Italy Runestones

Italy Runestones

:"Main article: Varangian Runestones"The Italy Runestones are three or four Varangian Runestones from 11th century Sweden that talk of warriors who died in "Langbarðaland" ("Land of the Lombards"), the Old Norse name for Italy. On these rune stones it is southern Italy that is referred to [ "2. Runriket - Täby kyrka"] , an online article at Stockholm County Museum, retrieved July 1 2007.] (Langobardia), but the Rundata project renders it rather anachronistically as Lombardy (see the translations of the individual stones, below).

The rune stones are engraved in Old Norse with the Younger Futhark, and two of them are found in Uppland and one or two in Södermanland.

The memorials are probably raised in memory of members of the Varangian Guard, the elite guard of the Byzantine Emperor, and they probably died while fighting in southern Italy against Normans or Muslims. Many of their brothers-in-arms are remembered on the 28 Greece Runestones most of which are found in the same part of Sweden.

The young men who applied for a position in the Varangian guard were not uncouth roughnecks, as in the traditional stereotype, but instead, it appears that they were usually fit and well-raised young warriors who were skilled in weapons.Larsson 2002:145] They were the kind of warriors who were welcome as the elite troups of the Byzantine Emperor, and who the rulers of Kievan Rus' requested from Scandinavia when they were under threat.

Below follows a presentation of the runestones based on the Rundata project. The transcriptions into Old Norse are in the Swedish and Danish dialect to facilitate comparison with the inscriptions, while the English translation provided by Rundata gives the names in the de facto standard dialect (the Icelandic and Norwegian dialect):


There are two rune stones in Uppland that mention Italy. They were raised by the same lady in memory of her son.

U 133

This runestone in style Pr3 [Entry U 133 in Rundata.] is in reddish granite and it has been broken into two parts and walled into the foundation of the church of Täby. The larger part was known as early as Johannes Bureus (1568 – 1652), but the smaller part was not noticed by scholars until 1857, when it was documented by Richard Dybeck. The larger part is 1.02 m in height and 0.86-1 m in width, while the smaller one is 0.45 tall and 1.23 m wide. It probably formed a twin monument together with U 141 on the estate of Fittja, before it was moved to the church to be used as building material.Wessén 1940-43:198ff]

It is believed to be made by the runemaster Fot for a grieving mother named Guðlaug in memory of herself, and in honour of her son who had died in southern Italy and it was probably as a member of the Varangian Guard.

Guðlaug may be the same woman as Ónæm's daughter who is mentioned on U 328, and his father Assurr who is mentioned on U 330.Pritsak 1980:392]

Latin transliteration:

:+ kuþluk * lit ... ... ... ...a × sun * sin * auk * at * sik * sialfa * han * to * a lank*barþa*l--ti *

Old Norse transcription:

: "Guðlaug let [ræisa stæina at Holm] a, sun sinn, ok at sik sialfa. Hann do a Langbarðal [an] di."

English translation:

: "Guðlaug had the stones raised in memory of Holmi, her son, and in memory of herself. He died in Lombardy."

U 141

This runestone was first documented by Johannes Messenius, in 1611, who wrote about the inscription, and who appears to have learnt about the runestone from Johannes Bureus. Aschaneus (1575-1641) made a note that the runestone was to be seen at the estate of Fittja near Täby, but it later disappeared and the last scholar who saw it was Anders Celsius in 1727. Richard Dybeck and later Erik Brate both searched for it in vain. However, in 1933, a fragment with the final three runes were discovered during an installation of heating equipment in the cellar of the estate. The granite fragment, which measures 0.45 in height and 0.38 in width, has been raised in the garden of Fittja.Wessén 1940-1943:206ff]

It formed a monument together with U 133, and it was raised by the same grieving mother in memory of her son.

Latin transliteration:

: [kuþluk × lit * raisa * staina * at * hulma * sun * sin * han * to * a * lank*barþa*la(n)ti ×]

Old Norse transcription:

: "Guðlaug let ræisa stæina at Holma, sun sinn. Hann do a Langbarðalandi."

English translation:

: "Guðlaug had the stones raised in memory of Holmi, her son. He died in Lombardy."


There are two rune stones that mention Italy in Södermanland. However, one of them only says La-, having lost the series of runes that followed. However, the rune stone informs that the location was on the Eastern route, and "Langbarðaland" is the only known Old Norse place name on the Eastern route that begins with these two runes.

ö Fv1954;22

This runestone is in reddish grey and fine grained granite, and it was found in 11 pieces in Lagnö, in 1949. At the location, the land slopes towards Eldsundet, which is an old sailing route, and where there was a Viking Age assembly location. A house had once been in the same spot and it is likely that the runestone had been used as material in its stone foundation. The stone was moved to a conservation institute in Stockholm where it was repaired but it was impossible to make a complete runestone out of it. As of 1953, fifteen pieces had been recovered but only twelve could be put together. [Jansson 1954:21-25] It is presently stored inside the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm.

Latin transliteration:

:...i : risti : ---... ... ... sin : han : iR : entaþr : i : austruiki : ut : o : la-...

Old Norse transcription:

: "... ræisti ... ... ... ... sinn. Hann eR ændaðr i austrvegi ut a La [ngbarðalandi] (?)."

English translation:

: "... raised ... ... ... ... his. He met his end on the eastern route abroad in Lombardy(?)."

ö 65

This rune stone was found at Djulefors, and it is presently raised in the park of Eriksberg. It is in the style Pr1, which dates it to the first half of the 11th century. A missing piece of the stone was found in 1934.

Latin transliteration:

: [inka : raisti : stain : þansi : at : ulai] (f) : sin : [a...k] : han : austarla : arþi : barþi : auk : o : lakbarþilanti : [anlaþis +]

Old Norse transcription:

: "Inga ræisti stæin þannsi at Olæif sinn ... Hann austarla arði barði ok a Langbarðalandi andaðis."

English translation:

: "Inga raised this stone in memory of Óleifr, her ... He ploughed his stern to the east, and met his end in the land of the Lombards."



*Jansson, S. B. F. (1954). "Uppländska, småländska och sörmländska runstensfynd", in Bohrn, E. (ed) "Fornvännen årgång 54". [] pp. 1-25.
*Larsson, Mats G (2002). "Götarnas Riken : Upptäcktsfärder Till Sveriges Enande". Bokförlaget Atlantis AB ISBN 9789174866414
* [ "Nordisk runnamslexikon"] by Lena Peterson at the Swedish Institute for Linguistics and Heritage (Institutet för språk och folkminnen).
*Pritsak, Omeljan. (1981). "The origin of Rus'". Cambridge, Mass.: Distributed by Harvard University Press for the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. ISBN 0-674-64465-4
* [ "2. Runriket - Täby kyrka"] , an online article at Stockholm County Museum, retrieved July 1 2007.

External links

* [ An English Dictionary of Runic Inscriptions of the Younger Futhark, at the university of Nottingham]

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