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The Vikings.. The Remarkable Account of Ibn Fadlan

Discussion in 'Historical Debates' started by sooda, May 24, 2019.

  1. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member
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    Among the Norse Tribes

    The Remarkable Account of Ibn Fadlan


    Written by Judith Gabriel
    Photographed by Eirik Irgens Johnsen


    More than a millennium ago, as fleets of Viking raiders were striking fear into the hearts of coast- and river-dwellers throughout western Europe, other Norsemen of more mercantile inclination were making their way east. With no less boldness and stamina, bearing luxurious furs and enticing nodules of amber, they penetrated the vast steppes of what is today Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and entered Central Asia. There they met Muslim traders who paid for Norse wares with silver coins, which the Vikings themselves did not mint, and which they coveted.

    Their routes were various, and by the ninth and 10th centuries, a regular trade network had grown up. Some Norsemen traveled overland and by river, while others sailed over both the Black and Caspian Seas, joined caravans and rode camelback as far as Baghdad, which was then under Abbasid rule and populated by nearly a million souls. There, the Scandinavian traders found an emporium beyond their wildest dreams, for their fjord-rimmed homelands had only recently seen the emergence of a few rudimentary towns.

    To the Arabs of Baghdad, the presence of the Norsemen probably did not come as much of a surprise, for the Arabs were long accustomed to meeting people from different cultures and civilizations. They were also keen and literate observers. Abbasid historians and caliphal envoys put to paper eyewitness accounts of the roving Scandinavians, leaving a historical legacy that is shedding new light both on Viking history and on a little-known chapter of early Islamic history.

    From the time of the first Viking attacks on England in the late eighth century, the 300-year epoch known as the Viking Age found the Scandinavians venturing farther afield than any other Europeans. They colonized nearly the entire North Atlantic, even establishing a short-lived settlement in North America about the turn of the millennium. It was largely the Vikings from Norway and Denmark who made these western voyages, but waves of so-called "Eastern Vikings," predominantly Swedes, headed southeast to establish trading centers at Kiev and Novgorod, where the elite among them became princes and rulers. It was in these lands that they were observed by several Muslim historians.

    The Arab writers did not call the tall, blond traders "Vikings," but by the ethnonym Rus (pronounced "Roos"). The origin of this term is obscure, and though some claim it stems from the West Finnic name for Sweden, Ruotsi, there is little agreement. Yet consistently, Byzantine and Arab writers referred to the Swedish traders and settlers, as well as the local populations among whom they settled and intermarried, as Rus, and this is the source of the modern name of Russia.

    This name was applied only in the East. In France and Sicily, the Vikings were known as Normans. An elite guard of the Byzantine emperors, composed of eastern Scandinavians, was known as Varangians, but that term never came into widespread use outside the region. In al-Andalus, or Islamic Spain, they were known as al-majus, or "fire-worshipers," a pejorative reference to their paganism.

    Besides the Scandinavians themselves, only the British called the marauders "Vikings," and this word may come from vik, or bay, and Viken, as Oslo Fjord was called, from which the earliest Viking ships emerged. Other authorities maintain that the name came from the Old Norse term i viking, which is the equivalent of "a-raiding," as in "they went a-raiding down the Atlantic coast." But "Viking" was never a blanket term for the whole people of the region until it became a popular, modern misuse. "We can refer to Viking-Age society, but not all Scandinavians were Vikings," says Jesse Byock, who is professor of Old Norse literature at the University of California at Los Angeles. "They themselves used the term to refer to raiders from the region, but it certainly didn't describe the local farmers who were back on the land."

    In western Europe, journal entries about Viking raids were often penned by monks and priests whose interests lay in painting them in the darkest, most savage colors. But in the East, the story was different. There the Rus were primarily explorers, colonizers and tradesmen, and although they were well-armed, Muslim accounts describe them as merchant-warriors whose primary business was trade. The Rus were after the Abbasid-issued dirhams flooding the region, and though at times, in the more remote regions, they procured these by exacting tribute, they largely traded with Muslims who had themselves ventured north and west to find opportunities for commerce.

    continued

    Saudi Aramco World : Among the Norse Tribes: The Remarkable Account of Ibn Fadlan
     
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  2. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    During the latter Byzantine empire, the emperor's version of Rome's Praetorian guard were Norsemen.
     
  3. shmogie

    shmogie Well-Known Member
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    yes and they were berserk
     
  4. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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    In Russia there are two theories of origin of word "Rus". Swedish one as above.Slavic theory tied to river Rosi and its tribute Rossava where somewhere in mid Dnepr river where major tribal centers existed (Rodnia). When Norsemen invaded the place they called it Rus.
     
  5. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member
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    There is a book.. a travel journal about Ibn Fadlan's time with the Vikings. What a read. I looked for it for hours yesterday. Its called Vikings from the East and its impossible to put down. If you come across it , buy it and hang on to it.. its better than Ibn Battuta or Rabbi Benjamin Tuleda.
     
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  6. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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