Who is the New Varangian Guard?
The New Varangian Guard Inc. (NVG Inc) is a historical re-enactment organisation with branches throughout Australia, and sister organisations in several other countries.
The core area and period of interest of the New Varangian Guard is the Byzantine Empire, its allies and enemies, during the 9th to 13th centuries A.D. Members of the Guard attempt to learn about the lifestyle of these peoples by study and reconstruction of the materials and practices of the period.
We aim to make our recreation as realistic as possible without compromising safety, the law, or personal enjoyment. We also endeavor to create and maintain channels of communication amongst members, other recreation groups, educators, government and the business community. In this way we provide opportunities and venues for members to practice, display and teach the skills, arts and crafts that they pursue.
Historical Basis for the New Varangian Guard
Vikings and Rus' had been traveling to Byzantium for at least a century before 988 A.D., when Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev (later Saint Vladimir) sent six thousand 'Varangians' (probably mixed Russian and Norse troops) to Constantinople to serve Emperor Basil II, in return for Christian baptism and the hand of a Byzantine princess.
Like other Vikings and Rus' before them, they served with distinction in the regular army, but sometime around or before the middle of the eleventh century, Varangians replaced the existing native Imperial guards. Their boldness, bravery and unswerving loyalty is recorded by Byzantine chroniclers.
These Emperor's Varangians, also know as the 'axe-wielding guard' (though one Emperor nicknamed them "Winebags"), were primarily Vikings and Rus until the late eleventh century, when a large influx of Englishmen fleeing Norman persecution significantly changed the ethnic composition.
Scandinavian involvement revived during the Crusades, and indeed, the heyday of the Emperor's Varangians seems to have run from the late 11th to the mid 12th century.
After the destruction caused in the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 A.D., the Varangian Guard continued to exist in name but became a hereditary ceremonial guard, largely drawn from internal Byzantine sources.