Vivat Germania latina, Vivat Latinitas teutonica!

Karen Skovgaard-Petersen

The first post-medieval history of Norway in Latin:

The Historia Rerum Norvegicarum (Copenhagen 1711) by Tormod Torfæus *


In 1711 a huge history of Norway written in Latin was published in four folio volumes. This was the first comprehensive presentation of Norwegian history since the Old Norse masterpiece, Snorre Sturlasson's Heimskringla, dating from the thirteenth century. The author was Tormod Torfæus, an Icelander who, in 1660, had entered the service of the king of Denmark-Norway (which was, by this time, a realm of considerable size also embracing Iceland). [1] Probably he already started working on the Norwegian history in the mid-1660s – but for various reasons he did not really concentrate on the task until decades later.

The work covers Norwegian history from the beginnings up to 1387. [2] The focus – and the strength of the work – lies in the older medieval history. Torfæus had at his disposal a number of medieval Old Norse saga manuscripts, and he was a pioneer in using these as his source material. He reworked this Old Norse literature into a coherent Latin history. But he also built on a large amount of historical narratives in Latin, medieval and more recent. The work is based on a mixed foundation of medieval Old Norse saga tradition and contemporary continental Latin culture.

Through his adaption this Norse literary tradition became known to a large public – Danish-Norwegian as well as European. What was written during the next century about older Norwegian history was almost invariably based on Torfæus's work. [3] Ludvig Holberg, the Danish-Norwegian enlightenment author, praised the work as "one of the most impressive and wonderful histories ever to have seen the light." [4]

Themes of This Paper

But if his fame among historians, particularly Norwegian historians, has rested on his pioneering efforts regarding the Old Norse tradition (his place in Danish historiography is first and foremost due to a theory he put forward regarding the oldest Danish kings), little attention has been paid to his history in its own right, as an independent literary product. How does his engagement with the Danish-Norwegian king show in his interpretations of past events? Which basic values are advocated? He wrote as employee of the Danish-Norwegian king about Norwegian history only. How did he cope with matters where Norwegian and Danish interests clashed, not to speak of direct Danish-Norwegian conflicts in the past? These are questions I shall touch upon later in this paper; much more might of course be said and many other questions raised.

But first a brief overview of the political background and of Torfæus's personal life. Then follows a presentation – likewise quite summary – of some stylistic characteristics of the work and their effects, and finally I shall take up the ideological issues just mentioned.

Political Background I

Torfæus's Norwegian history did not, as I said, cover the most recent history. It ends in the year 1387. This was an important date in Norwegian history, since Norway then became united with Denmark [5] – a union which still lasted in Torfæus's day. After the Lutheran reformation the Norwegian Council of the Realm (rigsråd) had been dissolved and Norway was reduced to a vassal state. In the following century the production of a history of Denmark in Latin was almost constantly on the agenda of the government, and after some abortive attempts two Latin histories of Denmark were published in the course of the 1630s, both commissoned by Christian IV. Here Norwegian history only plays a very minor role. One of them was a grand-scale, comprehensive work, to which I shall return, written by Johannes Pontanus and entitled Rerum Danicarum historia (Amsterdam 1631).

But in the last decades of the 17th century there was political will to finance and support a new comprehensive account of Norway's past. The result was Torfæus's grand work, and Torfæus himself declares in the Preface that the primary task imposed on him had been to present to the learned world a "full and finished" history of Norway. [6] This change of attitude in the government should probably be seen in connection with the intervening change of political system. After the introduction of absolute monarchy in Denmark in 1660-61, the Danish Council of the Realm had been dissolved, and the two realms were now to a higher degree regarded as equals, or "twin monarchies". [7] This is part of the political background for the new government's interest in supporting the production of a separate Norwegian history. There was political prestige attached to a national, Latin history: Norway was to be presented to the world as a nation with a long and glorious history, which reflected favourably on the status of the king.

Moreover, since the beginning of the seventeenth century there had been an increasing awareness in Danish leading circles – the links between the intellectual and political worlds were close – that the Old Norse literature to be found in Iceland represented a rich historical treasure with a bearing not only on Icelandic and Norwegian history but on Scandinavian history as a whole. In the 1650s this Old Norse heritage had also become object of the king, Frederik III's, interest. In this period Frederik III (1648-70) was building up a princely universal library – today the Royal Library of Copenhagen – and he also saw to it that Old Norse manuscripts were sent from Iceland. There was cultural prestige to be had from them. This increased attention to the Old Norse heritage also forms part of the background for the governmental interest in promoting a history of Norway.

Besides, there was, and had been for more than a century, an on-going rivalry with Sweden, which also manifested itself in the writing and study of national history. And in these years, the early 1660s, Swedish research in Old Norse sagas resulted in the publication of the first saga in the Old Norse language – since the Swedes had a native Icelander engaged. The study of the remote Swedish past was further stimulated with the foundation of the Swedish Antikvitetskollegium. This atmosphere of rivalry to some degree promoted Old Norse research in Sweden as well as in Denmark. [8]

Torfæus's Life

During the first half of the 17th century, a handful of Danish men of learning, notably the antiquarian Ole Worm, had to some degree, through contacts with Icelanders, learned to read the Old Norse language – but native Icelandic expertise was still very much needed. Frederik III saw to it that an Icelander was attached to his court – as in Sweden – to translate the Old Norse material which had come to Copenhagen in the preceding decades, some of it, as mentioned, at the order of the king himself. When this Icelander died, shortly after Torfæus arrived in Copenhagen in 1659, Torfæus managed, through the influence of highborn friends, to obtain his place as translator of the Old Norse sagas in 1660.

Torfæus lived a colourful life of which I can only give a raw sketch here. Born in Iceland in 1636, he went to Copenhagen to study in the early 1650s. Here he spent most of his time – with a few visits to Iceland – until 1664. He managed, as we just saw, to attract the attention of the king, Frederik III, working from 1660 at the royal castle in Copenhagen with translating Old Norse sagas. He also composed a small treatise called Series Regum Daniæ, in which he argues, on the basis of the Old Norse material, that the first Danish king was not Dan, as the tradition from Saxo Grammaticus had it, but rather a king called Skjold who also figures in Saxo's work but is a little younger. Moreover he reduced the number of early Danish kings considerably. The treatise attracted attention in Copenhagen, both positive and negative, but remained unprinted until many years later. It is particularly for this theory Torfæus has gained his fame among Danish historians.

However, for unknown reasons he was in 1664 sent to Norway as royal official in the diocese of Stavanger on the south-western coast. The greater part of the rest of his long life was to be spent here. He obviously intended to carry on his literary studies, though, since he brought with him, as a generous loan from the king's library, a number of the precious Old Norse manuscripts. [9] Three years later he managed to obtain a new appointment, as royal antiquarius. His task, according to the letter of engagement, was threefold: to go on translating the Old Norse sagas into Latin or Danish (the letter of engagement allows both languages), to produce a treatise dealing with "the kind of state and government which was in use in former times in our Nordic countries" – and to rework the old Norse sources into a corpus historicum, as it is called. [10]

This wording seems to suggest that he should compose a history of Norway proper. In fact, there is strong evidence that Torfæus was charged with the task of writing a comprehensive history of Norway already at that point. He himself states as much in the Preface of his Norwegian history, which did not appear in print until 1711. [11] A few years earlier another man Vitus Bering had been commissioned to compose a new history of Denmark in Latin. By this time, as we saw, a constitutional revolution had just taken place in Denmark-Norway, with the introduction, in 1660-61, of absolute monarchy. It seems to have been part of the new government's strategy to see to the production of up-to-date versions of both Norwegian and Danish history. Each of the two "twin" realms was to have its history told and published in Latin.

But Torfæus's engagement was shortlived. After King Frederik III's death in 1670 it was not renewed. In the early 1670s Torfæus even confronted accusations of murder, and only his own petition to the king and subsequent royal clemency prevented him from being executed. Ten years later, however, in 1682, his luck returned. He applied to the king, Christian V (1670-99), son of Frederik III, for the position as Norwegian royal historiographer – and obtained it. In his application he referred to the on-going rivalry with Sweden about research into the Old Norse material, suggesting that with its newly established Antikvitetskollegium Sweden now had gained the upper hand. It is a fair assumption that this was an effective argument. [12]

Living on his farm Stangeland on the island of Karmøy near Stavanger, he now worked hard on his Norwegian history, a project which, as I said, probably had been conceived already in the 1660s. Parts of his presentation of Norwegian history– parts which treated the smaller Atlantic regions – were published separately before the main work itself: The Faroe Islands (1695), the Orkneys (1697), North America (1705), and Greenland (1706). In 1711 finally came the grandiose Historia rerum Norvegicarum. He died in 1719.

Bering and Torfæus: Stylistic Diversity

I mentioned Vitus Bering, who was engaged to compose a Latin history of Denmark in the 1660s at the same time as Torfæus, as at least it seems likely, was charged with the task of writing a Latin history of Norway. Bering wrote his work, entitled Florus Danicus, around 1670 – he died in 1675 – but for various reasons it only appeared in print much later, in 1698. [13] But if the two works, as I think, are pendants in the sense that they were both products of the new governmental historiographical strategy – to which I shall return – it must be emphasized that they are in many respects remarkably different. Not only in sheer size ­– where Bering's Florus Danicus is merely a compendium of Danish history, Torfæus's Norwegian history takes up four huge volumes – but also stylistically. Bering declared, in a letter to an unknown friend, [14] that not a single word had been taken over from the historians on whose works he built; everything had been re-written in his own prose, so that no one could accuse him of plagiarism. The result is a brief, stylistically coherent and often elegant presentation of Danish history, clearly inspired by the Roman historian Florus, after whom he named his work.

Torfæus, on the contrary, displayed no scruples in re-using the words of his Latin sources, giving sometimes long quotations, e.g. from Saxo Grammaticus and Johannes Pontanus, and close paraphrases. On the contrary he regarded quotations and paraphrases as positive features, which lent authority to his text and guaranteed the truth of what was said. His main challenge, however, was not the adaption of other Latin texts but the re-working of Old Norse material into Latin. In the Preface he assures his readers that he has adhered as closely as possible to the wording of his sources; he has not tried to present the material in elegant Latin but rather to give a precise rendering of the original wording (on this passage, cf. below).

Torfæus and Bering thus display completely different ideals of style in their national histories. Bering would not be accused of stylistic plagiarism – everything should be in his own words. Torfæus would not be accused of not following his old sources as minutely as possible, willingly running the risk, we must conclude, of being accused of stylistic plagiarism. He did not attempt at creating stylistic unity. The difference is noteworthy, and I shall return to it towards the end.

Stylistic Effects

Torfæus's work is based on a huge amount of source material, first and foremost the old Norse saga literature, but also many other historical works, some of them belonging to the author's own time. Torfæus managed to organize this varied material into a coherent narrative, albeit somewhat "patchwork-like" or "mosaic-like" as the Norwegian historian Arne Odd Johnsen once put it (cf. note 1). He paraphrases the diverse works with occasional discussion of inconsistences and so brings to the fore an account of the Norwegian past which is at times lively and anecdotic, at times more argumentative.

He quotes extensively from his sources and the reader is – almost invariably – informed about the sources he follows on a given matter. Occasional points of disagreement between the sources are noted. The various sources, and first and foremost the Old Norse sagas dealing with Norwegian history, are thus very much present in the text, on the surface so to speak.

This procedure lends authority to the account. We are presented with the thorough learned foundation on which Torfæus's work is built. Another message implicit in this rich presentation of old Norse sources surely is the high literary level of medieval Norway: The country has a rich, old, independent tradition for keeping track of their past in historical records, and what is more, these records were not simple annalistic notes but fullblown narratives. There is a message about civilisation independent of the Latin, continental tradition. This is the implication of Torfæus's introductory statement about his close adherence to his sources. He did not want to dress his account in artificial and exotic Latin elegance, but rather retain the simple, un-affected style which suits the Nordic people – which is theirs. [15]

But there is first and foremost a message about Norway being part of the civilized world. Torfæus claims, for instance to be able to follow the Norwegian kings right back to Priam of Troy via Odin – who was in Torfæus's view a king, an ordinary human being though with special gifts which made people believe in his divinity – and from Priam there was a line further back to Noah himself (I, 37). With Torfæus's construction (for which he had, at least in part, authority in the Old Norse material), the Norwegian connection with the ultimate biblical origin was made known to the world and Norway thus, also in this respect, put on a par with other, civilized European nations. The work itself also contributes to placing Norway in this "club" of European civilised nations. As a Latin national history full of learning exhibited on the surface – through discussions, quotations, references to many other historical works – the work fully demonstrated the advanced state of intellectual studies in those northern parts of Europe.

There is a line from Torfæus back to the older German humanists, who though boasting of their Germanic, non-Roman past still appropriated renaissance classical culture.

Norwegian-Danish Relations

Norway, then, is portrayed as an old, civilized, and powerful nation, which also has a colonial tradition. Emphasis is put on Norwegian expansion in Iceland and other North Atlantic regions. But how does Torfæus combine his Norwegian patriotism with his being engaged by the Danish-Norwegian king? Torfæus is clearly writing as Norwegian. Norwegians in his work are "we", Danes are "they". The Danish chronicles say so-and-so but ours have another version, he notes at some point – not in a polemical context but as a simple statement.

There are other issues on which he has to contradict the Danish versions. Clearly important to him was the true origin of the Normans. Here his main target was Johannes Pontanus's History of Denmark, like Torfæus's work a royally commissioned history, written at the order of the Danish King Christian IV and published in 1631. Pontanus had stressed, in a Danish patriotic spirit, that the Normans were ancestors of all Scandinavians, not only the Norwegians, as the name might lead one to believe. In particular he demonstrates that the famous Norman leader Rollo was in fact of Danish origin – he only later happened to go to Norway. Pontanus on this point opposed the Norwegian tradition. And Torfæus in turn took up the discussion with Pontanus – arriving, not surprisingly, at the result that Rollo was of Norwegian origin – ostendimusque non Danum sed Norvegum fuisse, he promises in the chapter heading.

In the battle of Svold in the year 1000 the Norwegian King Olav Tryggvason died in a naval battle against a Danish-Swedish superior strength. But he was the real hero of the conflict, as Torfæus makes it quite clear. From one of his Icelandic sources, codex Flateyensis or Flateyjarbók in Icelandic, he quotes the king's proud statement when seeing the Danish fleet: " I do not fear those cowards; they are no braver than deer. Never have Danes defeated Norwegians, nor will they do it today" ( Non timeo timidos illos; neque enim ii damis animosiores sunt: nunquam Dani Norvegos vicerunt, neque hodie vincent, II, 445). These words put in the king's mouth, full of contempt of the Danes as they are, are in no way softened or contradicted by the narrator. On the contrary, he adds that other codices have slightly different versions, which he then proceeds to quote – and they are no kinder. [16] However, if this obvious denigration of the Danes seems surprising in the light of Torfæus's being engaged to compose the work by the Danish king, the context must be taken into account. Olav Tryggvason continues to express his contempt of the other enemies, the Swedes, while his judgement of the Norwegian nobleman Erik Jarl who has joined the enemies forces, is more respectful. In other words, the Danes and the Swedes are simply enemies on this occasion – and as such depicted with contempt by the Norwegian protagonists. Interestingly, it seems that Torfæus had been advised not to include these harsh words spoken by King Olav. But, as he noted in a letter, he did not think that the Danes were seriously disgraced. [17]

This clear Norwegian stance, occasionally involving statements which must be said to oppose Danish points of view, has often been noted – approvingly – in Norwegian scholarship. But it should not be forgotten that Torfæus is just as emphatically positive in his references to the state of affairs in his own day, when the two countries were united under one – Danish – king. There was a happy ending regarding the Norwegian-Danish relationship. The death of King Håkon in 1380 placed his young son Olaf on the throne. Olaf had already, four years earlier, been elected Danish king, his mother being the daughter of King Valdemar of Denmark who had recently died. Thus the two countries were united under one king and had made an everlasting agreement to remain together. [18] This state of affairs had turned out to have lasted to Torfæus's own day and indeed to appear to be "eternal." The singular happiness which it had brought, Torfæus had already prepared his readers for in the Preface, where he explains that his account ends as happily as it possibly can, with the union between Denmark and Norway – nec sane felicius finiri ista potuisset, as he says. [19]

His loyalty towards Danish interests is also displayed in his occasional polemical attacks on Sweden, the long-time rival over the dominion of Scandinavia – a contest, to be sure, which had turned decisively in Swedish favour since the middle of the seventeenth century. Thus Torfæus at one point denies that the Swedes had any rightful claim on the province of Scania (of which they had taken possession in 1658). [20]

In short the celebration of the union between Denmark and Norway appears to be in no conflict with the occasional "anti-Danish" points of view regarding concrete episodes in the past and the propagating of Norwegian points of view. This balance mirrors Torfæus's position as royal Norwegian historian employed by the ruling king of Denmark and Norway.

The Monarchy

Torfæus, as we have seen, leaves his readers in no doubt that he is writing the history of an old, civilized independent nation, Norway. There is one more element, one important value, which we have not touched upon so far. This is the notion of monarchy, of one man's rule.

In the Preface Torfæus gives an overview of Norwegian history, thereby revealing the criteria by which he organizes the Norwegian past, which he divides into four periods. [21] Monarchy and Christianity here turn out to be the decisive events of progress in Norwegian history, events which consequently determined Torfæus's division into single books. After the first disorderly and barbaric period practically without any laws, one man's rule secured order and stability. It was established by Harald Fairhair (ninth century). Thus monarchy introduced a new era. But even though it meant an important step forward, still some of the primitive ways were retained. However, towards the end of this second period Christianity was introduced in Norway in the reign of Olav Tryggvason (around the year 1000). So the third era was happy and promising at first – but it ended on a tragic note: Some pretenders to the throne removed the true heirs by violent and illegal means, until internal discord destroyed them. The monarchy was saved and restituted at the beginning of the fourth period when King Sverre (1177-1202) secured power for himself and his heirs – who were in fact the true heirs to the old Norwegian throne. And what began as a return to good, stable, and peaceful conditions in the fourth period, actually ended on an even more wonderfully promising note with the eternal union with Denmark. This period marks the end of the present work, and Torfæus, as we saw, declares that it could not have ended more happily.

The programme laid out here is to be recognized in the historical account itself. The value of one man's rule is emphasized throughout and so is the truth of Christianity as well as its civilizing influence. With the arrival of monarchy, Torfæus declares in the introduction to Harald Fairhair (II, 1-2), Norway which had hitherto been in the hands of many internally quarreling princes (though never suppressed by foreign nations), now became a unity under one man's rule; [22] and monarchy brings glory to the realm, we learn after Harald's decisive victory. [23]

Political Background II: Hereditary Monarchy

The last period of the third era, the period preceding Sverre's salutary restitution of one man's rule, is one of chaos and unhappiness. Several men fought against each other in order to obtain the royal throne and the result was devastating – as Torfæus makes clear in an emphatic passage where he traces the beginnings of the civil war. [24]

Interestingly, Vitus Bering focusses on the same theme in his contemporary History of Denmark. He too stresses the destructive character of civil wars which are seen as resulting from having several rivals for the throne. Bering, like Torfæus, contrasts the tragedy of civil wars with monarchy, the latter seen as provider and guaranteer of peace and progress. What is more, and this is the central issue, they both depict Denmark and Norway, respectively, as age-old hereditary monarchies. The saviour of Norway after the tragic civil wars in the middle of the twelfth century was Sverre. Torfæus gives a grandiose presentation of him, rhetorically embellished and designed to add emphasis, rather unlike the usual style in the work. Sverre was sent by God, we learn, the only survivor of the royal family, the only rightful ruler, who was not, however, at first aware of his royal origin. Without means, without friends, he took up the just fight against the mightiest man in the country, the experienced leader and usurper Erling and his son Magnus. [25]

Again and again the importance of regius sanguis is made clear. This is a main point: Norway was always – since Harald Fairhair's institution of one man's rule – a hereditary monarchy. [26]

Bering and Torfæus, as I said, agree in stressing the tragedy of civil war and seeing the remedy in a firm monarchy, based on hereditary succession. I think we here touch upon another reason for the governmental interest behind the appointment of Torfæus - and the central reason behind Bering's appointment - in the 1660s. Hereditary monarchy was introduced along with absolute rule in 1660-61. Bering was appointed shortly after this. In his case there can be no doubt that the idea, seen from the governmental point of view, was to have the new system legitimized by a demonstration that this system was only a continuation of old traditions. This demonstration may well be said to be the raison d'etre of Bering's Florus Danicus. [27] Not more than 20-30 years before Bering's appointment two ambitious histories of Denmark, written at the order of the king Christian IV, had been published, one of them, the already mentioned Johannes Pontanus's Rerum Danicarum historia being of considerable dimensions. The new regime now needed a new interpretation of the past with respect to hereditary monarchy. [28] Bering's brief compendium served the purpose.

Not so with Torfæus. He was a pioneer, writing the first Latin, comprehensive Norwegian history. He was doing for Norwegian history what Pontanus had accomplished more than half a century earlier for Danish; and it seems probable, as earlier mentioned, that Norway's higher status within the monarchy together with the increase of knowledge about the Old Norse literature were decisive factors behind Torfæus's engagement. But it was also part of his mandate from the government, I think, to stress that hereditary rule had old roots in Norway.

The stylistic difference between Bering's and Torfæus's works, between the elegant, allusive compendium of Bering and the sometimes heavy, argumentative discourse of Torfæus, is also to be seen in this light. Bering wrote primarily to advocate the new ideology. Torfæus was to present a similar hereditary tradition – but he was also writing a pioneering presentation of Norwegian history based upon sources all but unknown to the learned republic of Europe.

As mentioned Torfæus was told in 1667 to write a treatise about the kind of government which was formerly in use in the Nordic realms. It is a fair assumption, put forward already by Ellen Jørgensen in 1931, that the idea behind this was that he should prove the age-old hereditary traditions in both Denmark and Norway. The treatise was never written, but in the revised version of his Series regum Daniæ, printed 1702, we do find the claim that Denmark was an age-old hereditary monarchy. [29] Similarly we see that both Bering and Torfæus in their national histories emphasize the old traditions of hereditary succession in the two monarchies. Thus I think we can add a further nuance to the observation that after the introduction of absolute monarchy both twin realms were to have their histories told and published in Latin: They were to make clear to the world, both abroad and at home, that hereditary succession had very old roots in both countries – a demonstration which would lend support and authority to the newly introduced system.

Torfæus's claim that Norwegian monarchy had always been hereditary was in no way new and revolutionary. In the Old Norse sources Torfæus could find ideological support for his celebration of monarchy and hereditary succession. In Sverre's Saga (from the early thirteenth century), for instance, the argument of hereditary right to the throne is important. Moreover in the already existing histories of Denmark, and in other branches of Danish political discourse, it had been customary to present Norway as a hereditary monarchy. [30] In Pontanus's history of Denmark of 1631, the country is explicitly referred to as such, both before the union with Denmark in 1387 and after. But the point obviously needed re-emphasizing after the introduction of absolute and hereditary monarchy in 1660-61. The change of political system furthered interest in having Norwegian history publicly presented in order that it should contribute to the historical legitimizing of hereditary monarchy.

Torfæus's great History of Norway thus contains a political statement of a concrete nature. But combining as it does medieval Old Norse culture with contemporary Latin learning it is also in broader sense a political statement about Norway being part of the civilized world while at the same time possessing a non-Latin, independent medieval culture.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen
Manuscript and Rare Book dept.
PO box 2149
1016 København K

* I am indebted to Sverre Bagge, Lars Boje Mortensen, Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen, and Åslaug Ommundsen for reading the manuscript and for valuable advice.

[1] Torfæus's biography was written and published by John Erichsen in 1787 (in the Danish journal Minerva) and edited separately the following year by Rasmus Nyerup: Thormod Torfesens Levnetsbeskrivelse, ved John Erichsen (Kiøbenhavn 1788). There is a good presentation of him in Francis Bull's Norges Litteratur II, (Oslo 1958), pp. 151-56, and a fuller one in the history of Danish Literature written by Carl S. Petersen (Illustreret Dansk Litteraturhistorie I (Kbh. 1929), pp. 790-800). To his informative treatment of Danish intellectual history in the seventeenth century I here refer once and for all. Another good and more recent biography is written by Arne Odd Johnsen in Norsk Biografisk Leksikon (1969). Ellen Jørgensen focusses on his contribution to the study of Danish history in her classic survey of Danish historiography: Historieforskning og Historieskrivning i Danmark indtil Aar 1800 (Kbh. 1931), pp. 142-48.

[2] He notes in the Preface that he his original intention was to take the account up to his own day, and that he has indeed already begun but not finished his treatment of the period 1397-1513; being an old man, however, he has no longer the strength to go on writing (Historia rerum Norvegicarum 1711, Preface, H2r).

[3] As noted by Francis Bull (cf. note 1).

[4] en af de anseligste og prægtigste Historier, som nogen Tid er kommet for Lyset. Ludvig Holberg: Epistler, ed. F.J. Billeskov Jansen, II, (Kbh. 1945), pp. 301-3 (1st ed. 1748).

[5] Sometimes the Danish-Norwegian union is dated from 1380, when the young Olaf, upon his father King Håkon's death became king of Norway. As the grandson of King Valdemar of Denmark, who had died in 1375, he had already been elected king of Denmark. In 1387 Olaf died, and his mother, Margrethe, became ruler in both countries.

[6] Et qvidem primo ante omnia officii nobis demandati ratio exigebat, ut plenum ac perfectum Historiæ Norvegicæ Opus ... orbi erudito communicaremus (Historia rerum Norvegicarum 1711, Preface, G1r).

[7] Norway's status within the monarchy after 1660 is treated in Sverre Bagge and Knut Mykland: Norge i dansketiden 1380-1814 (Oslo: Cappelen /Copenhagen: Politiken 1987), pp. 155ff and in Ståle Dyrvik: Truede tvillingriker 1648-1720 (Danmark-Norge 1380-1814, vol. III), (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1998), passim.

[8] Carl S. Petersen (1929), p. 620 (cf. note 1).

[9] Some of them are still called by the names he gave them, e.g. Morkinskinna, Hrokkinskinna, Fagrskinna.

[10] The letter of appointment, dated August 22, 1667, is quoted in Erichsen's biography: Særdeles skal hand, hvis Antiqviteter hand kan offuerkomme, eller vi hannem tilskikkendes vorder, ikke alleeneste translatere endten paa Dansk eller Latin, mens endog deraf forfatte et Corpus Historicum, og ellers hvis Observationer derudi kunde forfalde flittigen opteigne og annotere, och endeligen at sammenskrive en Tractat offuer den Stadt og Regiering, som i voris Nordiske Lande i gammele Dage haffuer været brugt, och hwis hand udi saa Maader forfærdiger, det herhid paa voris Bibliothek at fremsende (Erichsen 1788, p. 87)

[11] Manum operi jam olim admovere jusserat Gloriosissimus Utriusqve Regni Monarcha FRIDERICUS III. Dominus meus longe Clementissimus (Historia rerum Norvegicarum 1711, Preface, A1r). In a letter written to Torfæus in 1664 by the Icelandic vicar Jon Axesen it is likewise suggested that Torfæus was appointed by the king to write a history of Norway: testis est tota historia Norvegica, qvam tu, scriptor regius, & industrius interpres veterum monumentorum, ab incunabulis gentis nostræ (ut audio) regio jussu sub manu habes, aliqvando evulgandum. This is the earliest known reference to a appointment, and as Torfæus's biographer John Erichsen notes, it may not yet have been formalized (Erichsen 1788, p. 45, from where the passage in Axesen's letter is also quoted).

[12] His application is paraphrased in Erichsen's biography (1788), pp. 111-13.

[13] The basic biography of Vitus Bering was written by H.F. Rørdam and published in Historisk Tidsskrift, 5, vol. 1, pp. 1-115

[14] The letter is found in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Gl.kgl.S. 1071, fol. It is quoted in Rørdam's biography, cf. note above.

[15] In vertendis antiqvis patriæ monumentis, nihil nobis sumsimus libertatis, verbis adstrictissim; inprimis ubi vel regnorum eo tempore status vel antiqvi ritus accuratius erant notandi. Unde non est, qvod miretur lector, occurrere passim in hoc Opere tam res qvam verba, foro latiali inusitata. Id enim res ipsa exegi;, & satius duximus, qvæ gentibus hisce Borealibus propria essent, suo, id est simplici, cultu induta publico sistere, qvam affectata Latini sermonis elegantia, a nativo suo genio abalienare. Et hinc qvoqve est, qvod omnis Romani sermonis analogiæ securi, hominum pariter ac locorum nomina propria, prout in vernacula sonant lingua, addita solummodo Latina terminatione, protulimus. Novimus enim, qvantum in historia pepererit confusionis varietas ista nominum propriorum ... (Historia rerum Norvegiarum 1711, Preface)

[16] Chronica MSS. Non metuimus meticulosos illos; non sunt animosi Dani. Versio Danica addit, bello navali. Compendium moderatius responsum tradit hoc modo; non timebimus exercitum illum: nunquam Dani victoriam reportarunt (Historia rerum Norvegicarum 1711, II, p. 445). I am indebted to dr.philos. Torgrim Titlestad, Stavanger for drawing my attention to this passage.

[17] Letter from Torfæus to Thord Thorlaksen, dated March 27, 1690, quoted in Erichsen 1788, p. 212.

[18] Hoc eodem anno ipsis Cal: Maji e vita migravit Hacon Rex Norvegiæ, relinqvens hæreditariam regni possessionem Olafo filio Daniæ Regi. Et agi continuo cum Regina Margareta regniqve Norvegici proceribus tum cæptum, ut ipsi in gratiam Danorum, qvi Olafum ipsorum etiam svasu ad regni Danici diadema promovissent, id vicissim operam darent, ut Dania Norvegiaqve in perpetuum conjunctæ sub uno rege haberentur (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, IV, p. 507).

[19] ... Daniæ æterno fædere jungeretur. Hæc ergo periodus Qvartam, eandemqve ultimam, Historiæ nostræ Norvegicæ Partem absolvit: nec sane felicius finiri ista potuisset, cum jam Divina Providentia admovebatur imperium DOMUS OLDENBURGICÆ (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, Preface, H1r).

[20] Quod autem (verbis hic Pontani utor) eæ literæ in ipsum Øresundæ fretum Sveciæ limitem videantur producere, atque idem hodieqve ita habendum, qvia tum pronunciatum, ut Gothus concludit, haudqvaqvam concedi debet. Nam postmodum ad Danici regni laciniam ubi rediit Scania, veteres, & qvi ante observati fuerunt, non Øresunda, Sveciæ ac Daniæ limites in usum revocati (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, IV, p. 473).

[21] Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, Preface, H1r.

[22] ... inqve unius imperii absoluti, legibusqve inde temperati formam coalueri (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, II, p. 2).

[23] Hæc pugna inter cruentissimas totoqve septentrione celeberrimas numeratur; qvæ & civilibus bellis polyarchiæqve finem, monarchia, majore Regni gloria, seqventiumqve temporum commodo, remedio licet aspero, inducta, imposuit (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, II, 24).

[24] Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, III, p. 494.

[25] Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, III, pp. 582-83.

[26] Consider this survey of the period from the introduction of Christianity to the union with Denmark as told in the third and fourth part and here recapitulated in the introduction of the fourth: OPeris hujus præcedente parte annorum centum octoginta qvatuor historiam complexi sumus; secutiqve authores nostros integra librorum decade exposuimus, ut regnum in peregrinorum potestatem redactum, ab indigenis tamen administratum fuerit, utrisqve deinde ereptum, ad eandem familiam iterum redierit, magnis recens introductæ Christianæ Religionis successibus: postqve haud diuturnam possessionem Regis sangvini redditum, mox tamen amissum, & ab indigenis hæredibus recuperatum, longoqve tempore retentum; donec post dissensiones mutuas factionumqve turbas in lineam cognationis , omni prope excisa agnatione, reciderit, utqve hæc iterum revixerit, idemqve illud regnum vi, ut tum videbatur, superiore, aut incredibili industria prudentiaqve tandem obtinuerit. Nunc qva prudentia ab isto vindice administratum, posterisqve felici successione transmissum, apud eos, donec mascula tandem stirps defecit, permanserit, hac parte narrabimus. (Historia rerum Norvegicarum, 1711, III, p. 1). Cf. also ibidem II, pp. 237-38, IV, pp. 85-86.

[27] On this subject see Karen Skovgaard-Petersen: Klassikerimitation og danmarkshistorie i den tidlige enevælde. Om Vitus Berings Florus Danicus (Danske studier 1990), pp. 55-79.

[28] A statement to the effect that the Danish monarchy had been hereditary since the first king, Dan, is found in Thomas Bartholin's speech to Frederik III, Panegyricus Augustissimo Regi (Kbh. 1660), celebrating the introduction of absolute monachy in 1660. I owe this reference to Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen.

[29] Ellen Jørgensen: Historieforskning og Historieskrivning i Danmark indtil Aar 1800 (Kbh. 1931), p. 144.

[30] Ståle Dyrvik: Truede tvillingriker 1648-1720 (Danmark-Norge 1380-1814, vol. III), (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1998), pp. 27-30.

Autor (author): Karen Skovgaard-Petersen
Dokument erstellt (document created): 2002-08-13
Dokument geändert (last update): 2002-08-19
WWW-Redaktion (conversion into HTML): Manuela Kahle & Stephan Halder
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