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Notes on the Early History of Scotland
Early Iceland


HAVING seen that there is little likelihood of Ireland having been the sacred isle of the Hiberni, let us turn to lceland and endeavour to ascertain whether it might not answer to such a description in the fifth century. It may be remarked here that the name Hibernia is more likely to have been originally applied to a northern or wintry country such as Iceland, than to a temperate country like Ireland. Hibernia was the Roman name of the winter quarters for soldiers, and it is probable that the Roman writers of ancient times, in order to designate a region which was often ice-bound, appropriately called it Hibernia.

Iceland is certainly one of the most wonderful countries of Europe, whether we look at it from a physical or historical point of view. Its physical aspect, remarkable as that is, however, does not concern us at present; and we turn to its ancient history, which has a direct bearing on several points of the subject under consideration, and which is no less interesting than astonishing to the student of human nature.

Some accounts represent the Landnamma Book, one of the earliest records relating to Iceland, as saying that it was inhabited by Irish before it was colonized by Norwegians. Others, founding on the same authority, speak of the first inhabitants as Papae or Christian priests. The diploma of Thomas, bishop of Orkney [Orkneyinga Saga, pp. 549-50] affirms, upon the authority of ancient records, that the Norwegians found two nations in Orkney, when they first landed there, the Picts and the Papae, but entirely destroyed them both. [Todd's Irish Version of Nennius, p. 147, note] It is very probable that the same two nations which were found in Orkney by the Norwegians were also found by them in Iceland; and that the Picts were represented by the Irish, or rather Gaelic Celts from the north of Scotland, who appear in such large numbers among the earlier settlers mentioned in the Landnamma Book. Papae seems to be only another name for the Scots, who were to be found wandering in large numbers over the Continent and other southern countries in the ninth century, when the Norwegians drove the Papae from Iceland. The most learned Scandinavian antiquaries are of opinion that three distinct populations peopled the north :ó" A Mongolian race, of which the Laplanders and the Esquimaux are examples; a Celtic race; and a Caucasian race, which, almost within the limits of northern history, came from Asia, drove out or extirpated the Celtic and Laplandic races, and are the present inhabitants." Their opinions are based on philological, mythological, and arelneological grounds. [Laing's Translation of the Heimskringla, vol iii. p. 365]

It is affirmed that Iceland still contains many traces of the Irish colonists who had occupied the island before the arrival of the Norwegians. There is Ira (Irish) river, Ira-fell, or Irish-fell, in the Kyosar Sysla, and the Irarbudr, or Irish booths, in Hvamansfiord. An intelligent Icelander, anxious perhaps to disclaim an Irish origin, says: "The large number of Irish settlers in Iceland after Ingolf do not prove anything concerning a previous settlement. No one denies that Iceland was visited by the Irish previous to the Norwegian discovery. No proofs have as yet been brought forward to show that a settlement was made more extensive than that spoken of in the Landnammabok, and by Ari Froda." []Burton's Ultima Thule, vol i. p. 87] Mr Hjaltalin evidently takes the Irish who had settled in Iceland before the Norwegians as people from the country now known as Ireland; but it is more likely, as already stated, that the Irish colonists came from the north of Scotland, and gave the island the name of Ireland, or western land, by which name it was known to Alfred the Great. The passages, which will be quoted immediately from Munchís "Chronicle of Man," confirm this. The large number of Irish settlers who appear in Iceland soon after it was discovered by the Norwegians, goes far to prove that the Celtic settlements in the island were more extensive than is generally supposed. This is likewise borne out by the following:-

"As to those of the first settlers, whose fates during the time between their emigration from Norway and their arrival in Iceland, nothing is told expressly, it is still somehow to be guessed, that they passed some time in the western islands, or in Ireland, at least in the first period of the colonization. We find thus that not a few of their slaves had Gaelic names, which shows that they were either Irishmen or Scottish HIighlanders; some of the settlers themselves were even Irishmen or inhabitants of the western islands of Scotland; and what is still more remarkable, and perhaps gives the best evidence of the state of things here supposed, is, that the rearing and pasturing of sheep, the national and most important branch of livelihood in Iceland, has never, not even in the times of the colonization, been like to anything in Norway, the mother country, not even as far as regards the termini technici, while, on the contrary, it has all the chief and characteristic features of the same national occupation in Western Scotland. and the Isles. [The sheep in Orkney are or were of a peculiar breed, and are similar to these of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Shetland. In Iceland, as well as in Orkney, the wool is torn from the backs of the sheep, instead of being shorn as in other countriesóBarryís Orkney, Edition 1867, pp. 311 and 313.] From this circumstance we are indeed justified in concluding, almost to a certainty, that those settlers who set the first example of rural economy in Iceland, and gave to the whole way of living its chief and lasting features, had passed time long enough on the Scottish coasts and the Isles, to become in a great measure nationalised there, and to adopt very much of the manners and customs prevailing among the inhabitants. . . To the Icelanders, therefore, theWVestern Islands of Scotland, as in a certain degree the chief cradle of their race, even more than the mother country Norway itself, ought to be ot peculiar interest, and are even to be looked upon by them with a sort of filial piety. [Munchís Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys, pref., pp. iii, and iv.]

In the above extract the first settlers are spoken of generally as irishmen or Scottish Highlanders. Until it can be decided whether they were the one or the other, it will be reasonable to assume that they are more likely to have been Scotsmen than Irishmen, as the north of Scotland is considerably nearer Iceland than Ireland. It is probable also that they reached Iceland by way of the Orkney and Shetland, rather than the western, islands.

Whether the Gaelic Celts or the Teutonic Goths first colonized Iceland may perhaps never be learned. That a considerable body of colonists from the east settled in it at an early period is evident from the affinity of the languages and customs. Laing is very decided about it:

"The race of men who under Odin established themselves in the countries north of the Baltic were undoubtedly of Asiatic origin. . . The causes, as well as the dates, of this vast movement, are lost in the night of antiquity. The fact itself admits of no doubt." [Heimskringla, English translation, vol. i. pp. 38 and 46.] Whether the Argonauts landed on the island and revealed its existence to the inhabitants of Thracia, may be doubtful; [Ireland not the Hibernia of the Ancients, p. 39.] but there is good reason for believing that Odin landed in iceland with a body of Goths and introduced Christianity and civilisation into it. it is said tható" After every attempt to elucidate the origin and exploits of Odin, it must be confessed that nothing certain is known beyond the historical fact that he was the author of a new religion, and the importer of arts and improvements, with which, before his arrival, the rude and primitive inhabitants of the north were altogether unacquainted." [Scandinavia, by Crichton and Wheeler, vol. i. p. 82.] Runes are said to have been introduced into Iceland by Odin. The use of this mode of writing was very ancient, and was probably brought from the east by the Goths. The letters resemble those of the Greek, Etrurian, and Celtiberian alphabets, more than the Roman. They were the most common mode of writing known to the Icelanders till time end of the twelfth century. [Nicol's Account of Iceland, pp. 117, 144, and 145, and note]. From these circumstances it is evident that the Teutonic Goths were a highly intelligent race; and if the Celts of northern Scotland occupied Iceland before them, they were in all likelihood subjugated by the more civilised people.

For how long before the ninth century these Goths and Celts peopled the island it is impossible now to ascertain, but there can be little doubt that the Goths imparted a knowledge of the Christian religion to the inhabitants before the fourth century, when we have seen Iceland called by the name of the Sacred Isle. That these Goths were the progenitors of the Scots there are good grounds for believing; and it may thus he granted after all that the Scots came to Scotland from Hibernia or Ireland, though not the Hibernia and Ireland of the present day.

That the Goths were the men who were called Papae by the Norwegians there is also reason to believe. The Landuamma Book, and other ancient Icelandic writings, state that before Iceland was settled by the Northmen there were men there called by the Northmen Papae. These men were Christians, and are said to have all left the country when the Norwegians settled there, but this will be shown to be doubtful. That many of them did leave is evident, and in their haste to get out of reach of the Pagans, they left behind them books, bells, and croziers, such as generally belonged to early Scottish Christian communities. Ari Froda, an ancient Icelandic writer, says that when Ingolf the Norwegian visited Iceland, he found Christians there, whom the Northmen called Papae, who, not choosing to associate with heathens, went away, leaving behind them books, bells, and croziers.[Toadís Irish Version of Nonnins, p. 147, note.] At the time when the Norwegians began to settle in Iceland we find Scots from Hibernia pouring into Britain and the continent. These were apparently the fugitive Christians who left Iceland, and some of them may have reached the country now called Ireland, and called it after the name of their native country.

Mr Dassent [Burnt Njal, vol. i. p. vii.] identifies the Papae with the Culdees, traces of whom are principally found on the east coast of Scotland, which in the eleventh and preceding centuries comprehended the whole of ancient Scotia. Traces of them are also found in Ireland. Culdee, like Papae, was evidently a name given to the ancient priesthood, after it had come under the power of the Roman Church, and both were probably imposed for the purpose of darkening their early history. The history of the Papae is said to be involved in obscurity; and it is stated that the old annalists had no doubt good reasons for saying as little about them as possible. [Nicol's Iceland, p. 93, note.]

There were many people of the name of Papay or Paplay in Orkney about the beginning of this century, and formerly in Iceland also. It is probable that the name may have originated from their remote ancestors having been Papae. Several places in Iceland, the Western Isles of Scotland, and Orkney, bear the name of Papay or Paplay likewise. They are generally in retired situations, are distinguished for the richness of their soil, the variety of their natural productions, the pleasantness of their exposure and agreeable prospect. Some of them contain venerable ruins. From these characteristics it is believed they were once the abodes of men of a sacred character. [Barryís Orkney, pp. 109 and 110.]

Notwithstanding the facts mentioned by the Landnamma Book, and Ari Froda, it is sometimes alleged that the Icelanders previous to the beginning of the eleventh century were pagans, but there are fortunately other circumstances which corroborate the testimony of these authorities that Christianity was the belief of the earliest known inhabitants of the island. The oldest Icelandic literature even manifests that its sources have been influenced by Christian ideas. A poem of undoubted antiquity, The Voluspa, for instance, treats of the creation, the origin of man, how evil and death were brought into the world, and concludes with a prediction of the destruction and renovation of the universe, and a description of the future abodes of bliss and misery. In another the Trinity is invoIced, and a future state is described in accordance with Christian doctrines. Among these poems, which are generally known by the name of the Elder Edda, there is a series of heroic lays, forming a complete epos. They relate the same story as the Nibelungen-lied. Satisfactory evidence, however, has been brought forward to show that the Icelandic poems were not derived from German sources. The Northern wrlters even assert that this Eddaic epos must have been composed before any Norwegians settled in Iceland. [Malletís Icorthern Antiquities, p. 876, and note, Bohuís Edition,] The Elder Edda consists of thirty-nine poems. These were collected about the beggining of the twelfth century by a native Icelander, called Saemund Sigfusson. He had studied in the universities of France and Germany, and after his return to his native land he became parish priest of Oddi, a village situated at the foot of Mount Hekla, and which had belonged to his family from the time of the colonisation of the island by the Norwegians. This Edda was suppressed for a long period. It was only brought to light about the year 1630, that is, after the Protestant faith had been established for nearly a hundred years in the island, by the Bishop of SkaIholt. [Mackenzieís Travels in Iceland. New Edition. p. 10.] When this is known a clue is afforded to the reason why we know so little about the ancient Icelandic worship, as intimated in the following extract: "It seems snrprising that we know so little of a pagan religion existing so near our own times, of this last remnant of paganism among the European people, existing in vigour almost 500 years after Christianity and the Romish Church establishment were diffused in every other country! What we know of it is from The Edda, compiled by Saemund, the priest." [Laingís Translation of the Heirnskringla, vol. i. p. 70.] It will be seen shortly that notwithstanding the obscurity with which it has been surrounded the ancient lcelandic religion, the worship introduced by Odin, was identical in many respects with Christianity.

There is a prose work called The Younger Edda, which seems to have been derived from its predecessor, the poetical one. Its composition is ascribed to the celebrated Icelander Snorri Sturleson, who was born in 1178, and was twice supreme magistrate of the island. The materials from which it was composed are believed to have been in existence before Snorriís time; but the prologue and epilogue, which consist of the myths and legends of several nations jumbled together, were probably written by himself. The Edda proper contains a synopsis of Scandinavian belief. [Malletís Northern Antiquities, pp. 377 and 378, Bohnís Edition.] With regard to the third chapter of it, Mallet remarks "From its conformity with the Christian doctrines one would be temptel to believe that Snorri had here embelished the religion of his pagan ancestors by bringing it as near as possible to the Gospel, if we did not find the same theme literally expressed in The Voluspa, a poem of undoubted antiquity, and which was composed before the name of Christianity was known in the north," [Malletís Northern Antiquities, p. 508, Bohnís Edition,] or rather before the Pagan Norwegians banished most of the earliest Christian inhabitants from Iceland. The ancient mythology of the Icelanclers styled the object of their worship: "The author of everything that exists, the Eternal, the living and awful being who searches into concealed matters, and is subject to no change, of incorruptible justice, infinite power, and unbounded knowledge." [Edda and Voluspa, quoted in Barryís Orkney, pp. 94 and 95.]

It is said that the practical forms or modes of worship in the religion of Odin cannot be discovered from the Eddas, nor from the Sagas, which the two Eddas were intended to illustrate. It is also alleged with truth that much has probably been altered to suit the ideas of the age in which they were committed to writing in their present form, and of the scribes who compiled them. [Lalugís Translation of Heimskringla, pp. 81 and 86,]  There can be little doubt but that these Eddas were altered to suit the priests of a different worship who desired to obliterate as far as possible all traces of Christianity from them. Snorri Sturleson, the compiler of the prose one, also wrote a history of the early Norwegian kings, called the Heimskringla. There are appearances of its being also written to serve the aims of the King of Norway, who made Snorri his chamberlain, and otherwise honoured him. Snorri is even charged by his countrymen with having entered into a private agreement with the king and an earl that he should use his influence to subvert the independence which Iceland had hitherto enjoyed, and to persuade the King to submit to the government of the King of Norway. As a reward for this service he was to be made the kingís lenderman, or earl, over his native country. He appears to have been just the man to betray the independence of his country. He is described as "Greedy, selfish, ambitious, and under no restraint or principle in gratifying his avarice and his evil passions." A history of Norway written by such a man is not a safe guide when it touches upon Icelandic history. [Laingís Translation of the Heimskringla, vol. i. pp. 188ó198, and Mackenzieís Travels in Iceland, New Edition, pp. 12 and 15.]

We are told that the primitive religion of the Goths and Scythians was at one time a purer and simpler form of worship than that which prevailed at a later period. Their creed, it is said, was corrupted with foreign superstitions and idolatries, imposed upon them as a badge of servitude by their conquerors; and in this way the original simplicity ofí their religion was obscured and disfigured. [Scandinavia, by Crichton and Wheaton, vol, i, pp. 84 and 85.] This is not unlike what took place in Iceland, as the following extract and succeeding events in the history of the island testify:ó

"The religion of Odin bears strong internal evidence of having borrowed doctrines, institutions, and ceremonies from Christianity. . . . In Haar the High, Iafnhaar the Equal to the High, and Thredde the Third, we find a rude idea of the Trinity in the Edda. . . . . Odin himself, an incarnation of divine power, and one of this trinity, attended by his twelve companions or Godars, and establishing a religion and religious government, is a coincidence with our Saviour and the twelve apostles too strong to be merely accidental. . . . In all the forms of heathenism that existed before Christianity, the priesthood were all a temple priesthood. . . . Christianity, however, from the first appears to have been altogether congregational.... Odinism appears to have been formed like early Christianity, and no doubt in imitation of it, upon the congregational principle. . . . The use of the sign of the cross also as a religious symbol appears to have prevailed in Odinism in the earliest times, and must have been borrowed from Christianity. . . . These are not analogies common to all forms of religion, because arising from a common rootóthe sense of religion in the mind of man; nor are they coincidences which may be common to two religions totally unconnected with each other, because formed among two bodies of mankind living under physical and social circumstances very similar, although in different times and totally distinct countries; but they are palpable imitations of ceremonial and arrangement, proving that the one religion has been impressed by the other; has adopted ceremonies, observances, institutions, and doctrines, from some obscure knowledge of the other." [Laingís Translation of the Heimskringla, vol. iii. pp, 372ó375,]

Before the Norwegians began to settle in Iceland it was visited by Naddod, a Norwegian pirate, in 861, and by a Swede named Gardar, in 864. These two persons were driven to its shores by storms; but another Norwegian pirate, named Floki, attempted to settle on it. He was compelled to leave it after a yearís residence, through the death of his cattle, having neglected to collect sufficient food for them during the winter.

Ingolf, the next Norwegian settler, was more successful. He arrived on the island in 874, along with a cousin called Thorleif, who was killed soon afterwards by slaves. The slaves are said to have been brought from Ireland. But it is still more remarkable to find that after Ingolf and Thorleif had decided to settle in Iceland, while the former was preparing for their departure from Norway, the latter made a voyage to Ireland, and returned from it to Norway with immense booty. Why did he not at once take it to Iceland? Before deciding to settle in Iceland the cousins are said to have explored and passed a winter on the island. Is it not possible that it was from Iceland, the ancient Ireland, that Thorleif brought the booty to Norway? Is it not more likely also that when the cousins did settle on the island, they would press some of the former inhabitants into their service as slaves, and that it was some of them who put Thorleif to death for stealing from them? It is certainly strange that Thorleif, after he had seen Iceland and determined to settle on it, should make an expedition to so distant a country as Ireland; and until some good reasons are given to account for it we may be allowed to suppose that such an expedition was never made by Thorleif.

As still further illustrating the confusion that has been made in history by the names of the two countries being once the same, the following may be produced. In the Laxdaela Saga it is stated that Haskold purchased, from a Russian trader, in the tenth century, a pretty girl, whom he made his concubine. She said she was the daughter of the Irish king Mirkjartan, and that her name was Melkorka. [Malletís Antiquities, p. 313, Bohnís Edition,] In Olafsen and Povelsenís Travels in Iceland [English translation, pp. 70 and 71,] we are told that the oldest inscription in Iceland is on a stone at the church of Borg, and that it commemorates a Charles Kiartan, whose mother was the sister of Myr Kiartan, King of Iceland, Charles Kiartan died in 1003, so that his uncle might easily be Melkorkaís father, and is evidently the Irish king of the Laxdaela Saga. But as there is no authentic information of such a king having ruled in Ireland at that period, it is reasonable to conclude that the Ireland of the Laxdaela Saga was the Iceland of the present day. This also gives us a hint of how the Icelandic history has been tampered with, for even if no kings of that country are allowed to appear in its annals; but the old stone at Borg had escaped the notice of the Norwegian monarchs and their minions, who helped to put an end to the independence of the Icelanders by obscuring their ancient history.

Ingolf was not long the only Norwegian colonist in Iceland, for Harold Harfager, King of Norway, endeavoured at that time to reduce to complete subjection the inferior kings or jarls, and this caused many of them to join Ingolf in his island home. So numerous were the emigrants to Iceland then that Harold forbade any one to leave his kingdom. These Norwegian colonists were principally the best and bravest of their race, and they continued to flock for sixty years towards the new settlement. A northern writer thus alludes to the colonization

"Compelled to leave their native country, some Norwegians took possession of Iceland in the ninth century, where, instead of adopting the form of government to which they had been accustomed, they formed themselves into a regular republic, in which there was such an admirable distribution of the powers of government as at the same time secured liberty and promoted order and subordination. Its constitution, however extraordinary it may appear, is in every respect as well authenticated as those of the most celebrated states of antiquity, and such a form of polity among a people in such a remote region merits the attention of the diligent student of human nature as a curious and unsolved problem." [Barryís Orkney, pp. 93 and 94.]

It is not likely, however, that the Norwegian colonists could have elaborated such an admirable method of government themselves. Besides, among the earliest settlers mentioned in the Landnamma Bok, there were many Danes and Swedes. [Von Trollís Letters on Iceland, in Pinkertonís Colleqtjofi of Voy. ages, p. 645,] But had they not been preceded by a race of educated Christians in Iceland, little would have been known regarding the ancient state of the island; and it is to them that the northern republic evidently owes its origin. It is needless to go into the admirable system of government which existed in Iceland in the thirteenth and preceding centuries. Suffice it to say that "it is remarkable as the first instance of a free nation united solely by moral ties and a knowledge of their mutual interests. There was no external interference, which, exciting a spirit of patriotism, might contribute to preserve its union. It relied solely on its internal principles; particularly a deep-felt reverence for the law, and it is probable that but for foreign interposition it might have subsisted a still longer period." [Nicolís Iceland, p. 106 ]

Notwithstanding the facts already brought forward to show that there were Christians in Iceland before the Norwegians settled there, it is often alleged that Christianity was not introduced into the island till the beginning of the eleventh century. But in addition to the evidence already produced regarding the belief of the earliest inhabitants, there is direct testimony that some at least of the Norwegian settlers were Christians long before the period stated; and it will be as well to refer to it before dealing with what is called the introduction of Christianity. The Sagas mention several wealthy landowners during the ninth and tenth centuries who had adopted that belief; and it is likely that these would be surrounded by dependents who would acknowledge the same faith. Aude, the daughter of the powerful Norwegian, Ketil Flatnef, and the wife of King Olaf the White, after her husbandís decease, took up her abode in Iceland with her brother Bjorn, who had large possessions on the west coast. "She was a Christian, but did not build any church, erecting only some stone crosses at which she said her prayers." [Munchís Chronicle of Man, preface, p. xii.] Helgi Magri, a son of Eyvind, another distinguished Norwegian adventurer, having become a mighty chieftain, married a daughter of Ketil Flatnef, and sister to Aude just mentioned, Helgi, like his relations, also settled in Iceland about 880, with Sons and retinue, and became one of the most powerful lords. He was a Christian, and erected his abode on a place which, in accordance with his belief, he called Christness. [Ibid,, pp. xiv. and xv.] A nephew of Ketil Flatnef, named. "Olryg, was educated as a Christian by the holy bishop Patrick, in the Sudreys. When grown up he resolved to go to Iceland, and asked the advice and aid of the Bishop. Patrick gave him timber to build a church, a plenarium, a bell, a gold coin, and some consecrated earth to put beneath the corner pillars, as no other dedication could be effected, He directed him to dedicate it to St Columba," He called the place where he first landed Patricksfiord, which name it still bears. The bishop pointed out to him the place where he was to settle, which intimates that this Patrick was well acquainted with Iceland, the ancient Ireland. Olryg, not finding the right spot where he first landed, sailed southwards, and found it in the territory of his cousin, Helgi Bjola, the son of Ketil Flatnef. His cousin gave him the lands indicated by the bishop, and there Olryg built his church and dwelling house. "His descendants became great and powerful lords, and continued Christians." [Munchís Chronicle of Man, preface, p. xv.] They considered Columba as their tutelary saint. [Olafsenís and Povelsenís Travels in Iceland, English Translation, p. 38.] One of the daughters of Ketil Flatnef had a son called also Ketil, Re was brought up as a Christian, and took np his abode at a place called Kirkjubor (Church Town). This was one of the settlements of the Papae, and a tradition affirms that the pagan Norwegians could not inhabit this district, but that Ketil, being a Christian, found no dlficulty. "The name Kirkjubor, seems to involve that he found already a church there, and maybe also the ecclesiastics, who hitherto might have found means to prevent the pagans from molesting them." [Munchís Chronicle of Man, preface, p. xvi.]  This information, afforded by reliable writings relating to the early settlement of the island, puts it beyond doubt that there was a large and influential community of Christians in Iceland in the ninth century, or a hundred years before Christianity is said to have been introduced into the island. There is every likelihood, besides, that the Christian faith would spread among the Norwegian colonists, when it was embraced by some of the most celebrated of them, so that there would be little need for the introduction of the Christian religion into Iceland in the year 1000, as is said to have been the case.

Christianity is said to have been planted in Norway, Iceland, and Orkney by King Olave Trygvveson. He had been converted while a youth in England. After he became King of Norway he was desirous of converting other countries. Accordingly he fitted out five or six ships, and filled them with men able to diffuse a knowledge of Christianity. He sailed direct to Ireland.[Should this not be Iceland?] On his return he forced the Earl of Orkney and all the inhabitants of that island to embrace the Christian faith. [Barryís Orkney, pp. 128 and 129.] The romantic incidents in the life of Olaf Trygvveson are said to have too much alloy in their composition to abide the scrupulous test of history. [Scandinavia, by Crichton and Wheaton, vol. 1 p. 153.] In addition to this we are told that the Northmen had fictitious sagas, which are easily distinguished from those that treat of real persons and events by the tone and style, the endeavour after effect, and the improbaíbility of the incidents. [Nicolís Iceland, p. 152.] After learning this, one is surprised to find that Olaf Trygvvesonís Saga is still accepted as history. It deals to a large extent with the presumed introduction of Christianity into Iceland in the year 1000; but the improbability of the incidents connected with this event stamp it as a fabrication. A few examples may be given.

The first missionary is said to have gone through a large fire without his clothes even being scorched, while two believers in the faith of the Icelanders who attempted to do the same thing were instantly consumed. This first missionary likewise slew two poets who had satirised his religionóa most unchristian deed. Not succeeding according to his wishes, he returned to Norway, accompanied by the most influential men of both parties. King Olaf threatened to put these men to death unless they would consent to be baptisedóa unique method of conversion. Gissur and Hiati are the names of the next missionaries whom Olaf sent to convert the Icelanders. They are said to have been more successful, because Snorro, the chief magistrate, a powerful supporter of the old faith hitherto, now aided by his influence the spread of the new faith, it is remarkable to find a Gissur and a Snorro acting a prominent part in promoting the designs of the Norwegian monarch against the independence of Iceland in the thirteenth century. Can it be that the events of one period have been transferred to an earlier time to advance the claims of the Norwegian King? We have seen something of the same kind taking place with regard to Scotland when the interpolations in Bedeís Ecclesiastical History were under consideration. It is certainly not common for kings to take so active a part in Christianising other countries as Olaf Trygvveson, King of Norway, is said to have done for Iceland.

The following is the account given of Gissurís and Hialtiís labours by another authority: "In the year 1000 the Christian religion was introduced into Iceland by her apostles Gizur the White and Hialto. The latter was an Icelander by birth, but had been banished for composing a song in disparagement of the heathen deities. Snorro (the chief magistrate of the republic), became a convert, and lent the greatest assistance in extending the new faith. . . . As this was the third attempt to preach Christianity in the island, it seems probable that the good sense of the Icelanders had already rejected in secret the superstitions of Paganism, and that the worship of Thor had declined in the estimation of the people." [Abstract of Eyrbyggia-saga, by Sir W. Scott, in Malletís Antiquities, Bobnís Edition.]

The final stage in this drama is interesting enough in the annals of missionary enterprise to find a place here:-

"The Althing being convened, Thorgeir, the chief magistrate of the republic, brought forward the laws he had received from Gissur, which provided that all the inhabitants of Iceland should become Christians and receive baptism; that the heathen temples and idols should be abolished and destroyed and lastly that all open idolatrous worship should be punished with a fine. To conciliate the otherparty he permittod them, in conformity with the old customs, to erpose their children, to cat horse-flesh, and to worship their former gods in private.... . To these conditions both parties were compelled to assent, and the whole nation would have been baptised at once had not the inhabitants of the northern and eastern quarters refused to be immersed in cold water. These rescusants, however, were subsequently admitted into the Church at the thermal springs of Laugerdal." [Nicolís Iceland, p. 111,]

It is somewhat surprising to find that this is accepted as a truthful account of the introduction of Christianity into Iceland. It may, however, relate to the introduction of the Roman Catholic modes of worship there. After this time (the arrival of Gissur and Haiti) many monks of the Order of St Benedict and St Austin settled there, and the people paid a tribute to the Roman See. The Icelanders first received their own bishops in the year 1057 at Skaliholt, and at Hoolum in 1107.[Von Troil's Letters on Iceland, in Pinkertonís Collection of Travels, p. 649.]

As hearing upon the prevalence of the Christian faith and worship among the Icelanders before the year 1000, the following facts are worth recording. Mallet [Antiquities, Bohnís Edition, p. 470.] informs us that they were easily induced to embrace Christianity. In marked contrast to this we are told that "the Norwegians clung tenaciously to the worship of their forefathers, and numbers of them died real martyrs for their faith." From the same authority we learn that though several Danish kings were baptised, Christianity had made very little progress in Denmark in the tenth century. The lawless habits of the Danes, and their invincible attachment to the ancient idolatry, presented formidable obstacles to their conversion. [Scandinavia, by Cricliton and Wheaton, vol. 1. p. 123.]  Another striking circumstance shows how little advance Paganism had made in Iceland. In Norway and Sweden human victims were offered on the Blotstein or Sacrificial Stone to appease the offended deities; "but these sacrifices do not appear ever to have taken place in Iceland." [Malletís Antiquities, .Bohnís Edition, p. 99k, note.] There were Blotsteins in Iceland, but they were "only used for putting criminals to death on." [Olafsenís and Povelsenís Travels, English Translation, p. 84.] The exposure of children was one of the barbarous customs introduced from Norway; and "it appears to have been extinct in Iceland long before it was finally abolished in Norway." [Mackenzieís Travels in Iceland, New Edition, p. 13, note.] Writers on the early history of Iceland are always inclined to look to Norway for the origin of most of the Icelandic. beliefs, manners, and customs, but the facts of history do not bear them out in this supposition. Take the Icelandic republic for instance. No such form of government was known in Norway. Trial by jury, another ancient Icelandic institution, is almost entirely absent from the Norwegian Code of Laws. Take the Skaldic profession as another instance. It is sometimes affirmed that this is an old Norwegian custom or science; but it is remarkable, if that be so, that no Skalds of any other country but Iceland are ever heard of. On the other hand, though many of the Norwegian settlers in Iceland had been celebrated vikings, similar pursuits seem never to have prevailed in that country. [Nicolís Iceland, p. 119. 2 ibid., p. 100.]

It is said. that Ulfliot, an Icelander, who was entrusted with the duty of providing a form of government for the island, went to Norway, that he might study the institutions of that country. Having stayed three years there, he returned to Iceland and framed a code of laws, which was accepted by the national assembly in the year 928. These laws, we are further told, were not committed to writing till two centuries after Ulfliotís death. [Ibid, p. 100] The improbability of the Icelanders taking a lesson from the Norwegians in government, has already been sufficiently illustrated. There is every likelihood that the Norwegians, who settled in Iceland in large numbers in the ninth century, should have introduced there some of their pagan customs and superstitions; but that the whole, or even many, of the Icelandic beliefs, manners, customs, and institutions should have been imported from Norway, there is no reliable evidence to prove. It would be more reasonable to infer that a cultivated and intelligent race like the Icelanders had introduced into Norway some of the customs prevailing in their native land, and thus account for similar customs being observed in the two countries. There was frequent intercourse between them after the Norwegian colonization. Grim says that the Icelandic language is the true source of all the Teutonic languages; and it is possible that the same may be said of many Teutonic beliefs, arts, sciences, and institutions. Proofs will be brought forward in another treatise to show that the Norman architects not improbably learned much of their science from the Icelanders ; and many of the Norman manners and customs of France are known to have a general resemblance to the lcelandic, not excepting even trial by jury. "Most of the laws and customs which prevailed in Scandinavia were transplanted to other countries by the colonies that settled in different parts of Europe. In Iceland they were brought to a remarkable degree of perfection (thus indicating their origin). They followed the Saxons and Danes into England, where they were revived by Alfred and Canute. . . . The Normans carried their native usages into France." [Scandinavia, by Crichton and Wheaton, vo!, 1. p. 193,]

A few additional notices of the manners, customs, and institutions of the ancient Icelanders may be given. They afford further evidence of the advanced state of civilization which prevailed among them. War, properly speaking, is unknown in their annals.  [Nicolís Icelend, p. 88, ]  Their edifices were of vast extent, and the wooden columns which supported them were adorned with carved human figures and runie crosses. The sculpture displayed by these was remarkably good, as the remains still found in Iceland testify. Horse-racing, bowls, quoits, wrestling, and swimming were favourite amusements. Money is said to have changed hands at the races in much the same manner as at Epsom or Newmarket. Fines, generally of three marks, are frequently mentioned in the Gragas. The legal rate of interest was 10 per cent. Composers of libels are as rigorously dealt with in the Gragas as in a modern Act of Parliament; and it is worthy of notice that their definition of a libel is much the same as that which prevails in Britain at the present day, while it differed materially from that of the Norwegians. The Icelanders never had more than one lawful wife, though concubines are sometimes alluded to. [Mallets Antiquities, Bohnís Edition, various pages.] The Norwegians were not so constrained in their choice of a wife. "Polygamy appears not to have been confined to kings and great men (in Norway); for we find in the old Icelandic law book, called the ĎGrey Goose,í that in determining the mutual rights of succession of persons born in either country, Norway or Iceland, in the other country it is provided that children born in Norway in bigamy should have equal rights as legitimate childrenówhich also proves that in Iceland civilization was advanced so much further than in Norway that bigamy was not lawful there, and its offspring not held legitimate." [Laingís Heimskringla, vol. 1, p. 102.]

The Gragas is the name given to the laws and precedents as they existed in Iceland about the year 1117, at which time they were collected by the most experieneed juriconsuls, and having been submitted to public discussion at the hands of the principal legislative assembly, were approved of and digested into a regular code. It is said to be almost overloaded with legal formularies. "Every judicial proceeding has its prescribed form, the manner in which the action and the defence are to be conducted, witnesses summoned, evidence given, verdict pronounced, &c., are detailed with the greatest minuteness, and the omission of a single phrase in any one of these formularies sufficed to render the judgment invalid. . . . A wealthy Icelander was always ambitious to plead a cause before the Althing, and the greater proficiency he showed in the art of prolonging or involving it by having recourse to legal quibbles, the greater was his celebrity." [Malletís Antiquities, Bohnís Edition, pp. 297 and 298.] Whether any country or people, even of the middle ages, could show as complete and perfect a code of laws as this, is questionable. And it is certain that none of these in force now can exceed the Gragas in the rigorousness of its enactments for the protection of life and property, nor in the philanthropy which pervades those relating to the management of the poor. Mallet says these latter could have been studied with advantage by the legislators of the nineteenth century. The Icelandic laws for the protection of property, and for its inheritance, are said to have been much superior to those of Norway and the Germanic states of the same period; while the mildness of the laws dealing with insolvent debtors were in marked contrast to the barbarity with which bankrupts were treated in Norway. [Ibid., pp. 300-308,]

Referring to a court constituted much in the same manner as our trial by jury, and for which we are supposed to be more indebted to our Scandinavian than our Saxon ancestors, Schiegel is quoted as saying:ó"It is a remarkable fact that a tribunal similar to that which the French legislators of the present day so justly pride themselves in having established, should have existed in Iceland in the beginning of the eleventh century." [Malletís Antiquities, Bohnís Edition, p. 292.] Trial by jury seems never to have been developed in Norway, and it only struck faint roots in the Danish and Swedish laws. [Burtonís Ultima Thule, vol. i. p. 120.]

Another peculiar feature in the character of the ancient Icelanders was their love of history, as detailed by the Skalds and Sagamen; and as it evidently reflects the influence wielded by the Christianity of the earliest settlers, it will be interesting to treat of it at some length. That a country cut off from the rest of the world by its northern and isolated situation should have produced writers whose works are quoted as authorities on the history of Denmark, by the historians of that country, seems surprising. "But this wonder," Torfaeus says, "will cease when the reader shall be informed that from the earliest times the inhabitants of Iceland have had a particular fondness for history, and that from among them have sprung those poets, who, under the name of Skalds, rendered themselves so famous throughout the north for their songs." [Malletís Antiquities, Bohaís Edition, p. 75.] From the preliminary dissertation to Laingís edition of the Heimskringla, we learn that the Skalds belonged exclusively to Iceland. No Skalds are heard of in any other country, not even in Norway. "Almost all the old Norse poems and Sagas that have been handed down to us were either collected or written by Icelanders." [Malletís Antiquities, Bobnís Edition, p. 276.]

The Skald recited the praises of kings and heroes in verse, whilst the Saga-men recalled the memory of the past in prose. The constant practice of their powers enabled them to attain a high degree of perfection, and the memory was strengthened by being made the depositary of the national history. The public assemblies presented occasions which these poets and historians were not slow to take advantage of, and the people were ever ready to embrace the opportunity of listening to the lays and the stories which recounted the mighty deeds of their ancestors. Thus the events of past ages were handed down from generation to generation, until they were reduced to writing, and became permanent records of an illustrious and enlightened people. There can be little doubt that almost all the historical notices of the northern nations now extant are derived from Icelandic records. "Thus Iceland, at a time when ignorance and obscurity pervaded the rest of Europe, was enabled to produce a considerable number of poets and historians." [Von Troilís Letters on Iceland, in Pinkertonís Collection of Voyages, &c., vol. i. p. 651.] After mentioning that the bishop of Hoolum, in the year 1120, was surprised at finding one of his scholars reading Ovidís letters, Von Troil adds:-

"At a time when no great knowledge of the Latin language could he expected even in Sweden, an Icelander, however, was found of sufficient capacity and learning to instruct the young people to read and understand the Latin poets. We need only read their ancient chronicles to be convinced that they had great knowledge in morality, philosophy, natural history, and astronomy. They had tolerably clear ideas of divinity also, and used to read the fathers." [Von Trollís Letters on Iceland, in Pinkertonís Collection of Voyages, &e., vol. 1. p. 670.]

The Skaldic verses were not trusted entirely to memory, for before the Roman letters were introduced it was the custom to engrave them in Runic characters on wooden staves. These characters are said to have been introduced by Odin. The use of this mode of writing was very ancient in the north, and was probably brought from the east by the Goths. The letters resemble those of the Greek, Etrurian, and Celtiberian alphabets more than the Roman. They were the most common mode of writing known to the Icelanders till the end of the twelfth century. They were chielly employed in inscriptions on public monuments, and in letters inscribed on a wooden staff. It is said that they fell into bad repute from being employed in magic rites, and on that account they were discouraged by the clergy. [Nicolís Iceland, pp. 117, 144, 145, and note.] That they were discouraged by the Roman clergy is likely; but more probably because they were used by Christians whose tenets were not in harmony with theirs than for any other reason.

After learning all this it is not surprising to find a writer saying: "If a strict comparison were instituted between the social condition of Iceland and that of other countries, we should probably be induced to place it rather above than below the average standard of civilisation that prevailed in Europe during these barbarous ages [Mallet's Antiquities, Bohnís Edition, p. 360.] It cannot otherwise be accounted for that a people living in such a remote island should acquire such a taste for literature, than by believing that they must have been indebted to the earliest known settlers, or their descendants, for some Christian teaching. It is said that while they were heathens the Icelandic annalist's were always deemed the best in the north. But, besides the fact that there is no good evidence to show that they ever were heathens, it is more in accordance with history and experience to believe that a people who were so fond of histoiy and poetry, and could even rise to the perception of the most refined mental pleasures, were Christians. And there is every reason to think that some of the Christians who inhabited the island before it was colonised by the Norwegians had remained and diffused a knowledge of that religion which ennobles and elevates all who come in contact with it.

It is possible, doubtless, for a people or nation to be highly civilised without being Christians, but when the civilisation of the Icelanders is known to have been accompanied by the Profession of Christianity by the earliest settlers and a number of the largest Norwegian landowners in the island, it is difficult to believe that the advanced ideas of the inhabitants of this northern isle were not the result of the influence and teaching of Christian instructors. Everything in the condition of the people, when they are said to have first embraced the Christian faith, points to the conclusion that many, if not most of them, were Christians before then. Their belief was almost identical to that which prevails in England now. Their customs were similar to those of the Christian communities of the present day. And their ideas of government, both local and imperial, were as humane as those which are current among ourselves in this present enlightened nineteenth Christian century.

When we come to deal with the linguistic and the archeological evidence, we hope to be able to show that an intimate relationship existed between the earliest inhabitants of Iceland and the inhabitants of north-eastern Scotland. The ancient Scots, it is well known, were as celebrated as their contemporaries, the Icelanders, for learning and art. Their fame, like that of their northern friends, also spread far and wide; and even at the present day we admire the art depicted on their tombstones, as much as we do the acumen displayed in framing such a code of laws as the Gragas. Both were certainly wonderful for the times that produced them; and neither the beauty of the one nor the leaning and humanity exhibited by the other have been excelled in our own day, which can boast of the added experience of other ten centuries.


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