What’s in a name?


This sketch that I made seven years ago illustrates what my county Skåne/Scania may look like in the south and south west, fairly flat, agrarian, while the northern and north-eastern parts are more forested. Below this text you see a picture in black lead that I made some years ago in the north-eastern parts of this county. I have today also chosen to pick a drawn map of Scania which I haven’t made myself, but it depicts fairly well my topic today. If you look on that map you see in Scania’s far south-western corner below Malmoe a small peninsula peaking out in Öresund, the water west of Scania. It’s called Falsterbo-Skanör or the Falsterbo Peninsula. That part is vital for today’s topic since it’s that peninsula which is the reason for the name that eventually would be given not only to the local name Skanör, the entire county, but also the Scanidinavian countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

So…What’s in a name? 2000 years ago the Romans didn’t know very much about the northern part of Europe, more than what was heard from merchants and explorers. They believed that what actually is the southern tip of what’s now Sweden was an island or a peninsula. The ships that now and again went through Skagerrak and Öresund and traded with the local people here and east of us had to pass that tricky peninsula in the south west. Why was it tricky? Well, outside it in the water there are sandbanks that constantly move and make the waters there treacherous. Lots of ships have been ship-wrecked there and gone down over the years. It was as late as in the 18th century that they found a way to “tie” the sandbanks and make the area safer. Because of this the local population here 2000 years ago called that corner “The Dangerous Island” or “Dangerous Peninsula” = Skadhin Awio. This name “Skadhin Awio” was mentioned by Plinius the older in Rome who as a Roman admiral 23-79. A.D. told in his writings that the Roman fleet knew of 23 islands in this region. “Scatinavia” was the most famous and there lived Hilleviones. The route to Scatinavia was past Mons Saevo ibi, Mount Saevo, (most likely the rocky mountains in the south of Norway), the Codan Bay (Skagerrak) and the Cimbrian Plateau, (most likely Skagen in northern Denmark). Ptolemy in Alexandria (90 – 168 A.D.) called Scadinavia one of the Scandiae islands. “Skandia” was the largest, most eastern of those three east of Jutland in what would become Denmark. This name “Scatinavia” or “Scadinavia” would vary on maps and descriptions in Europe during the next 500 years. Then an extra “n” was added and it became “Scandinavia”. In the 6th century A.D. Jordanes described the origin of the Goths and said that Scandza was their land of origin, probably meaning south Scandinavia. Locally Skadhin Awio became during the 6th – 9th centuries Skáney and in the Anglo-Saxon tongue Scedenig. Skáney would later on become Skåne/Scania, and the province where I was born and have lived most of my life. On the peninsula itself there’s a place called Skanör. “Skan” is derived from “Skadhin” = “Dangerous” and “Ör” means Peninsula. The water between Denmark and Scania is called Öresund, which litterally means “The Strait between the Peninsulas/Islands”. In the most narrow part of Öresund you find the cities Helsingör in Denmark and Helsingborg in Scania. “Hels” means “Neck”, the most narrow part, and on both sides of that “neck” lived the “Helsings”. Helsingör means the Helsing Peninsula and Helsingborg in Scania is named after the fort that stood there and which partly still exists. The name means Helsing Fort.

Skåne/Scania is 10 939 square kilometres big and is surrounded by Denmark in the West, the counties Halland, Småland and Blekinge in the north. South and East of Scania you find the Baltic Sea and south of that Germany and Poland. Today Skåne has 1,2 million inhabitants, mostly living in the coastal regions in the West and in Kristianstad, and less densely in the inner parts of the county. The largest lake is called Ivö Lake, the highest point is Söderåsen/The South Chine, 212 metres above sea level and the lowest is the city of Kristianstad, 2,4 metres below sea level. The largest cities are Malmoe, (which also is Sweden’s third largest), Kristianstad and Helsingborg. Not far from Malmoe we also find the University city Lund which also has a cathedral. Scania’s county flower is the oxeye daisy and the county animal is the red deer.

Between the 6th and 9th centuries A.D. small local chieftains ruled in Scania, and some rumours mention the Scanian Pointy Crown, Strutkronan. South of Lund was a place called Uppåkra which still exists, but in those days was a big centre for power and commerce. The Scanian Chieftains had an overlord on Zeeland/Själland in Denmark called the Leyre King. There in Leyre he had his power centre and in the late 10th century the Danish king Harald Blue-Tooth gathered all Denmark. Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and the island of Bornholm became “the Scanian regions” of Denmark. In 1060 Lund got a Christian Church and a parson. Between 1104 and 1152 Lund was archbishopric for the Nordic kingdoms. In 1164-1531 Lund also mastered Uppsala Bishopric north of Stockholm. Around 1330 the Swedish king Magnus got Scania after a treaty with Denmark, but in 1361 the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag took it back when he also ravished and sacked the wealthy city of Visby on Gotland in the Baltic Sea. During the High Middle Ages Scania became famous for its trade with herring, especially in Skanör-Falsterbo. Öresund was teaming with fish. The city of Malmoe was founded as a link between Lund and Copenhagen in 1254 on the order of archbishop Jacob Erlandsen in Lund. The first church there was made of wood and called Saint Nicholas church, but around 1310 on the same spot replaced by Saint Peter’s church made of stone, and which still stands.

During the 14th and 15th century Malmoe grew in importance and had its peak in the 16th century as merchant city of the region and an important Danish city. In 1658 after the war with Sweden a peace treaty was signed where the Danish king had to leave Scania to Sweden. In the Scanian War 1675-1679 the Danes tried to take the province back and the Swedization process was cruel and relentless. In February 1710 Denmark made a last attempt to take Scania back in the battle of Helsingborg, but failed. In 1719 the Swedization process was completed and Scania totally integrated in the kingdom of Sweden. Was it better before that? I doubt it. Both Denmark and Sweden has their pros and cons and people are people irrespective of where we live. I love Scania, I love Malmoe and Lund, and I love Sweden. However, I am also pro the better part of our kind human kind. There is so much hate, competition, prejudiced notions and fears. It’s natural but also destructive. Let’s find good ways of creating a future that we can be proud of… Scanians and others.

Anders Moberg, May 4th 2013



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