Scandinavian/Rus’ Captives and Slave Soldiers: an Eastern Perspective
During the Viking Age (c. AD 750–1050), the Rus’, an inclusive group of warrior-merchants of mainly Scandinavian origin – owning and trading slaves – were active in the East (in this case the eastern Baltic region, European Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, the Black Sea region, Byzantium, the Caucasus, and beyond).
There are several written accounts of Rus’ taken captive in the East during the Viking Age, including information about some of them ending up as slaves. This article will examine different fates of Rus’ captives in these areas, on the basis of contemporary Byzantine, Muslim – and to a limited extent – later Old Slavic and Old Norse written accounts.
The sources reveal that the captured Scandinavian/Rus’ warriors often were victims of a special type of subjugation: ‘slave soldiery’. This status will be contrasted to other types of militarily subordination to illuminate the relative social standings of such warrior groups in the East.
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