The Varangians

In 980 emperor Basil II received an unusual gift from Czar Vladimir (Valdemar) of Russia. He got an army of 6,000 Scandinavian-Russian Vikings.

He incorporated them into his own army as a single unit. It became known as the "The Axe-toting Guard" - after the huge double-edged axes they used in battle. Posterity knows this unit as the "Varangians" - the sworn. They were the best paid troops in the empire. They were so well paid that you had to bribe the right people in order to get in. The Varangians were also allowed to keep the booty they managed to scrape up from the battlefields and towns they conquered. They also had a right to "polutasvarv" (palace plundering) whenever the emperor died. They then went through the palaces in the capital and grabbed all the treasures and valuables they could carry. The Northerners served the emperor for over 300 years.

- 14. august 2004 -