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Jomsborg: The Lost Viking City of the Oder River


Jomsborg was a semi-legendary Viking stronghold that existed from approximately the late 960s until 1043 CE, known by its residents as Jomsvikings; these warriors adhered to an oath-bound code of conduct and loyalty. Although its exact location or even existence remains debated among scholars and archaeologists today, some scholars and archaeologists suggest it could have existed on the southern coast of Baltic Sea near modern day Wolin in Poland – some scholars and archaeologists believe Jomsborg existed there! We will explore history, legends, evidence for Jomsborg in this article!

The History of Jomsborg


According to several Icelandic sagas such as Knytlingasaga and Fagrskinna, Jomsborg was established by Danish King Harald Bluetooth during his expansion of Baltic regions during the 960s CE. Harald Bluetooth invited warriors from across Scandinavia to join his army and settle in Jomsborg as his bases for expansion – in turn they formed the Jomsvikings (an elite fighting group who pledged allegiance to him and his successors), including an elite fighting group who formed by vowing their allegiance to him and his successors and swore allegiance to them and his successors swore allegiance to him and his successors and to him and his successors and had a strict code of conduct that included not fleeing battle, killing women or children, not having sexual relations and not owning any personal property either; additionally they had democratic elections that enabled members to electing their leader known as the Jarl.

The Jomsvikings participated in numerous raids and battles throughout the Baltic Sea region and beyond, often clashing with Norway and Sweden’s rulers as well as Danish kings in their war against Holy Roman Emperor and Slavic tribes. Some notable Jomsvikings include Palnatoke, Sigvaldi, Thorkell the Tall, Hemming Bue the Stout and Vagn Akason who became legendary for their bravery, skill, loyalty but also arrogance pride and treachery – making them legends in their own right!

According to Heimskringla saga, Jomsborg was destroyed in 1043 CE by Norwegian King Magnus the Good in order to avenge his father Olaf Haraldsson who had been murdered by Jomsvikings at Battle of Helgea 1026 CE. Magnus used a large fleet to sail to Jomsborg by surprise attack and set fire to wooden walls and towers before slaughtering most Jomsvikings; only some managed to flee and Jomsborg was never rebuilt after.

The Legends of Jomsborg

Jomsborg and its inhabitants feature prominently in many Icelandic sagas written during the 12th and 13th centuries CE – centuries after they actually occurred – several hundred years after being set down on paper. While not considered reliable historical sources due to exaggerations, inconsistencies, and contradictions that often obfuscate reality from fiction; nonetheless, they offer fascinating insight into Viking culture, worldview, and imagination.

One of the best-known sagas that mention Jomsborg and its inhabitants, known as Jomsvikinga Saga, tells the tale of its founding, rise, and fall as well as recounting notable Jomsvikings such as Palnatoke, Sigvaldi, Thorkell, Hemming, Bue and Vagn’s exploits and adventures such as their kidnapping of Swedish Princess Astrid by Sigvaldi, their duel against King Olaf Tryggvason, their escape from burning Jomsborg dueling Thorkell with King Olaf Tryggvason Thorkell’s duel with King Olaf Tryggvason Thorkell’s duel against King Olaf Tryggvason Thorkell then later throwing Bue’s iron club at Magnus the Good followed by Vagn defiance against their Jarl of Jomsborg jarl.

Knytlinga Saga provides another depiction of Jomsborg and the Jomsvikings: it documents Danish royal history between 10th-13th centuries CE and features several Jomsviking episodes such as their support for King Svein Forkbeard against Olaf Tryggvason, raid on England in 1009 CE, defeat by Magnus the Good 1043 CE as well as some laws and customs they practiced, such as an Oath of Loyalty Oath of Loyalties code of Conducts election of their Jarls.

Other sagas which mention Jomsborg and its inhabitants include Fagrskinna, Heimskringla, Orkneyinga saga, Flateyjarbok and Gesta Danorum. Each of these accounts often contradict each other on details related to its location, size and appearance as well as number and origins of Jomsvikings as well as names of leaders as well as battle dates and outcomes; sometimes prophecies, omens, magic or gods play into their accounts further adding mysticism about both.

The Evidence of Jomsborg

Although Jomsborg and its inhabitants feature in numerous sagas, little evidence has ever been discovered supporting their existence – either archaeologically or historically. Jomsborg (53deg51’50”N 14deg43’05”E) can only be identified from one source – Gesta Wulinensis ecclesiae pontificum) discovered in 2019 CE which claims to be an authentic copy of an 11th-century original chronicle. This chronicle describes Jomsborg as a large and fortified city on Wolin Island near the mouth of the Oder River, providing an account of its history, culture, and destruction. Unfortunately, however, its authenticity and reliability has been called into question by scholars who suspect it of being either falsified or faked in some manner.

Jomsborg is most frequently located at Wolin, an industrial town on the southeastern tip of Wolin island in northwestern Poland. In the Early Middle Ages, this town served as home to a multi-ethnic marketplace known as Julin, which served as a key trading hub and religious and political meeting point in the Baltic region. Archaeological excavations have unearthed evidence of a large settlement dating from the 8th to 12th centuries CE that included a harbor, marketplace, mint, temple and cemetery – as well as being enclosed by wooden walls with moats surrounding them and various gates and towers – situated by a wooden wall with moat. Coins, jewelry weapons tools pottery bones as well as human remains have all been unearthed at this site and indicate its prosperous population of Scandinavians Slavs Germans Frisians among others.

Some historians and archaeologists have speculated that this settlement was Jomsborg or at least part of it, with Jomsvikings having their base there. Evidence includes similarity in names between Jumne and Jomsborg as well as strategic location on the Oder River with fortified harbor; evidence of Scandinavian influence; as well as several sagas that describe Jomsborg as being large with temple, mint, market and close proximity to Oder River and island of Usedom.

However, this theory faces various difficulties and obstacles. First of all, no direct and clear evidence connects Wolin to Jomsborg or the Jomsvikings. No artifacts found at the site bear any markings that identify them as belonging to Jomsvikings, and none of the sagas mentions Wolin as Jomsborg. Furthermore, neither chronology nor geography match up well with what has been written in sagas about Wolin as Jomsborg. Wolin reached its zenith during the 9th and 10th centuries CE; according to sagas, Jomsborg and its inhabitants (Jomsvikings) came into being between 10th and 11th centuries CE. Wolin was situated near the western outlet of the Oder River while Jomsborg is said to be situated along its eastern outlet. Thirdly, the size and appearance of the settlement do not jibe with what was depicted in the sagas. Wolin covered an area of 40 hectares, while Jomsborg is described in the sagas as being much larger and more impressive – boasting walls 15 meters high by 5 meters thick with towers 30 meters tall. Wolin had a simple wooden fence while Jomsborg boasts stone walls adorned with iron gates and ornaments.

Other theories suggest alternative locations for Jomsborg, including its existence near Usedom Island lands now submerged by seawater; Veritas grounds situated between Ruden and Greifswalder Oie islands, or Peenemunde Shoals; these hypotheses have yet to be proven credible by archaeological findings.

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