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232
ICELAND

Christians), Helgi Biolan, Biorn the Eastern, Helgi the Lean, Ketil the Foolish, &c., who settled the best land in the island (west, north-west and north), and founded families who long swayed its destinies. There also came from the Western Islands a fellowship of vikings seeking a free home in the north. They had colonized the west in the viking times; they had “fought at Hafursfirth,” helping their stay-at-home kinsmen against the centralization of the great head-king, who, when he had crushed opposition in Norway, followed up his victory by compelling them to flee or bow to his rule. Such were Ingimund the Old, Geirmund Hellskin, Thord Beardie (who had wed St. Edmund’s granddaughter,) Audun Shackle, Bryniulf the Old, Uni, to whom Harold promised the earldom of the new land if he could make the settlers acknowledge him as king (a hopeless project), and others by whom the north-west, north and east were almost completely “claimed.” (3) In 900-930 a few more incomers direct from Norway completed the settlement of the south, north-east and south-east. Among them were Earl Hrollaug (half-brother of Hrolf Ganger and of the first earl of Orkney), Hialti, Hrafnkell Frey’s priest, and the sons of Asbiorn. Fully three-quarters of the land was settled from the west, and among these immigrants there was no small proportion of Irish blood. In 1100 there were 4500 franklins, i.e. about 50,000 souls.

Table of Icelandic Literature and History.

  I. The Commonwealth. 400 years.
 Heroic Age.   870-  930 
  930-  980 
  980-1030 
 Poetry of Western Islands.  Settlement by colonists from Western Isles and Norway.
 Early Icelandic poets, chiefly abroad.  Constitution worked out—Events of earlier sagas take place.
 Icelandic poets abroad.  Christianity comes in—Events of later sagas take place.
 Saga Telling. 1030-1100 
 First era of phonetic change.  Peace—Ecclesiastical organization.
The Literary
Age.
1100-1150 
1150-1220 
1220-1248 
1248-1284 
 Ari and his school—Thorodd—Vernacular writing begins.   
 Saga-Writers—Second generation of historians.  First civil wars—1208-22—Rise of Sturlungs.
 Snorri and his school—Biographers.  Second civil wars, 1226-58—Fall of Great Houses.
 SturlaSecond era of phonetic change.  Change of law, 1271—Submission to Norwegian kings.
  II. Medievalism. 250 years.
Continental
Influence
chiefly Norse.
1284-1320 
1320-1390 
1390-1413 
 Collecting and editing—Foreign romances.  Foreign influence through Norway.
 Annalists—Copyists—New Medieval poetry begins.  Great eruptions, 1362 and 1389—Epidemics—Danish rule, 1380.
 Death of old traditions, &c.  Epidemics—Norse trade—Close of intercourse with Norway.
 Dark Age. 1413-1530 
 Only Medieval poetry flourishes.  Isolation from Continent—English trade.
  III. Reformation—Absolute Rule—Decay. 320 years.
 Reformation. 1530-1575 
 Odd—Printing—Third era of phonetic change.  Religious struggle—New organization—Hanse trade.
 Renaissance. 1575-1640 
1640-1700 
 First antiquarians.  Danish monopoly—Pirates’ ravages.
 Hallgrim—Paper copies taken.  
Gradual
Decay.
1700-1730 
1730-1768 
 
1768-1800 
1800-1850 
 
 Jon Vidalin—Arni Magnusson—MSS. taken abroad.
 Increasing 
Decay.
 Smallpox kills one-third population, 1707.
 Great famine, 10,000 die, 1759—Sheep plague, 1762
—Eruption, 1765.
 Great eruption, 1783.
 Beginnings of recovery—Travellers make known island to Europe 
—Free constitution in Denmark, 1848.
 Eggert Olafsson.
 
 Finn Jonsson—Icelandic scholars abroad.
 Rationalistic movement—European influences first felt.
 
  IV. Modern Iceland.
 Recovery of
Iceland.
1850-1874 
 
1874
 Modern thought and learning—Icelandic scholars abroad.  Increasing wealth and population—Free trade, 1854
—Jon Sigurdsson and home rule struggle.
   Home rule granted.

The unit of Icelandic politics was the homestead with its franklin-owner (buendi), its primal organization the hundred-moot (thing), its tie the goðorð (godar) or chieftainship. The chief who had led a band of kinsmen and dependants Organization. to the new land, taken a “claim” there, and parcelled it out among them, naturally became their leader, presiding as priest at the temple feasts and sacrifices of heathen times, acting as speaker of their moot, and as their representative towards the neighbouring chiefs. He was not a feudal lord nor a local sheriff, for any franklin could change his goðorð when he would, and the rights of “judgment by peers” were in full use; moreover, the office could be bequeathed, sold, divided or pledged by the possessor; still the goði had considerable power as long as the commonwealth lasted.

Disputes between neighbouring chiefs and their clients, and uncertainty as to the law, brought about the Constitution of Ulfliot (c. 930), which appointed a central moot for the whole island, the Althing, and a speaker to speak a single “law” (principally that followed by the Gula-moot in Norway); the Reforms of Thord Gellir (964), settling a fixed number of moots and chieftaincies, dividing the island into four quarters (thus characterized by Ari: north, thickest settled, most famous; east, first completely settled; south, best land and greatest chiefs; west, remarkable for noble families), to each of which a head-court, the “quarter-court,” was assigned; and the Innovations of Skapti (ascribed in the saga to Nial) the Law-Speaker (d. 1030), who set up a “fifth court” as the ultimate tribunal in criminal matters, and strengthened the community against the chiefs. But here constitutional growth ceased: the law-making body made few and unimportant modifications of custom; the courts were still too weak for the chiefs who misused and defied them; the speaker’s power was not sufficiently supported to enable him to be any more than a highly respected lord chief justice, whereas he ought to have become a justiza if anarchy was to be avoided; even the ecclesiastical innovations, while they secured peace for a time, provoked in the end the struggles which put an end to the commonwealth.

Christianity was introduced c. 1000. Tithes were established in 1096, and an ecclesiastical code made c. 1125. The first disputes about the jurisdiction of the clergy were moved by Gudmund in the 13th century, bringing on a civil war, while the questions of patronage and rights over glebe and mortmainland occupied Bishop Arni and his adversaries fifty years afterwards, when the land was under Norwegian viceroys and Norwegian law. For the civil wars broke down the great houses who had monopolized the chieftaincies; and after violent struggles (in which the Sturlungs of the first generation perished at Orlygstad, 1238, and Reykiaholt, 1241, while of the second generation Thord Kakali was called away by the king in 1250, and Thorgils Skardi slain in 1258) the submission of the island to Norway quarter after quarter, took place in 1262-1264, under Gizur’s auspices, and the old Common Law was replaced by the New Norse Code “Ironside” in 1271.

The political life and law of the old days is abundantly illustrated in the sagas (especially Eyrbyggia, Hamsa-Thori, Reykdæla, Hrafnkell, and Niala), the two collections of law-scrolls (Codex Regius, c. 1235, and Stadarhol’s Book, c. 1271), the Libellus, the Liberfragments, and the Landnamabók of Ari, and the Diplomatarium. K. Maurer has made the subject his own in his Beiträge, Island, Grágás, &c.

The medieval Icelandic church had two bishoprics, Skalholt (S., W., and E.) 1056, and Holar (N.) 1106, and about 175 parishes (two-thirds of which belonged to the southern bishopric). They belonged to the metropolitan see of Bremen, then to Lund, lastly to Nidaros, 1237. There were several religious foundations: Thingore (founded 1133), Thwera (1155), Hitardale (c. 1166), Kirkby Nunnery (1184), Stad Nunnery (1296), and Saurby (c. 1200) were Benedictine, while Ver (1168), Flatey after Holyfell (1172), Videy (1226), Madderfield Priory (1296), and Skrid Priory (14th century) were Augustinian. The bishops, elected by the people at the Althing till 1237, enjoyed considerable power; two, Thorlak of Skalholt and John of Holar, were publicly voted saints at the Althing, and one, Gudmund, received the title of “Good” by decree of the bishop and chapter. Full details as to ecclesiastical history will be found in the Biskupasögur (edited by Dr Vigfusson).

Iceland was not agricultural but pastoral, depending upon flocks Mode of and herds for subsistence, for, though rye and other grain