Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire
Depiction of the Varangian Guard,the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire. Image: Joannis Scylitza, 12th century. Credit: Public domain
The Vikings were seafaring from Scandinavia. They most famously raided in and around the British Isles and the western coasts of Europe. However, what many people do not know is that they were active much further east, too. They played a surprising yet significant role in the Byzantine Empire, where they formed the Varangian Guard. What do we know about the Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire?
The Origin of the Varangians
The Varangians were Vikings from Sweden. In the ninth century, a group of them settled in Northwest Russia, where the city of Novgorod is located today. A man named Rurik was the legendary leader of this group. He was referred to as the Rus’, and the settlement, established in the year 862 according to a twelfth century chronicle, was likewise referred to as such.