Full Version: Did Norwegians Serve in Roman Legions?
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Archaeological findings have strengthened notions amongst scholars that quite a few Norwegians, from the farthermost north of Europe, in all likelihood served as soldiers in the Roman legions.

Ancient weaponry, cups and coins all points towards a more extensive cultural exchange between Norway/Scandinavia and the Roman Empire than previously assumed, an assumption, (article in Norwegian only), Professor Heid Gjøstein Resi at the Cultural Historical Museum, at the University of Oslo also seems to agree with.

"Yes, I believe Norwegians served in Roman legions," he says, and continues;"We have been able to confirm that artifacts found in old graves in Norway, which at first were believed to have originated elsewhere, do indeed have their origins from the Roman Empire."

In 1895, during the excavation of the grave of a Norwegian warlord, dating back to 200 A.D, buried near the little village of Avaldsnes on the west coast of Norway, scientists found a sword with a silver ornamented scabbard, a silver ornamented shield, bracelets and four gold rings, artifacts and weaponry that indicates very well that this warlord might have served in the Roman legions, according to Professor Lotte Hedeager at the Institute of archeology, Oslo University.

It is a well known fact that people from so called barbaric tribes like the German tribes up north, were recruited into the Roman legions and that some of them even ended up as Generals and leaders of the Roman legions themselves.

"Warriors that chose to return to Norway, after 10-15 years in service, brought back not only Roman artifacts and coins but some even brought back artifacts typical for a man serving in the legions," says Laszlo Berczelli, a retired scholar from the Cultural Historical Museum.

One artifact typical for soldiers in service of the Roman army was vessels made of bronze for drinking and eating, an artifact found in many graves excavated in the eastern parts of Norway.

On an ending note, the scientist Svein Gulli, at the Cultural Historical Museum, asks somewhat rhetorically;

"It is a historical fact that Vikings served as mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine emperor, why then couldn't they have served in the Roman legions?
Commercial exchanges, direct or indirect, is much more plausible for the norvegian findings, i think. German warriors moving from a tribe to another in search of a lord to serve, and is possible dani, svears, goths make the same, and someone can have serve in roman army. But without a direct evidence from the sources, isn't plausible make a hypotesis equivalent to the "byzantine service tradition" of medieval vikings.
The use of the word "legions" already makes me doubt somehow....
Maybe they meant Late Roman legions?
Then it's a bit of overgeneralization and he should say that imho.btw he mentiones a warlord's grave from 200CE.

As far as I know they would still need some kind of citizenship for that and would rather fight in some kind of auxiliary or join a contingent of foederati wouldn't they?
Ooooold news, but the media caught on to it recently.

Plenty of roman equipment, and medallions associated with discharged soldiers, in scandinavian graves from the roman iron age. Even a few early runic inscriptions that point to scandinavians in roman service, as I recall it (and/or against the romans, for example during the marcomannian wars).
Quote:"It is a historical fact that Vikings served as mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine emperor, why then couldn't they have served in the Roman legions?[/i]

Ave Ioannis,

this guy mixes the ages a little bit. The term 'Viking' usually is connected to early medieval times, when Scandinavian people started building special designed ships, earning their living as rowdyish 'traveling salesmen'... :wink:

The Viking phenomenon included very mobile war bands, which ships were fast and able to sail both sea and shallow rivers. Don't know there was anything comparable in Roman times, even regarding the late period.
No! Because Norway, Sweden and Denmark and the other Scandinavian countrys did not exist until mid medieval times.

People from what is now Scandinavia can of course have happened to wander of south and have taken part in wars on the continent, but not as nations.
There are also finds of Roman coins, ceramics and other objects were found in Vietnam and China (reasonally silk-way trade), but I guess there have been no Chinese people in Roman legions. :wink:

If chinese people would have ever reached Rome, I think they would have ended up in the arena, as an atraction or served some very rich people... :roll:
Sorry to resurrect a long dead thread, but has anyone got any pictures of the sword and scabbard found at Avaldsnes? All I can find is this old black and white photo from a book on the Soderby-Karl drinking horn.
[attachment=0:fwy8y09w]<!-- ia0 alvadsnes.JPG<!-- ia0 [/attachment:fwy8y09w]
I'm checking with my norwegian Iron Age contacts if I can find you a good pic.
They have found some gladii (augustan), pateras and coins (from the time of Marcus Aurelius) in Finland. They must have came here due to trade. I think it is possible that a "norwegian" could have served in especially the late roman legions, we just simply don`t have any proof of that. The weapon finds etc. confirm only existing connections of trade and cultural exchange especially during the late roman empire. I think this is the only conclusion we can make right now before we find further evidence. Has anybody read a book "Roman Reflections" which is about the material exchange between rome and scandinavia? I think we have the book here on our local library...
Right. My main Iron Age contact did not have any web pics of the Avaldsnes sword and scabbard. I tried the different University Museum public databases, but it is as useable as it has been for the last few years, which is to say, only occasionally useful.

I'll keep my eyes open, but for now, sorry, no cigar.
Thanks very much for your efforts anyway Endre.