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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Resplendent and fierce, 15 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: The Varangian Guard 988-1453 (Men-at-Arms) (Paperback)
Includes the following sections: A potted chronology and history of the guard; its ethnic composition; organization; the nature of the service provided by the guard and their rewards; equipment and weapons; clothing.

Dr D'Amato has certainly done his research, but one oddity I noted on a first reading is his translation of Miklagard as "City of Michael"; I had always understood the "Mikla" element as coming from "mikill", that is "great". [Edit: See Dr D'Amato's clarification on this point - click on the comments hyperlink below.]

On the colour plates (always the main reason I buy Ospreys), Giuseppe Rava is certainly no McBride (noted in the blurb as one of Rava's inspirations), but if these reconstructions are anything to go by, the Varangians would certainly have looked very resplendent as well as fierce.

This is a pretty good and certainly long overdue addition to the Osprey catalogue.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jun 2010 15:37:52 BDT
Dear Dr. Wisty,
thanks You for your nice review. I agree obvioulsy with you about the usual translation of Miklagard as "Great City", which was of course the first meaning, but I wanted also underline as the recent researches conducted by the Professor Yotov and me have pointed to a possible successive use of the word by the Norsemen as "city of the Archangel Michael", especially from the Varangians of the second generations. S. also on it the book of Yotov quoted in my bibliography. I putted both interpretations beside, but You know, the number of words in Osprey publications is limited and the text has been reduced by the publishers, of course for reason of space. About Giuseppe Rava'artwork I have to say that it is for me the real successor of McBride, and that the colourful result was astonishing, especially if you could look at the original plates...although if obviously is not easy to confront with a legend...
Thank You anyway for your excellent review and best wishes
Dr. Raffaele D'Amato

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jun 2010 14:07:12 BDT
E. L. Wisty says:
Thank you for the clarification on 'Miklagard'. I thought that the derivation 'City of Michael' given in the text might have referred to emperor Michael III perhaps, but a derivation from 'Archangel Michael' is an intriguing suggestion! Sad that you don't get much space in an Osprey for more detail!

On Giuseppe Rava's artwork, I did not mean to imply that it was in some way poor, but that McBride is perhaps hard to follow. As you say, the plates are amazingly colourful, and as I said, if these reconstructions are accurate then the Varangians must have had a splendid as well as fearsome appearance.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 22:22:11 BDT
In Icelandic the name is Mikligaršur, which in our language and understanding means "the great enclosure" "Mikli" means the great, "Garšur" can refer to a garden, fort or a city; basically a fenced space. Miklagarš is the accusative case of the noun, meaning "about Miklagarš". I doubt that the term refers to St Michael since the case doesn't support this. as other historical names retain their case in the modern language, such as Garšarķki a plural meaning the "enclosures (cities) state" the Norse name for Novgorod. Other cities with similar names are Hólmgaršur og Kęnugaršur, both with the correct case.
It also seems implausible that the pagan Norse would name a city after another religion“s deity, unless the locals did so. The Norse did use translations of local names of places (Greenland), and if the Byzantines calls the city St. Michael“s City, the Norse could possibly have done the same.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Sep 2010 19:35:20 BDT
Dear Erlendsson
Of course I agree with you about the ethimology of the name of the city. However, in later period, when the Norse men composing the guard were mainly Christian and also for them Saint. Michael was considered the protector of the whole Roman Army, we have single references of men of the guard calling the city as "The city of Michael" .
We are talking about sorces of 12th Century.
Certainly it will be interesting for me to expose this other topics in a biger book about the Varangians because as you know Osprey it is a scientifical but also divulgative series.
Thanks for your comment
Best Regards
Dr. Raffaele D'Amato
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Review Details



E. L. Wisty

Location: O'er Hill And Dale

Top Reviewer Ranking: 176