James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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founded towns and monasteries, built

churches and castles. His name was

familiar in other countries, and foreign

princes sought

his friendship.

Pope Innocent

IV., who was at

open feud with

the Emperor

Frederic II.,

offered Haakon

the imperial

crown. Haakon,

however, who

was too wise to

accept the gift,

and, apart from

that, was on

friendly terms

with Frederic,

answered that

he was always

ready to fight

against the

enemies of the

Church, but not

against those of

the Pope. In the

north, however,

he endeavoured

to extend his

dominions. He

succeeded in

bringing Iceland

The Hitterdal's Kirke, at Thelemark, a picturesque district in
Norway, shown in the illustration, is generally considered by
experts to be the most remarkable wooden church in the world.

more united in politics, and, accordingly,
in 930, drew up laws by which the island
became an aristocratic republic. Affairs
which concerned the whole island were
settled in the Alting, which was held
every summer,
and in which
every man had
a voice. The
president of the
Alting was the
lawman, who
was elected for
a period of three
years ; his duty
was to recite the
laws. The real
legislature was
the " Logretta,"
which consisted
of the "Goden"
and their asses-
s o r s . J udicial
business was
carried on in
the first instance
by a tribunal
elected in the
Godarden by
the Goden; the
superior courts
were the "Fjor-
and "Fimtar-
domar," which

and Greenland under
his control, and this marks the greatest
expansion of the Norwegian kingdom.

In the second half of the ninth century,
as we have already seen, discontented
Norwegians had settled on Iceland.
The emigrants had taken with them
their household goods and movable
property and their cattle, and were
doubtless settling down in their new
country as they had lived in the old. The
chief took possession of a piece of land,
on which he built his house and a temple
(Hov), and over which he presided.
His followers settled round about ; he was
the spiritual and temporal head. Coloni-
sation in this fashion continued for almost
sixty years (874-930).

At first the chiefs had no political
organisation in common ; each ruled
his province, or godord, independently
of the others. However, as the island
gradually became more thickly populated
they felt the necessity of becoming


held their sittings in the Alting, and the
members of which were also appointed by
the Goden. There was no single executive
power for the whole island.

About the year 1000 the islanders were
converted to Christianity by the Nor-
wegians. The Church now began to gain
influence, especially after uoo, when two
bishoprics were established on the island.
The Goden still retained their power ;
a Gode often included several Godords.
Then, however, the island was devastated
with civil war. Finally, in 1261, the
islanders submitted to the kings of Nor-
way under the condition that they should
retain their own laws and native officials.
That state of affairs, however, did not last
long. The Alting lost the power of legis-
lature, the office of " law-reader " was
discontinued, and the island was governed
by a royal official. The situation did not
improve when Iceland, together with
Norway, came under the control of
Denmark. We may here make the


anticipatory note that it was not until the
nineteenth century that conditions were
bettered. Trade, which had for a long
time been a monopoly of Danish merchants,
became entirely free in 1854. Since 1874,
the legislature is shared by an assembly
of the people the Alting and the king,
and in 1903 Iceland received a Minister of its
own, who has his residence in Reykjavik,
and is responsible to the Alting, not to the
Danish Parliament.

The Icelanders have acquired great
reputation by their literary activity. On
this distant, lonely, and inhospitable
island there flourished, during the period
of liberty, a literature in the vernacular,
by reason of which the Icelanders will
always be given a place of honour in the
history of men. Tl-.y carefully treasured
the sagas and poems which they had
brought with them from their fatherland.
They kept up by means of travel a con-
c stant intercourse with the outer

f u . world, especially with Norway,

. . . and at home they followed foreign
affairs with a keen interest.
For a long time the poems and sagas were
transmitted orally. But in the twelfth
century, when the Icelanders became
familiar with the Latin alphabet, a written
literature, both of poetry and prose,
sprang up.

The most important of the poems
are the Eddas, a collection of folk-songs,
which date from heathen times, and
in which are narrated stories of the e

Famous Poets
and Historians

and heroes. This school of national poetry
came to an end in the tenth century, and
was replaced by the artificial poetry of the
skalds, which was influenced by Irish
models. It was originally simple and
unaffected, but gradually became more
artificial and overloaded with figurative
expressions, and therefore unintelligible.
These poems were generally written for the
glorification of the kings, and the skalds
were in the most cases court
poets, who were greatly
honoured and richly re-
warded by the crown. One
of the most celebrated, Snorre Sturlesson,
who died in 1241, edited a manual of
poetry, the " Later Edda,." but won greater
renown as a historian. At the beginning
of the twelfth century Are Frode, who
died in 1148, wrote
abok," a
which he

Norwegian islands to
system, and began, perhaps in addition,
his " Landnamabok," a register of the
most distinguished emigrants, their resi-
dence, their successors, and their fate ; a
work which was afterwards continued by

People now began also to write down
the numerous sagas which hitherto had
been handed down orally. Then there
sprang up a rich saga literature, which rose
to the highest perfection in the thirteenth
century. The greatest of the saga writers
is the above mentioned Snorre, who, in

his " Islending-
brief history of Iceland, in
reduced the history of the

a chronological




his saga " Heimskringla," has described
the history of the Norwegian kings from
earliest times until 1177. The Icelandic
family sagas are also attractive, because
they give an admirable picture of the life
of the Icelanders during the period of
liberty. The share which the Norwegians
themselves have contributed to this litera-
. . ture is comparatively insig-

nificant; the most important,
and Liberty ... ,.

with the exception of a lew

in Iceland . ,

sagas, is the so - called
"Konungskuggja," or king's mirror, which
is of great significance in the history of
civilisation, inasmuch as it depicts the life,
occupations, and duties of the merchant,
the courtier, and the king.

Notwithstanding the fact that the literary
activity of Norway was not great, the
Norwegian kings and chiefs did much to
encourage *' Norrone " (Norwegian-Ice-
landic) literature by taking Icelandic
poets and narrators of sagas into their
service, and otherwise patronising them.
Sverre and his descendants were
especially noted for this ; they were
themselves cultured men, who took
an active interest in literature. The
literary activity of Iceland declined with
the loss of liberty. The old chieftain
families, who had been its chief patrons,
died out, and with them ceased the
"skald" poetry and the composition of
original sagas.

The Icelanders did not altogether aban-
don literary pursuits ; they copied old
works and re-wrote the old sagas in
verse. The Norwegians, in the mean-
time began to cultivate foreign poetry,
and after the middle of the thirteenth
century their literary energies were mainly
directed to translating French and German
heroic poems. The most flourishing period
of Norwegian literature was the reign of
Haakon Haakonsson, which in other
respects, as has been mentioned above,
was a time of prosperity. Haakon's son
What King and x success r. Magnus (1263-
Magnus did "g?) ' W{ not so powerful as his
for Norway tatner - He rendered, however,
valuable services to the king-
dom as a legislator, on account of which he
was given the title Lagaboter or improver
of laws. His chief merit was that he was
the first to bring Norway under one
uniform code. By this means, it is true,
the Lagtinge, where the peasants had up
till that time passed their own laws, and in
consequence the people themselves, lost


their power of legislation. From this
time the king became the legislator ;
at the same time he shared the right
of jurisdiction with the people, for
he appointed the presidents of the
supreme courts. In order to promote
trade. Magnus concluded a commercial
treaty with England, and allowed certain
privileges to the North German towns.

Haakon's successor was his grandson
Magnus, an infant who had just succeeded
also to the crown of Sweden ; so that for
a time the history of the two countries
unites. At a later stage Haakon VJ. lost
the Swedish, but not the Norwegian
crown; and through his wife, Margaret
of Denmark, the Danish and Norwegian
crowns were united when their son Olaf
became king of both countries in 1380.
From this time the country rapidly de-
teriorated ; it could not maintain its inde-
pendence in the union. This was pre-
eminently the result of the political and
social conditions. There was no powerful
aristocracy or clergy, no well-to-do and
liberal-minded middle class ; in brief,
there was nobody who had the power or
the inclination to vindicate

f n the independence of the king-
Norwegian J <TM_ -I . . ,

Crowns Unite d m ' The , populace consisted
of peasants who, after being
deprived of their political power,
interested themselves only in their
own affairs.

The prosperity of the country was
ruined by the Hanseatic League, which
was steadily increasing in power ; at the
same time Norway was terribly devastated
in the fourteenth century by several
pestilences, in particular by the Black
Death, which swept away almost one-
third of the population. The retrogression
of the material welfare of the country was
accompanied by a decline in the literary
life ; after the middle of the fourteenth
century almost all literary activity ceased.
Decadence was manifest in every
department of life ; Norway followed
involuntarily in the union and became
more and more dependent on Denmark.,
The Danes made their way into the
country and obtained civic rights by
intermarriage. They brought with them
the Danish language, which displaced old
Norwegian as the literary language and
strongly influenced the colloquial language
of the towns. The separate history of
Norway is merged in that of Denmark, and
does not emerge again for some centuries.









C WEDEN, or Sverige (that is, the kingdom
^ of the Svears), consisted at one time of
the two main divisions Zealand, or S vealand,
and Gothland, or Gotoland, which received
their names from the tribes Svear and Gotar.
Scania, Holland, and Blekingen belonged
to Denmark; Bohuslen, Herjedalen, and
Jemtland were Norwegian, and Norrland
was inhabited by Ugrian races : only on
the coasts of Norrland were there a few
scattered Swedish settlements. Zealand
and Gothland had no common political
organisation ; the cantons of which they
were made up had each its own laws, its
Ting and its own " Lagman " (Judge).
The Lagman, who was elected by the
peasants, was the president of the Ting ;
it was his duty to vindicate the rights
of the peasantry against the king and his
ministers and to notify the king of the
wishes of the people. The most noted
of the Landschafts was Upland, where the
_ most sacred shrine, the temple

Shrine* ' of U P sala ' was situated ; there
. the king had his residence and
there also was the seat of the
Ting, which served for the whole country,
the " Allsharjarting," where the king was
wont to address the people from the Ting-
hill near Upsala. The king, who was
elected by the Upsvear, undertook a
journey through the different cantons after
his election, to receive homage. He formed
the link of union between the cantons,
which were ruled in his name by Jarls
and other officials whom he appointed.
The social organisation was the same as
in Denmark and Norway.

In mode of life, habits, and customs the
Swedes did not differ from their southern
and western neighbours. Their develop-
ment, however, was slower because they
were cut off by their geographical situation
from all intercourse with the Finnish and
Slavonic races dwelling on the other side
of the Baltic ; in addition, the rivalry
between the Svear and Gotar for a long
time prevented a peaceful development.

The Ynglingl kings, who were descended
from the gods, are said to have ruled over
Sweden from time immemorial ; the
" Northern Saga" tells of their deeds. The
first reliable accounts, which are, it is
true, very scanty, are furnished by mis-
M . ^ sionaries who visited Sweden

ary at the beginning of the ninth

Historians 9 , , , ,

century. Ansgar, who had been
in Sweden , r

active in Denmark for some

time, went to Sweden about the year
830. He was kindly received by the
king, Bjorn, and remained for a year
and a half in the neighbourhood of
Malaren, where he won a few souls for
Christianity. He visited Sweden again at
a later date in 853 and worked hard to
establish the new doctrine. But soon after
his death the missionary work came to a

It was not until the beginning of the
eleventh century, under Olaf Skotkonung
probably so called on account of a tax, or
scot, which he imposed upon the people
that Christianity obtained a strong foot-
hold in the country. Olaf's father, Erik
Segersall, the victorious, had driven out
Sweyn Forkbeard and subdued Denmark.
After his death, however, about 994, Sweyn
concluded a contract with Olaf Skotkonung,
recovered Denmark, and married Erik's
widow. Afterwards Sweyn and Olaf united
against the Norwegian king, Olaf Tryggves-
son, who had insulted both of them, con-
quered him at Svolder, in the neigh-
bourhood of Riigen, and in 1000 divided
Norway between them. Olaf Skotkonung
received the northern portion, but lost
it after a few years to Olaf
Haraldsson, who freed Norway

from a forei n y ke - His

attempts to recover the country
were fruitless ; his own subjects compelled
him to maintain peace with Norway.
Olaf Skotkonung and his sons had received
baptism in 1008 and Christianity made
steady progress, especially in Gothland,
but it was still a good while before it



completely won the mastery. The old
royal line became extinct with the death
of Olaf's sons about 1061. About this
time a fierce struggle broke out between
the Svear and the Gotar, which lasted for
almost two centuries. Up till then the
Gotar had given precedence to ^ the Svear
in the election of the king, for in their pro-
vince lay the national sanctuary, and
there also the king and his family resided ;
now, however, they claimed the same
rights as the Svear, and equal power, and
wished to choose a king from themselves.
Since the Gotar were for the
most part converted, while- the
Svear still clung to paganism,
the struggle was not only be-
tween the two races and their
kings, but between heathenism
and Christianity. In this
struggle, in which the kings of
the Svear and Gotar alternately
got the upper hand, Christianity
was finally victorious, and thus
the union of the people was
greatly furthered.

The new doctrine was firmly
established in Svealand chiefly
by the gentle and just King Erik
IX. who changed the temple at
Upsala into a Christian church
and founded a bishopric in
Upsala. He was also solicitous
about the conversion of the
neighbouring heathen races and
undertook a crusade against the
Finlanders, with whom the
Swedes had had intercourse
since very early times, and on
whose shores there were already
Swedish settlements. The in-
habitants of Finland , the Ugrian

for their bravery and love of freedom and
clung to the faith of their fathers. Erik
succeeded in conquering and converting
the south-western tribes, and by this
means he laid the foundation of the
Swedish supremacy in Finland. Erik was
killed by an enemy on May i8th, 1160,
not long after his return from Finland.
It is said that miracles happened on the
spot where he died, and he was, therefore,
canonised by the people ; he was after-
wards regarded as the patron saint of
Sweden, as Erik the Holy, and the Swedish
national ensign in the Middle
Ages bore the name " St. Erik's
Ensign." The influence and
power of the Sweden
rapidly increased with the vic-
tory of Christianity. A national
Church was formed in 1164
under the Archbishop of Upsala ;
the clergy received various privi-
leges for example, exemption
from taxes. Monasteries were
introduced. The first monks
were Cistercians from France,
who not only acted as spiritual
teachers, but also instructed the
peasants in agriculture and in
industrial pursuits. They were
joined later by mendicant

When the family to which Erik
IX. belonged became extinct, in
1250, Birger Jarl, of the rich and
respected Folkunger family, was
the most powerful man in the
country. He was energetic and
well versed in state affairs and
had proved himself a capable
Finland where, in

A WISR RIITFR warrior in

A W loiiKULrlK i t i 111*1 i

This memorial in Stockholm I2 49> ne " ac * established and

Finns, on as they called them- Commem0 rates the rue of a extended the supremacy of
selves, Suomalaiset. had wan- wise and able man, Birger Sweden by the subjection of the
dered, even before the ninth J arl > whose son > Waidemar, be- Tavastes Although he had
century, out of the districts east came kin *' Bir * er died in 125 - married a sister of the late king,

1 j_l_ _ ^ f A \- . /~* If r T- i i Q

and south-east of the Gulf of Finland, where
the neighbouring kindred tribes of the
Esthonians, Livonians and other Ugrians
dwelt, into Southern Finland and had then
spread over towards the north. The Finns
are divided into two groups as regards
language and physique : the West Finns
the true Finns and the Tavastes and
the East Finns the Carelians. As late
as the twelfth century they had not
founded any states, but were living in
their original condition. They were rough
and superstitious, but were distinguished

he was not himself of royal blood and,
therefore, not he, but his elder son, Waide-
mar, was elected king. As the latter
was not yet of age, Birger, as his guardian,
became actual ruler and governed till his
death, on October 2ist, 1256.

At home Birger restored peace and
order and raised the kingdom to a
high place among the northern nations,
with whom he endeavoured to maintain
peace and balance of power. In his
legislation he made it his principal aim
to adjust domestic rivalries, and he also


endeavoured to bring about an improve-
ment in morals. In order to promote
international commerce and trade he
concluded a commercial treaty with
Liibeck, for hitherto the Swedes had
lacked enterprise. The inhabitants of
Liibeck, however, used this treaty, as they
did those concluded with the other
northern countries, to get the trade
gradually into their own hands. Still,
the union with Germany was useful to
the Swedes. Mining and other branches
of industry were improved by Germans
who had crossed over into the country;
the towns were organised in German
fashion ; they received their own govern-
ment and their prosperity increased.

good order with a strong hand, and lived
on good terms with his neighbours, who
even asked his help as arbitrator in their
disputes. By various laws he protected
the peasants against the violence of the
barons, on account of which he was
given the honoured title of *' Ladulas "
the castle of the barn. The peasants,
however, were losing their political in-
fluence. Magnus desired to extend the
king's power in every direction, and
reserved for himself the right of giving
laws together with his council and the
highest men in the kingdom ; in this way
the work of legislation passed out of the
hands of the people. The king was also
acknowledged as suprerrie judge ; the


The illustration shows the three great royal barrows at Old Upsala, about three miles from Upsala, where the
election of the old Swedish kings took place. After his election the king undertook a journey through the
different cantons in order to receive the homage of his people. The cantons were ruled in the king's name by jarls.

Stockholm in particular developed enor-
mously ; it owes its importance as a town
and a fortress to Birger Jarl. Other
towns of importance were Wisby, Soder-
koping, Kalmar, and Lodose. Wisby,
which belonged to the Hanseatic League,
was for a long time the wealthiest and
most magnificent northern town, until
the fourteenth century, when its power
and prosperity were destroyed by Walde-
rnar Atterdag. In 1266 King Waldemar
himself took over the government, but
soon showed that he was not equal to
the task ; he was weak, fond of pleasure,
and profligate, and in 1275 was dethroned
by his younger brother Magnus, who
resembled his father in vigour and ability.
Magnus (1275-1290) continued the work
of Birger ; he maintained peace and

Lagmen, who had previously represented
the peasants and their rights, were grad-
ually attaching themselves to the lords and
became considered as government officials.
The highest functionary in the kingdom
had hitherto been the Jarl ; this post,
however, became extinct with Birger, and
the chief men in the king's council were
the Marsk, the Drost, and the chancellor.
Magnus introduced foreign customs and
institutions into Sweden, the most im-
portant of which was the Russtjenst, or
mounted service. In Sweden, as in other
northern countries, the obligation of war-
like service had been confined to naval
defence ; the country was divided into
cr^uits which in the event of war had
i~ furnish a ship with the crew, and in
t mes of peace paid a war tax. As warfare



of Swedish

on land became more common, Magnus
wished to have an able-bodied cavalry,
and decreed that whoever served him
with horse and armour should be exempt
from taxation. These troopers formed
a distinct military body, and as shortly
afterwards Russtjenst, and consequently
exemption, became hereditary, the basis
of a special nobility was estab-
lished. In connection with the
Russtjenst, knighthood was
also introduced ; the knights,
who were appointed by the king and were
called lords, formed the nucleus of the
army. With the introduction, however,
of Russtjenst there began a decline in the
navy. Hence, the Swedes, like the Danes
and Norwegians, were forced to resign their
naval supremacy. This now passed into
the hands of the Hanseatic League, which
had control over the Baltic and the North

Magnus Ladulas left at his death, in
1290, three sons, Birger, Erik, and Walde-
mar, who were all minors. The eldest,
Birger, became king ; his guardian was
the Marsk Tyrgils Knutsson. Tyrgils was
brave and clever and discharged the duties
of his office with earnestness and fidelity.
He ruled with the same vigour and ability
as Birger and Magnus ; he continued the
work of Erik the Pious and Birger in
Finland and by subduing the savage
Carelians completed the conquest and
conversion of the country. It was a
long time before there was a close union
between Finland and Sweden. Swedish
language, customs, and institutions made
slow headway ; and the Catholic Church
alone, which had several able advocates,
succeeded in gaining great power. It
is true that Swedes settled in Finland,
where strong castles were built, and that
Swedish commanding officers, who took
up their permanent residence in Finland,
formed the basis of a Finnish nobility ;
but the country was not incorporated

The Basis w ^ t ^ ie Swedish state, and
1 1.. ' remained fairly independent
of f innish , , <-, j- i_ i . -t

Nobilit . Swedish kings, until

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 10 of 55)