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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Rogaland (Norway)

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 Rogaland. It was located the south-western corner of modern Norway, generally covering much of today's county of the same name. Its largest centre is Stavanger, which has traces of importance as far back as the ninth century, although the modern city only really got started when it gained city status in 1125.

All of the kings of early Rogaland 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 Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality.

It was the mid-sixth century Byzantine historian, Jordanes, who mentioned various tribes in central and southern Norway. These included the Eunixi, who are somewhat difficult to pin down or link to a later kingdom. In other spellings of the name, the 'eu' of 'Eunix' is shown as a 'y' such as, for example, the Eudos, better known as Jutes but without the French 'j' sound, and a 'y' sound instead: 'Yutes'. So the Eunixi may instead have been the Yunik, Yunek, Yunec, Iunik, or similar. Attempts to pinpoint their location seem to place them close to - or within - the later borders of Rogaland.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frćkna, 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 Avaldsnes.)

fl  late 400s

Gard Agdi / Garđr Agđi

One of the three sons of the legendary Nór of Norway.

Rúgálf Gardsson

Son. Eponymous founder of Rogaland.

mid-500s

Rögnvald / Ogvald Rugalfsson

Son.

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 (Hordaland, who have been linked to the Charudes) and Ranii, with the Raumarici (the later kingdom of Raumarike) close to modern Oslo.

The stronghold at Avaldsnes
Remains of a stronghold at Avaldsnes (uncovered in 2012), which was built sometime between AD 600-800, although it cannot be directly linked to the traditional list of rulers of Rogaland

fl c.600

Ingjald Ogvaldsson

Son.

c.610s?

Hjorleif Hjorsson is claimed by the Landnámabók and Hálfs saga as the king of the Hördalanders. This seems to contradict the established line of rulers there but does not rule out a temporary domination of that kingdom. Alternatively, Hjorleif may have conquered a portion of Hördaland and now claims total dominance without any true power over the unconquered parts.

fl  mid-600s

Jösur / Jossur Ingjaldsson

Son.

c.660s?

At the start of Grettis saga, it is stated that Geirmund rules in Hördaland instead of Erik. Opposing this is the Landnámabók, which places Geirmund firmly in Rogaland (although this does not preclude him occupying or dominating Hördaland for a time).

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)

fl 700s

Hjor Jossurasson

Son.

fl c.760s - 770s?

Hjorleif Hjorsson 'the Fornicator'

Son.

Halfur Hjorleifsson

Son.

? - c.870

Hjor Halfsson

Son. Killed by Haraldr Hárfagri? End of dynasty.

fl c.870

Geirmundur Hjorarsson

Son. A 'sea king'. Settled Iceland.

866 - 867

There is internecine war between the minor Norwegian kingdoms. Haraldr Hárfagri (or Harfarger) of Agder slowly becomes dominant, forcing the kingdoms to acknowledge his rule which, by 872, is complete. He starts his campaigns in 866 by visiting the Oppland and Orkadal. Then falls Naumudal and its two kings, far to the north of the Throndhjem.

Hjor Halfsson appears to lose control of Rogaland around this point, although his fate seems to be unknown. In his place are the brothers Sulke and Sote, brothers also of Gudrod Kjotve 'the Rich' of Agder. All of them are sub-kings who are - nominally at least - obedient to Haraldr Hárfagri.

Haraldr Hárfagri Halfdansson of Norway
Haraldr Hárfagri united all the minor kingdoms of Norway in the later ninth century through a mixture of force of arms and diplomacy, although the former seemed to involve most of his time

867? - 872

Sulke

Killed at the Battle of Hafrsfjord by Haraldr Hárfagri.

867? - 872

Jarl Sote

Brother and sub-ruler (jarl/earl). Killed at Hafrsfjord.

872

The Battle of Hafrsfjord seems to be the key point in the various conflicts between Haraldr Hárfagri (or Harfarger) of Agder and the other remaining petty kingdoms. The year given may not be strictly accurate (various scholars have calculated dates between 870-900 based on the number of winters recorded in the Heimskringla).

The kingdoms of Agder (presumably under Haraldr's sub-king there), Hordaland, Rogaland, and Thelemark, along with chieftains from the Sognefjord region, all oppose Haraldr and are all defeated, most being killed. Many surviving nobles who refuse to accept the defeat now emigrate to Iceland while the defeated states are forced to join Haraldr's new kingdom of Norway.