Ingvar the Far-Travelled

Ingvar the Far-Travelled (Old Norse: Yngvarr víðförli, Swedish: Ingvar Vittfarne) led a large Viking attack against Iran in 1036–1042.

The runes IKUARI, or Ingvar, on runestone Sö 281.

The Rus' undertook several Caspian expeditions in the course of the 10th century. The Yngvars saga víðförla describes the last Viking campaign in the Caspian in 1041, adding much legend to the historical facts. Ingvar the Far-Travelled launched this expedition from Sweden, travelling down the Volga River into the land of the Saracens (Serkland). While there, the Vikings apparently took part in the Georgian-Byzantine Battle of Sasireti in Georgia (1042).

No less than twenty-six Ingvar runestones - twenty-four of them in the Lake Mälaren region of Uppland in Sweden - refer to Swedish warriors who went out with Ingvar on his expedition to the Saracen lands, an expedition which probably aimed to reopen old trade-routes after the Volga Bulgars and the Khazars no longer proved obstacles. A stone to Ingvar's brother indicates that he went east for gold but died in Saracen land.[1]


Aside from the Ingvar runestones, there are no extant Swedish sources that mention Ingvar, but there is Yngvars saga víðförla and three Icelandic annals that mention his death under the year 1041: Annales regii, the Lögmanns annáll and the Flateyarbók annals.[2] These three annals are probably based on Sturla Þórðarson's compilation.[2]



There are three theories on Ingvar's origin. According to one theory, prominently held by Otto von Friesen and Elena Mel'nikova, Ingvar's saga has transmitted his origin correctly, and so he was the son of the Varangian Eymundr, who in turn was the son of a Swedish chieftain named Áki and the daughter of the Swedish king Eric the Victorious.[3]

A second theory suggests that Ingvar was the son of a Swedish prince named Eymundr and who would have been the son of Eric the Victorious and the brother of Olof Skötkonung.[3] The existence of this prince Eymundr has been suggested by Lauritz Weibull (1911) and J. Svennung (1966).[3] The theory is based on a reevaluation of the age of the Ingvar runestones, proposed by Elias Wessén and Sune Lindquist and which suggests that the Ingvar Runestones were carved earlier in the 11th century.[3]

According to a third theory, proposed by F. Braun, and which is based on the runestones U 513, U 540, Sö 179 and Sö 279, Ingvar was the son of the Swedish king Emund the Old, and the grandson of Olof Skötkonung.[3] Emund the Old would have had two wives, Tola and Ragnhildr.[4] Tola would have been the mother of Haraldr of Sö 179, and Ragnhild would have been the mother of Önundr, Eiríkr, Ragnarr and Hákon of the runestones U 513 and U 540.[4] Önundr would be Anund Gårdske, who was raised in Russia, Eirík would be one of the two pretenders named Eric, Hákon would be Håkan the Red and Ingvar, Ingvar the Far-Travelled.[4]

Ingvar's origin was, however, debated as early as the saga writers, or to put it in the words of Oddr Snorrason:

We do know that there are some saga tellers who say that Yngvarr was the son of [King] Önundr Óláfsson [d. 1060], because they think that it would be more honorable for him to be a king's son. And [they say that] Önundr would gladly give up all his realm if he had been allowed to bargain for Yngvarr's life, because all the chiefs in Sweden would gladly have had him [Yngvarr] as king over them.[5]


It is possible that it was King Anund Jakob or his brother and successor Emund the Old who mustered the Swedish leidang.

The participants were evenly distributed along the husbys, and 24 of the 26 Ingvar runestones were from Sweden (in the contemporary sense, i.e. Svealand) and 2 from the Geatish district of Östergötland. The folkland of Attundaland did not take part and this was probably done on purpose in order to keep a defensive army in Sweden, while the main force was away.

Anund Jacob was the brother of Ingegerd Olofsdotter who was married to Yaroslav I of Novgorod and who conquered Kiev in 1019 from his brother Sviatopolk. This was done with the help of Varangians, and according to Ingvar's saga, they were led by Ingvar's father Eymund.

In 1030, he had visited Ani, the capital of the Armenian Kingdom.[6]

Later Yaroslav had trouble with the Pechenegs, a nomad tribe. The expedition stayed for a few years in Kiev fighting against the Pechenegs, then (in 1042) they continued to the Black Sea and the Christian country, called Särkland ("Land of the Saracens", here meant Georgia) where they took part in Battle of Sasireti along with Georgian Royal army against Georgian Rebels and Byzantine auxiliaries.


According to the legendary saga about Ingvar, only one ship returned. The 26 remaining rune stones testify to this as no one mentions a surviving combatant. The most common phrases are similar to the one on the Gripsholm Runestone:

They died in the East, in Serkland.

Adam of Bremen considered the disaster to be a punishment for the king's rejection of bishop Alvard of Bremen and his electing his own bishop, Osmundus.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Logan, Donald F. (1992). The Vikings in History 2nd ed., p. 202. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08396-6
  2. ^ a b Pritsak 1981:424
  3. ^ a b c d e Pritsak 1981:425
  4. ^ a b c Pritsak 1981:430ff
  5. ^ Pritsak 1981:426ff
  6. ^ Bakhchinyan, Artsvi (2000). "Armenian-Scandinavian relations from the Early Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century". Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies: JSAS. 11: 65–81.


  • Fischer, Svante (1999). Ingvarsstenarna i tid och rum.
  • Larsson, Mats G. (1990). Ett ödesdigert vikingatåg. Ingvar den vittfarnes resa 1036–1041.
  • Pritsak, Omeljan. (1981). The Origin of Rus'. Cambridge, Mass.: Distributed by Harvard University Press for the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. ISBN 0-674-64465-4
  • Thunberg, Carl L. (2010). Ingvarståget och dess monument. En studie av en runstensgrupp med förslag till ny gruppering.
  • Tunstall, Peter (2005). The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller.

External linksEdit