The Viking expeditions are grand. They include all of Europe, to the east along the large river-roads through Russia, to the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, to the west along the Atlantic coasts down past Arab Spain through the strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. But they also include the wild unknown North Atlantic with the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, even America.
The three Scandinavian countries had each their own geographic profile externally, and their own political interests. The names Sverige, Norge and Danmark show that each country had memories of old historic life. The name Sverige (Svearike) is the rige of the Swedes, a rige meant in that period a land where a king was the ruler (= English: a kingdom). It is not a coincidence that the name of the land of the Swedes pointed to the authority and power of a king. The Swedish kingdom existed long before the Viking-period.
|map from 1539 with Danevirke|
Danmark means the mark (land/field) of the Danes. The old meaning of the name "marc" = uninhabited borderland.The Mark must in this connection be the land at the south of Jutland's foot, the wild land south of Danevirke, which divided the Danes from the Saxons to the southwest and from the Slavic people to the southeast.The name Danernes mark = Danmark was gradually used in general already before year 900. The Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great wrote Denemearcan in his foreword to Orosius' world history, and this is the first time the name Danmark is mentioned in the world literature.
The name Norge has an old root, but in a different way from the Danish and Swedish. Norge was also a collected kingdom under Harald Fairhair, but much later than what happened similarly in Denmark and Sweden. The name Norge has a commercial historical meaning. It means "den nordlige vej" (the northern road) or Nordvejen ( the Northroad), an appellation of commercial historical origin. This road was the trade route along the long, long coast of Norway, from south to north and back, a route which is described in the before mentioned king Alfred's document from the late 900s. It was a sea route from the trade center Skiringstal at the Oslofjord, via the seas of Kattegat, Skagerak and the North Sea up to the White Sea, where they fetched sealskin, polarbear skin and walrus-tooth.
|Sea Stallion model of Viking ship on its first voyage Denmark-Ireland.|
Sweden looked to the east. The Swedish expansion had started already in the 8th century (across the Baltic Sea). The mighty Swedish trade developed and branched in a grand manner southwards through Russia to the southern states. The Baltic Sea was considered common area for Swedes and Danes.
Thousand years ago the Viking Ingvar Vidfarne went towards the east. In 2004 a Swedish expedition revived his tour from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, a a wearing tour across sea, mountains and along tortuous roads. The magazine Illustreret Videnskab was onboard on the almost ten meter long Himingläva.
|The Fyrkat house, copy of Viking stone (London stone)|
Sea Stallion Vikingship Museum Roskilde
Source: Johannes Brøndsted, Vikingerne,1960; Illustreret videnskab, 2004.
photo: grethe bachmann