When the Vikings met the Greeks
The mere utterance of the word Vikings, or Northmen as they were also known, used to strike fear in the hearts of the British just before and during the high middle ages, once these raiders found their way to the west and mainland Europe. Their contact with the French and British has been a subject of extensive research, not to mention successful movies and TV series. They fought bloody battles with both the French and Britons and slaughtered many monks along their marauding raids on Monasteries.
|Byzantine illumination showing the Varangian Guard, bodyguards to the Byzantine Emperor |
In the 10th Century Byzantine Emperor Basil II of Constantinople first enlisted Varangian fighters to serve as imperial personal bodyguards. Known as the Varangian Guard, they were legendary for their fierce loyalty to the emperors they served and the wealth bestowed upon them for their service.
Their history is corroborated in the south by writings on Scandinavian runestones - raised stones bearing inscriptions in runic alphabets commenting about people and their adventures.
|The Lion of Peiraeus [Credit: WikiCommons]|
On the right side of the lion it says:
ASMUDR: HJU:RUNAR: ÞISAR: ÞAIR: ISKIR: AUK: ÞURLIFR: ÞURÞR: AUK: IVAR: AT:BON: HARADS:HAFA:ÞUAT: GRIKIAR:UF: HUGSAÞU: AUK: BANAÞU
“Asmund cut these runes with Asgeir and Thorleif, Thord and Ivar, at the request of Harold the Tall, though the Greeks considered about and forbade it.”
|Runic inscription on the right shoulder of the Lion of Peiraeus [Credit: WikiCommons]|
HAKUN : VAN: ÞIR : ULFR : AUK : ASMUDR : AUK : AURN : HAFN : ÞESA : ÞIR : MEN : LAGÞU : A : UK : HARADR : HAFI : UF IABUTA : UPRARSTAR : VEGNA :GRIKIAÞIÞS : VARÞ : DALKR : NAUÞUGR : I : FIARI : LAÞUM : EGIL : VAR : I : FARU :MIÞ : RAGNARR : TIL : RUMANIU . . . AUK : ARMENIU
“Hakon with Ulf and Asmund and Örn conquered this port. These men and Harold Hafi imposed a heavy fine on account of the revolt of the Greek people. Dalk is detained captive in far lands. Egil is gone on an expedition with Ragnar into Romania and Armenia.”
As best one can tell, these Vikings were most likely a small party of raiders that decided to have some fun and boast of their great victories by writing on the Lion of Peiraeus. Surely an interesting piece of history.
Source: Protothema [October 21, 2016]