In Old Norse sources, such as sagas and runestones, Serkland (also Særkland, Srklant, Sirklant, Serklat, etc.) was the "land of the Serkir", usually identified with the Saracens.

The exact etymology is disputed. Serk- may derive from "Saracen"; from sericum, Latin for "silk", implying a connection with the Silk Road; from the Khazar fortress of Sarkel; or from serkr, shirt or gown, i.e., "land of the gown-wearers". In all cases it refers to a land in the East. Originally, it referred to the land south of the Caspian Sea, but it gradually expanded to cover all Islamic lands, including in Africa (and possibly even Muslim Sicily).[1][2]

Notably one of the Ingvar runestones, the Sö 179, raised circa 1040 at Gripsholm Castle, commemorates a Varangian loss during an ill-fated raid in Serkland. The other remaining runestones that talk of Serkland are Sö 131, Sö 279, Sö 281, the Tillinge Runestone and probably the lost runestone U 439. For a detailed account of such raids, see Caspian expeditions of the Rus'.

Several sagas mention Serkland: Ynglinga saga, Sörla saga sterka, Sörla þáttr, Saga Sigurðar Jórsalafara and Hjálmþés saga ok Ölvis. It is also mentioned by the 11th century skald Þórgils Fiskimaðr,[3] and the 12th century skald Þórarinn Stuttfeldr.[4]

See also


  1. Judith Jesch, Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse (Boydell, 2001), p. 104ff.
  2. Stefan Brink, "People and land in Early Scandinavia", in Ildar H. Garipzanov, Patrick Geary and Przemyslaw Urbanczyk (eds.), Franks, Northmen, and Slavs: Identities and State Formation in Early Medieval Europe (Brepols, 2008) p. 98.
  3. Þórgils fiskimaðr, Nordmand, 11 årh. (AI, 400-1, BI, 369).
  4. Þórarinn stuttfeldr, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 489-92, BI, 461-4).


This article contains content from the Owl Edition of Nordisk familjebok, a Swedish encyclopedia published between 1904 and 1926, now in the public domain.

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