The Sparlösa Runestone, listed as Vg 119 in the Rundata catalog, is the second most famous Swedish runestone after the Rök Runestone. It was discovered in 1669 in the southern wall of the church of Sparlösa. Before their historical value was understood, many runestones were used as construction material for roads, walls, and bridges. Following a fire at the church in 1684, the runestone was split in rebuilding the wall. It was removed from the wall in 1937 and the two sections merged.
The stone is 1.77 metres tall and it is dated to about 800 AD based upon its transitional use of rune forms from both the elder and younger futhark, but it has a probably younger line added to it saying Gisli made this memorial after Gunnar, his brother. The dating is based on the style of the images, such as a ship, which suggest the 8th century, like similar images from Gotland. However, a sail on the ship suggests a later dating than the 8th century.
The runestone is famous for its depictions and its tantalizing and mysterious references to a great battle, the names Eric and Alrik, the father who resided in Uppsala and the text descending from the gods. The stone provides an early attestation of the place name Uppsala, and the two personal names Eric ('complete ruler') and Alrik ('everyone's ruler') are both royal names, known to have been worn by the semi-legendary Swedish Yngling dynasty at Uppsala. Moreover, the mention of a great battle is suggestive of the equally semi-legendary Swedish-Geatish wars that are mentioned in Beowulf.
The words runaR ræginkundu meaning 'runes of devine origin' are also in the runic text on the Noleby Runestone and would appear in stanza 79 of the Hávamál of the Poetic Edda several centuries later.
The runestone has imagery on four of its sides which apparently are unrelated to the runic text. One side has a building at the top that is over a crescent ship with a sail marked with a cross and with two birds, possibly peacocks, on its yardarms. At the bottom is a man on horseback hunting a stag and using a hunting leopard, which is not native to Sweden. The next side has an owl, with a head reminding of a lion's, and a goose fighting a snake. One side has a man and a cross band. One suggested interpretation is that the images on the stone are a memorial to Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths from 471 to 526 AD, with the building depicted on the stone a representation of his mausoleum. The other images, such as the crescent ship and the lion fighting the snake, are interpreted as iconography of the Arian Christian faith.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.