Eric the Victorious
|King of Sweden|
|Eric praying to Odin before the Battle of Fýrisvellir, as envisioned by 20th century artist Jenny Nyström|
|House||House of Munsö|
|Father||Björn (III) Eriksson|
Eric the Victorious (Old Norse: Eiríkr inn sigrsæli, Modern Swedish: Erik Segersäll) (945? – c. 995) was the first Swedish king (970–995) about whom anything definite is known.1 Whether he actually qualifies as King of Sweden has been debated, as his son Olof Skötkonung was the first ruler documented to have been accepted both by the Svear around Lake Mälaren and by the Götar around Lake Vättern.
Sometimes Eric the Victorious is referred to as either King Eric V or VI, modern inventions based on counting backwards from Eric XIV (1560–68), who adopted his numeral according to a fictitious history of Sweden. Whether or not there were any Swedish monarchs named Eric before Eric the Victorious is disputed, with some historians claiming that there were several earlier Erics,2 and others questioning the reliability of the primary sources used and the existence of these earlier monarchs.3 The list of monarchs after him is also complicated (see Eric and Eric, as well as Erik Årsäll), which makes the assignment of any numeral problematic.
His original territory lay in Uppland and neighbouring provinces. He acquired the name "victorious" as a result of his defeating an invasion from the south in the Battle of Fýrisvellir close to Uppsala.4 Reports that Eric's brother Olof was the father of his opponent in that battle, Styrbjörn the Strong, belong to the realm of myth.5
The extent of his kingdom is unknown. In addition to the Swedish heartland round lake Mälaren it may have extended down the Baltic Sea coast as far south as Blekinge. According to Adam of Bremen, he also briefly controlled Denmark after having defeated Sweyn Forkbeard.
According to the Flateyjarbok, his success was because he allied with the free farmers against the aristocratic jarl class, and it is obvious from archeological findings that the influence of the latter diminished during the last part of the tenth century.6 He was also, probably, the introducer of the famous medieval Scandinavian system of universal conscription known as the ledung in the provinces around Mälaren.
Eric the Victorious appears in a number of Norse sagas, historical stories which nonetheless had a heathy dose of fiction. In various stories, he is described as the son of Björn Eriksson, and as having ruled together with his brother Olof. It was claimed that he married the infamous (and likely fictional) Sigrid the Haughty, daughter of the legendary Viking Skagul Toste, and later divorced her and gave her Götaland as a fief. According to Eymund's saga he took a new queen, Auð, the daughter of Haakon Sigurdsson, the ruler of Norway.
Before this happened, his brother Olof died, and a new co-ruler had to be appointed, but the Swedes are said to have refused to accept his rowdy nephew Styrbjörn the Strong as his co-ruler. Styrbjörn was given 60 longships by Eric and sailed away to live as a Viking. He would become the ruler of Jomsborg and an ally and brother-in-law of the Danish king Harold Bluetooth. Styrbjörn returned to Sweden with an army, although Harald and the Danish troops supposedly turned back. Eric won the Battle of Fýrisvellir, according to Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa after sacrificing to Odin and promising that if victorious, he would give himself to Odin in ten years.
Adam of Bremen relates that Eric was baptised in Denmark but that he forgot about the Christian faith after he returned to Sweden.
- Lindkvist, Thomas (2003), "Kings and provinces in Sweden", The Cambridge History of Scandinavia, p. 223., ISBN 0-521-47299-7
- Lagerqvist & Åberg in Kings and Rulers of Sweden ISBN 91-87064-35-9 pp. 8-9
- Harrison, Dick (2009), Sveriges historia 600-1350, pp. 21, 121, ISBN 978-91-1-302377-9
- Jones, Gwyn (1973), A History of the Vikings, Oxford University Press, p. 128., ISBN 0-19-285063-6
- Odelberg, Maj (1995), "Eric Segersäll", Vikingatidens ABC, Swedish Museum of National Antiquities, ISBN 91-7192-984-3, retrieved 2007-08-18
- Larsson, Mats G. (1998), Svitiod: resor till Sveriges ursprung, Atlantis, ISBN 91-7486-421-1
Erik SegersällBorn: c. 945? Died: c. 995
|King of Sweden