05/12/2022

Norse Period 1 – Sceaf to Geat

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Note: Euhemerism
In proceeding to earlier generations we will need to understand the term Euhemrism, this is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages.

Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations that reflect the culture of the people.

It was named for the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived in the late 4th century BC.

There is strong evidence that Swedish predecessors were an aggressive refugee ‘boat-people’ who first came from the ancient city of Troy.  Located in northwest Asia Minor (present-day northwest Turkey), the ruins of Troy were discovered in 1870.  Troy existed for over 4,000 years, and was known as a centre of ancient civilizations.  Its inhabitants were Trojans (or Thracians) in the period beginning c3,000 BCE, which was itself begun by an ‘invasion of sea peoples’ according to the Egyptians. 

The Trojans were early users of iron weapons, and rode horses.  Evidence shows the city of Troy suffered through several wars with Greek and Egyptian armies.  Troy was finally laid in ruins about 1,260 BCE by the Greeks, leaving the city completely devastated.

About seventy years after the war, an estimated 30,000 Trojans/Thracians (called Dardanoi by Homer, and Anatolians by others) abandoned the city of Troy, this was related by various sources (Etruscan, Merovingian, Roman and later Scandinavian).  The stories corroborate the final days of Troy, and describe how, after the Greeks sacked the city, the remaining Trojans eventually emigrated. 

Over half of them went up the Danube river and crossed over into Italy, establishing the Etruscan culture, proving to be a major influence on the development of Rome. This group was said to be led by Aeneas.

The remaining Trojans, about 12,000 of them, travelled north across the Black Sea into the Mare Moetis or ‘shallow sea’ where the Don river ends, in the Caucasus region of Southern Russia, and established a kingdom c1150 BCE, which the Romans called Sicambria

The locals named these Trojan conquerors the ‘Iron people’, or the Aes.  The Aes built a fortified city, names Aesgard or Asgard, described as the ‘Troy of the north’.  Other sources corroborate this, stating that these Trojans landed on the eastern shores, and with their superior weaponry claimed the land as Asaland (Land of the Aesir) or Asaheim (Home of the Aes). Aesir literally meant ‘men from Asia’.

Evidence that the Aesir were Trojan refugees can be confirmed from local and Roman historical sources, including the fact that the inner part of the Black Sea was renamed from the Mare Maeotis to the ‘Iron Sea’ or ‘Sea of Aesov’, in the local tongue.  The name remains today as the Sea of Azov, an inland sea in southern European Russia, connected with the Black Sea. 

The Asir became known for their fighting with iron weapons.  They were known and feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and quickly dominated northern trading, using the Don river as their main route for trading with the people of the far north. 

The Asir people dominated the area around the Sea of Azov for nearly 1000 years before moving north around 90 BC.  The time of their exodus from the Caucasus region, and their arrival at the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia, has been supported by several scholars and modern archaeological evidence.  As told by Snorri Sturluson (a 13th century Nordic historiographer) and confirmed by other evidence, the Asir felt compelled to leave their land to escape Roman invasions by Pompeius and local tribal wars.  The aggressive war-like Indo-European nomadic Trojan Asir tribes came north, moving across Europe, bringing all their weapons and belongings on the rivers of Europe in their boats. 

The Asir were divided into several groups that in successive stages emigrated to their new Scandinavian homeland.  Entering the Baltic Sea region, they sailed north to the Scandinavian shores, only to meet stubborn Germanic tribes.  The prominent Germanic tribes in the region were the Gutar, also known as the Guta, Gutans, Gotarne or Goths by Romans.  These Germanic tribes were already known to the Asir, as trade with the Baltic areas was well established prior to 100 BC.

The immigrating Asir had many clans, and the most prominent were their Eril warriors or the ‘Erilar’ (meaning ‘wild warriors’).  The Asir sent Erilar north as seafaring warriors to secure land and establish trade.  The clans of Erilar (also called Jarlar, Eruls or Heruls by Romans) enabled the Asir clans (later called Sviar, Svea, Svear or Svioner by Romans) to establish settlements throughout the region, but not without constant battles with the Goths and other immigrating Germanic tribes.

These warriors returned in the 3rd c BCE to ravage their old territory of the Black Sea and parts of the eastern Mediterranean, alone and together with the Goths.

Nordic royal families proudly claimed their descent from Troy’skings and heroes.

__

The Norse Period in my family tree spans almost eight centuries from the birth of Sceaf (210 BCE) to the death of Eoppa (559 CE), but this was all securely before the Viking Age c 800-1100 CE. Bizarrely several of these steps in the genealogy appear to be legendary or mythical characters, but the repetition of these individuals does appear to be persuasive – British Museum Corron MS C-text, Anglo Saxon Chronicles the B-text and D-text, Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, the Occidental Saxonum, the Winchester MS, the West Saxon Textus Roffensis

This first group of individuals is also known as the Scyldings – rather appropriately Sceaf (GGF65) was a non-threatening boat person arriving as a child in an empty boat off the coast of Scandza island (perhaps with echoes of Moses?).

[GGF65]

GGF65 – Sceaf [or Seskef] (210-125 BCE))

Sceaf was reported as born in Troy, but somehow ended up as a child in an empty boat off the coast of Scandza island. The first attested written use of this name for a Northern European island appears in the work of Roman Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia of c. 77 CE, he described ‘Scandia’ as an island located north of Britannia.

It was described as a “great island” by Gothic-Byzantine historian Jordanes in his 551 CE work Getica. He suggested that the first settlement of the Goths was here, at the mouth of the Vistula river, in the early 1st c CE. But the Norse were here first!

Map of the Scandiae islands by Nicolaus Germanus for a 1467 publication of Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini

Æthelweard in his Chronica writes of Sceaf: ‘This Sceaf came in a light boat to an island of the ocean which is called Scani, arms around about him, and he was a very young boy, unknown to the dwellers in the land. But he was accepted by them and cared for like one of their own kind, and afterwards they chose him as king‘. He became the first king of the Angles and founded a dynasty. The Angles inhabited Schleswig-Holstein [today’s NE Germany] and the Jutland peninsula [today’s Denmark], (the Jutes had lived further to the east along the Baltic coast and later migrated to Jutland, giving it their name). Some sources suggest that he was the first King of Denmark.

William of Malmesbury in his Gesta regum anglorum wrote: ‘Sceaf; who, as some affirm, was driven on a certain island in Germany, called Scandza, a little boy in a skiff, without any attendant, asleep, with a handful of corn at his head, whence he was called Sceaf; and, on account of his singular appearance, being well received by the men of that country, and carefully educated, in his riper age he reigned in a town which was called Slaswic, but at present Haithebi; which country, called old Anglia, whence the Angles came into Britain, is situated between the Saxons and the Goths.’

Illustration of Sceaf’s discovery, found on Facebook

The genealogy in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle year 855, versions B and C, is rather more fanciful, it explains instead that ‘Scef was born in Noah’s ark, interpreting Sceaf as a non-Biblical son of Noah, and then continuing with the ancestry of Noah up to Adam as found in Genesis.‘ This seemingly confuses Sceaf and Shem, son of Noah, or a new son of Noah. This suggestion has been traced back to Wessex and the 9th c, when its royal house was seeking to show its independence from Viking control, and prompted this rather hopeful thought.

All of the above sources are ‘English, however a piece in Snorri Sturluson’s Edda is usually considered to be derived from English sources, but it suggests that the legendary royal family or people of the Scyldings, mentioned in Norse texts, may be connected or confused with traditions about Sceaf.

Some sources place his birth as Troy, others as Asgeard (see above). We have his rather mysterious arrival into Denmark, some suggest his daughter-in-law was his wife, but all sources claim he had just the one son, Bedwig (195-90 BCE).

Despite his arrival as an unknown, in an empty boat, the Prose Edda sets out Sceaf’s genealogy as ‘their son was Lóridi, who resembled his father; his son was Einridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Móda, his son Magi, his son Sceaf, his son Bedvig…

Sceaf would be my GGF65, and through sixteen generations he is linked to Woden, my GGF49, this then is the Norse Period of the family tree.

Flood and migrations
There are Roman accounts that,at the end of the 2nd c BCE (some say late 4th c BCE), a large-scale incursion of the sea into the Jutland peninsula occured, this became known as the Cimbrian Flood. It permanently altered the shape of the coastline and destroyed areas of habitable land. This drastically affected the way people could live in the region.


Land lost to the Cimbrian flood

It is probably this event which prompted the Germanic tribes in the centre of the peninsula and their northern neighbours, the Cimbri, to inspire their kings to lead large numbers of their people in a southwards migration, and to attack the settled kingdoms of the Mediterranean. Thought the Greek geographer, Strabo, was scathing of this, describing it as an excuse for piratical behaviour.

Remnants of both peoples probably remained in the peninsula, but the region was later found to be largely vacant and promptlysettled by the Jutes and Angles, and the residual natives were probably simply absorbed into their number.

[GGF64]

GGF64 – Bedwig [or Beðvigr] Scylding (195-90 BCE)

The Prologue to the Prose Edda said: Bedwig Scoffing was able to hold on to all of his father’s territory. Learning something from the previo’us dynasty’s failure due to inbreeding, Bedwig instituted a policy of marrying his surplus sons and daughters to whatever tribe was the strongest threat to the Angli. His nine sons married princesses of noble blood among the Saxons, Goths, Geats, Vandals, Norwegians, Frisians, and one son was even married to a princess from far-off Dacia on the Danube. He married his daughters to anyone of wealth and power who would pledge to support him. In that way, along with waging wars whenever there was something to be gained, did the House of Sceaf maintain the rank of first among equals in the peninsula and the isles.’

‘These kings maintained their kingdoms in a fit fashion. They were recognized as god-kings, the representatives of the gods on earth. They acted well, and thus were blessed with bountiful harvests. Both gods and men found them just, and the lands of the Anglican Confederation prospered. Although the tribal alliance wasn’t called then by that name even though the Angli were the foremost members.’

Bedwig married Sedegetelebab daughter of Eliakim Ben Methuselah, born in Shulon, East of Eden c100 BCE and his wife Betenos Ben Methuselah. Bedwig had one child with Sedegetelebab, Hwala.

[GGF63]

GGF63 – Hwala Scylding (170-80 BCE)

The Prologue to the Prose Edda said: Bedwig married his heir, Hwala, to the Jutish chieftain’s oldest daughter, Beltsa (190 BCE- ?) the Jutes being restive even in those days.

[GGF62]

GGF62 – Hathra [or Hwala or Annarr or Athra] Scylding (140-73 BCE)

During Hathra’s rule a great flood from the ocean came over the land, despoiling the grass and silting the land. This great flood drove much of the surplus population south to Rome, where they were killed or enslaved. As a result of that flood, the people knew that the gods were displeased, so rule passed to Itermon Hadring.

[GGF61]

GGF61 – Ítermann Hadring [or Intermon or Ítrmaðr] Scylding (96-45 BCE)

Could not discover anything of my GGF61, other than his appearance ineach ofthe genealogical charts.

[GGF60]

GGF60 – Heremóed [or Heremond or Hermóðr] Bjaed [or Bjaf] Scylding (65 BCE-?)

Banished by his subjects and fled to live with the Jutes, where he was later betrayed and murdered.

Heremóed may also be identical to Lother in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum (Book 1) or the same history may have been applied to two originally separate figures.

Some genealogies show Heremóed as the father of Sceath (not GGF65), but we show it as Sceldwea.

[GGF59]

GGF59 – Sceldwea [or Scyld or Sceadea or Skjǫldr] Scylding (50 BCE – 29 CE)

The Prologue to the Prose Edda said: Sceldwea was known as ‘The Shield,’ for the way he protected his people.

A fictional version of this individual appears in Beowulf as Scyld (‘shield’).

[GGF58]

GGF58 – Beaw [or Bjáf or Bjárr or Bean] Scylding (25 BCE – 70 CE)

The Prologue to the Prose Edda said: Beaw was an uncommonly warlike king. He heeded Hermann’s call for all of Germany to unite and keep the Romans on their side of the Rhine, so he went himself to fight, taking his hundred best warriors. They wiped out three of Rome’s best legions, then went back home to bask in their hard-earned glory. Later in Beaw’s reign, he killed a dragon that had been troubling the people. Beaw died soon after that great battle.

Beaw appears in in the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies, but also is the name of a figure in Anglo-Saxon paganism associated with barley and agriculture.

The names are so similar that it is no surprise that many link the figure of Beowa and the hero Beowulf of the poem of the same name. The two characters possess many of the same attributes, therefore it has been suggested that a god Beowa, existing in myth has became confused or blended with Beowulf, a fictional hero. But there are two Beowulfs in the poem, and perhaps the confusion is due to that?

[GGF57]

GGF57 – Taetwa [or Tecti[ Scylding (45-100)

[GGF56]

GGF56 – Geat [or Játr or Gautr] Scylding (60-155)

Genealogies for the rulers of the Danes, Norwegians and Icelanders in their sagas tend to stop at the god Woden, but some trace ancestors of Woden on to Geat. An account in the Historia Britonum calls Geat a son of a god. Asser in his Life of Alfred writes instead that the pagans worshipped Geat himself for a long time as a god.

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