origin of the Indoeuropean who populated Europe, Iran and North India was in the Caucausus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It was there that three cultural population groups amalgamated to form an invincible people. One group was agriculturalists who originated in Anatolia where agriculture was developed. A second group was pastorialists who herded cattle by horseback. They were militarially proficient. The third group was metal workers who could provide tools for the agricultualists and weapons for the military.
A key element of the success of the Indoeuropeans was that they were lactose-tolerant which meant that during times of famine they could get nourishment and protein from milk. Their lactose-intolerant neighbors would probably die if the drank milk during famine times.
The voyages of the Vikings did not develop until about 800 CE.
One the earliest rune stones was the Möjbro of Uppland which was created about 500 AD.
It was dedicated to Frawaradar (The Resourceful).
More significant in terms of the length and content of its inscription is the Rök Rune Stone of Östergöland created in the ninth century in the early Viking Age. It is covered front and back with inscription. There are some small number of damaged runes.
Aft Væmoð standa runaR. Æn Varinn faði, faðiR aft faigian sunu.
Sagum mogminni(?) þat, hværiaR valrau
þaR svað tvalf sinnum vaRin numnaR at valrau bu, baðaR
saman a ymissum mannum.
þat sagum annart, hvaR fur niu aldum an urð fiaru(?) með Hraiðgutum, auk do með hann umb sakaR.
SitiR nu garuR
a guta sinum,
skialdi umb fatlaðR,
þat sagum tvalta, hvar hæstR se GunnaR etu vettvangi an, kunnungaR tvaiR tigiR svalð a liggia.
þat sagum þrettaunda, hvariR tvaiR tigiR kunnungaR satin at Siolundi fiagura vintur at fiagurum namþnum, burniR fiagurum brøðrum.ValkaR fim, Raðulfs syniR, HraiðulfaR fim, Rugulfs syniR HaislaR fim, Haruðs syniR, GunnmundaR fim, BiarnaR syniR . . .
Sagum mogminni þat, hvaR Inguldinga vaRi guldinn at kvanaR husli.
Sagum mogminni, hvaim se burinn niðR drængi. Vilinn es þat. Knua knatti iatun . . .
Sagum mogminni: þorr, Sibbi viavari ol niraðR.
For Væmod stand these runes. And Varin wrote them, the father foor his dead son. I tell the ancient tale which the two war-booties were, twelve times taken as war-booty, both together man to man. This I tell second who nine generations ago . . . with the Reidgoths and he died with them, because of his guilt.
Theodric the bold
king of the sea warriors,
Now sits he armed
on his Gothic horse,
protector of Mærings.
This I tell in the twelth instance where the horse of the Valkyrie sees food on the battle-field, where twenty kings lie. This I tell in the thirteenth instance, wfich twenty kings sat on Sjæland for four years, with four names, sons of four brothers: five called Valke, sons of Radulv, five Reidulvs, sons of Rugulv, five Haisls, sons of Harud, five Gunnmunds, sons Björn . . . I tell the ancient tale of Ingvaldings was revenged through a wife's sacrifice. I tell the ancient talr to what young warrior a kinsman is born. Vilin it is. He could slay a giant . . . I tell the ancient tale: Thor, Sibbi, the guardian of the sanctuary, ninety years of age, begot a descendant.
I will always remember a student from Sweden saying
The Vikings were basically traders.
Sometimes they got a bit rowdy,
but basically they were just traders.
I got the feeling that this was the official line of Sweden on the Vikings that was taught in the schools.
(To be continued.)
HOME PAGE OF Thayer Watkins