The Jomsvikings were a legendary company of Norse mercenaries of the 900s and 1000s, dedicated to the worship of such deities as Odin and Thor. They were staunchly pagan, but they reputedly would fight for any lord able to pay their substantial fees, and occasionally fought alongside Christian rulers. According to the Norse sagas (particularly the Jómsvíkinga saga, King Olaf Tryggvasson’s Saga, and stories found in the Flatey Book), their stronghold Jomsborg was located on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, or on the eastern side of the island of Wollin, on the hill Silberberg north of the town Wollin.
The Jomsviking CodeEdit
The Saga of the Jomsvikings relates that the Jomsvikings were highly selective in deciding whom to admit to their order. Membership was restricted to men of proven valor between 18 and 50 (with the exception of a boy named Vagn Åkesson, who defeated Sigvaldi Strut-Haraldsson in single combat at the age of 12). In order to gain admission, prospective members were required to prove themselves with a feat of strength, often taking the form of a ritual duel, or holmgang, with a Jomsviking.
Once admitted, the Jomsvikings required adherence to a strict code of conduct in order to instill a sense of discipline among its members. Any violation of these rules could be punished with immediate expulsion from the order. Each Jomsviking was bound to defend his brothers, as well as to avenge their deaths if necessary. He was forbidden to speak ill of his fellows or to quarrel with them. Blood feuds between members were to be mediated by Jomsviking officers. Jomsvikings were forbidden to show fear or to flee in the face of an enemy of equal or inferior strength, though orderly retreat in the face of vastly outnumbering forces appears to have been acceptable. All spoils of battle were to be equally distributed among the entire brotherhood. No Jomsviking was permitted to be absent from Jomsborg for more than three days without the permission of the brotherhood. No women or children were allowed within the fortress walls, and none were to be taken captive. It is unclear, however, whether members were forbidden marriage or liaisons with women outside the walls.
A settlement named Julinum was founded by Palnatoke, who took it from the Wendish ruler Burislav, and whose claim on it was confirmed by Harald Bluetooth. The settlement was thence passed to Styrbjörn the Strong, who brought in many many from eastern lands, likely lands of the Rus'. Jomsborg, in various sources, is supposed to have held 200 ships in its harbor, with Jomsviking chieftains including Palnatoke, Styrbjörn the Strong, Sveinn Forkbeard, Sigvaldi Strut-Haraldsson, Thorkell the Tall, and Hemeng.
In 984, the exiled Swedish prince Styrbjörn brought the Jomsvikings to a devastating defeat against Styrbjörn's uncle Eric the Victorious at the Battle of the Fyrisvellir, Uppsala, while trying to take the crown of Sweden by force of arms. The fact that the Jomsvikings lost was attributed to a pact that the Swedish king Eric made with Odin.
In 986, the Jomsvikings attacked Haakon Jarl in Norway and were defeated in the Battle of Hjörungavágr. The Jómsvíkinga saga ends with a brief explanation of the battle's aftermath, and points to this battle as the beginning of the end for the Jomsvikings.
At the Battle of Svolder, the Jomsvikings fought with Norway but changed allegiance toDenmark to side with Forkbeard's advantage of his 400 ships to Tryggvason's 100. This action may have been intended to counter the Christianization of Scandinavia, promoted by Norway's Kinas a result of the battle, was at least nominally a Christian. He and his father Harald Bluetooth are reported to have been baptized in 965.
The Jomsvikings are also reported to have raided eastern England in 1009, and made forays into various Scandinavian territories during the early 1000s. Around 1013 the Jomsvikings were campaigning in England on behalf of Sveinn Forkbeard, yet switched sides again, maybe in a ruse to get their own Danegeld from the English, while the main Viking invasion force drove Ethelred the Unready to Normandy. Their decline continued over the next few decades. In 1043, according to the Heimskringla, Magnus I of Norway decided to put an end to the Jomsviking threat. He sacked Jomsborg, destroyed the fortress and put the surviving brethren to death.