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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 28, 2017

Emperors and vassals

Scandinavian kings and the Byzantine emperor

Sverrir Jakobsson
From the journal Byzantinische Zeitschrift


In 1196 three messengers were sent by the Byzantine emperor Alexios III to the monarchs of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, to request military assistance. In this article, an attempt is made to place this request in a historical context, to determine what the intentions of the emperor were and how the three kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden would have interpreted it on their part. The mission is examined in the context of the journeys of Scandinavian dignitaries to Constantinople in the twelfth century. An important feature in all these descriptions is the continued presence of Scandinavian soldiers in the service of the Emperor, the Varangian Guard. The Varangians are portrayed as countrymen and natural allies of the new arrivals. It is argued that, although medieval Byzantium did not have a formal institution such as vassalage, the emperor certainly regarded the Scandinavian monarchs as his oath-bound “liegemen”, and that the mission of 1196 a part of that established Byzantine trend.

Published Online: 2017-10-28
Published in Print: 2017-10-26

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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