RURIK THE NORSEMAN
 THE people who lived in the central part of Rus'sia in the ninth century did not all belong to any one nation. Many
tribes had come from Asia and passed through the land, and some members of the tribes went no farther. These people were
tall and strong. They could climb cliffs which one would think only goats could scale; and they could swim across the
swiftest rivers. They taught their children that every injury must be avenged, and that it was a disgrace to forgive a
They had no idea of what it meant to be afraid, and when they went to battle, it was the same to them whether they were
fighting with some tribe as wild as themselves or with the well-trained Roman soldiers, and they had but one fashion of
attack; when the enemy drew near, the whole body flung themselves furiously upon their foes. If they had once taken any
plunder, they would die rather than give it up, no matter how useless it might be to them.
There are two good things to say about these people. The first is that they were kind to one another. The second is that
they were most hospitable. They had a custom of putting some food in sight when they left their huts, so that no chance
wayfarer need go away hungry. Indeed, their hospitality went so far that if a stranger came to them and they had no food
for him, it was regarded as entirely proper to steal whatever was needed.
They believed in a great god, whom they called the
thunder-  maker, and in a vast number of less powerful gods. They never thought of their deities as kind and gentle, but always as
fierce and savage, and they carved most hideous images, into which they believed the spirits of the gods would enter
that they might be worshipped.
After a while the wisest and bravest among them became chiefs. Still, they were a rude, savage folk, and some tribes
were more like beasts than like human beings.
SCENE IN NORTH RUSSIA.
(SHOWING THE MARSHES)
In northern Russia, around the Baltic Sea, lived people who were more fierce than these in central Russia. They were
always ready to leap into their boats and go as fast as wind and oars would carry them wherever they thought they could
find plunder. These were the people whom the English called Danes. They were also called Northmen or Norse'men,
because they came from the north, and Vi'kings, which meant pirates. Some of them entered the service of the
emperors at Constantinople. They were most loyal bodyguards and they could be trusted freely with the keys of both
palace and treasury. In battle they were valuable friends, but sometimes the officers must have been a little puzzled to
know how to manage them. Once the odds
 were so much against them that the Greek commander, whose allies they were, sent a herald to them to ask, "Will you
fight, or will you retreat?" "We will fight," the Northmen shouted; and one of them was so enraged at the suggestion of
retreat that he gave the herald's horse such a blow with his fist as to strike it dead.
The Northmen usually went to Constantinople by launching their boats in the headwaters of the Dnie'per River and
floating down to the Black Sea. They had seen a good deal of the world, and they were bright and keen. They succeeded in
making the people of central Russia pay them tribute. According to the old story, there came a time when the people
determined not to pay it any longer. They united and drove the Northmen away. But they did not stay united. They
quarreled among themselves, for each man did whatever he chose and
 no one cared for the rights of his neighbor. It is said that one among them who was wiser than the rest saw that they
needed some power to govern them. He knew how much more civilized the Northmen were, and he persuaded several of the
tribes about him to send envoys to the Russ, a tribe of Northmen, to say, "Our country is large and rich, but we have no
order. Do you come and rule over us." A Northman named Ru'rik and his two brothers said, "We will come;" and the
three set out with their followers, all well armed, as were those who had come as envoys. Rurik built his stronghold at
Nov-go-rod'; one brother went farther south, and the other farther northeast. After a year or two, the younger
brothers died and Rurik was left to rule alone. He chose men whom he could trust and gave them land. In return, they
built fortresses and helped him to keep peace in the land, to govern the unruly tribes, and to teach them to obey. As
soon as he had them well in hand, he conquered neighboring tribes; and so his little kingdom grew rapidly, until it
became a large kingdom, which took the name of Russia from the Russ tribe. Rurik himself was now called ve'li-ki
kni-as', or grand-prince.
After Rurik had reigned for seventeen years, he died, leaving his throne to his little son. So it was that the first
ruler of Russia
 was a bold and daring warrior, and the second a boy only four years old.
The people of early Russia. — Their behavior in war. — Their good qualities. — Their gods. — The Danes as allies. — The people of
Russia pay them tribute. — The coming of Rurik. — His rule.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics