Gotland Island, Sweden
(August 7, 2023) Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic being 125 km (78 miles) long and 55 km (35 miles) across. Its main city of Visby was established by the Vikings for trade purposes. The Goths eventually gained control but Visby's trade gradually gradually shifted to Novgorod in Russia after 1161 when the Goths obtained a license to trade directly with German territories. In 1280 Visby and Lubeck formed a defensive alliance against piracy which was also joined by Riga. The predominance of Visby in the Baltic trade was completely broken in 1293 when the Hanseatic League resolved that Novgorod should be allowed to deal directly with Lubeck as well. Further difficulty was caused by armed conflicts between peasants and townspeople. In 1361 the island was conquered by the Danish King Valdemar Atterdag. The island became Swedish in 1645 under the treaty of Brabmsebro.
The island has numerous important remains from the past including:
Magnificent town walls of Visby with its 92 churches, all built before 1350 when Visby was the wealthiest place in the Baltic.
(August 7, 2023) This was the heartland of a people called the Geats which was originally called Götaland. These people are mentioned in the writings of the Greek Ptolemaios where they are called Goutai. They also appear as Gautigoths in Jordanes' work in the 6th century.
There are many ancient remains in Västergötland. Among the most notable of these remains are the dolmens from the Funnelbeaker culture. A weapons sacrificial site from the Iron Age was found in the Falköping area south of lake Vänern. Finnestorp, near Larv.
These are mainly described in foreign sources (Frankish) and through legends. It is possible that Västergötland had the same king as the rest of Sweden at the time of the monk Ansgar's mission to Sweden in the 9th century, but both the date and nature of its inclusion into the Swedish kingdom is a matter of much debate. Some date it as early as the 6th century, based on the Swedish-Geatish wars in Beowulf epos; others date it as late as the 12th century.
Västergötland received much early influence from the British Isles and is generally considered to be the bridgehead of Christianity's advance into Sweden. Recent excavations at Varnhem suggest that at least its central parts were Christian in the 9th century. Around 1000, King Olof Skötkonung is held to have received baptism in Husaby, near lake Vänern. However, the Christianization was met with heavy opposition in the rest of his kingdom, and so Olof had to restrict the Christian activities to Västergötland. The Christian faith spread, and by the time the provincial law Västgötalagen was written in the 13th century, Västergötland had 517 churches. The seat of the area's diocese seems to originally have been Husaby, but since 1150 the city of Skara (just some 20 kilometers; 10 miles south) held that distinction.
From the election of King Stenkil in the 11th century, Swedish and Geatish dynasties vied for the control of Sweden during long civil wars. For instance, the Swedish king Ragnvald Knaphövde was elected king by the Swedes, but when he entered Västergötland, he chose not to demand hostage from the powerful Geatish clans and was slain by the Geats near Falköping. Several times, Västergötland was independent from Sweden with kings such as Inge I of Sweden and Magnus the Strong. In later years the area was progressively tied more closely to the Swedish kingdom.
Runic Text Density Before 1100 CE
ReferenceBlennow, A. & Palumbo, A., (2022) Epigraphic areas of the Middle Ages Västergötland An interplay between Latin and Runic writing culture. Fornvännen 117. Stockholm. Online at: https://raa.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1702741/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Text Locations in Latin and Akkadian Between 1100-1200
Red dots signify runic inscriptions,green triangles Latin inscriptions, blue diamonds bi-scriptal inscriptions. Latin inscriptions were funerary monuments. Runestones are now mostly found in the religiously contested areas.
Text Locations in Latin and Akkadian Between 1100-1300
Red dots signify runic inscriptions,green triangles Latin inscriptions, blue diamonds bi-scriptal inscriptions.