the vikings -- 4/2/19
Today's selection -- from The Vikings by Lance Hightower. The Vikings of Scandinavia were great traders and warriors whose reach extended to Spain, Constantinople and beyond. Here are accounts of the Vikings from Islamic contemporaries circa 1000 CE:
"One man who observed the Vikings with interest was Ibn Fadlan, who gave an account of the funerary rituals of the Vikings, and another, geographer Ibn Rustah, traveled to Novgorod with the Rus [Vikings] and noted his impressions of the people and their home.
"'I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Volga. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms and with ruddy complexions. They do not wash themselves after defecating, urinating or having sexual intercourse. Their day begins with a slave girl bringing them a pitcher of water in which each washes his hands, face and hair, then clears his nose into the water. The process is repeated until all have used the same water in the same fashion. With the Volga flowing nearby, it is a wonder at the necessity of this economy.'
" 'Perhaps it is a bonding ritual to strengthen the loyalty among them, for if one group of them is challenged to war, they all join in force. They stand firm as one man against their enemies until they have won the victory over them.'
|A Viking Grave|
"Ibn Rustah wrote:
'The friends of a dead warrior dig him a grave resembling a large house and place him in it, along with his clothes, his gold arm bands, food, drink and coins. His favorite wife is buried alive with him before the grave is closed.'
"This is a practice called sati or suttee, in which a widow throws herself on her dead husband's funeral pyre, but there is no evidence in any of the Scandinavian texts that the Vikings practiced this. The Arab writer likely confused the slave girl, who volunteered to be sacrificed with her master, for a wife."