ABSTRACT

From the ninth to mid-eleventh century, Scandinavian warrior groups were sought after as retainers in several areas along the austrvegr. Called Rus’ or Varangian, they were present in various courts in the region such as Kiev and other Rus’ centres, Constantinople, and Itil, the capital of the Khazar Khaganate. Based on written accounts and archaeological evidence, it seems possible that Scandinavian and Rus’ retainers also entered local service in three other areas – Volga Bulgharia, Hungary, and Poland. The same courts also employed steppe warriors. The presence of Scandinavians and Rus’ in these territories has not been addressed previously in the context of Scandinavian-steppe interactions. In this chapter, I describe their joint participation in service of the various courts, together with the effects this common service had on them in a military-cultural sense. In the case of the Rus’, and perhaps Eastern Scandinavian territories, a culturally mixed military elite developed that expressed a new, fused identity through a distinct material culture. They are termed the “Vikings of the steppe”.