Sweden Early History

Sweden Early History


Sweden is mentioned for the first time by Roman authors (for prehistory see Nordic, civilization). Tacitus already mentions the numerous and seafaring lineages of the Svioni; later authors, such as Giordane and Procopio, give information on other peoples of the country, among others the Gauti and the Skridfinni. Of these peoples, the Svions (Svears) inhabited the province of Upsala north of Lake Mälar (they are also much later called the Svears); the Gauti (Gotar) lived especially south of the Väner lake in the Västergötland province; the Skridfinni are identified with the non-Germanic Lapps, still living in northern Sweden.

During the period of the Germanic migrations, Sweden was therefore populated by different lineages and was divided into various small kingdoms, independent of each other, which at times fought each other. The founding element of the empire was the region of the Svear, whose kings – of which Adils, Ottar and Efil around 500 are considered historical – lived in Upsala. Here there was a great pagan temple, famous throughout the north. The military organization of the Svear also seems to have formed early: the country was divided into districts, which supplied crews and ships to the fleet. Gradually the power of the Svear spread over the whole of Sweden; around 900 they dominated the coast of the Baltic Sea and also the Baltic islands; and for a time lands on the other side of the Baltic – such as Courland – were subjected to the kings of the Svear.

In addition to the military organization of the Svear, the fact that the pagan temple of Upsala enjoyed the greatest fame everywhere and that the country of the Svear, during the Viking period, was of great importance in international trade. On a small island in Lake Mälar there was the city of Birka, where Frisians flowed in large numbers and where the trade route, which went through Russia to the capitals of the Bulgarians of the Volga and the Chazari, Bolgar and Itil, and with this to the Arab East, and through which silver was brought to Europe in large quantities.

The era around 1000 brought about great changes for Sweden. With the political-commercial changes, connected with the end of the Viking expeditions, the region around Lake Mälar lost its importance: Birka was abandoned, the influx of silver from the East ceased, Sweden began to import from Western Europe also precious metals and was completely incorporated into the circle of Western European civilization, of which it remained for a long time an extreme outpost. Christianity had been preached in Sweden since the century. IX, first from Ansgar; on his initiative an archbishopric was erected, based in Hamburg, from which the Nordic mission was to be continued. The Swedish king Erik Segersäll, who had conquered Denmark for a short time, must have been baptized already before the year 1000; however, he must soon have returned to paganism. His son Olaf (Olof Skötkonung) was the first Christian king of Sweden. He and his son, Anund Jakob (died around 1050), who in alliance with the Norwegian king Olaf the Saint fought the menacing dominance of the Danish king Canute the Great, were in full agreement with the Hamburg archbishopric. Anund Jakob’s brother and successor, Emund (died before 1066) tried to organize an independent Swedish church and supported the English mission in Sweden for this purpose. With Emund the ancient Swedish dynasty died out; after the death of his successor Stenkil, around 1066, a pagan reaction broke out in Sweden, which can only be considered definitively won in 1089. Since then Sweden can be considered a completely Christian country.

As the region around Lake Mälar lost its commercial importance and the pagan temple of Upsala its religious importance, the center of the Swedish kingdom moved to the fertile Gothic provinces of western and eastern Gotland, from which all the Swedish kings of the period came. 1080-1250, which belonged to three different dynasties. But, in recognition of the ancient political supremacy of the province of Upsala, in the oldest Swedish provincial law, the law of Västergötland, which dates back to the century. XIII it was established that the king should be elected first by the residents of the province of Upsala. The ancient religious dominance of the province was then reaffirmed in the fact that, when Sweden in 1164 obtained its own archbishop, he had to reside in Upsala.

Central power within the Swedish monarchy was very disorganized: the Swedish kingdom can be characterized as a “Union of Provinces”. That is, each province had its own law; jurisdiction was exercised by the popular assemblies of the various provinces (ting); a lagman elected by the people presided over the discussions. The king’s power was minimal and grew very little during the time of the disputes over the succession to the throne: since the extinction of the dynasty of King Stenkil around 1130, the successors of King Sverker (who died around to 1156) during whose reign the first monasteries in Sweden were founded, and those of the little known Swedish national hero, King Erik the Holy (died around 1160): it followed that members of the two dynasties regularly alternated on the throne. After Charles Sverkersson (died around 1167), during whose reign the archbishopric of Upsala was erected, and after bloody contests for the throne, King Erik’s son Knut Eriksson reigned, the first king to introduce a monetary system in Sweden regular. Sverker Karlsson (1195-1208) was defeated in 1203 by Erik Knutsson (1208-1216); Johan Sverkersson (1216-22) attempted to create an independent Baltic policy; Erik Eriksson (1222-29, 1234-50) had to flee to Denmark for a time, while a usurper of the aristocratic Folkungar party, Knut the Long (1229-34), was recognized as king. For Sweden 1999, please check estatelearning.com.

Sweden Early History