Thormodus Torfæus

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Portrait of Torfaeus Thormod Thorlaeus.jpg
Portrait of Torfæus

Thormodus Torfæus (Thormodr Torfason, Thormod Torfæus, or Þormóður Torfason) (1636—1719) was an Icelandic historian, born 27 May 1636 at Engey, Iceland and educated at the University of Copenhagen. He lived and worked for most of his life in Kopervik, Karmøy, Norway. In 1667 he was appointed royal antiquary of Iceland, and in 1682 King Christian V of Denmark appointed him Royal Historian of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway. He translated several Icelandic works into the Danish language and was the author of Historia Vinlandiæ Antiquæ (1705); Grœnlandia Antiqua (1706); and Historia Rerum Norvegicarum (four volumes, 1711).

Iceland island republic in Northern Europe

Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 348,580 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.

Historian person who studies and writes about the past

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Engey island

Engey is the second largest island of the Kollafjörður fjord in western Iceland. Located north of the capital Reykjavík, the uninhabited island is 1.7 kilometres (5,600 ft) in length and around 400 metres (1,300 ft) in width. To the northern end of the island, a lighthouse, first built in 1902, is located. The lighthouse was damaged and later restored in 1937.


In 1711, Torfæus's Historia rerum Norvegicarum (history of Norway, written in Latin) was published in four folio volumes. It was the first comprehensive presentation of Norwegian history since Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. The work covers Norwegian history, from its earliest beginnings until 1387. The focus – and the strength of the work – lies in the older, medieval history. Torfæus had at his disposal a number of medieval Old Norse saga manuscripts, and he was a pioneer in using these as source material. He reworked this Old Norse literature into a coherent Latin history. As well, he built on a large amount of historical narratives in Latin, both medieval and more recent. Thus, the work is based on a mixed foundation of medieval Old Norse saga tradition and contemporary continental Latin culture.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Snorri Sturluson Icelandic historian, poet and politician (1179–1241)

Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was elected twice as lawspeaker to the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. He was the author of the Prose Edda or Younger Edda, which consists of Gylfaginning, a narrative of Norse mythology, the Skáldskaparmál, a book of poetic language, and the Háttatal, a list of verse forms. He was also the author of the Heimskringla, a history of the Norwegian kings that begins with legendary material in Ynglinga saga and moves through to early medieval Scandinavian history. For stylistic and methodological reasons, Snorri is often taken to be the author of Egil's saga.

<i>Heimskringla</i> collection of kings sagas, written by Snorri Sturluson

Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson (1178/79–1241) ca. 1230. The name Heimskringla was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts.

Through his adaptation this Norse literary tradition became known to a large public – Dano-Norwegian as well as European. What was written during the next century about older Norwegian history was almost invariably based on Torfæus's work. Ludvig Holberg praised the work as "one of the most impressive and wonderful histories ever to have seen the light." Torfæus died on 31 July 1719 in Stangeland, Karmøy.

Dano-Norwegian is a koiné that evolved among the urban elite in Norwegian cities during the later years of the union between the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway (1536/1537–1814). It is from this koiné that Riksmål and Bokmål developed. Bokmål is now the most widely used written standard of contemporary Norwegian.

Ludvig Holberg Danish-Norwegian writer, philosopher and historian

Ludvig Holberg, Baron of Holberg was a writer, essayist, philosopher, historian and playwright born in Bergen, Norway, during the time of the Dano-Norwegian dual monarchy. He was influenced by Humanism, the Enlightenment and the Baroque. Holberg is considered the founder of modern Danish and Norwegian literature, and is best known for the comedies he wrote in 1722–1723 for the Lille Grønnegade Theatre in Copenhagen. Holberg's works about natural and common law were widely read by many Danish law students over two hundred years, from 1736 to 1936.

A Norwegian state-funded project is currently in the process of translating all of his work into Norwegian. [1]


Torfæus' parents were Icelandic governor Torfi Erlendsson (1598–1665) and Tordis Bergsveinsdóttir (1602–69).

Torfæus was married twice, 1.) on 9 July 1665, with the widow Anna Hansdatter (1620–16.12.1695), daughter of Hans Gabrielsen Kvinesdal and Sofie; and 2.) in 1709 with Anne Hansdatter Gammel (c. 1660–1723), daughter of councilman Hans Pedersen Gammel and Marie Clausdatter.


Non-published material

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