Discovery – Adam the writer of Bremen

Adam of Bremen

in his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.1
Roughly, he says that ‘when we pass the isles of the Danes, another
world appears in Sweden and Norway, two vast realms in the north,
which are hardly known yet to our world.

These words recall the position,
geographic as well as mental, from which the Europeanization of
the Baltic world began.Furthermore they tell us that Scandinavia,as
late as the 1070s, was scarcely part of Europe in the Roman-Catholic,
Western sense of the word. On the other hand there is something in
the way they are uttered that indicates a forthcoming change in these
matters. The formula is, I think, hidden in the word adhuc, yet . . . ‘until
now. Thus, the quotation confirms that there is some justification.

The few words quoted above point to as well as disguise the
personal experience of the Bremen magister.

Referring for example


to his opinion of the four wind directions, it has been shown that
this was as far as he got—to one or other of Denmark’s shores.

From there, his eyes could follow ships sailing further away. In his
imagination, obviously, he was on board himself, heading for a mysterious,
overwhelmingly rich circle of isles—as was then generally
believed—in a barely known sea, covered in veils of mist. The Baltic
(or Barbarian) Sea, he explains, had not been dealt with by ‘any of
the learned’, except Einhard. And what this Carolingian courtier had
written was soon reported.Adam would provide, so he writes, ‘a
more detailed narrative of what his great predecessor had told in
brief, in order to make it better known to his compatriots.

Back home in Bremen, writing his history of its archbishops—
nominally heads of the see of Hamburg, but residing in Bremen for
centuries—he therefore provides a geographical exposition of Denmark
and the remote realms beyond.

From his pen comes the first consistent
description of the Nordic and Baltic Rim peoples, the Slavs along the
southern coast of the Baltic, as well as the Götar and Svear towards
the north. Further to the east, he even identifies another group of
peoples, who are said to live right up to Russia.

Adam’s work issupposed to have been accomplished in the middle of the 1070s, after
which a series of comments, so-called scholies, began to be added by
Adam himself as well as by others.