National Geographic : 1970 Apr
PAINTING(LOWERLEFT) BY TOMLOVELL;KODACHROMES BYTEDS "I have come from a far land ... send me a merchant... who will buy from me as I wish." Thus Vikings prayed for prof its, noted a contemporary. Here haggling begins beside a carved ritual pole at Bulgar, a caravan mart on the Volga River. Under the eye of his red caped chief, a bare-chested Viking offers a slave girl to a Persian merchant who dangles a purse of coins behind him. Squatting Norseman weighs bits of Asian silver, his pay ment for piles of furs. Chinese silks are also bartered for the prized skins. Business done, the Vikings load their longboats for the voyage home, to gather goods and slaves for the next trading season. Under Yaroslav the Wise, the Rus court attained its gold en age. Controlling the Dnieper, Yaroslav filled his treas ury with the profits of the lively north-south commerce. "Remember this," a resident of modern Kiev told me. "At the time of Yaroslav, 75,000 people lived here, and Kiev Rus was the biggest and strongest state in all Europe." W HILE SWEDISH VIKINGS had been pressing through Russia toward their own ethnic extinction, Danes and Norwegians had been plundering West ern Europe. The British Isles, with their moistly fertile fields, drew the land-starved Scandinavians like a lodestone. First came the Norwegians, doubling the northern hook of Scotland and sending their longships scudding down the Irish Sea. En route, they pillaged and settled the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man. But Ireland was their goal, and there they ravaged without mercy. "There was no place in Erinn," wrote a 12th-century his torian, "without numerous fleets of [Vikings] and pirates; so that they made spoil-land and sword-land and conquered land of her, throughout her breadth and generally...." 515 ., RAPHOGUILLUMETTE @ N.G.S.