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Category  10 -  Olaus Magnus - History of the Nordic Peoples (from 1555) - Illustrations with comments - Page 6

Illustrationer med förklaringar till Olaus Magnus "Historia om de nordiska folken" (utgiven år 1555)


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Book 7, Ch. 6. On the Command of the Mobilized People.

A crowd of armed men is coming from the left. They are carrying swords, crossbows and quivers with arrows. Their leader (in the centre of the woodcut) is holding a halberd, a bow and a sabre in his hands. The captain, in full armour, is standing to the right. He is listening to a man who probably gives him valuable information.

1300 x 600 px.

Book 7, Ch. 8. On Fighting at the Coast.

The Swedish defenders are ready to meet an enemy coming from the sea. The Swedes are waiting in camouflaged positions. The leader blows a signal with a horn. Arrows stick out of the bushed. 1300 X 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 10. On Beacons on the Mountains in Times of War.

Olaus Magnus writes in this chapter: ”In this picture are two things to be observed: one on the mountain tops, namely the smoking fires of amassed wood, intended to prevent attack of the approaching fleet; the other the crowd of riders in the mountain passes, keeping a sedulous watch, that the enemy may not go ashore.” The three mountains has each a guard station with soldiers armed with halberds, spears and bows. The riders in the foreground have suits of armour and lances.
1300 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 12. On Fighting in the Forests.

The defenders have made a jam of logs to trap the enemy. To the left we can see cannon muzzles and archers among the defenders. In the background trees with deep cuts trough the trunks. The trees are connected to a strong rope. When the enemy (right) has ridden into the trap, the trees are pulled down and prevent escape..
1300 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 14. On Treacherous Arrows and Iron Spikes.

The infantry, armed with crossbows, shoots their arrows at the enemy riders in a steep angle and at long distance. We realize this as the riders have not yet lowered their lances. The arrowheads are of iron and will make great damage to the enemy when falling down from high altitude. The iron spikes on the ground are also very dangerous to the horsemen. 1300 x 600 px.

Book 7, Ch. 16. On Slings for Stones and Red-hot Iron.

This scene is probably from the siege of Västerås in Sweden 1521-1522. The Swedish forces has taken the town and is now attacked by the Danes. On the woodcut we see the town burning. To the left a man with a sling throwing a stone. The man in the middle is throwing a red-hot iron ball with his sling and the man to the right takes another ball out of the furnace with a pair of tongues. The river is Svartån. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 17. On Large ("Hundred Men") Burning Stacks of Logs.

A crowd of peasants are attacking the castle of a cruel bailiff. They are rolling two large burning stacks of logs against it. The favourable wind conditions are indicated in the upper left corner of the woodcut. The stacks of log will eventually set the castle ablaze and until this happens it protects the men which are rolling it forward. 1310 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 19. On Sharp Poles, Missiles and Treacherous Pitfalls.

laus Magnus tells about how clever the population in the North is to defend itself against an attacking enemy. On the illustration we see a troop of cavalry which has been trapped in a pit full of obstacles. One horse is falling down on his fore legs. To the left local defenders with bows and arrows. 1320 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 20. On the Stratagem with Tree Branches of King Hake.

This woodcut illustrates the old legend of Hake, king of the Geathish, and his war against Denmark and king Sigar. In a way like when the Birnam wood came to Dunsinane in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, king Hake’s troops (to the left) masked themselves with branches of trees with leaves on. In this disguise they advanced towards Sigar’s castle. In his castle king Sigar is playing backgammon. This has probably connection to another old legend, the one about the backgammon playing king who prohibited, on death penalty, all unpleasant news. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 21. On the Punishment of Hostile Fire-Raisers.

Also in this chapter Olaus Magnus tells about a war between Denmark and Sweden. King Sven of Denmark has started an implacable war. He murdered and burnt with no consideration for the concession made by the local population. At wintertime in the Finnveden district king Sven and some Danish noblemen rested in a barn where a drinking bout was held. Here the local peasants got their revenge. The crowd made a surprise attack against the drunken Danes. We see the peasants to the left with bows and arrows. To the right the burning barn with the Danish knights. The river Nissan floats in the foreground. Danish soldier are drenched in holes in the ice. 1300 x 600 px.

Book 7, Ch. 23. How the Coasts of Iceland are Defended.

Olaus Magnus tells about Iceland and how the naive inhabitants on the island are tricked by deceitful foreign merchants. Therefore the Icelanders have raised a force of riders to protect the people. On the illustration we see three of them riding in full armour and with lances. We also see silhouettes of people dwelling in primitive homes in the ground. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 7, Ch. 24. On Guarding in Wartime of the Shores of Lake Mälaren in upper Svealand.

The woodcut shows a part of Lake Mälaren in Sweden. In the lake are seen the dangerous skerries ”Kycklingarna (The Chickens)” and ”Hönan (the Hen)” which are mentioned in Olaus Magnus’ text. Enemy ships are approaching the coast from the right. On the shore stand defenders ready. They are armed with crossbows and lances.
1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch 1. On Elections of Kings.

By tradition since the middle age the Swedish kings were elected at Mora Thing, held at Mora Äng about 10 km south-east of Uppsala. The picture shows how a just elected king has climbed up on the Mora sten (the Stone of Mora) to be congratulated. On the stone is written in runes ”Mora sten”. The king has the crown on his head and holds the state regalia - the sword and the orb - in his hands. The books to the left symbolize the laws of the state and the provinces. The people to the right are ”councillors, great men and representatives from all provinces”. 1265 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch. 5. On the Adoption of Prominent Men by Handing Over Weapons.

Olaus Magnus shows how Theoderik, king of Goths (not from Scandinavia), followed the old tradition to adopt a ”son of weapons” (adopte in arma). King Theoderik gives the father (the king of the Herules) a horse, a sword and a shield to confirm the adoption. 1310 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch. 7. On Noble Boys Upbringing to Warriors.

Two sons of noble birth have since the infant age been hardened to grow up as good warriors. On this picture we see them, although still very young, ride on big horses with heavy helmets on their heads. One boy carries a banner with the Swedish three crowns, the other a rider’s lance. Note the little bells at the cropped tails of the horses.
1330 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch. 9. On the Selecting of Young Men to Armed Service.

The man in the middle has received a sword with the point first from the king. Now, with the other hand on the king’s sword, he makes a wow of fidelity. The king in his turn gives gifts to his new men. The crossbow at the king’s feet and the shield and the helmet in the background are examples of such gifts. The man in full armour has just been appointed as standard-bearer. The king has a crown on his head and wears a cloak of ermine skin. 1305 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch. 11. On Different Ages of Warriors.

A young warrior and an older one are riding in a wintry landscape. The horses wear frost nails. A town is seen in the background. The younger man seems to ride faster than the older one. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch 13. On the Military Organization of the Ancient Goths.

Two men with very heavy suits of armour are riding fast forward. To the left a castle with a guard on a bridge. Underneath him a rider with a crossbow.
1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch 15. On Martial Exercises and Arts.

Olaus Magnus writes in this chapter about the training of riders in the northern countries. In their training they ride high horses, wear full suits of armour and are carrying heavy lances. Preferably the exercises take place in winter time on slippery ice or on snow-covered fields. In the picture a fully equipped rider mounts his horse. He is armed with a sword and a rider’s hammer. The horse has frost nails and a little bell at the cropped tail. The bell will warn if the horse kick out behind. To the left in the background infantry and to the right cavalry. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch 17. On the Wiliness of Certain Horses.

The horses Olaus Magnus writes about are derived from the Swedish province Västergötland. These horses ”are as beautiful as ardent and excellent as warhorses or as draughts”. But they have hard to accept a new master. The two men and the two horses illustrates this. The both warriors which are riding the horses have dropped their lances on the ground and have great problems to sit in the saddles. The man to the left cannot longer keep his feet in the stirrups. 1330 x 600 px.

Book 8, Ch. 19. On Martial Training.

The woodcut shows a classic exercise for riders. Two men in full armour are trying to pick up gloves from the ground with their lances. The left warrior has succeeded to do this, but not the one to the right. It is winter and the horses are wearing frost nails on their hoofs. 1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch 21. On Many Kinds of Warriors.

Olaus Magnus mentions four kinds of warriors: 1. Brave and experienced men with a certain moderation. They fight hard against enemies which make resistance, but do not pursue the fleeing. 2. Young, hot-headed men which fight bravely without mercy and do not realize the risks. 3. Men of noble birth which fear to attack but also feel too ashamed to retire. 4. They that are the first to flee and the last to fight. The woodcut illustrates these four categories. The men in the middle belongs to the 1st and 2nd. The man who is standing inactive to the left to the 3rd while the man with a halberd to the right belongs to the 4th. 1300 x 600px.
Book 8, Ch. 26. On the Sheriffs of the Provinces. The riding patrol consists of Finnish noblemen. They are all carrying crossbows and the first man has a mace. According to Olaus Magnus, the Finns in the eastern border areas has great problems with the” apiaceous and insidious” Muscovites. 1300 x 600 px. Book 8, Ch 27. On the Harshness and Extortion of Tyrannous Sheriffs.

The woodcut illustrates a tax collection. The sheriff is standing to the left armed with sword and a rider’s hammer. Together with him stands three of his men, armed with spears. To the right three men delivering their taxes to the sheriff. 1270 X 600 px
Book 8, Ch. 29. Om Evil Counsellors at Under Aged Princes.

This woodcut illustrates in fact chapter 30, which takes place in Denmark. The king’s sister, afraid of the king’s savage sons, has escaped to a sanctuary. We see her at the top left. The cruel Gruel, who the king’s sister refused to marry, killed all her suitors. Here we see him fastening their heads on the wall of the sanctuary. To the right is king Frode III with his advisors Vestmar and Koll. One of this advisors is father to Gruel. 1300 x 600 px.


Book 8, Ch. 34. On How to Recognize Traitors and How to Protect Yourself Against Them.
1300 x 600 px.
Book 8, Ch. 36. On the Causes of the Permanent Hostility that Swedes and Goths Feel Against the Danes.
1300 x 600 px
Book 8, Ch 40. More on the Merciless of the Same King (King Christian II of Denmark).
1300 x 600 px
Book 9, preface. On Land Warfare.  1500 x 2100 px Book 9, Ch. 1. On Revolving Blades on Wheels.

The woodcut shows a war machine of rather unrealistic design. It consists of a pair of wheels which turn a horizontal shaft trough a cog wheel. At the front of the shaft three sharp sword-like blades are fitted. Two soldiers are pushing the machine forward and the idea is of course that the movement will make the blades to rotate and kill both men and horses in front them. 1300 x 600 px.

Olaus Magnus "Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus" (History of the Nordic Peoples), published in Rome 1555.

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© 2007 Lars Henriksson

Updated: 2008-01-13