The earliest origin of the Gothic people/culture is commonly placed on the Scandinavian peninsula, in the region of Götaland (in southern Sweden) and/or the island of Gotland (off the eastern coast of Sweden).

Similarly the origin of Vikings is often placed in the area of Roslagen (roughly around where Stockholm is located).

These localities are shown in the image at the bottom of this question.

Question is: In Sweden, was there a cultural continuity from the Gothic culture to the Viking culture, or were these two different groups of people?

Map showing Roslagen, Gotland, Götaland in Sweden

  • 5
    It depends on who you meant by "Vikings", which described people from a wide geographical range beyond just Sweden. the origin of Vikings is often placed in the area of Roslagen Any sources? Placed by who? Roslagen is sometimes said to be the homeland of the Rus people, but I've never seen it said of Vikings in general.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 9, 2018 at 15:56
  • 8
    There were no Viking people and there was no Viking culture. Being a viking was an occupation, being a pirate or sea raider. In the 17th century, being a buccaneer was being a French, English, or Dutch pirate or privateer who raided Spanish ships and settlements in the Carribean. Being a viking was being a Norse, Swedish, or Danish pirate who raided other Scandinavians or foreigners, an analog of a buccaneer. Calling all Scandinavians Vikings is like calling all 17th century, French, Dutch, and English persons Buccaneers.
    – MAGolding
    Jun 9, 2018 at 17:36
  • 4
    Would you call all citizens of the USA Dentists? Only a tiny percentage of the population are dentists. in the song "Son be a dentist" in Little Shop of Horrors" Dr. Orin Scrivello tells how his father noticed his sadistic tendencies as a child and advised him to put them to use by becoming a dentist. Similarly, Egil's Saga tells how Egil Skallagrimsson killed a little boy when he was a child, and his mother said that with Egil's personality he should be a viking when he grew up. The average Scandinavian was no more an ethnic Viking than the average American is an ethnic Dentist.
    – MAGolding
    Jun 9, 2018 at 17:51
  • 3
    "Similarly the origin of Vikings is often placed in the area ..." Source needed. Please cite all non-trivial assertions. If we have a source for that, then people can stop criticizing you and start engaging with the historiography. What is the time period for each of these communities?
    – MCW
    Jun 9, 2018 at 20:50
  • 3
    @MAGolding I mean, fully acknowledging the origin of the word, it’s become a useful colloquialism used by respectable scholars. I’m not an historian, still less one of Scandinavia, but a glance at my shelf tells me Jesse Byock, Kirsten Wolf, and many others have put out books with Viking in the title, even if many of them certainly offer the canned apology for it in their introduction. I generally go with Norse, but when professionals use a word, even grudgingly, I think it may be too much to expect their readers to act differently.
    – Random
    Jun 10, 2018 at 3:06

1 Answer 1


First of all, you have confused the Vikings (seaborne warriors) with the Rus, the Scandinavians who according to chroniclers founded Russia (hence the name); I'm not sure if this idea finds favour among modern Russian historians. The Rus are thought to have their name from Roslagen.

About another assumption you make: If you would ask a Swedish historian of today whether the Goths had really emigrated from Southern Sweden, he would most likely look at you strangely. Such ideas were once common in Sweden, in a school of thought called gothicism, but during the last hundred years or so, it has been seen as untenable: there is simply not good enough sources to say anything about the history of Sweden until we get some glimpses through chronicles written by Christian outsiders.

A brief account of the pre-historic Goths

The earliest possible notice we have of the Goths come from Tacitus, who in his Germania (ca 98 CE) wrote about the "gotines", who apparantly spoke a Gallic language, and the Gotones, who lived near but separated from the sea by other tribes, somewhere in Northern Poland.

We also have the works of the Gothic historian Jordanes, who wrote that the Goths had emigrated from the island Scandza, and founded a new home they called Gothiscandza. Jordanes provides more details of Scandza, including the names of some two dozen tribes that lived there, and some details of geography which has bewildered those who have attempted to reconcile it with actual features in Sweden. Note that Jordanes wrote at least 400 years after this migration must have taken place, if Tacitus is to be believed.

Apart from this, there are a couple of words that are common between Gutnish, (the old tongue of Gotland) and Gothic, as well as the findings attributed to the Wielbark culture, which some historians has interpreted as the earliest physical traces of the Goths, located around the mouth of the Vistula.

It should perhaps also be noted that all Germanic tribes taking part in the Völkerwanderung except the Franks had a legend of a Scandinavian origin.

Scandinavian pre-historic demography

If we, finally, rephrase the question as if there is any evidence of large scale displacement of the Scandinavian population during the first millenium CE, then the answer is definitely no. One can argue about how sharp a line there were to the Sami or Finns, and where the line went, but there is no or very little evidence of any large upheavals. One evidence against this is that in southern Scandinavia, you find no, or very, very few (old) place names that is not of Germanic origin. Similarly, you can find continuity in material culture, even though there obviously were many differences between the beginning and the end of this period.


I've mainly relied on Sveriges historia 13000 f.Kr-600 e.Kr. I have also consulted N.E. Hammarstedt's translation of Germania.

  • 2
    Roughly the same peoples went both east and west, with roughly the same goals. The distinction I usually see is to call the ones that sailed West "Vikings" and the ones that sailed east "Varangians" The "Rus" related to them roughly as the English (or later "Danes" living above the Danelaw) relate to the Vikings. But its just another word for the same culture's people doing the same thing at the same time.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 11, 2018 at 19:36
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    @T.E.D. The Varangians was originally the name of the Byzantine Emperors' elite guard. The name was taken up in Russia as "varyag", and applied to most Norse. The Norse called raiders in the east "Vikings" as well (see Egil's saga, chapter 46), so the distinction is a modern one. "Rus" originally was used for (a group of) Norsemen, later for all "Russians", similar to "Normands".
    – andejons
    Jun 20, 2018 at 8:16
  • There is a difference between culture and people. Varangians/Rus went to rule Slavs (they founded "Russia" as a state) and pass their culture (or adopt Slavic culture to some extent.) It would be incorrect to claim that Russians are descendants of vikings, which however might make more sense for Swedes or even English.
    – Roger V.
    Sep 13, 2023 at 7:49
  • 1
    @RogerVadim - "Russia" is a term that appears with Ivan the Terrible to claim that his new expanding state was a restorer of Kievan Rus. Not only Russians (people of Russia) are not descendants of Vikings, but politically the Muscovy-based state was marked by the Mongol mold at least as much as by the Kievan Rus. Impact of Mongol model of statehood and even economy on Eastern Europe is somewhat overlooked by many though.
    – cipricus
    Sep 13, 2023 at 8:28
  • 1
    @cipricus I freely admit that I have very little expertise on the subject, and that my terminology is imprecise. This is why I put "Russia" in quotation marks in my first comment, while the later use of "Russians" was referring to the modern people... although the term is still highly ambiguous - it may imply Russian citizens, Russian speakers, anyone who is culturally "Russian", or even anyone from the USSR (as it was widely used in the US and Europe until recently.)
    – Roger V.
    Sep 13, 2023 at 9:36

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