Historisk tidskrift 134:2 • 2014
Innehåll (Contents) 2014:2
Ericus Olai och Adam av Bremen
Ericus Olai and Adam of Bremen
The Chronica regni gothorum is a chronicle written in Latin in the second half
of the fifteenth century by the Swedish historian Ericus Olai. It contains
passages based on material from a much older source, Adam of Bremen’s
chronicle Gesta pontificum, which was composed in the eleventh century. Examples of such borrowed material are the description of the pagan temple
in Uppsala and the story of a pagan priest who suffered blindness only to
regain his vision after converting to Christianity.
Students of the two chronicles have noticed that Adam’s material was
transmitted to Ericus Olai through a Swedish source, the so-called Prosaic
Chronicle, which was written in the middle of the fifteenth century. But
there has been no agreement on the question if Ericus Olai knew Adam
of Bremen’s original text directly or only through the Prosaic Chronicle. In
the 1940s, Ella Nyrin-Heuman, a specialist on Ericus Olai, detected some
linguistic parallels between Gesta pontificum and Chronica regni gothorum,
which could be the result of Ericus Olai’s acquaintance with Adam’s work.
Another scholar, Ernst Nygren, concluded that Adam of Bremen’s stories
came to Ericus Olai’s text directly, without mediation.
This article compares the chronicles in order to investigate if Ericus Olai
used factual information that was present in Adam’s original work. It concludes
that Ericus’s principal source for material from the Gesta pontificum
was the Prosaic Chronicle, but that there is also some material that Ericus
took directly from Adam, in particular the claim that the statues of the gods
Thor, Odin and Frey in the temple of Uppsala were placed in the shape of a
triclinium. The account of the deeds of the missionary Adalvard in Ericus’s
chronicle has also much in common with Adam’s text.
The first three parts of Adam’s chronicle – books I–III have no evident
parallels with the chronicle by Ericus Olai, however. Apparently, Ericus
knew only the final part, book IV, of Adam’s chronicle. This book was sometimes
copied as a separate manuscript in the Middle Ages. It is likely that
Ericus used this book as a supplementary source, while the Prosaic chronicle
provided the main contents for his work.
Nygren’s hypothesis that Ericus Olai derived his material directly from
Adam of Bremen and not from the Prosaic Chronicle must therefore be rejected.
To the contrary, Ericus used the Prosaic Chronicle as his main source.
Nevertheless we can now with greater confidence also conclude that Ericus
obtained some important material directly from Adam’s work. These two
facts illustrate two tendencies in Ericus Olai’s historical writing: he borrowed
much from his close predecessors, but he also had the ability to enrich
and deepen his text.
Sweden, Middle Ages, Historiography, Historical sources, Ericus Olai, Adam of Bremen