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SCANDINAVIAN HISTORY

CHAPTER I.

THE

EARLY NORTH.

Hyper oreans-Ignorance of Southerners in regard to forthmen-Pytheas;

his travels ; his voyage to Thule-- The search for Thule--How the people lived 2,200 years ago-- The Lung of the Sea, meaning of termPytheas a scientific traveller-Professor Nilsson-Phænicians in the North ; their religion --Superstitions of Northern people reflect the older faith – The Kimbri-Wulfstan and Ohthere-Alfred's history of Orosius-Northmen swarm southwards; the Romans defeat them--Ideas in regard to Scandinavia--Amber beads the cause of a better knowledge being gained—The Skalds—The Goths—The earlier inhabitants of the North—The days of the week; their names—The gods-Odin's faith ; its precepts; his character ; his favour given to the rich— The Norræna Mál-- The Aryans-Our Aryan forefathers—Runes—The Væringjar–The Vikingar.

PART I.

HYPERBOREANS.

The Hyperboreans.--The ancient Greeks and Romans had very false, and what seem to us, now that we know so much more about it than they did very absurd ideas of the north of Europe; for they thought that it was all made up of ice, snow, mists, clouds and darkness, and that far, far away beyond the north wind, there lived a race of beings, whom they called Hy-. perboreans, or Outside North-winders ?

These hyperboreans were fabled to be mortals living in perfect peace with their gods and among themselves, and dwelling

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in such a rich land, and under such bright sunny skies, that fruits and grains ripened there without needing the care of the husbandman. Plenty abounded everywhere. No one suffered pain or illness of any kind, and, therefore, as the old men and women in that blessed land did not die as elsewhere from disease or weakness, those who grew weary of living put a speedy end to their lives by throwing themselves headlong down some high cliff into the foaming depths of the sea, which opened to receive them, and then gently closed over their bodies.

By degrees, men began to doubt if mortals could find such charming abodes upon any part of this earth, even if they were lucky enough to get beyond the north wind; and so the belief in hyperboreans died out. But, for all that, the Northmen, as the natives of Scandinavia generally, or sometimes only the Danes, were called, had continued to swarm southward every year, from one century to another, before other nations learned to know from which direction they came, or what was the name of their country

The most ancient account that we possess of the North was that by a native of Massilia, the present Marseilles, who lived more than 350 years before the birth of Christ. This traveller, whose name was Pytheas, was either a trader, or an astronomer, sent by his Government to enquire into the position and nature of the northern lands from which the Phænicians brought away tin and amber and other products, which they could not obtain nearer home. But, whether an astronomer or a trader, a Greek or a Phoenician, Pytheas must have been a bold man to have left the sunny skies of the South to embark upon a voyage which carried him over rough seas along the western shores of Europe to that far distant mysterious North, where even the learned men of his own, and much later times, believed there was nothing to be found beyond a dreary waste of mist

· We may reckon Pytheas as belonging to the same time as Alexander the Great, who was born in the year 356, and died in 323, B.C. Massilia or Massalia is believed to have been founded by the Phænicians, who had there a temple to Baal, which in later times, when the Greeks became masters of the place, was used for the worship of Apollo. Ancient coins have been dug up at the spot, bearing on one side the image of the Sun.god, and on the other that of a wheel with four spikes, which was one of the chief emblems of Baal.

covered snow and ice. Pytheas, indeed, as a native of one of the greatest trading ports in the world, may have been better informed than the Latin and Greek authors, who, more than three hundred years after his time, criticised his writings and laughed at his accounts of what he had seen. Yet we can scarcely wonder that men like Strabo and others, who believed that no human beings were to be met with further north than the Elbe, -although they had some faith in the notion of a land beyond the north wind,-should have treated his narrative as nothing better than a mere traveller's tale. For us, however, who have to thank him for the earliest glimpse which we can obtain of the homes of the Northmen, his notices, scanty as they are, have special interest.

Pytheas in Thule.The voyages of Pytheas brought himn to our own shores, but, unfortunately, we know no more of his visit to Britain, which he calls “ Albion,” than the mere fact that he travelled over great part of the country. Although it is a matter of regret that no notice of his in regard to the inhabitants of Albion, more than two thousand two hundred years ago, has come down to us, we may form some idea of the condition of the inhabitants from what he relates of the people of the more northern countries which he visited, and which could not have been very far distant, as he tells us he reached them after sailing for six days away from the coasts of Albion. The most remarkable of the places described by him was an island which he calls Thule, and where, according to his report, amber was thrown up by the sea in such abundance that the people used it for fuel. The exact whereabouts of this spot is still undecided, and at one time its re-discovery was the object of much speculation and of many strange adventures, until, in the middle ages, the finding of the true Thule seemed to the minds of some persons nearly as important an exploit as the finding of the true sources of the Nile is to us in the present day. Some have thought that the Thule of Pytheas was the north of Jutland, but it would seem more probable, from what he tells us of the great length of the days there at midsummer, that it was nearer the

1 According to Strabo, Pytheas said that in Thule the nights at midsummer were only two or three hours long, and according to another authority, he was taken by the barbarians to see the place where the sun slept in winter.

north pole, perhaps one of the many islands which skirt the, northern coasts of Sweden and Norway. At all events it must have been somewhere in Scandinavia, and on that account all that we read of Thule and the lands near it is of interest to us in regard to the early history of the condition of the ancient Northmen.

According to Pytheas, the natives of a land a little to the south of Thule thrashed the grain of which they made bread, in large roofed-in buildings, where it was carefully stored away under cover, “because the sun did not always shine there, and the rain and the snow often came and spoilt the crops in the open air.” These people, moreover, enclosed gardens, in which were grown hardy plants and berries, which they used for food, while they kept bees, and made a pleasant drink out of the honey. They were very eager to trade with the foreigners who came to their shores for amber, but keen in making a bargain, and always ready and well able to fight, if they were offended, or thought themselves ill-used. This picture of the people of northern Europe about the time that Alexander the Great was making his conquests, or more than two thousand two hundred years ago, proves to us, therefore, that they were not mere savages, but had already learned many useful arts.

The Lung of the Sea.—There was one thing described by Pytheas, which, on first hearing of it, seems to have nothing in common with anything ever seen now-a-days. This extraordinary thing, which he called pneumon thalassios, “lung of the sea,” was, according to Strabo's report of his description, neither earth, sea, nor sky, but a blending together of all three; a something in which land, water, and air seemed to float and mingle together, producing a heaving girdle round the shore, along which neither feet of men nor animals could make their way, nor boats be moved by oars or sails. For a long while this extraordinary thing excited the wonder of all who read or heard of Pytheas' account of it. But the wonder has ceased since it has been discovered that lung of the sea was a common name among the Greeks for the Jelly-fish or Medusa, numbers of which abound in the waters of the Mediterranean, and must have been well known to his countrymen of Massilia. Hence it has not unreasonably been conjectured that Pytheas,

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