The Vikings in the East : a Survey of Settlement, Trade and Military Activity c.700 – 1100

The Vikings in the East : a Survey of Settlement, Trade and Military Activity c.700 – 1100

By D.A.F.  Adams

MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 1988

Abstract: This thesis surveys three principal Scandinavian activities during the period from 700 to 1100 – those of settlement, trade and military activity – in the regions east of the Baltic Sea. As secondary sources debate the origin and ethnicity of the people known as the Rus mentioned by the primary literary sources and identified with Swedish Vikings, the philological arguments for the derivation of the name and the source material supporting the Scandinavian identity of the Rus are initially discussed.

In examining colonising activities, much attention has been paid to the archaeological evidence (supported by literary sources) indicating Scandinavian settlement in the region of North Russia. This is essentially an examination of burial sites and Norse burial practices and rituals. The tradition of the foundation of the first Russian State by Varangian warriors centred initially at Novgorod and shifting to Kiev in the ninth century is also discussed. The development of commerce from the pre-Viking period deals with trade-routes, wares and modes of travel. There is a division along the lines of trade with the Muslims and that with the Byzantines. To some extent, this is divided by the source material, numismatic evidence for Muslim commerce and literary for trade with the Byzantines.

My final chapter examines the Norse warrior tradition, their weapons and tactics. A discussion of the great raids on Constantinople and in the Caspian region based primarily on the written accounts of Byzantine and Muslim authors forms the basis of the last chapter. A brief account of the development of the Varangian Guard and some of the personalities associated with it completes that chapter. My overall conclusions then follow.

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