Advantages The landscape
Disadvantages Little to do if you're not going to go out an be impressed by the countryside.
Given how few people there are in the country – and therefore how few places – you might think that unlike the rest of us Icelanders would have survived thus far without having to double up on their town-names. Presumably however, just like the rest of us, they name places by reference to geography, geology and/or people or events, so doubling-up does happen. There are several Reykholts dotted about. That being so, let’s get the confusion out of the way from the outset: we are talking about Reykholt in West Iceland, about 35km northeast of Borgarnes on route 518.
Snorri SturlusonLike most mediaeval scholars, Snorri was not of common farming stock. He was born into the Icelandic equivalent of the aristocracy in 1179. His mother’s ancestors included the warrior poet Egill Skallagrimsson and his father was from a line of influential chieftains. In the absence of a central ruling body, the chieftains governed the country through a series of alliances and deals. These were often cemented by marriage between the clans or by the fostering out of a child. At a young age (between two & four depending upon the source), Snorri was sent in just such a fashion to Oddi – at that time a cultural Mecca centred on the ecclesiastical school founded by French-educated Saemunder Sigfússon. Here he grew up learning not only the ways of the clans but also becoming familiar with historical writings and the workings of the Norwegian court.
Although best-known as a poet, Snorri was also a lawyer rising to the only position of public office in the country: Lawspeaker of the Althing – a position he held from 1215 to 1218, and again from 1222 to 1232. In the intervening years he had been in Norway by Royal invitation, forming and cementing relationships that would eventually prove to be his downfall. Norway was bent on extending its control to include Iceland, but Snorri apart, most of the Icelandic chiefs had other ideas. The disagreement spilt over into pitched battles and guerrilla warfare, mirrored by a civil war in Norway itself over the claim to the throne.
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