The Viking River Road to Constantinople


Map Code: Ax00939

Vikings from Sweden first established a settlement at Aldeigjuborg on Lake Ladoga in the late 8th century. The legendary ruler Rurik reputedly founded Novgorod in around 860. The location was a natural trading nexus bestriding the headwaters of the Dvina, Dneister and Volga Rivers flowing respectively to the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. Rurik continued south, capturing the hill town of Kiev, which his successor Oleg made his base, and through a series of campaigns created a riverine empire, the Kievan Rus, defended by a network of forts stretching to the Baltic. At its peak, under Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and Yaroslav the Wise (1019–54), Kievan Rus and its dependencies was the largest power in Europe, with a capital, at one point, at Prislav, in present day Romania. Vikings are reported visiting Constantinople in the 830s, and were powerful enough to lay siege to the city, first in around 860, again in 907. In general, however, the trading relationship was mutually beneficial: the Rus controlled commerce in furs, honey and slaves exchanged for a plethora of luxury goods the Byzantines produced or accessed.

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