Scandza

Scandza

Scandza was the name given to Scandinavia by Jordanes, in his work Getica. He described the area to set the stage for his treatment of the Goths' migration from Scandinavia to Gothiscandza. His account contains several accurate descriptions of Scandinavia, but is also jumbled and composed of information from several sources. According to the prominent Swedish archaeologist Göran Burenhult, Jordanes account gives us a unique glimpse into the tribes of Scandinavia in the 6th century.

Geographical description

Jordanes referred to Ptolemy's fairly correct description of Scandia "as a great island shaped like a juniper leaf" (i.e. long and not round) "having bulging sides and which tapered down in the south at a long end".

He also referred to Pomponius Mela's description of Codanonia (called Scatinavia by Pliny the Elder) which was located in the Codanian Gulf (probably Kattegat). "This island was in front of the Vistula and that there was a great lake" (probably Vänern) "from which sprang the river Vagus" (cf. Ván an old name for Göta älv). "On the western and northern side it was surrounded by an enormous sea" (the Atlantic), "but in the east there was a land bridge" (Lappland) "which cut off the sea in the east forming the German Sea" (the Baltic Sea). "There were also many small islands" (the Swedish and Finnish archipelagos) "where wolves could pass when the sea was frozen. In winter the country was not only cruel to people but also to wild beasts. Due to the extreme cold there were no swarms of honey-making bees."

Midsummer sun and the Midwinter darkness

In the north, there was the nation of the Adogit (perhaps referring to the inhabitants of Hålogaland in Norway or the people of Andøya) who lived in continual light during the midsummer (for forty days and nights) and in continual darkness for as long time during the midwinter. Due to this alternation they go from joy to suffering (the first description of the Scandinavian winter depression). The sun moreoever seemed to pass around the Earth rather than to rise from below.

Inhabitants

Jordanes names a multitude of tribes living in Scandza, which he named the Womb of nations, and they were taller and more ferocious than the Germans (archaeological evidence has shown the Scandinavians of the time were tall, probably due to their diet). The listing represents several instances of the same people named twice, which was probably due to the gathering of information from diverse travellers and from Scandinavians arriving to join the Goths, such as Rodwulf from Bohuslän. Whereas linguists have been able to connect some names to regions in Scandinavia, there are others that may be based on misunderstandings.

On the island there were the Screrefennae (i.e. Sami peoples) who lived as Hunter-gatherers living on a multitude of game in the swamps and on birds' eggs.

There were also the Suehans (Swedes) who had splendid horses like the Thuringians (interestingly Snorri Sturluson wrote that the 6th century Swedish king Adils had the best horses of his time). They were the suppliers of black fox skins for the Roman market and they were richly dressed even though they lived in poverty.

There were also the Theustes (the people of the Tjust region in Småland), Vagoths (probably the Gotlanders), Bergio (either the people of Bjäre Hundred in Skåne, according to L Weibull, or the people of Kolmården according to others), Hallin (southern Halland) and the Liothida (either the Luggude Hundred or Lödde in Skåne, but others connect them to Södermanland) who live in a flat and fertile region, due to which they are subject to the attacks of their neighbours. Other tribes were the Ahelmil (identified with the region of Halmstad), the Finnaithae (Finnhaith-, i.e. Finnheden, the old name for Finnveden), the Fervir (the inhabitants of Fjäre Hundred) and the Gautigoths (the Geats of Västergötland), a nation which was bold and quick to engage in war. There were also the Mixi, Evagreotingis (or the Evagres and the Otingis depending on the translator), who live like animals among the rocks (probably the numerous hillforts and Evagreotingis is believed to have meant the "people of the island hill forts" which best fits the people of Bohuslän). Beyond them, there were the Ostrogoths (Östergötland), Raumarici (Romerike), the Ragnaricii (probably Ranrike, an old name for a part of Bohuslän) and the most gentle Finns (probably second mention of the Sami peoples). The Vinoviloth (possibly remaining Lombards, vinili.) were similar.

He also named the Suetidi (a second mention of the Swedes). The Dani, who were of the same stock and who drove the Heruls from their lands. Those tribes were the tallest of men.

In the same area there were the Granni (Grenland), Augandzi (Agder), Eunixi, Taetel, Rugi (Rogaland), Arochi (Hordaland) and Ranii (possibly the people of Romsdalen). The king Roduulf was of the Rani but left his kingdom and joined Theodoric, king of the Goths.

Notes

Sources

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