Iceland, known as “Ísland” in Icelandic, is a Nordic island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Iceland was settled by Norse explorers and settlers in the ninth century and continuing into the early tenth century, primarily from Norway, and it was one of the last places in Europe to be settled.
It had not been discovered during the Arthurian period but, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur conquered from King Malvasius. Layamon calls the conquered king Alcus, and says that Malvasius ruled it later. Warriors from Iceland assisted Arthur in the invasion of Gaul and in the Roman War.
In Meriadeuc, the Queen of Iceland is the sweetheart of King Ris of Outre-Ombre, Arthur’s enemy. Ris conquered nine kings in her honor and made a mantle for her out of their beards. She asked Ris to conquer Arthur for the final beard, but Ris was unsuccessful. The Queen’s sister was the Lady of the Isles.
In some romances, Iceland is confused with Ireland.
Iceland | 0 to 1300 AD
Prior to the Norse arrival, Iceland was uninhabited by humans. The island’s natural environment consisted of volcanoes, glaciers, fjords, rivers, and diverse flora and faunta. Iceland was likely known to some seafaring peoples, such as Irish monks and Viking explorers, but there is no evidence of permanent settlement before the ninth century.
The settlement of Iceland by Norse settlers began in the late ninth century. According to Icelandic sagas and historical accounts, the first known Norse settler in Iceland was Ingólfr Arnarson, who arrived with his family around 874. He settled in what is now Reykjavik. The settlement period was characterized by waves of Norse immigrants who came to Iceland seeking new land and opportunities. They established farmsteads and small communities along the coast and in fertile valleys.
In the year 1000 AD, Iceland adopted Christianity as its official religion at the Althing, the national assembly. The decision was partly influenced by the increasing influence of Christianity in Europe and the efforts of Icelandic leaders like Þorgeir Þorkelsson.
During the early medieval period, Iceland developed a unique culture and legal system known as the Icelandic Commonwealth. The Icelandic sagas, written in the thirteenth century but based on earlier oral traditions, provide invaluable insights into the history, culture, and social structure of early Icelandic society.
While Iceland was largely self-governing, it had occasional contact with Norway, which had asserted sovereignty over Iceland in the thirteenth century. The Union of Norway and Iceland formally occured in 1262 under the terms of the Old Covenant, which recognized Norweigan rule but allowed Iceland considerable autonomy.
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Roman de Brut | Wace, c. 1155
Brut | Layamon, late 12th century to mid-13th century