Attitudes Toward Nutrition and Health in the Ancient North
By David Robertson
Southern Medical Journal, Vol.71:12 (1978)
Introduction: Medieval Scandinavia was a culture torn between a heathen past and a Christian future. The new Mediterranean religion reached Haithabu, the largest city of the Viking period, in the year 826 AD, and four years later, the Frankish monk Ansgar (801-865 AD) carried Christian influence to the old Swedish trade center of Birka on Lake Malaren. Finally in the year 1000 AD the Althing meeting in Thingvellir, Iceland, debated with considerable objectivity the merits of adopting the new religion and then voted to make this distant outpost of Viking expansion a Christian land. The adoption of Christianity necessarily opened the door to the culture of the South. Certainly men of breeding and property who would dominate the intellectual life of the North during the following three centuries would bear the unmistakable mark of Roman influence, and medical concepts would reflect this new order. Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson (d.1213 AD), whose medical practice bore the stamp of the Salernitan School, is a case in point.