Violence in Medieval Iceland – scale, characteristics and limiting factors


  • Włodzimierz Gogłoza Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej w Lublinie)


medieval Iceland, violence, feud, sagas of Icelanders


The sagas of Icelanders depict a violent society in which even the slightest transgression could result in a prolonged feud that could last for generations. The aim of this study is to ascertain how closely this description of medieval Iceland resembles social reality. Using both narrative and legal sources, as well as the anthropological research of other authors, I argue that the saga age of Iceland was not as violent as the sögumenn (storytellers) imply. I stress that the conflicts described in the sagas mostly involve the social elites, the wealthy free farmers and chieftains, who were the only members of society vested with the social and material capital necessary for sustaining prolonged feuds. Disputes between members of the lower classes, and across the social strata were less violent than those depicted in sagas. Moreover, there were several social factors in operation which limited the scale of interpersonal violence, including cultural and legal norms promoting moderation.


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How to Cite

Violence in Medieval Iceland – scale, characteristics and limiting factors. (2019). Miscellanea Historico-Iuridica, 17(1), 227-252.