A HISTORY OF THE SWEDISH PEOPLE
Where did the Swedes come from?
Votive relief depicting the ThracianThere are numerous geographical studies, archaeological findings, historical accounts and written evidences which confirm much of Scandinavian history. Most of the written history begins after 600 AD. The little written evidence of Scandinavian history from 100 BC to about 600 AD comes from contemporary writers of history, like Tacitus and Jordanes. However, the lack of written history prior to 100 BC does not diminish the provocative past of the Scandinavians. A reconstruction of the history of these years has been attempted by many scholars. Most of these attempts come from the interpretation of archaeological finds in view of contemporary European history and culture (Europeanization of history), often disregarding a wider perspective. Some of these reconstructions contradict one another, do not fit all the facts very well, or are invalidated by new discoveries. Modern day academicians, perhaps well educated and sometimes arrogant, will scoff at the notion that their views can be challenged. Such opposition will only bring attention to disregarded clues from ancient times. As such, this article should not be considered history strictly in the academic sense. The conclusions here can be attributed to well studied authors, researchers and historians. Other information comes from scholarly works, opinion, legend, mythology, professional historiography, and from the analogy of circumstances and evidences too compelling to ignore.
goddess Bendis with a number
of torch-race victors approaching
their goddess (c. 400-350 BCE)
In pursuit of a more accurate evaluation of Scandinavian history, some historical questions will have no easy answers. For example, who were the Svear and Daner people who lived in the Baltic region (Denmark and southern Sweden) in the BC era? Who were the Erul people who lived in the Baltic region at the same time? Were they all kin from tribes of Thracians? This document proposes some answers.
There is strong evidence that Swedish predecessors were migratory Thracians, an aggressive refugee "boat-people" who first came from the ancient city of Troy. Located in northwest Asia Minor (present-day northwest Turkey), the ruins of Troy were discovered in 1870. In the period beginning about 2500 BC, Troy was populated by an "invasion of peoples on the sea" according to the Egyptians. These people were called Thracians by the Greeks, and were early users of ships, iron weapons and horses. Troy (also called Troi, Toas or Ilium) was known as a center of ancient civilizations. Its inhabitants became known as Trojans (also Trajans/Thracians, later called Dardanoi by Homer, Phrygians or Anatolians by others), and their language was Thracian or Thraco-Illyrian. Evidence shows the city of Troy endured years of war, specifically with Greek and Egyptian armies. The famous Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and Trojans with their allies. Troy was eventually laid in ruins after 10 years of fighting with the Greeks, traditionally dated from around 1194 to 1184 BC, and is historically referred to as the Fall of Troy. The city was completely devastated, which is verified by the fact that the city was vacant to about 700 BC.
The earliest people recorded in the Balkans belonged to three tribalThousands of Trojans left Troy immediately after the war, beginning about 1184 BC. Others remained about 30 to 50 years after the war, when an estimated 30,000 Trojans/Thracians suddenly abandoned the city of Troy, as told by Homer (Greek writer/poet, eighth century BC) and various sources (Etruscan, Merovingian, Roman and later Scandinavian). The stories corroborate the final days of Troy, and describe how, after the Greeks sacked the city, the remaining Trojans eventually emigrated. Over half of them went up the Danube river and crossed over into Italy, establishing the Etruscan culture (the dominating influence on the development of Rome), and later battled the Romans for regional dominance. The remaining Trojans, mainly chieftains and warriors, about 12,000 in all with their clans, went north across the Black Sea into the Mare Moetis or "shallow sea" where the Don River ends (Caucasus region in southern Russia), and established a kingdom called Sicambria about 1150 BC. The Romans would later refer to the inhabitants as Sicambrians. The locals (nomadic Scythians) named these Trojan conquerors the "Iron people," or the Aes in their language. The Aes (also As, Asa, Asas, Asen, Aesar, Aesir, Aesire, Æsir or Asir) soon built their famous fortified city Aesgard or Asgard, described as "Troy in the north." Various other sources collaborate this, stating the Trojans landed on the eastern shores with their superior weaponry, and claimed land. The area became known as Asaland (Land of the Aesir) or Asaheim (Home of the Aesir).
groups–the Illyrians, Thracians, and Dacians. Historians are still out
on the question if Thracians and Dacians were the same people or
just closely related, Illyrians and Thracians were also related and are
often refered to as “Thraco-Illyrian”. A German proverb says,
Location is destiny. Bulgaria’s location has destined her to be in the
vortex of history. In the Eastern Mediterranean, which is the home
of some of the greatest cvilizations the world has ever seen, and at
the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, which is the melting pot of
Eurasia and home to some of the greatest wariors that ever lived.
Some historians suggest that Odin, who was later worshipped as a god by pagan Vikings, was actually a Thracian/Aesir leader who reigned in the Sicambrian kingdom and lived in the city of Asgard in the first century BC. He appointed chieftains after the pattern of Troy, establishing rulers to administer the laws of the land, and he drew up a code of law like that in Troy and to which the Trojans had been accustomed. Tradition knows these Aesir warriors as ancient migrants from Troy, formidable fighters who inspired norse mythology and as the ancestors of the Vikings. They were feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and thus quickly dominated the northern trades using the Don river as their main route to the north.
Historians refer to the Aesir people as the Thraco-Cimmerians, since the Trojans were of Thracian ancestry. The Cimmerians were an ancient people who lived among Thracians, and were eventually absorbed into Thracian culture. Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus noted about 440 BC that the Thracians were the second most numerous people in the world, outnumbered only by the (East) Indians, and that the Thracian homeland was huge. Ancient maps describe the region as Thrace or Thracia, present-day southeast Europe and northeast Greece. Thracian homelands included the Ukrainian steppes and much of the Caucasus region. According to Flavius Josephus, Jewish & Roman historian in the 1st century AD, the descendants of Noah's grandson Tiras were called Tirasians. They were known to the Romans as Thirasians. The Greeks called them Thracians and later Trajans, the original people of the city of Troas (Troy), whom they feared as marauding pirates. History attests that they were indeed a most savage race, given over to a perpetual state of "tipsy excess", as one historian put it. They are also described as a "ruddy and blue-eyed people." World Book Encyclopedia states they were "...savage Indo-Europeans, who liked warfare and looting." Russian historian Nicholas L. Chirovsky describes the arrival of the Thracians, and how they soon dominated the lands along the eastern shores of the river Don. These people were called Aes locally, according to Chirovsky, and later the Aesir (plural).
Some examples of Cimmerian artefacts
found in the northern Black Sea region:
Evidence that the Aesir (Iron people) were Trojan refugees can be confirmed from local and later Roman historical sources, including the fact that the inner part of the Black Sea was renamed from the Mare Maeotis to the "Iron Sea" or "Sea of Aesov", in the local tongue. The name remains today as the Sea of Azov, an inland sea in southern European Russia, connected with the Black Sea. The Aesir were known for their fighting with iron weapons. They were feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and thus quickly dominated the northern trades, using the Don river as their main route for trading.
The Aesir people dominated the area around the Sea of Azov for nearly 1000 years, though the surrounding areas to the north and east were known as the lands of the Scythians. The Aesir fought with the Scythians for regional dominance, but eventually made peace. They established trade with the Scythians, and even strong cultural ties, becoming united in religion and law. The Aesir began trading far to the north as well.
The land far north was first described about 330 BC by the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia. He called the region "Thule," which was described as the outermost of all countries, probably part of the Norwegian coast, where the summer nights were very short. Pytheas translated Thule as "the place where the Sun goes to rest", which comes from the Germanic root word "Dhul-" meaning "to stop in a place, to take a rest." Pytheas described the people as barbarians (Germanic/Teutonic tribes) having an agricultural lifestyle, using barns and threshing their grains. These people had already established trade with the Aesir who later began migrating north around 90 BC from the Caucasus region, during the time of Roman expansion in Europe. The Germanic/Teutonic tribes first made a name for themselves about 100 BC after aggressively fighting against the Romans. Not much is known about the Germanic tribes prior to this. When writing the "Gallic Wars," Julius Caesar described encounters with those Germanic peoples and distinguishes them from the Celts. During this time period, many Germanic tribes were migrating out of Scandinavia to Germany and the Baltic region, placing continuous stress on Roman defenses.
Migrating groups were normally smaller groups of different people or tribes, often following a strong leader. The "nationality" of the leaders would usually appear as the nationality of the migrating group, until later when the group was separated again. The migrations could take place over several decades, and often when the Germanic tribes were mentioned in the written sources, the Romans had only met raiding groups occupying warriors or mercenaries operating far away from their people.
CIMMERIAN BRONZE BRIDLEAround the same time, about 90 BC, the Aesir began their exodus from the Black Sea/Caucasus region. Their arrival at the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia has been supported by several scholars and modern archaeological evidence. As told by Snorri Sturluson (a 13th century Nordic historiographer) and confirmed by other data, the Aesir felt compelled to leave their land to escape Roman invasions by Pompeius, and local tribal wars. Known as Thracian warrior tribes, the aggressive Indo-European nomadic Aesir came north, moving across Europe, bringing all their weapons and belongings in their boats on the rivers of Europe, in successive stages. Historians note that Odin, who was a very popular Thracian ruler, led a migration about 70 BC with thousands of followers from the Black Sea region to Scandinavia. It is also told that another Thracian tribe came along with them, a people called the Vanir (also Vaner or Vans). Odin's first established settlement became known as Odense (Odin's Sanctuary or Odin's Shrine), inspiring religious pilgrimages to the city through the Middle Ages. These tribes first settled in present-day Denmark, and then created a power-center in what is now southern Sweden. About 800 years later during the Viking era, Odin, the Aesir and Vanir had become gods, and Asgard/Troy was the home of those gods, the foundation for Viking religion. The Aesir warrior gods, and the religious deities of Odin (also Odinn, Wodan, Woden, Wotan Vodin) and Thor, were an integral part of the warlike nature of the Vikings, even leading them back down the waterways of Europe to their tribal origins along the Black Sea and Asia Minor.
VIII century B.C.
Each side of the snaffle bit was cast as a single unit with double
rings at the ends. The outer with free moving disk termination to
which the cheek-straps were attached. Pair of blade-type cheekpiece
(psalia) with three rings and terminated by horizontal disk.
Aesir became the Old Norse word for the divine (also, the Old Teutonic word "Ase" was a common word for "god"), and "Asmegir" was the Icelandic term for "god maker" a human soul on its way to becoming divine in the course of evolution. The Vanir represented fertility and peace gods. Not unlike Greeks and Romans, the Scandinavians also deified their ancestors. The Egyptians adopted the practice of deifying their kings, just as the Babylonians had deified Nimrod. The same practice of ancestor worship was passed on to the Greeks and Romans and to all the pagan world, until it was subdued by Christianity.
Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda (Norse history and myths) about 1223 AD, where he made an interesting comparison with the Viking Aesir gods to the people in Asia Minor (Caucasus region), particular to the Trojan royal family (considered mythological by most historians today, regrettably). The Prose Edda is one of the first attempts to devise a rational explanation for mythological and legendary events of the Scandinavians. Unfortunately, many historians acknowledge only what academia accepts as history, often ignoring material that might be relevant. For example, Snorri wrote that the Aesir had come from Asia Minor, and he compared the Ragnarok (Norse version of the first doom of the gods and men) with the fall of Troy. Sturluson noted that Asgard, home of the gods, was also called Troy. Although Snorri was a Christian, he treated the ancient religion with great respect. Snorri was writing at the time when all of Scandinavia (including Iceland) had converted to Christianity by 11th century, and he was well aware of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Stories of Troy had been known from antiquity in many cultures. The Trojan War was the greatest conflict in Greek mythology, a war that was to influence people in literature and arts for centuries. Snorri mentioned God and the Creation, Adam and Eve, as well as Noah and the flood. He also compared a few of the Norse gods to the heroes at the Trojan War.
The Aesir/Asir were divided into several clans that in successive stages emigrated to their new Scandinavian homeland. Entering the Baltic Sea, they sailed north to the Scandinavian shores, only to meet stubborn Germanic tribes who had been fighting the Romans. The prominent Germanic tribes in the region were the Gutar, also known as the Guta, Gutans, Gauts, Gotarne or Goths by Romans. These Germanic tribes were already known to the Aesir, as trade in the Baltic areas was well established prior to 100 BC. The immigrating Aesir had many clans and tribes, and one prominent tribe that traveled along with them were the Vanir (the Vanir later became known as the Danir/Daner, and subsequently the Danes, who settled in what is now present-day Denmark). However, the most prominent clan to travel with the Asir were the Eril warriors or the "Erilar," meaning "wild warriors." The Asir sent Erilar (or Irilar) north as seafaring warriors to secure land and establish trade (these warriors were called "Earls" in later Scandinavian society, then became known as Jarlar, Eruls and Erils or Heruls and Heruli by Romans, also Eruloi or Elouroi by Greek historian Dexippos, and Heruler, Erullia and Aerulliae by others). The clans of Erilar enabled the Asir clans (later called Svi, Sviar, Svea, Svear or Svioner by Romans) to establish settlements throughout the region, but not without continuous battles with the Goths and other migrating Germanic tribes. The Eruls/Heruls eventually made peace with the Goths who ruled the region. The tribes of Svear, Vanir, and Heruli soon formed their own clans and dominated the Baltic/Scandinavian region. The Gothic historian Jordanes (or Jordanis), who was a notary of Gothic kings, told about 551 AD that the Daner were from the same stock as the Svear, both taller and fairer than any other peoples of the North. He called the Svear, "Sve'han."
It is now clear that in the Bronze Age the area traditionally identify
as the Homeric Troy was know to the Hittites as Wilusa and the
Greeks as Wilios. Moreover, in the "land of Wilusa" at the end of
the fifteenth century BC, the Hittites knew an area called Taruwisa,
which can scarcely be distinguished from the Greek Troia. This city
was an important political-economical Luwian center and that it was,
since about 1290 to 1215 BC, allied with the near Hittite empire. We
know from the Hittite tablets and archaeological excavation that war
actions, destructions and diplomatic crisis occurred in that area. The
city that Homer's Iliad tells of is therefore certainly a historical reality,
and in the Bronze Age it lay in precisely that area of north-west of
Anatolia where the tradition places it.
The Svear population flourished, and with the Heruls and Goths, formed a powerful military alliance of well-known seafarers. The Svear and Heruls then gradually returned to their ancestral land, beginning in the 2nd century AD. Sometimes sailing with the Goths, they terrorized all of the lands and peoples of the Black Sea and parts of the Mediterranean, even the Romans. They were the pre-Vikings. Roman annals tell of raids of Goths and Heruli in 239-266 AD in the territory of Dacia (where the Danube river runs into the Black Sea). Having built a fleet of 500 sailing ships, the Heruls completed their raids in 267-268 AD, and controlled all of the Roman-occupied\ Black Sea and parts of the eastern Mediterranean. There are several accounts about how the Herul warriors returned to ravage the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, alone and together with the Goths. The Romans noted that "the Heruls, a Scandinavian people, together with the Goths, were, from the 3rd century AD, ravaging the Black Sea, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean." While the the Romans called the Scandinavian region "Thule" (after Pytheas), the Greeks called it "Scandia" (from ancient times), and others called the area "Scandza." The term Scandia comes from the descendants of Ashkenaz (grandson of Noah in the Bible). Known as the Askaeni, they were the first peoples to migrate to northern Europe, naming the land Ascania after themselves. Latin writers and Greeks called the land Scandza or Scandia (now Scandinavia). The peoples in that region would be called Scandians or Scandinavians. Germanic tribes, such as the Teutons and Goths, are considered the descended tribes of the Askaeni and their first settlements.