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59

(1869) [MARC] Author: Rasmus Rask
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PART II.

*



The Old Norsk Poetry and the Sagas.

Iceland was formerly looked upon as the ultima Thule
of Virgil; it received the greater part of its population from
Norway, where it first became known between the years 860—870
through the skandinavian navigators Nadd-Odd, Gardar
and Flœke. The last one called it Iceland in consequence
of the masses of drift-ice which he found in all its
creeks.

The first settler was the Norweian Ingolf (870) who
fled to the iceland with his retinue and relations from King
Harald Hárfager who after having subdued the other petty
kings of Norway, obtained supreme power by levelling taxes on
all the freeholds of the nobles, whom he in reality reduced
to tenants, and all those who would not submit to this usurped
authority, emigrated to Iceland, and thus within 60 years the
habitable shoreland of the isle was taken possession of.

As most of these emigrants were the freest and noblest
men of Norway, some of royal descent, others from the flower
of the aristocracy, they continued their old mode of life in
their new home, and Iceland became an aristocratic republic.
They brought with them their language, the Old Dansk, their
rites of heathen worship and their civil institutions. The ground
work of their political life was chiefly Ulfilot’s (927), who
established a system of law and created the „Althing“, a national
parliament, composed of all the freeholders of the island, which
held its meetings every year for 14 days on the great plain of
the Thingvalla to discuss the interests of the land.

Besides this general meeting, there were instituted since 962

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