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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Throndhjem (Trondheim) (Norway)
Incorporating Eyin Idre, Gaulardal, Lade, Orkadal, Skaun, Sparbyggja, Stjoradal, Strind, & Veradal

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.

Many of the most minor of kingdoms which were eventually subjugated by the growing power of that early Norwegian royal house were contained within the modern Trondheim region. The Old Norse version of this name was Throndhjem. Contained on its northern edge by the great domain of Hålogaland, it may have maintained a similar air of independence and a refusal to countenance any attempt to unify Norway. When it came to Haraldr Hárfagri's ninth century campaigns of conquest he headed to this region in the first year of action, despite the fact that it was ruled by many minor kings instead of one strong king.

In fact, the Throndhjem's various petty kingdoms were little more than single-valley domains held by competing warlords. Several are mentioned during the unification of Norway. The first to be conquered was Orkadal, otherwise referred to as Orkdalen. Next came Gaulardal and Strind. Then Stjoradal. Then four kings, of Eyin Idre (Inderoen) plus the district of Eyna, Skaun, Sparbyggja, and Veradal. The origins of Hålogaland itself may have lain in its southernmost border, in the Throndhjem in which the royal residence of Lade was to be found following Norwegian unification. The early kings of Hålogaland are termed the Hladir, the folk of Lade. The later version of the name can be produced by removing the plural suffix '-ir' from Hladir and also the semi-silent 'h' prefix to produce 'lade'.

All of the kings of the early Trondheim region 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 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 Pre-Viking Iron Age settlement (Ancient Origins).)

c.500

At this time Throndhjem's Ørland peninsula is recovering from the most recent ice age. The land had been greatly pushed down by the weight of the ice and is still in the process of rising up. A bay has resulted (which today is dry land thanks to the process continuing), and a pre-Viking settlement has formed around it.

Archaeological excavations on the Ørland peninsula
Archaeologist Synne H Rostad operates a standing sieve which is used to sift out smaller bones and objects from the general soil

This strategically-located site includes three large longhouses which are arranged in a U-shape, one of which has several fire pits which are possibly used for cooking, keeping warm, and for handwork. Excavations in 2015 show the occupants of the site to be relatively wealth traders.

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, attacking anyone who does not swear allegiance to him. In Orkadal (or Orkdalen), King Gryting is defeated and sworn in.

Then the Gaulardal and Strind districts are conquered and their two unnamed kings killed in a great battle. Stjoradal is next, followed by the four unnamed kings of Veradal, Skaun, the Sparbyggja district, and Eyin Idre (Inderoen). Possibly the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Söndmör is taken at the same time.

? - 867?

Gryting

King of Orkadal. Defeated by Haraldr and swore allegiance.

? - 866

?

Unnamed king of Gaulardal. Killed by Haraldr.

? - 866

?

Unnamed king of Strind. Killed by Haraldr.

? - 866

?

Unnamed king of Stjoradal. Killed by Haraldr.

? - 866?

?

Unnamed king of Veradal. Defeated by Haraldr.

? - 866?

?

Unnamed king of Skaun. Defeated by Haraldr.

? - 866?

?

Unnamed king of Sparbyggja (district). Defeated by Haraldr.

? - 866?

?

Unnamed king of Eyin Idre (Inderoen) & Eyna. Also defeated.

867 - 872

Some of Haraldr's opponents fall and some flee, but Haraldr is the victor. Then falls Naumudal and its two kings, far to the north of the Throndhjem. All of the surviving kings who swear allegiance to Haraldr are recreated as jarls of their territories, but with greater power and income than they previously enjoyed. Haraldr's firm supporter, Jarl Hakon Grjotgardson, is granted Strind, and Haraldr also marries his daughter, Asa, to seal the bond.

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)

866 - 869

Atle Mjove

Jarl of Gaular & Sogn. Died of battle wounds.

866 - 869

Hakon Grjotgardson

Jarl of Strind, Firdafylke, & Lade. From Yrjar (Iceland). Killed.

868

Grjotgard Hakonsson

Son. Killed at the second Solskel.

868

Herlaug Hakonsson

Brother. Killed at the second Solskel.

867

Haraldr Hárfagri spends the winter at his new royal residence of Lade in the Throndhjem region before embarking on his next campaign. Prior to leaving he is forced to engage in a second battle against the people of Orkadal, clearly demonstrating the resistance to central authority being exhibited by the locals of this region.

The men of Orkadal may be under the command of Nokve of Raumsdal at this time, but the resistance is soon crushed. Hornklofe's poem Glymdrapa records 'And Novke's ship, with glancing sides, must fly to the wild ocean's tides - must fly before the king [Haraldr] who leads Norse axe-men in their ocean steeds [their longships]'.

867 - 868

Next, having subdued North Møre and Raumsdal, Haraldr must defeat Solve in South Møre in the following spring (868). An army made up of men from South Møre and Firdafylke meets Haraldr's forces at Solskel again, although this time the Heimskringla describes ships being lashed together, stem to stem, marking this out as a naval encounter. In the end, Haraldr storms the flagship, forces the defenders to scatter, and kills both Audbjørn of Firdafylke and Arnvid of South Møre. Grjotgard and Herlaug, the sons of Jarl Hakon of Lade, are both killed while fighting in support of Haraldr.

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

869

Having gained Firdafylke, Jarl Hakon Grjotgardson of Strind in the Throndhjem demands that Jarl Atle Mjove gives up Sogn and returns to his former post in Gaular district (Gaulardal in the Throndhjem), claiming that Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder wants Hakon to govern over Sogn. Atle refuses until Haraldr can provide guidance, and the quarrel escalates until the two sides come to battle. The fight at Fialar, in Stavanger fjord, results in the death of Hakon in combat and Atle from his wounds.

c.900

During his reign, Haraldr Hárfagri divides responsibility for the management of the kingdom. The original holdings in the south-east are given to sons (at least twelve) and kinsmen, the south-west coastal region remains under Haraldr's direct control as high king, the long north-western coastal strip is governed by the earls of Lade, while the earls of Møre govern a much smaller region between Lade and the south-west. The earls of Lade prove to be important players in the rule of Norway later in the century.

903

Haraldr Hárfagri secures the Norwegian succession by naming his favourite son, Eric Bloodaxe as his successor. They rule side by side for the three remaining years of Haraldr's life. This does not end the possibility of division within the kingdom, however, and it is not until about 1030 that Norway is unquestionably unified.

Eric Bloodaxe silver penny
Shown here are two sides of a silver penny issued under the rule of Eric Bloodaxe following his exile from Norway and during his governance of the Scandinavian kingdom of York in England

fl 930s

Halvdan Kvite (Haraldsson)

Son of Haraldr Hárfagri of Norway.

fl 930s

Halvdan Svarte (Haraldsson)

Brother.

fl 930s

Sigrød Haraldsson

Brother.

934

An apparently harsh ruler, Eric Bloodaxe quickly falls out of favour with the Norwegian nobility. When Haakon the Good returns from England, he is asked to take the throne. Eric is banished and flees the country to become an adventurer. The various sub-kingdoms of Norway may at this point be merged back under the king's direct rule, with local jarls in place to handle local affairs.

962 - 995

Haakon (II) Sigurdsson 'den mektige'

Jarl of Lade. Regent of Norway for the Danes (977-995).

1000

King Olaf Tryggvason is attacked by a united army under the command of Olaf III Skötkonung of Sweden and Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. The pair have determined that Norway will be conquered and divided between them. They duly defeat Olaf I at the Battle of Svolder and divide the country. A jarl of Lade, Eric son of Haakon, holds the Norwegian throne as regent from this point, while the Swedes gain border territories from part of Trøndelag and Bohuslän.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1000
St Olaf II Haraldson
Early in life Olaf Haraldson took part in Viking raids on England, before securing his election as a king of Norway and pursuing a passion to Christianise his countrymen, something which ended in the rebellion of his subjects, while above is a map of Scandinavia around AD 1000 showing the extent of the Norwegian kingdom (click or tap on map to view full sized)

fl 1000s

Eric Haakonsson

Son. Jarl of Lade. Regent of Norway (1000-1015).

1013

Olaf Haraldson is allied to King Ethelred of England, and fights with him against the Danes in this year. Olaf also reunites Norway and achieves hegemony over the Sámi of Kvenland who border the earldom of Lade along a long coastal strip to the north of Sweden and Norway.

1016

The accession of Olaf II to the Norwegian throne brings his own domain of Agder fully back under the control of the Norwegian crown (if it was not already under that control beforehand). Olaf rules a Norway which seems now to be a fully and permanently unified kingdom.