The Orkney Islands in Chapter 35

Chapter 35

Beyond Norway, which is the land that lies at the edge of the northern countries, there are no human habitations, only a fright-inspiring and immense sea which encircles the whole world. Opposite Norway are many rather large islands, which almost all are under the authority of Norway, which is the reason that we mention them here as they belong to the Hamburg diocese. First we have the Orkney Islands, which the barbarians call the Orcades. These are — like the Cyclades — scattered over the sea. The Roman writers Martianus and Solinus have written about them: "Behind Britannia where the immense ocean opens up, are the Orkney Islands, twenty of which are uninhabited and 15 inhabited. The Orkney Islands consist of 40 islands forming one group. Near them we find the Electrides [possibly the Hebrides] where Electron or amber is formed. The Orkney Islands, which thus lie between Norway, Britannia and Ireland, faces the wild and threatening ocean. It is said that from these islands one can sail to Trondheim in Norway in only one day. It is said as well that it takes the same time to sail to England or for that matter Scotland. Even if the Orkney Islands formerly was under the bishops of England or Scotland, our archbishop, on the order of the Pope, ordained Turolf to bishop in the town of Blascona so that he could administer to all the islands."

Source: Adam of Bremen, "[The Orkney Islands in] Chapter 35" in Beskrivelse af °erne i Nordern [Descriptions of the Islands in the North], (Copenhagen: Wormianum, 1978), 57-59. Notes: Original Latin text and Danish translation, with commentaries by Allan A. Lund English translation by B. Wallace Original tile: Descriptio insularum Aquilonis. Written c. 1075

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