Byzantium and the Viking World
That there were contacts between Byzantium and the Viking world is well-known in outline, and many scholars have published work on particular aspects of those contacts. But our literary sources offer very few narratives of these contacts, beyond Byzantine accounts of Rus attacks and the Rus’ Primary Chronicle’s materials on Russo-Byzantine trade-agreements and the conversion of Prince Vladimir c.988. Not only are narrative sources lacking for contacts between Byzantium and the wider Viking world: we also lack a conceptual framework within which to place the numerous and disparate items of evidence of contacts. As a result, modern works of synthesis on the subject are exceedingly rare, and seldom very effective. The book that we aim to publish soon should amount to an illuminating, authoritative synthesis. Among the contributors are archaeologists and specialists in runes, numismatics, sagas, and Byzantine literary sources.
An abundance of variants devised according to the plot concerning the Contempt for Byzantine Gold can be identified as the Scandinavian background to the Russian and Byzantine examples. In Rus, we only encounter a particular variant in the story of Prince Sviatoslav and its interpretation in the story of his descendant and namesake – Prince Sviatoslav, son of Iaroslav the Wise. Thus, the assumption that the plot in the Rus chronicle, so rare in Rus, became popular in Scandinavia, remains tenable. Much more likely, however, is the view that in Scandinavia the description of the correct form of behaviour for the ruler during trials by foreign gift-giving had a long history in the form of oral stories. One of the variants of such a story, evidently, served as the basis for the story of Prince Sviatoslav’s meeting with the envoys of the Byzantine emperor.