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Gotlander: Wikis


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Sweden in the 12th century before the incorporation of Finland during the 13th century.      Geats      Swedes      Gotlanders

The Gotlanders are the population of the island of Gotland. In Swedish, they are also called Gutar an ethnonym identical to Goths (Gutans), and both names were originally Proto-Germanic *Gutaniz. Their language is called Gutnish (Gutniska).

The oldest history of the Gutar is retold in the Gutasaga. According to legend they descended from a man named Þjelvar who was the first to discover Gotland. Þjelvar had a son named Hafþi who wedded a fair maiden named Hvitastjerna. These two were the first to settle on Gotland. Hafþi and Hvitastjerna later had three children, Guti, Graipr and Gunfjaun. After the death of their parents, the brothers divided Gotland into three parts and each took one, but Guti remained the highest chieftain and gave his name to the land and its people.

In Modern Swedish language, there are two words for a Gotlander: gotlänning and gute. All inhabitants of Gotland, regardless of their birth status, are gotlänning (pl. gotlänningar), but one is called gute (pl. gutar) if he or she and three generations back on both sides (e.g. father, his parents and their parents) are born on the island.


The Gothic link

     The island of Gotland      Wielbark Culture in the early 3rd century      Chernyakhov Culture, in the early 4th century      Roman Empire

It is also related that because of overpopulation one third of the Gutar had to emigrate and settle in southern Europe. Some historians have argued that this tale might be a reminiscensce of the migration of the Goths.

over a long time, the people descended from these three multiplied so much that the land couldn't support them all. Then they draw lots, and every third person was picked to leave, and they could keep everything they owned and take it with them, except for their land. ... they went up the river Dvina, up through Russia. They went so far that they came to the land of the Greeks. ... they settled there, and live there still, and still have something of our language.

The name of the Gotlanders in Old West Norse is Gotar, which is same as that used for the Goths. Likewise the Old East Norse term for both Goths and Gotlanders seems to have been Gutar. Only the Goths and Gotlanders bear this name among all the Germanic tribes. The fact that the ethnonym is identical to Goth may be the reason why they are not mentioned as a special group until Jordanes' Getica, where they may be those who are called Vagoths (see Scandza). However Ptolemy mentions the Goutai as living in the south of the island of Skandia, who could be identical to the Gutar, since the "ou"-sound in Ancient Greek corresponds to the Latin and Germanic "u".

Certain linguists point out that there are similarities between Gothic and Gutnish that are not found elsewhere in the Germanic languages. One example of this is the use of the word lamb for both young and adult sheep, which is only seen in Gutnish and Gothic.

Trade and defence agreement with the Swedes

Before the 7th century, the Gutar made a trade and defence agreement with Swedish kings, according to the Gutasaga. This seems to have been due to Swedish military aggression. Although the Gutar were victorious in these battles, they eventually found it more beneficial (as a nation of traders) to try and negotiate a peace-treaty with the Swedes.

Many kings made war on Gotland while it was heathen, but the Gutar always maintained victory and their rights. Then the Gutar were sending many messengers to Sweden, but none of them succeeded in negotiating a peace, till Awair Strabain from Alva parish. He was the first to make peace with the king of the Swedes.[...] As he was a smooth-tongued man, wise indeed and artful, as the stories of him go, he established a fixed treaty with the Swedish king: 60 marks of silver a year - that is the tax for the Gutar - with 40 for the king, out of that sixty, and the jarls to get 20. This amount had already been decided by agreement of the whole land before he left.
So the Gutar made a trade and defence agreement with the king of the Swedes of their own free will, that they might go anywhere in all areas dominated by the Swedes freely and unfettered by tolls or any duties. So too the Swedes could come to Gotland with no ban on the import of corn, or any other restrictions. The king was to give aid and help whenever they needed it and asked. The king would send messengers to the Gotland national assembly, and the jarls likewise, to collect their tax. These messengers must proclaim freedom to the Gutar to travel in peace over the sea, to all places where the Swedish king held sway. And the same went for anyone travelling there to Gotland.

It gives Awair Strabain as the man who arranged the mutually beneficial agreement with the king of Sweden, and the event would have taken place before the end of the 9th century, when Wulfstan of Hedeby reported that the island was subject to the Swedes.

Merchant yeomen

Because of Gotland's central position in the Baltic Sea, the Gutar, from early on, became a nation of traders and merchants. The amount of silver treasures that have been found in Gotlandic soil during the Viking Age, surpasses that of all the other Swedish provinces counted together, which tells of a traders' nation of undisputable rank among the Norse nations. The Gutar were the leading tradesmen in the Baltic sea, until the rise of the Hanseatic League.

The Gutar were both yeomen farmers and travelling merchants at the same time, so called called farmenn. This was an exceptionally dangerous occupation during the Middle Ages, since the Baltic Sea was full of pirates. The Gutnish farmenn always had to be ready for battle. The division and organisation of the early Gutnish society shows a nation constantly ready for war. The "Ram" seems to have been an early symbol for the Gutar, and is still seen on the Gotlandic coat of arms.

See also




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