Iceland History

Iceland History


The first people to settle in Iceland were probably Irish monks who came in the 8th century. However, in the 9th century, they were driven out by Vikings.


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According to tradition the first Viking to discover Iceland was a man named Naddoddur who got lost while on his way to the Faeroe Islands. Following him, a Swede named Gardar Svavarsson circumnavigated Iceland about 860. However, the first Viking attempt to settle was by a Norwegian named Floki Vilgeroarson. He landed in the northwest but a severe winter killed his domestic animals and he sailed back to Norway. However, he gave the land its name. He called it Iceland.

Then from 874 many settlers came to Iceland from Norway and the Viking colonies in the British Isles. A Norwegian named Ingolfur Arnarson led them. He sailed with his family, slaves, and animals.

When he sighted Iceland Ingolfur dedicated his wooden posts to his gods then threw them overboard. He vowed to settle at the place where the sea washed them up. He then explored Iceland. When the posts were found in the southwest of Iceland Ingolfur and his household settled there. He called the place Reykjavik, meaning Smokey Bay. Many other Vikings followed him to Iceland.

The land in Iceland was free to whoever wanted it. A man could claim as much land as he could light fires around in one day while a woman could claim as much land as she could lead a heifer round in one day.

There were very good fishing grounds around Iceland and the land was well suited to sheep. Many Vikings brought flocks with them and soon sheep became a major Icelandic industry. The population of Iceland soared. By about 930 there were about 60,000 people living in Iceland.

At first, the Icelanders were ruled by chiefs called Godar but there were some local assemblies. At about 930 the Icelanders created an assembly for the whole island called the Althing.


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