The Viking name for Constantinople, subsequently known as Istanbul. It was an important trading post for the Vikings, especially the Swedish Vikings, who most frequently sailed on the east. Specifically, it was the endpoint of the Dniepr Route, which passed Kievan Rus, the Khazars, the Pechenegs, and the Tauric Chersonese. Here the Norsemen bought cloth, wine, glass and spices; they sold furs, amber, silver at times, and also themselves; the Varangian Guard was famously composed entirely of Northmen who had taken the coin of the Emperor. »Varangian« was the name of the Byzantines for the Northmen, a corruption of the Old Norse word varjag, »oathbound«, which they in turn gave to those who had taken the oath to protect the Emperor, and joined his guard... It isn't strange that the name the most continuously visible group of Vikings gave themselves should come to be transferred onto all of them; this process is, on the contrary, common.

The most literal and probably also best English translation of the name is »Muckle Yard«; these are the English cognates of the words in the name. »Muckle« is a — now dialectal and I believe almost obsolete — word meaning »huge«. »Gård«, however, could — and still does in Swedish — mean both yard and farm; a walled, and by extension a settled place. It also occurs, of course, in Midgård, Asgård, and Utgård inter alia; moreover in Gårdarike, the Viking name for the land in which Miklagård lay.

In short, the Vikings had the vaulting imagination to name Constantinople »Bigtown«, because it was the largest city they knew to exist. There does seem to be something wide-eyed and even naïve about the simplicity of it; but on the other hand, there is but one record of any Byzantine ever making the journey north, even though the lay of the rivers made the return journey easier — and they themselves called their city »Constantine's City«, which on closer inspection is not a great deal more imaginative. We men always take the easy way out when naming things; and there are few tribes whose eldest name for themselves was not »The People«.

Howsobeit, Miklagård assuredly lived in the imagination of the Eastern Vikings, both for its wealth and opportunity, and because it was one of the longest journeys they could undertake, to approximately the end of their world. Alas, this position among their descendants seems to be occupied now by Brooklyn, a rather sad and shriveled state of the ambitions. It were better if we dreamed of Istanbul still.

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