Pliny the Elder's descriptions of the northern region, often a bit complex, characterized it as consisting of 23 islands.
Among these, he singled out Scandinavia, populated by Hilleviones, as the most famous one.
The Roman author was not alone in his belief that Scandinavia was an island - multiple classical writers in the first century shared the conviction.
Scandinavia - a typo?
There is another fun fact related to Scandinavia and Pliny the Elder. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Scandinavia was originally called "Scadinavia" (without the extra "n").
However, Pliny added an additional "n" by error, and it has remained in place since, spreading further and further due to the author's popularity over the centuries.
With time, the dual "n" spelling became commonplace.
Is Scandinavia really all about the Vikings?
Modern-day popular culture is pretty big on Vikings and their image, so one could easily think that the research behind most major Viking-related topics - and Scandinavia - is advanced.
However, this is far from the truth. Before Vikings, there were millions of years of geological changes. The Ice Age, for example, when nature and time in cooperation created marvelous landscapes of Northern Europe, was followed by the Stone Age, when the earliest human settlers began arriving.
The Bronze Age and the Iron Age were times when there was a development of farming and trading, which helped societies develop and strengthen.
Many authors of the 1st century AD believed that Scandinavia was an island. Photo: Pascal Debrunner / Unsplash
Pre-Viking inhabitants – who were the Hilleviones?
The melting of the ice from the Ice Age created a whole new perspective and new territories that could be used as farming lands.
During the Stone Age, the first and earliest Scandinavian inhabitants came to the territories of today's Sweden and Denmark between 10,000 BC and 5000 BC.
The oldest Scandinavian man discovered is the Koelbjerg Man, and his remains were dated to 8000 BC. He was found in Denmark, in the area of Odense.
According to Pliny the Elder, the Hilleviones were the first inhabitants of "the island of Scadinavia." Researches show that he was probably referring to the Scandinavian Peninsula.
Pliny described it as an island "of a magnitude yet unascertained," and the Hilleviones, who lived in one part of "the island," were considered as members of a separate world, living in their 500 villages.
Pliny the Elder, on his route along "Scadinavia," also wrote about unexplored islands and extraordinary and mythical people, who, according to his descriptions, had ears large enough to cover their whole bodies and others who had children with the feet of horses.
Scandinavia and its connection to the rest of Europe throughout its ancient past
Sometimes it can seem that Scandinavia is left out of the archaeological research, mostly due to it being distant from the main (and in this sense the most popular) thrusts of human pre-history.
But Scandinavia was connected to the rest of Europe throughout most of its ancient past – through establishing trade relationships with central Europe and onwards, which only grew more potent by the Viking Age. Its influence and power spread to Constantinople and the Arabic Caliphates, so the intertwining of these cultures was much longer and more robust than it might seem at first sight.
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