The essentially continuous genealogy of the kings of Sweden
begins with Erik "the Victorious", in the late tenth
century. However, a number of earlier Swedish kings are known,
primarily from Rimbert's Life of St. Ansgar (also spelled
Anskar), a nearly contemporary source written by Ansgar's
successor as archbishop, and Adam of Bremen's History of the
Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, written probably between 1070 and
SWEDISH KINGS FROM RIMBERT'S "VITA ANSKARII"
An English translation of Rimbert's "Vita Anskarri"
can be found at The Internet
and is based on the translation in Charles H. Robinson's
"Anskar, The Apostle of the North, 801-865" (London,
1921). It is apparent that this book was scanned, and then OCR
software was used to get a text file, because the proofreading
errors show a number of places where the text does not make
sense, but would make sense if certain letters are replaced by
similar looking ones. This leaves open the possibility that the
OCR software introduced undetected errors which change the
context of some important statement, and were then overlooked in
proofreading, although I think that this is unlikely for the
statements used here. Since I don't have access to a copy of the
text in the original Latin, I have no way of telling what kind of
liberties the translator took with regard to personal names, and
they are given here as they are given in the translation.
Robinson also included various notes (also present in the web
version), some of which included alleged genealogical information
for the Swedish kings taken from the sagas. I have ignored this
information, which was not in Rimbert's account, as it is of very
dubious reliability. The Swedish kings mentioned by Rimbert's
"Vita Anskarii" [cited as VA.x, where x is the chapter
number], all in the ninth century, are as follows:
KINGS at BIRKA
BJÖRN (Biörn), reigning ca. 829, when Ansgar made his first
visit to Sweden (which lasted a year and a half) [VA.11,12]. The
king was friendly to the missionaries, but did not convert,
although Herigar, one of his chief counsellors, did. He is
probably also the unnamed Swedish king mentioned briefly in VA.14
ERIK (Eric), was apparently recently deceased when Ansgar made
his second visit to Sweden ca. 852. Anti-Christian advocates were
claiming that if sacrifices to the old gods were resumed, Erik
would be added to the ranks of the gods as a reward. [VA.26]
OLAF (Olef, Olaf), king at the time of Ansgar's second visit
ca. 852, having apparently only recently succeeded to the
ANOTHER SWEDISH KING
In addition to the above three kings who reigned at Birka, VA
mentions one more Swedish king. Since Sweden may not have been
united at the time, it is not clear where he reigned, but context
seems to indicate somewhere other than Birka. (If he were king at
Birka, he would probably be placed between Björn and Erik.)
ANUND (Anoundus), a Swedish king who had been driven from his
kingdom and was exiled among the Danes. He joined with Danes to
attack Birka, and took tribute. Since he had promised Birka to
the Danes joining him as their part of the spoils, it seems
likely that he had been king of some other part of Sweden.
Although the chronology is a bit vague for these events, the late
840's seems like a good estimate. [VA.19]
This Anund is frequently given as the brother of the above
Björn, but this is apparently based on Icelandic sagas, and
seems to have no good authority. In fact, no genealogical
information on any of the above four kings is given by Rimbert
(or any other early source of which I am aware).
THE SPARLOSA STONE
For the text of the Sparlosa Stone, along with a translation,
ERIK, king at Uppsala?, ninth century?
The Sparlosa Stone mentions a certain Eyvísl(?), Eiríkr's son,
stating that the father sat in Uppsala, presumably idnicating
that he was king there. A certain Alríkr is also mentioned, in a
context that is not clear. There would seem to be no good reason
to identify this Erik with the king at Birka mentioned above.
SWEDISH KINGS AT HEDEBY
In the early tenth century, a certain Olaph (and later his
sons and grandson), coming from Sweden, ruled over Denmark or
part of Denmark, with headquarters apparently based at Hedeby.
Since there is no good reason to believe that these kings also
ruled in Sweden, they are not included here.
TENTH CENTURY SWEDISH KINGS IN ADAM OF BREMEN
In addition to some information on the above kings which is
drawn from VA, and seems to have no independent value, Adam of
Bremen has two important passages relating to tenth century
Swedish kings prior to Erik the Victorious, which are short
enough to give in full. The Latin comes from Migne's PL, vol.
146, and the English from Tschan's translation in "History
of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen" (Columbia University
Book 1, Chapter 63 (part)
... Accepimus a sæpe dicto rege Danorum Suein, tunc apud
Sueones imperitasse quendam Ring cum filiis Herich et Emund,
ipsumque Ring ante se habuisse Anund, Bern, Olaph, de quibus in
gestis sancti Anscharii legitur, et alios, quorum non occurit
... We have it on the authority of Svein, the Danish king to
whom we have often referred, that at this time a certain Ring and
his sons Eric and Emund governed the Swedes, and that before this
Ring, there had been Anund, Björn, Olaf, of whom we read in the
Gesta of Saint Ansgar, and others, of whom no mention occurs. ...
[Svein is Svein II, Adam's contemporary and informant. The
death of Archbishop Unni in 936 is mentioned in the next chapter,
giving an approximate chronological context.]
Book 2, Chapter 22 (part)
... Emund filius Herici tunc in Suedia regnavit. Is Haroldo
confederatus, Christianis eo venientibus placabilis fuit. ...
... Emund, Eric's son, then ruled in Sweden. Since he was
allied with Harold, he was favorably disposed toward the
Christians who came there. ...
[Harold is Harald Gormsson, king of Denmark. The death of Otto
the Great in 973 was mentioned in the previous chapter,
suggesting a little later as the intended time period.]
Although the first of these passages might be interpreted to
say that Ring was ruling jointly with his two sons ca. 936, I
think a more likely interpretation is that these kings had ruled
during this approximate time period, and possibly not at the same
time. Since we are talking about kings who ruled 100 to 150 years
before the information was written, the data is clearly not
contemporary, and due allowance has to be made for that.
(However, it is considerably closer in time to the events than
anything offered by the Icelandic sagas.) The obvious
genealogical table which emerges from Adam's data is as follows.
The next Swedish king mentioned by Adam is Erik the
Victorious, whose relationship to the earlier kings is not given
by Adam or any other known early source. Since Erik the
Victorious had a son named Olaf and grandsons named Emund and
Anund, there are good onomastic reasons for believing that he was
descended from these earlier kings, but the exact details are