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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Raumarike (Romerike) (Norway)
Incorporating the Gloms, Heatho-Reams, & Raumarici

FeatureThe birth of the modern Norwegian nation took place following the Viking age, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia (see feature link for an examination of the origins of 'Scandinavia' as a name). Before that, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the southernmost third of Sweden and Norway. Initial settlement and the spread of early kingdoms largely followed the rivers, with inland areas being only sparsely inhabited. The rest was part of a poorly-defined (and poorly understood) territory known as Kvenland, which stretched all the way east into modern Russia. As with early Denmark and Sweden, the rulers of Norway (the Norsemen) emerged from legendary origins, but the royal house that eventually dominated was probably founded by a refugee noble from the kingdom of the Swedes, fleeing his homeland during a period of Danish superiority.

One of the minor kingdoms which was eventually subjugated by the growing power of that early Norwegian royal house was Raumarike. It was located to the north of Oslo in modern Norway. According to the Old English poem Widsith, the Heatho-Reams were one of the Germanic tribes encountered there, as were the Gloms. The latter were probably located along the River Glomma (or Glåma) in south-western Norway, while the Heatho-Reams (or more accurately, Heaðo-Reamas, the 'battling Reamas') may have been located nearby. It was the latter who eventually formed the Raumarike kingdom, or at least were the source of its name. Jordanes mentions a people by the name of the Raumarici, probably the same as the Raumarike (or Raumarige, both variations of the early Norse name).

All of the kings of early Raumarike are known primarily from early Norse sagas, supplemented by patches of other surviving information. Some of this, such as the writings of Saxo Grammaticus, probably used the sagas as their basis, or at least tried to make sense of some of the more mythological episodes in the sagas. Despite this, the mist around early events can be parted to reveal a list of petty kings of Norway and their various heroic deeds can be pieced together. Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Norna-Gests þáttr saga, from Þáttr Ólafs Geirstaða Alfs, from Corpus Poeticum Boreale, Gudbrand Vigfusson & Frederick York Powell (Oxford 1883), from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content that is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway, and the Norwegian Encyclopaedia (in Norwegian).)

c.500

The Heatho-Reams are mentioned in the Old English poem Widsith. They are part of the later kingdom of Raumarike in Norway, although their brief mention provides no information about their level of involvement in the kingdom's creation.

The Exeter Book
The Exeter Book was written around AD 970, the oldest of four surviving works containing Anglo-Saxon literature, which includes an edition of the Old English poem, Widsith

The Germanic Gloms are also mentioned. They are probably located along the River Glomma (or Glåma) in south-western Norway - the country's longest river. Seemingly no sixth or seventh century Norse kingdom emerges which bears a variant of their name, making it possible that their tribal territory is later cut up into segments by various other territorial creations.

c.500

Heoden / Henden / Hjaðn

King of the Gloms of Widsith.

fl c.540s?

Rakni?

Late tribal king?

533 - 551

Rakni's Mound (Raknehaugen) is located at the heart of Raumarike (the modern district rather than the early kingdom). It is a gravhaug (a burial mound, with 'haugr' the Old Norse word for a mound or barrow).

As built the mound originally stands more than eighteen metres high and archaeology has confirmed a build date between AD 533-551, although the actual construction work lasts the course of a single winter and summer. If the name is accurate then the mound is the final resting place of a local ruler named Rakni.

Raknehaugen
Raknehaugen (Rakni's Mound) lies in Raumarike, the last resting place of a possible late tribal leader named Rakni, although his connection to the later kingdom of Raumarike is entirely unknown

550s

Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, writes of the barbarian tribes in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, mentioning a wide number of them which include the following for Norway: the Adogit live in the far north. Further south are the Grannii (Grenland), Augandzi (Agder), Eunixi, Taetel, Rugii (Rogaland), Arochi (Hördaland, who have been linked to the Charudes) and Ranii, with the Raumarici (the later kingdom of Raumarike) close to modern Oslo.

late 7th century

Eric / Erik Agnarsson

Founder of the Vestfold? Succeeded by his son-in-law.

late 7th century

Starting out from his stronghold in Soløyjar, Halfdan Hvitbeinn becomes one of pre-unification Norway's most powerful kings. Having obtained Hedmark and then Oppland, he also conquers Hadeland, Toten (a minor kingdom within Oppland), and part of Vestfold. In addition, he inherits Värmland (which had been founded by Olaf Tretelgia on the border between Sweden and Norway about AD 655) upon the death of his brother, Ingjald Olafsson.

Halfdan Hvitbeinn's son is Eystein. He succeeds his father as king in Raumarike and Vestfold. Married to Hilde, a daughter of Eric Agnarson, the latter kingdom is clearly inherited through his wife while the former appears to be due to a conquest.

fl c.700s

Eystein I Halfdansson / Eystein Vart

Son of Halfdan Hvitbeinn of Hedmark. m Hilde, dau of Eric.

Eystein may inherit the thrones of Raumarike and Vestfold from his father-in-law. However, his own expansionist skills prove to be limited, and he is killed by Skjöld (apparently a great warlock) while pillaging in Varna (location unknown).

Map of Norway
This map shows a host of the many petty Norwegian kingdoms in eighth and ninth century Scandinavia, most of them arranged along the coastline, although penetration into the interior is clearly beginning (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.750s - 760s

As mentioned by the Norna-Gests þáttr saga, Sigurd Ring, king of the Swedes, fights off a heavy raid by Couronians and Kvens into the southernmost region of Swedish lands. Sigurd also seems to be king of Raumarike, as does his son Randver after him. This does not seem to fit in with the king list that can be assembled for Raumarike, but it's possible that Sigurd is over-king there without ruling directly. This would place either Eystein I Halfdansson or his son, Halfdan II hinn Mildi, as his vassal king there.

late 8th century

Halfdan II hinn Mildi 'the Mild'

Son. Held Raumarike & Vestfold. m Liv (Vestmar). Died in bed.

Vestmar (Westmare, or Westmor), otherwise known as Grenland, is a minor coastal kingdom which is part of the larger region of Grænafylket (or Grenafylket), situated within the modern county of Telemark in the south-west of Norway. Its king is Dag, and it is his daughter, Liv (Hlif) who marries Halfdan hinn Mildi. Vestmar is seemingly added to Halfdan's territory, probably upon Dag's death. Called 'the Mild' he apparently rewards his followers well with gold where other kings would use silver, but is a parsimonious host at the feasting table.

c.804 - c.810

Gudröd / Gudrod the Magnificent

Son. Held Raumarike & Vestfold (& Bohuslän & Vingulmark).

c.800s

Alfheim is still a minor entity which at this time also incorporates at least the southern section of the province of Bohuslän. The daughter of Alfheim's ruler is Alfhild, who marries Gudröd 'the Magnificent' or 'the Hunter', king of Raumarike and Vestfold (although one or two early texts place him in Oppland).

Thanks to this marriage, Gudröd inherits Bohuslän and half of Vingulmark (bordering the settlement of Raumarike, although the use of 'settlement' would suggest that Raumarike is not yet sufficiently important enough to be labelled a kingdom). This territory also includes the site of the country's later capital, Oslo, and later archaeological finds suggest the region is an important centre of power.

River Glomma
The modern River Glomma in Norway was known by the Vikings as the Raum, marking Aflheim's northern border, although much of the originally-Norwegian territory to the south-east of this was lost to Sweden in 1658

c.810

The wife of Gudröd dies during his reign, so he sends warriors to propose a marriage to the daughter of Harald Granraude of Agder, Åsa. Harald refuses, so Gudröd takes her by force, killing Harald and his son, Gyrd (or Gyrder), in the process. However, a year after becoming father to Halfdanr Svarti, Gudröd is murdered by Åsa's page boy (on Åsa's orders). The queen returns to Agder to raise her son while the boy's half brother by Gudröd, Olaf, inherits the southern half of Gudröd's kingdom, as well as the Vestfold. Álfgeir of Alfheim restores the full control of Vingulmark by his family and places his son, Gandalf, in command there.

There is a question over whether Åsa's father, Harald Grunraude, still reigns in Agder, as her son, Halfdanr has to conquer it in his early years. Harold is known to have been killed by Gudröd, so perhaps Halfdanr's elder half-brother, Olaf Geirstade, still rules it until the late 820s.

c.810 - 840

Olaf Gudrodsson Geirstad-Alf

Son by first marriage. Held Raumarike, Bohuslän, & Vestfold.

c.827/828

At the age of eighteen or nineteen, Halfdanr Svarti is king of Vestfold, having divided the territory with his half-brother, Olaf Gudrodsson. He conquers Olaf's Agder before pursuing an aggressive policy of expanding his kingdom further. He persuades Gandalf of Vingulmark to cede him half of that kingdom (possibly through intimidation). Halfdanr's own son, Harald Halfdansson, becomes king of Sogn.

Norway's Heimskringla
The term 'saga manuscripts' refers to manuscripts which mostly or entirely contain sagas, ie. medieval stories in prose in Old Norse (Norwegian or Icelandic) - AM 45 fol. Codex Frisianus is known as the Heimskringla, or the sagas of the kings of Norway, which cover most of the pre-unification events in the country's various petty kingdoms

The eponym 'Geirstad-Alf' is largely post-mortem. It means 'the elf of Geirstad', as Olaf is worshipped after his death as an elf. He is envisioned in the Þáttr Ólafs Geirstaða Alfs in this way, haunting his own burial mound while he awaits rebirth as St Olaf. Such a fate is not entirely untypical - in such cases the dead are often referred to as elves.

fl c.840s

Sigtryg Eysteinsson

Held Hedmark & Raumarike. Killed by Halfdan Svarti of Agder.

It is possible that Sigtryg is the son of Eystein Beli, sub-king of Sweden under Randver. He is sometimes given as being the son of Eystein I Halfdansson of Norway, but the likely timescale between them makes this impossible.

fl c.840s

Eystein Eysteinsson

Brother. Held Hedmark & Raumarike.

c.840s

The minor kingdom of Raumarike is attacked by Halfdanr Svarti of Agder. He first kills its king, Sigtryg Eysteinsson, in battle, and then repeatedly attacks Sigtryg's brother in battle until he is also defeated. Raumarike passes to Halfdanr, along with half of Hedmark. It is Halfdanr's son, Haraldr Hárfagri, who will go on to forcibly unite all of Norway later in the same century.