The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2019-2020, 373-391

Ericus Olai. From ‘The History of the Kingdom of the Goths’. Translation of passages, introduction and comments

A. D. Scheglov

Ericus Olai is a prominent personality in Swedish medieval history and culture. He was a theologian, a historian and a poet. He is especially known as the author of the first fundamental work on the history of Sweden written in Latin, Chronica regni gothorum, for which he is often called ‘The father of Swedish historiography’.
Ericus Olai was born approximately in the 1420-s. He went to Germany in 1447 and became a student at the University of Rostock where he studied liberal arts. On return to Sweden, he became a canon in Uppsala. Later he made a voyage to Italy where he obtained a degree in theology at the University of Siena. After that he returned to Sweden, became a scholasticus, and later a dean at the cathedral chapter of Uppsala, and began to lecture on theology at Uppsala University.
It was apparently in the 1470-s when Ericus Olai’s historical work Chronica regni Gothorum was accomplished. There are different viewpoints concerning the question when, for what purpose and under whose order Chronica regni gothorum was written. In modern scholarship an opinion was expressed by Olle
Ferm that Ericus Olai’s chronicle was intended for the instruction of the clergy of the archdiocese of Uppsala. According to another point of view presented by Jan Öberg, Chronica regni Gothorum was intended for a broad international audience, and for this reason was written in Latin. Chronica regni Gothorum has survived in several manuscripts, of which three are considered to be of major importance. There are several printed editions of the chronicle mentioned. The modern critical edition by Ella Nyrin-Heuman and Jan Öberg is used in the present publication.
Chronica regni gothorum begins with an introduction based on theological writings. It stresses the leading role of the Church in the society, and proclaims that the secular authorities must cooperate with the Church. This thought serves as a key idea for the whole chronicle. Uppsala, the ecclesiastical centre of Sweden, is given the central place in Chronica regni gothorum. Ericus portrays Uppsala as a place which initially was a site where pagan gods were worshiped, and which later became a prominent center of Christianity. When the Church leaders of Uppsala cooperated with the kings and regents of Sweden, the country prospered — this is one of the core ideas in Ericus Olai’s chronicle. Ericus praises not only Uppsala, but also Sweden in general; he portrays Sweden as a blessed country abundant in numerous goods. He pays tribute to the so-called Gothisist theory claiming that Sweden is the very land from which the Goths, the conquerors of Europe, exceeded, and that due to this fact the Swedes are superior to all other peoples. Ericus Olai’s work is to a great extent based on medieval chronicles. Ericus skillfully processed this material and enriched it with data derived from other sources, including archive documents.
Despite the high value of Ericus Olai’s chronicle, the only translation of this source is the Swedish translation, which was carried out in the 17th century by Johan Sylvius. The present publication contains a commented Russian translation of selected passages from Chronica Regni Gothorum accompanied by the translator’s preface. In particular, the preface focuses on the problem of Ericus Olai’s contribution to Swedish history writing and of his independence as an author. Some scholars consider Chronica regni Gothorum to be a compilation, while the author of the present publication underlines the individual role of Ericus Olai who skillfully processed the predecessors’ texts and added original passages of his own.

history, historiography, the Middle Ages, sources, literacy, Sweden, Ericus Olai

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