Ibn Fadlan and the Vikings

Topics: Rus', Varangians, Viking Age Pages: 3 (1106 words) Published: December 12, 2010
Ibn Fadlan has become known as one of the world most important historians although he did not start out that way. In 921 he was chosen by the Caliph of Baghdad, to be part of the embassy to the King of the Bulgars. He chronicled the journey and all that he observed during his time there. He must have felt very important and very proud to have been chosen for such an important mission for his country. No one really remembers him for his mission. It is his journal that has kept him alive for history. Upon reaching their destination in Bulgar he incountered the Rus people. These people were from various Scandinavian tribes who had united and were running a large trading post near where Ibn Fadlan was staying.

Ibn Fadlan recorded detailed discriptions of their appearance and customs. He describes them as being gigantic, with high cheek bones and blond hair. Always armed they carried daggers and axes. They were heavily tattooed and wore a cloak that left their sword hand free. Perfect specimens are one way he described them. Although he found them to be physically impressive he wrote extensively about their personal habits which he found repulsive. Their bathing in particular seemed disturbing to him. The head of the household would wash his face and hair in a bowl then spit and blow his nose in the water. The bowl was then passed to the next man who did the same thing and so on. Ibn Fadlan was a Muslim who would have found this custom not only strange but down right filthy. A Muslim would only wash under running water or water poured over him so that the dirty water running off would not soil him. Another habit of the Rus that Ibn Fadlan found repulsive was that they did not clean themselves after having sex or defecating.

The personal habits of the Rus were not the only thing he found vile about these people. He describes in detail their moral customs which must have seemed shocking to him. Free sex seems to have been part of their daily...
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