Swedish runestone U 104

Date: Ca. 1080–1120
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Sweden
Medium: Stone
Dimensions: max. 135 × max. 115 × ca. 20 cm
Description: There are about three thousand Viking Age runestones in Scandinavia, of which the vast majority were erected in Sweden during the period of Christianization in the eleventh century. A sandstone example carved between 1080 and 1120 was one of two given to Oxford by the Swedish king in 1687. He wanted to ensure that the university town would not lack "inscriptions of any people or language." Now in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, the stone was originally erected outside a church in Ed, in the Uppland region of Sweden (U 104).

The carver of this stone, Œpir, was a professional whose name is preserved on about fifty extant runestones; his hand has been identified on another fifty. The runic inscription fills much of the body of teh stylized serpent incised on the stone. This style of animal interlace, called "late Urnes," is associated with the fourth Urnes stave church. Œpir carved the stone on behalf of a man named Thorsteinn in memory of three family members, two of whom who had traveled to the Byzantine Empire ("Grikkia," Greece) and died there. The Old Norse inscription says:
Þorstæinn let gæra mærki æftiʀ Svæin, faður sinn, ok æftiʀ Þori, broður sinn, þæiʀ vaʀu ut til G[r]ikkia, ok æftiʀ Ingiþoru, moður sina. Øpiʀ risti.

Þorsteinn had the landmark made in memory of Sveinn, his father, and in memory of Þórir, his brother. They were abroad in Greece. And in memory of Ingiþóra, his mother. Œpir carved.
About thirty surviving runestones bear similar commemorations of Norwegians who died in Byzantium. Some Norsemen served as Byzantine mercenaries and imperial bodyguards (called Varangians), but others went for purposes of commerce or pilgrimage (there are runic inscriptions in Hagia Sophia, the cathedral of Constantinople). Another thirty Swedish runestones commemorate men who went to England, and twenty-six honor those who died in a single expedition to Georgia and the Caspian Sea (1036–41).
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 7
Image Credits: Linda Safran

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