- Project Runeberg -  The History of the Swedes /

(1845) Author: Erik Gustaf Geijer Translator: John Hall Turner
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Full resolution (JPEG) - On this page / på denna sida - III. Establishment of Christianity. Contests of the Swedes and Goths for Supremacy. A.D. 800—1250

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A great civil war now broke out in Sweden.
“After the death of that most Christian king
Stenkil,” says Adam of Bremen, “two kings, both
bearing the name of Eric, contended for the throne, and
in the war between them, all the chief men among
the Swedes, and the kings themselves, are said to
have fallen. When in this way the royal house
had become extinct, the condition of the realm was
so utterly changed, and the Christians were so
molested, that from fear of persecution no bishops
dared to enter Sweden. Only the bishop of Scania
directed the congregations of the faithful in
Gothland.” A single Swedish chief is mentioned as
a defender of Christianity. This is the sole account
preserved to us of these intestine commotions, and
it deserves the more attention, as proceeding
from almost the only contemporary witness to
whom we can appeal for the events of those times.
Who these contending princes were that drew down
with them in their fall the chief men of Sweden,
no other source informs us. They belonged to the
old reigning family, as we may infer from the
statement, that with them the royal lineage became
extinct; for this cannot apply to the house of
Stenkil, since he left two sons, both of whom afterwards
filled the throne. We observe here the first violent
outbreak of those civil wars, often subsequently
renewed, and extending over a long period, but
which both in the motives immediately producing
them, and in their progress, are but imperfectly
known to us. The great general causes, however,
lie before our eyes; in them was fought the last
struggle between heathenism and Christianity; in
them, after the federal association founded on the
ancient religion was dissolved, the rival peoples
combated for predominance. That this was a war
waged between the Pagans and the Christians is
proved by the sufferings which the Christians are
said to have undergone, but it appears also to have
been a contest against the new sovereign house.
Another nearly contemporaneous account informs
us, that when the contending princes had perished
in their mutual hostility, both the sons of Stenkil,
one after the other, were raised to the throne, and
expelled therefrom, after which a king named
Haco was chosen [1].

This Haco is also mentioned after Stenkil by
Snorro Sturleson. The old Table of Kings in the
Westgothic Law, on the contrary, assigns him a
place before Stenkil, and names him Haco the Red,
but communicates no other particulars of his
history, than that he had been king for thirteen
winters, and that he died in West-Gothland at the
place of his birth. He probably possessed the
name and dignity of king in this province during
the period when the remainder of the country was
torn by civil discord, for both these troubles and
the thirteen years’ reign of Haco fall between 1066
and 1081. The first is the year of Stenkil’s demise;
in the latter we already find his sons Inge and
Halstan reigning conjointly; for they are doubtless
the same “kings of the West Goths” whom
Pope Gregory VII. in a rescript of this date,
exhorts to protection of the Christians, and submission
towards the Church [2].

Inge, who is also called Ingemunder and
Anunder, is said to have been invited over from
Russia. In the course of more than two centuries
from the foundation of the Russian empire by the
Varangians, both the Russian and Scandinavian
annals contain manifold proofs of the closeness of
the ties which connected our forefathers with
Russia. About 980, in the reign of Eric the
victorious, the Russian grand-duke Vladimir (in the
sagas Valdemar) the Great, sought and obtained
help beyond the sea among the Varangians, and if
any further proof were required that these Russian
Varangians are the same who in the north, from
their service in the imperial body-guard at
Constantinople, were called Værings, it would be found in
the fact that Vladimir, designing after his object
had been attained to rid himself of his dangerous
auxiliaries, induced them to repair to Constantinople,
at the same time requesting the Greek
emperor not to permit their return to Russia [3].
With the assistance of the Varangians, Vladimir’s
son Jaroslav afterwards consolidated his power,
and chose for his bride a princess of their nation,
the daughter of Olave of Sweden. She was accompanied
to Russia by Earl Ragwald, father of king
Stenkil. Ragwald and his son Earl Eilif are both
mentioned among the chiefs of the Russians, and
with them Inge, who was now called to the throne,
passed a portion of his youth [4].

Soon after the accession of this prince,
discontents broke out anew in Upper Sweden. It is
stated in the appendix to the Hervarar saga, “Inge
was son of Stenkil, and the Swedes took him next
for their king [5]. His reign lasted a long time; he
was blessed in his friends, and was a good Christian.
He abolished the sacrifices in Suithiod, and
enjoined that all folk should be christened, yet the
Swedes put great trust in their heathen gods, and
held firm to their old customs. They deemed that
Ingé violated the old law of the land, because he
annulled much that king Stenkil had allowed to
subsist. At a diet which the Swedes held with
Ingé, they proposed to him two alternatives, either
to follow the old law or to abdicate the kingship.
Ingé answered and said, that he would not reject
the faith which was the truest. Then the Swedes
raised a cry, pelted him with stones, and drove him
out of the diet. Swen, the king’s brother-in-law,
the most powerful man in Suithiod, remained
behind him in the meeting. He offered the Swedes
to maintain the sacrifices, if they would grant him
the kingship, and to this they all consented. Then
Swen was made king over all Suithiod. A horse
was led forward in the assembly, cut in pieces, and
divided for the sacrificial feast, and the tree of
victims (the idol) was besprinkled with the blood.
Then all the Swedes again rejected Christianity,
began to sacrifice, and drove out Ingé, who
repaired to West-Gothland. Blot Swen [6] was for
three winters king over the Swedes. Thereafter

[1] The Scholiast on Adam of Bremen, iv. 15. He calls
them Halstein and Anunder, which latter must mean
Ingemunder, as Ingé the elder was sometimes named. This
writer states himself to have been a contemporary of that
[2] Celse, Apparatus ad Hist. Sviog. Sectio Prima Bullarii,
p. 23.
[3] Karamsin, after Nestor.
[4] Saga of St. Olave, c. 95. Saga of Harald Hardrada. c. 2.
[5] This narrative, which ends with the sons of Halstan,
and was probably written not long after these occurrences,
knows of no king Haco, although the sagas occasionally
mention him as successor of Stenkil. He was probably
never acknowledged by the Swedes.
[6] Blot Swen, from blota, to sacrifice.

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