|Died 575 AD, Uppsala, Sweden|
Name Eadgils Eadgils
Great grandchildren Anund
Eadgils, Adils, Aðils, Adillus, Aðísl at Uppsölum, Athisl, Athislus or Adhel was a semi-legendary king of Sweden, who is estimated to have lived during the 6th century.
Beowulf and Old Norse sources present him as the son of Ohthere and as belonging to the ruling Yngling (Scylfing) dynasty. These sources also deal with his war against Onela, which he won with foreign assistance: in Beowulf he gained the throne of Sweden by defeating his uncle Onela with Geatish help, and in two Scandinavian sources (Skáldskaparmál and Skjöldunga saga), he is also helped to defeat Onela in the Battle on the Ice of Lake Vänern, but with Danish help. However, Scandinavian sources mostly deal with his interaction with the legendary Danish king Hrólfr Kraki (Hroðulf), and Eadgils is mostly presented in a negative light as a rich and greedy king.
The Norse forms are based an older (Proto-Norse) *Aþagīslaz (where *aþa is short for *aþala meaning "noble, foremost" (German 'adel') and *gīslaz means "arrow shaft"). However, the Anglo-Saxon form is not etymologically identical. The A-S form would have been *Ædgils, but Eadgils (Proto-Norse *Auða-gīslaz, *auða- meaning "wealth") was the only corresponding name used by the Anglo-Saxons. The name Aðils was so exceedingly rare even in Scandinavia that among almost 6000 Scandinavian runic inscriptions, it is only attested in three runestones (U 35, DR 221 and Br Olsen;215).
The Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, composed sometime between the 8th century and the 11th century, is (beside the Norwegian skaldic poem Ynglingatal from the 9th century) the oldest source that mentions Eadgils.
The text of Beowulf implies that the Swedish king Ohthere died and that his younger brother Onela succeeded him, because Ohthere's two sons, Eadgils and Eanmund had to seek refuge with Heardred, Hygelac's son and successor as king of the Geats. This caused Onela to attack the Geats, and Heardred was killed. Onela returned home and Beowulf succeeded Heardred as the king of Geatland. In the following lines, Onela is referred to as the Scylfings' helmet and the son of Ongenþeow, whereas Eadgils and Eanmund are referred to as the sons of Ohtere:
Later in the poem, it tells that during the battle, Eadgils' brother Eanmund was killed by Onela's champion Weohstan, Wiglaf's father. In the following lines, Eanmund also appears as the son of Ohtere and as a brother's child:
Eadgils, however, survived and later, Beowulf helped Eadgils with weapons and warriors. Eadgils won the war and killed his uncle Onela. In the following lines, Eadgils is mentioned by name and as the son of Ohtere, whereas Onela is referred to as the king:
This event also appears in the Scandinavian sources Skáldskaparmál and Skjöldunga saga - see below.
According to Snorri Sturluson, Eadgils was buried in one of the royal mounds of Gamla Uppsala, and he is believed to be buried in Adils' Mound (also known as the Western mound or Thor's mound) one of the largest mounds at Uppsala. An excavation in this mound showed that a man was buried there c. 575 on a bear skin with two dogs and rich grave offerings. There were luxurious weapons and other objects, both domestic and imported, show that the buried man was very powerful. These remains include a Frankish sword adorned with gold and garnets and a board game with Roman pawns of ivory. He was dressed in a costly suit made of Frankish cloth with golden threads, and he wore a belt with a costly buckle. There were four cameos from the Middle East which were probably part of a casket. The finds show the distant contacts of the House of Yngling in the 6th century.
Snorri's account that Adils had the best horses of his days, and Jordanes' account that the Swedes of the 6th century were famed for their horses find support in archaeology. This time was the beginning of the Vendel Age, a time characterised by the appearance of stirrups and a powerful mounted warrior elite in Sweden, which rich graves in for instance Valsgärde and Vendel.