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The Icelandic Anthem
If you would like to hear the Icelandic Anthem, just follow the link below. It’s a midi file so the quality depends from the quality of your sound card.

The Icelandic Anthem (size = 5.29 kb)

Independence day
Celebrated on the 17th of June with lots of flags as you can see on one of the pictures.

Symbol of Reykjavik

In this symbol you can still recognize the two pillars of Ingólfur Arnarson.

Brief summary of Iceland’s history

Pytheas and his Ultima Thule

Pytheas, an explorer who had sailed in 330 BC north from Marseilles to discover the end of the world, wrote a travel journal that has been quoted from in several subsequent works (his original work is lost). He sailed upon the northern seas and wrote about an island that he called Ultima Thule. The island was six days north of Britain and one day removed from “the end of the world”. This island might have been Iceland.

Irish monks

In ‘De mensura orbis terrae’
(a geographical document which describes the northern seas written early in the 9th century) the Irish monk Dicuil included some interviews with the papas (Irish priests) who claimed to have lived in Ultima Thule from February to August and he was the first man who located Thule (later known as Iceland) as the isolated island that had already been known in Ireland in the later part of the 8th century. The Irish monks left Iceland soon after the Vikings started their own settlement in Iceland around the year 900. Nowadays, place names like Papey (island of the spirituals) and Papafjördur (fjord of the spirituals). It won’t be a surprise for you that as well the island as the fjord are located in the southeast, the part of Iceland closest to Ireland.

Harald the Fair-haired

Norway consisted in the 9th century of many little kingdoms, which were often in war with each other and caused many struggles. One of these little reigns belonged to Harald the Fair-haired, a strong and adventurous barbarian king. According to the legends, Harald fell in love with Gyda, a daughter of another local king. She rejected him by saying that she would only marry the man who could conquer entire Norway. Harald swore he would do that and he even succeeded (866 – 872). Many local kings who had lost their freedom and their pride, decided to settle elsewhere. They didn’t leave in the well-known slim dragon ships, but in knörss, solid and large ships filled with their family, slaves, cattle, house stuff and constructing material.

Flóki Vilgerdarson / Raven-Flóki

Many Vikings settled in Scotland and Ireland, places were they had captured their slaves before, and in the Hebrides and the Faeroe Isles. One of the first men who travelled to Iceland was Flóki Vilgerdarson. When two Vikings, who had accidentally landed on Iceland, came home with the most fantastic stories Flóki sailed with his family and his cattle in approximately 865 AC to the Shetland Isles and from there to the Faeroe Isles. When he left this last isles group, he carried with him three ravens to check his course. That’s how he obtained its nickname Raven-Flóki. When he released the first raven, he flew back in the direction where he came from, a sign so he knew he hadn’t even fulfilled half of his way.
The second raven flew a large circle and landed again on the ship. The third raven flew right before the ship and lead him to his destination. He only settled for a short period of time in the bay of Breidafjördur, a place rich off fish. His cattle died in the following harsh winter due to a lack of food. He bitterly returned to his fatherland. One also claims that it was Flóki who gave the Isle its current name, after he had discovered a fjord filled with floating ice. One also says that the first inhabitants gave their land the name Iceland to keep away further settlers. When the first Icelanders (Erik the Red and his companions) left for the almost entirely with ice covered Greenland, they really could use some extra people and gave the isle it’s attractive name Greenland.

Ingólfur Arnarson

The first Viking who settled permanently on Iceland, was Ingólfur Arnarson (874 AC). At the moment when he saw the first coasts, he threw the two pillars next to his thrown in the ocean, convinced that the sea would throw them on a suitable shore. Ingólfur and his companions stayed the first winter in the surroundings of a mountain on the southeast coast, which is now called Ingólfshöfdi. His slaves finally found the pillars (only after a few winters and a stay in Hjörleifshöfdi en Ingólfsfjall) in a bay in the southwest, where he settled permanently (877 AC). Because he saw smoke everywhere – in fact steam of hot water quells – he called this place Reykjavík (= smoke bay). In the city weapon of Reykjavík you can still see those 2 pillars, of which the city thanks her existence.

Nordic culture

Soon many others followed the example of Ingólfur and everywhere farms raised close to the shores. The main source of information about the settlement of Iceland is the Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), written in the 12th century, which gives a detailed account of the first settlers. With the often very rich farmers the old culture of Norway came to Iceland. The Celtic influence which we can find in the Edda and some of the place names and personal names (Njáll, Dímon) is caused by the fact that some Vikings, before they came to Iceland, had spent a large amount of time in Ireland or on the Hebrides or had robbed their slaves and sometimes women from there.

The Allthing

In 930, the Allthing (the first democratic parliament of the world, which met for two weeks every summer and attracted many inhabitants) was established and a constitutional law code was accepted. The judicial power of the Allthing was distributed between 4 local courts and a kind of a Supreme Court held annually at a national assembly at Þingvellir. Christianity was adopted by the Icelanders at the Allthing in the year 1000

The first bishopric was established at Skálholt in South Iceland in 1056, and a second at Hólar in the north in 1106. These two places soon became flourishing centres of knowledge.

Greenland and America

At the end of the tenth century Greenland was discovered by Icelanders under the leadership of Eirik the Red.
He, not willing to make the same mistake as the first settlers of Iceland, named the isle Greenland so it would attract more people however the major part of Iceland was covered with ice !

It was around the year 1000 that Icelanders were the first Europeans to set foot on the American continent, 500 years before Columbus, although their attempts to settle in the New World failed.

Under the destructive reign of Norway and Denmark

Due to internal feuds in 1262-64, which caused almost a terrible civil war, Iceland lost it’s independence and surrendered to the King of Norway and accepted a new monarchical code in 1271. The end of Iceland’s “Golden Age” and it’s independence began when Norway and Denmark formed the Kalmar Union in 1397 as it fell under the sovereignty of the king of Denmark. He reformed the Church in 1551 so Denmark controlled the Church taking away its great wealth. An oppressive Danish trade monopoly forbid the Hansa and English trade and the crisis in the Icelandic economy worsened when an absolute monarchy was established in 1662, thus transferring all governing power to Copenhagen. All arrangements were taken to let the Danish reserves grow and to weaken Iceland’s economy.


Further problems arose in the food supply due to cooling of the climate during the 16th and 17th centuries, resulting in terrible famines : the eighteenth century marked the most tragic age in Iceland’s history. In 1703, when the first complete census was taken, the population was approximately 50 000, of whom about 20% were beggars and dependents. From 1707 to 1709 the population sank to about 35 000 because of a devastating smallpox epidemic. Twice more the population declined below 40 000, both during the years 1752-57 and 1783-85, owing to a series of famines and natural disasters. At the end of the 18th century the Allthing was dissolved and the old diocese replaced by one bishop residing in Reykjavík.

Denmark had some severe regrets

As a consequence of the troubles with the population, the trade monopoly was modified in 1783 so that all subjects of the Danish king had the right to trade in Iceland. The Allthing was re-established in 1843, but only as a consultative assembly. In 1854 trade monopoly was abolished entirely. In 1874, when Iceland celebrated the millennium of the first settlement, it received a constitution from the Danish king and control of its own finances. In 1904 Iceland got home rule and finally in 1918 sovereignty, but was united with Denmark under the Danish crown. In 1940 Iceland was occupied by British forces, which were replaced in 1941 by American troops by special agreement between the Icelandic and American governments. Finally, on 17 June 1944, the Republic of Iceland was formally proclaimed at Þingvellir.

© Coen De Roover