Viking: Wikis


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Danish seamen, painted mid-twelfth century.
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A Viking (pron. /ˈvaɪkɪŋ/) is one of the Norse (Scandinavian) explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided and colonized wide areas of Europe from the late eighth to the early eleventh century.[1] These Norsemen used their famed longships to travel as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, and as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. This period of Viking expansion is known as the Viking Age, and forms a major part of the medieval history of Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe in general.

A romanticized picture of Vikings as Germanic noble savages emerged in the 18th century, and expanded during the Victorian era Viking revival.[2] In Britain it took the form of Septentrionalism, in Germany that of "Wagnerian" pathos or even Germanic mysticism, and in the Scandinavian countries that of Romantic nationalism or Scandinavism. In contemporary popular culture these clichéd depictions are often exaggerated with the effect of presenting Vikings as caricatures.[2]



In Old Norse, the word is spelled víkingr.[3] The word appears on several rune stones found in Scandinavia. In the Icelanders' sagas, víking refers to an overseas expedition (Old Norse fara í víking "to go on an expedition"), and víkingr, to a seaman or warrior taking part in such an expedition.

In Old English, the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, "Widsith", which probably dates from the 9th century. In Old English, and in the writings of Adam von Bremen, the term refers to a pirate, and is not a name for a people or a culture in general. Regardless of its possible origins, the word was used more as a verb than as a noun, and connoted an activity and not a distinct group of individuals. To "go Viking" was distinctly different from Norse seaborne missions of trade and commerce.

The word disappeared in Middle English, and was reintroduced as Viking during 18th century Romanticism (the "Viking revival"), with heroic overtones of "barbarian warrior" or noble savage.

During the 20th century, the meaning of the term was expanded to refer not only to the raiders, but also to the entire period; it is now, somewhat confusingly, used as a noun both in the original meaning of raiders, warriors or navigators, and to refer to the Scandinavian population in general. As an adjective, the word is used in expressions like "Viking age", "Viking culture", "Viking colony", etc., generally referring to medieval Scandinavia. The pre-Christian Scandinavian population is also referred to as Norse, although that term is properly applied to the whole civilization of Old-Norse-speaking people. In current Scandinavian languages, the term Viking is applied to the people who went away on Viking expeditions, be it for raiding or trading.[4]

The term Varangians made its first appearance in Byzantium where it was introduced to designate a function. In Russia it was extended to apply to Scandinavian warriors journeying to and from Constantinople. In the Byzantine sources Varangians are first mentioned in 1034 as in garrison in the Thracian theme. The Persian geographer Al Biruni has mentioned the Baltic Sea as the Varangian Sea and specifies the Varangians as a people dwelling on its coasts. The first datable use of the word in Norse literature appears by Einarr Skúlason in 1153. According to Icelandic Njalssaga from the 13th century, the institution of Varangian Guard was established by 1000. In the Russian Primary Chronicle the Varangian is used as a generic term for the Germanic nations on the coasts of the Baltic sea that likewise lived in the west as far as the land of the English and the French.[5]

The Viking Age

The Gokstad Viking ship on display in Oslo, Norway.

The period from the earliest recorded raids in the 790s until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 is commonly known as the Viking Age of Scandinavian history. The Normans, however, were descended from Danish Vikings who were given feudal overlordship of areas in northern France — the Duchy of Normandy — in the 10th century. In that respect, descendants of the Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe. Likewise, King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England who was killed during the Norman invasion in 1066, had Danish ancestors. Many of the medieval kings of Norway and Denmark married into English and Scottish royalty and occasionally got involved in dynastic disputes.[citation needed]

Geographically, a "Viking Age" may be assigned not only to Scandinavian lands (modern Denmark, Norway and Sweden), but also to territories under North Germanic dominance, mainly the Danelaw, formerly the Kingdom of Northumbria,[6] parts of Mercia,[7] and East Anglia.[8] Viking navigators opened the road to new lands to the north, west and east, resulting in the foundation of independent settlements in the Shetland, Orkney, and Faroe Islands; Iceland; Greenland;[9] and L'Anse aux Meadows, a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland, circa 1000 A.D.[10] Many of these lands, specifically Greenland and Iceland, may have been originally discovered by sailors blown off course.[citation needed] They also may well have been deliberately sought out, perhaps on the basis of the accounts of sailors who had seen land in the distance. The Greenland settlement eventually died out, possibly due to climate change. Vikings also explored and settled in territories in Slavic-dominated areas of Eastern Europe, particularly the Kievan Rus. By 950 AD these settlements were largely Slavicized.

A reconstructed Viking Age long house

From 839, Varangian mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Empire, notably Harald Hardrada, campaigned in North Africa, Jerusalem, and other places in the Middle East. Important trading ports during the period include Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang, Jorvik, Staraya Ladoga, Novgorod and Kiev.

There is archaeological evidence that Vikings reached the city of Baghdad, the center of the Islamic Empire.[11] The Norse regularly plied the Volga with their trade goods: furs, tusks, seal fat for boat sealant and slaves. However, they were far less successful in establishing settlements in the Middle East, due to the more centralized Islamic power.[citation needed]

Generally speaking, the Norwegians expanded to the north and west to places such as Ireland, Iceland and Greenland; the Danes to England and France, settling in the Danelaw (northern/eastern England) and Normandy; and the Swedes to the east. These nations, although distinct, were similar in culture and language. The names of Scandinavian kings are known only for the later part of the Viking Age. Only after the end of the Viking Age did the separate kingdoms acquire distinct identities as nations, which went hand in hand with their Christianization. Thus the end of the Viking Age for the Scandinavians also marks the start of their relatively brief Middle Ages.

Viking expansion

Map showing area of Scandinavian settlement in the eighth (dark red), ninth (red), tenth (orange) and eleventh (yellow) centuries. Green denotes areas subjected to frequent Viking raids.

The Vikings sailed most of the North Atlantic, reaching south to North Africa and east to Russia, Constantinople and the middle east, as looters, traders, colonists, and mercenaries. Vikings under Leif Eriksson, heir to Erik the Red, reached North America, and set up a short-lived settlement in present-day L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The motives driving the Viking expansion form a topic of much debate in Nordic history. One common theory posits that the Norse population had outgrown agricultural potential of their Scandinavian homeland.[citation needed] For a coastal population with superior naval technologies, it made sense to expand overseas in the face of a youth bulge effect. However, this theory does little to explain why the expansion went overseas rather than into the vast, uncultivated forest areas on the interior of the Scandinavian Peninsula. It should be noted that sea raiding was easier than clearing large areas of forest for farm and pasture in a region with a limited growing season. No such rise in population or decline in agricultural production has been definitively proven.

Another explanation is that the Vikings exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. For instance, the Danish Vikings were aware of the internal divisions within Charlemagne's empire that began in the 830s and resulted in schism.[citation needed] England suffered from internal divisions, and was relatively easy prey given the proximity of many towns to the sea or navigable rivers. Lack of organized naval opposition throughout Western Europe allowed Viking ships to travel freely, raiding or trading as opportunity permitted.

The decline in the profitability of old trade routes could also have played a role. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia suffered a severe blow when the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century.[12] The expansion of Islam in the 7th century had also affected trade with western Europe.[13] Trade on the Mediterranean Sea was historically at its lowest level when the Vikings initiated their expansion.[citation needed] By opening new trade routes in Arabic and Frankish lands, the Vikings profited from international trade by expanding beyond their traditional boundaries.[citation needed] Finally, the destruction of the Frisian fleet by the Franks afforded the Vikings an opportunity to take over their trade markets.[citation needed]


Following a period of thriving trade and Viking settlement, cultural impulses flowed from the rest of Europe to affect Viking dominance. Christianity had an early and growing presence in Scandinavia, and with the rise of centralized authority and the development of more robust coastal defense systems, Viking raids became more risky and less profitable.

Blar a' Bhuailte, site of the Vikings' last stand in Skye

In the Separate Saga of St. Olaf (king of Norway), ascribed to Snorri Sturluson, It describes the brutal process of Christianisation there: “…those who did not give up paganism were banished, with others he (Olaf II of Norway) cut off their hands or their feet or extirpated their eyes, others he ordered hanged or decapitated, but did not leave unpunished any of those who did not want to serve God (…) he afflicted them with great punishments (…) He gave them clerks and instituted some in the districts.”[citation needed]

As the new quasi-feudalistic system became entrenched in Scandinavian rule, organized opposition sealed the Vikings' fate. Eleventh-century chronicles note Scandinavian attempts to combat the Vikings from the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, which eventually led to Danish and Swedish participation in the Baltic Crusades during the 12th and 13th centuries. It also contributed to the development of the Hanseatic League.[14]

One of the primary profit centers of Viking trade was slavery. The Church took a position that Christians should not own fellow Christians as slaves, so chattel slavery diminished as a practice throughout Northern Europe. Eventually, outright slavery was outlawed, replaced with serfdom at the bottom rung of Medieval society. This took much of the economic incentive out of raiding, though sporadic activity continued for a few decades beyond the Norman conquest of England.

Weapons and warfare

Our knowledge about arms and armor of the Viking age is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and Norse laws recorded in the 13th century.

According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, as well as permitted to carry them at all times. These arms were also indicative of a Viking's social status: a wealthy Viking would have a complete ensemble of a helmet, shield, chainmail shirt, and sword. A typical bóndi (freeman) was more likely to fight with a spear and shield, and most also carried a seax as a utility knife and side-arm. Bows were used in the opening stages of land battles, and at sea, but tended to be considered less "honorable" than a hand weapon. Vikings were relatively unusual for the time in their use of axes as a main battle weapon. The Húscarls, the elite guard of King Cnut (and later King Harold II) were armed with two-handed axes which could split shields or metal helmets with ease.


Good-quality written historical sources for Scandinavia during the Viking Period are scarce, but the archaeological record is rich.[15]


The vast majority of runic inscriptions from the Viking period come from Sweden and date from the eleventh century. Many runestones in Scandinavia record the names of participants in Viking expeditions, such as the Kjula runestone which tells of extensive warfare in Western Europe and the Turinge runestone which tells of a warband in Eastern Europe. Other runestones mention men who died on Viking expeditions. Among them are around 25 Ingvar runestones in the Mälardalen district of Sweden, erected to commemorate members of a disastrous expedition into present-day Russia in the early 11th century. The runestones are important sources in the study of Norse society and early medieval Scandinavia, not only of the 'Viking' segment of the population[16].

Runestones attest to voyages to locations such as Bath,[17] Greece,[18] Khwaresm,[19] Jerusalem,[20] Italy (as Langobardland),[21] London,[22] Serkland (i.e. the Muslim world),[23] England,[24] and various locations in Eastern Europe.

The word Viking appears on several runestones found in Scandinavia.

Burial sites

There are numerous burial sites associated with Vikings. As well as providing information on Viking religion, burial sites also provide information on social structure. The items buried with the deceased give some indication as to what was considered important to possess in the afterlife.[25] Some examples of notable burial sites include:


Miniatures of two different types of longships, on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
Viking ship head of dragon, has a dog's nostrils, canines, and rounded ears.

There were two distinct classes of Viking ships: the longship (sometimes erroneously called "drakkar", a corruption of "dragon" in Norse) and the knarr. The longship, intended for warfare and exploration, was designed for speed and agility, and was equipped with oars to complement the sail as well as making it able to navigate independently of the wind. The longship had a long and narrow hull, as well as a shallow draft, in order to facilitate landings and troop deployments in shallow water. The knarr was a dedicated merchant vessel designed to carry cargo. It was designed with a broader hull, deeper draft and limited number of oars (used primarily to maneuver in harbors and similar situations). One Viking innovation was the beitass, a spar mounted to the sail that allowed their ships to sail effectively against the wind.[26]

Longships were used extensively by the Leidang, the Scandinavian defense fleets. The term "Viking ships" has entered common usage, however, possibly because of its romantic associations (discussed below).

In Roskilde are the well-preserved remains of five ships, excavated from nearby Roskilde Fjord in the late 1960s. The ships were scuttled there in the 11th century to block a navigation channel, thus protecting the city, which was then the Danish capital, from seaborne assault. These five ships represent the two distinct classes of Viking ships, the longship and the knarr. The remains of these ships can be found on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.

Longships are not to be confused with later-period longboats. It was common for Viking ships to tow or carry a smaller boat to transfer crews and cargo from the ship to shore, however.

Genetic legacy

Studies of genetic diversity provide some indication of the origin and expansion of the Viking population. The Haplogroup I1 (defined by specific genetic markers on the Y-chomosome) is sometimes referred to as the "Viking haplogroup". This mutation occurs with the greatest frequency among Scandinavian males: 35 percent in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and peaking at 40 percent within western Finland.[27] It is also common near the southern Baltic and North Sea coasts, and then successively decreases the further south geographically.

Genetic studies in the British Isles of the Y-DNA Haplogroup R1a1, seen also across Scandinavia, have demonstrated that the Vikings settled in the British Isles as well as raiding there. Both male and female descent studies show evidence of Norwegian descent in areas closest to Scandinavia, such as the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Inhabitants of lands farther away show most Norse descent in the male Y chromosome lines.[28]

A specialized surname study in Liverpool demonstrated marked Norse heritage, up to 50 percent of males who belonged to original families, those who lived there before the years of industrialization and population expansion.[29] High percentages of Norse inheritance – tracked through R1a1 haplotype signatures – were also found among males in Wirral and West Lancashire.[30] This was similar to the percentage of Norse inheritance found among males in the Orkney Islands. [31]

Recent research has revealed that the Scottish warrior Somerled, who drove the Vikings out of Scotland and was the progenitor of Clan Donald, was himself of Viking descent – a member of Haplogroup R1a1.[citation needed]

Historical opinion and cultural legacy

In England the Viking Age began dramatically on 8 June 793 when Norsemen destroyed the abbey on the island of Lindisfarne. The devastation of Northumbria's Holy Island shocked and alerted the royal Courts of Europe to the Viking presence. "Never before has such an atrocity been seen," declared the Northumbrian scholar, Alcuin of York.[citation needed] More than any other single event, the attack on Lindisfarne demonized perception of the Vikings for the next twelve centuries. Not until the 1890s did scholars outside Scandinavia begin to seriously reassess the achievements of the Vikings, recognizing their artistry, technological skills and seamanship.[32]

The first challenges to anti-Viking sentiments in Britain emerged in the 17th century. Pioneering scholarly editions of the Viking Age began to reach a small readership in Britain, archaeologists began to dig up Britain's Viking past, and linguistic enthusiasts started to identify the Viking-Age origins for rural idioms and proverbs. The new dictionaries of the Old Norse language enabled the Victorians to grapple with the primary Icelandic sagas.[33]

In Scandinavia, the 17th century Danish scholars Thomas Bartholin and Ole Worm, and Olof Rudbeck of Sweden were the first to set the standard for using runic inscriptions and Icelandic Sagas as historical sources.[citation needed] During the Age of Enlightenment and the Nordic Renaissance, historical scholarship in Scandinavia became more rational and pragmatic, as witnessed by the works of a Danish historian Ludvig Holberg and Swedish historian Olof von Dalin.[citation needed] Until recently, the history of the Viking Age was largely based on Icelandic sagas, the history of the Danes written by Saxo Grammaticus, the Russian Primary Chronicle and the The War of the Irish with the Foreigners. Although few scholars still accept these texts as reliable sources, historians nowadays rely more on archeology and numismatics, disciplines that have made valuable contributions toward understanding the period.[34]

Until the 19th century reign of Queen Victoria, public perceptions in Britain continued to portray Vikings as violent and bloodthirsty.[citation needed] The chronicles of medieval England had always portrayed them as rapacious 'wolves among sheep'.[citation needed] In 1920, a winged-helmeted Viking was introduced as a radiator cap figure on the new Rover car, marking the start of the cultural rehabilitation of the Vikings in Britain.[citation needed]

Icelandic sagas and other texts

Norse mythology, sagas and literature tell of Scandinavian culture and religion through tales of heroic and mythological heroes. However, early transmission of this information was primarily oral, and later texts were reliant upon the writings and transcriptions of Christian scholars, including the Icelanders Snorri Sturluson and Sæmundur fróði. Many of these sagas were written in Iceland, and most of them, even if they had no Icelandic provenance, were preserved there after the Middle Ages due to the Icelanders' continued interest in Norse literature and law codes.

The 200-year Viking influence on European history is filled with tales of plunder and colonization, and the majority of these chronicles came from western witnesses and their descendants. Less common, though equally relevant, are the Viking chronicles that originated in the east, including the Nestor chronicles, Novgorod chronicles, Ibn Fadlan chronicles, Ibn Rusta chronicles, and many brief mentions by the Fosio bishop from the first big attack on the Byzantine Empire.

Other chroniclers of Viking history include Adam of Bremen, who wrote "There is much gold here (in Zealand), accumulated by piracy. These pirates, which are called wichingi by their own people, and Ascomanni by our own people, pay tribute to the Danish king" in the fourth volume of his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.

In 991, the Battle of Maldon between Viking raiders and the inhabitants of the town of Maldon in Essex, England was commemorated with a poem of the same name.

Modern revivals

Early modern publications, dealing with what we now call Viking culture, appeared in the 16th century, e.g. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (Olaus Magnus, 1555), and the first edition of the 13th century Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus in 1514. The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda (notably Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum of 1665).

The word Viking was popularized, with positive connotations, by Erik Gustaf Geijer in the poem, The Viking, written at the beginning of the 19th century. The word was taken to refer to romanticized, idealized naval warriors, who had very little to do with the historical Viking culture. This renewed interest of Romanticism in the Old North had political implications. A myth about a glorious and brave past was needed to give the Swedes the courage to retake Finland, which had been lost in 1809 during the war between Sweden and Russia. The Geatish Society, of which Geijer was a member, popularized this myth to a great extent. Another Swedish author who had great influence on the perception of the Vikings was Esaias Tegnér, member of the Geatish Society, who wrote a modern version of Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna, which became widely popular in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and Germany.

A focus for early British enthusiasts was George Hicke, who published a Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus in 1703 – 05. During the 18th century, British interest and enthusiasm for Iceland and Nordic culture grew dramatically, expressed in English translations as well as original poems, extolling Viking virtues and increased interest in anything Runic that could be found in the Danelaw, rising to a peak during Victorian times.

Nazi and fascist imagery

Similar to Wagnerian mythology, the romanticism of the heroic Viking ideal appealed to the Germanic supremacist thinkers of Nazi Germany. Political organizations of the same tradition, such as the former Norwegian nationalist/fascist party, Nasjonal Samling, used Viking symbolism and imagery widely in its propaganda. The Viking legacy had an impact in parts of Europe, especially the Northern Baltic region, but in no way was the Viking experience particular to Germany. However, the Nazis did not claim themselves to be the descendants of any Viking settlers. Instead, they resorted to the historical and ethnic fact that the Vikings were descendants of other Germanic peoples; this fact is supported by the shared ethnic-genetic elements, and cultural and linguistic traits, of the Germans, Anglo-Saxons, and Viking Scandinavians. In particular, all these peoples also had traditions of Germanic paganism and practiced runelore. This common Germanic identity became - and still is - the foundation for much National Socialist iconography. For example, the runic emblem of the SS utilized the sig rune of the Elder Futhark and the youth organization Wiking-Jugend made extensive use of the odal rune. This trend still holds true today (see also fascist symbolism).


Since the 1960s, there has been rising enthusiasm for historical reenactment. While the earliest groups had little claim for historical accuracy, the seriousness and accuracy of re-enactors has increased. The largest such groups include The Vikings and Regia Anglorum, though many smaller groups exist in Europe, the UK, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Many reenactor groups participate in live-steel combat, and a few have Viking-style ships or boats.

On 1 July 2007, the reconstructed Viking ship Skuldelev 2, renamed Sea Stallion,[35] began a journey from Roskilde, Denmark to Dublin, Ireland. The remains of that ship and four others were discovered during a 1962 excavation in the Roskilde Fjord. This multi-national experimental archeology project saw 70 crew members sail the ship back to its home in Ireland. Tests of the original wood show that it was made of Irish trees. The Sea Stallion arrived outside Dublin's Custom House on 14 August 2007.

The purpose of the voyage was to test and document the seaworthiness, speed and maneuverability of the ship on the rough open sea and in coastal waters with treacherous currents. The crew tested how the long, narrow, flexible hull withstood the tough ocean waves. The expedition also provided valuable new information on Viking longships and society. The ship was built using Viking tools, materials and much the same methods as the original ship.

In popular culture

A giant Viking welcomes visitors to the town of Dannevirke in New Zealand, founded by 19th Century Scandinavian settlers.

Led by the operas of German composer Richard Wagner, such as Der Ring des Nibelungen, Vikings and the Romanticist Viking Revival inspired many creative works.

These included novels directly based on historical events, such as Frans Gunnar Bengtsson's The Long Ships (which was also released as a 1963 film), and historical fantasies such as the film The Vikings, Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead (movie version called The 13th Warrior) and the comedy film Erik the Viking. Vikings appear in several books by the Danish American writer Poul Anderson.

Viking mythology inspired many games such as the Fate of the Norns role playing game. This influence extends into computer games such as Rune_(video_game).

The genre of Viking metal shows persisting modern influence of the Viking myths. It was a popular sub-genre of heavy metal music, originating in the early 1990s as an off-shoot of the black metal sub-genre.

This style is notable for its lyrical and theatrical emphasis on Norse mythology as well as Viking lifestyles and beliefs. Popular bands that contribute to this genre include Turisas, Amon Amarth, Einherjer, Valhalla, Týr, Ensiferum, Falkenbach, and Enslaved.

Common misconceptions

Horned helmets

Apart from two or three representations of (ritual) helmets – with protrusions that may be either stylized ravens, snakes or horns – no depiction of Viking Age warriors' helmets, and no preserved helmet, has horns. In fact, the formal close-quarters style of Viking combat (either in shield walls or aboard "ship islands") would have made horned helmets cumbersome and hazardous to the warrior's own side.

Therefore historians believe that Viking warriors did not use horned helmets, but whether or not such helmets were used in Scandinavian culture for other, ritual purposes remains unproven. The general misconception that Viking warriors wore horned helmets was partly promulgated by the 19th century enthusiasts of Götiska Förbundet, founded in 1811 in Stockholm, Sweden. They promoted the use of Norse mythology as the subject of high art and other ethnological and moral aims.

The Vikings were often depicted with winged helmets and in other clothing taken from Classical antiquity, especially in depictions of Norse gods. This was done in order to legitimize the Vikings and their mythology by associating it with the Classical world which had long been idealized in European culture.

The latter-day mythos created by national romantic ideas blended the Viking Age with aspects of the Nordic Bronze Age some 2,000 years earlier. Horned helmets from the Bronze Age were shown in petroglyphs and appeared in archaeological finds (see Bohuslän and Vikso helmets). They were probably used for ceremonial purposes. [36]).

Cartoons like Hägar the Horrible and Vicky the Viking, and sports uniforms such as those of the Minnesota Vikings and Canberra Raiders football teams have perpetuated the mythic cliché of the horned helmet.

Viking helmets were conical, made from hard leather with wood and metallic reinforcement for regular troops. The iron helmet with mask and chain mail was for the chieftains, based on the previous Vendel-age helmets from central Sweden. The only true Viking helmet found is that from Gjermundbu in Norway. This helmet is made of iron and has been dated to the 10th century.

Skull cups

The use of human skulls as drinking vessels is also ahistorical. The rise of this legend can be traced to Ole Worm's Runer seu Danica literatura antiquissima (1636), in which Danish warriors drinking ór bjúgviðum hausa [from the curved branches of skulls, i.e. from horns] were rendered as drinking ex craniis eorum quos ceciderunt [from the skulls of those whom they had slain]. The skull-cup allegation may also have some history in relation with other Germanic tribes and Eurasian nomads, such as the Scythians and Pechenegs, and the vivid example of the Lombard Alboin, made notorious by Paul the Deacon's History.


The image of wild-haired, dirty savages sometimes associated with the Vikings in popular culture is a distorted picture of reality.[1] Non-Scandinavian Christians are responsible for most surviving accounts of the Vikings and, consequently, a strong possibility for bias exists. This attitude is likely attributed to Christian misunderstandings regarding paganism. Viking tendencies were often misreported and the work of Adam of Bremen, among others, told largely disputable tales of Viking savagery and uncleanliness.[37]

The Anglo-Danes were considered excessively clean by their Anglo-Saxon neighbours, due to their custom of bathing every Saturday and combing their hair often. To this day, Saturday is referred to as laugardagur / laurdag / lørdag / lördag, "washing day" in the Scandinavian languages. Icelanders were known to use natural hot springs as baths, and there is a strong sauna/bathing culture in Scandinavia to this day.

As for the Vikings in the east, Ibn Rustah notes their cleanliness in carrying clean clothes, whereas Ibn Fadlan is disgusted by all of the men sharing the same, used vessel to wash their faces and blow their noses in the morning. Ibn Fadlan's disgust is possibly because of the contrast to the personal hygiene particular to the Muslim world at the time, such as running water and clean vessels. While the example intended to convey his disgust about certain customs of the Rus', at the same time it recorded that they did wash every morning.

Vikings of renown


  1. ^ a b Roesdahl, p. 9-22.
  2. ^ a b Johnni Langer, "The origins of the imaginary viking", Viking Heritage Magazine, Gotland University/Centre for Baltic Studies. Visby (Sweden), n. 4, dez. 2002
  3. ^ The Syntax of Old Norse By Jan Terje Faarlund; p 25 ISBN 0199271100; The Principles of English Etymology By Walter W. Skeat, published in 1892, defined Viking: better Wiking, Icel. Viking-r, O. Icel. *Viking-r, a creek-dweller; from Icel. vik, O. Icel. *wik, a creek, bay, with suffix -uig-r, belonging to Principles of English Etymology By Walter W. Skeat; Clarendon press; Page 479
  4. ^ See Gunnar Karlsson, "Er rökrétt að fullyrða að landnámsmenn á Íslandi hafi verið víkingar?", The University of Iceland Science web April 30, 2007; Gunnar Karlsson, "Hver voru helstu vopn víkinga og hvernig voru þau gerð? Voru þeir mjög bardagaglaðir?", The University of Iceland Science web December 20, 2006; and Sverrir Jakobsson "Hvaðan komu víkingarnir og hvaða áhrif höfðu þeir í öðrum löndum?", The University of Iceland Science web July 13, 2001 (in Icelandic).
  5. ^ The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text Translated by O. P
  6. ^ "History of Northumbria: Viking era 866 AD - 1066 AD"
  7. ^ "Identity and Self-Image in Viking Age England" October 3, 2007
  8. ^ Toyne, Stanley Mease. The Scandinavians in history Pg.27. 1970.
  9. ^ The Fate of Greenland's Vikings, by Dale Mackenzie Brown, Archaeological Institute of America, February 28, 2000
  10. ^ The Norse discovery of America
  11. ^ Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade
  12. ^ Macauley Richardson, Lloyd. [ "Books: Eurasian Exploration"] Policy Review. Hoover Institution
  13. ^ Crone, Patricia. Meccan trade and the rise of Islam] First Georgias Press. 2004.
  14. ^ The Northern Crusades: Second Edition by Eric Christiansen; p.93; ISBN 0140266534
  15. ^ Roesdahl, p. 16-22.
  16. ^ Sawyer, P H: 1997
  17. ^ baþum (Sm101), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  18. ^ In the nominative: krikiaR (G216). In the genitive: girkha (U922$), k--ika (U104). In the dative: girkium (U1087†), kirikium (SöFv1954;20, U73, U140), ki(r)k(i)(u)(m) (Ög94$), kirkum (U136), krikium (Sö163, U431), krikum (Ög81A, Ög81B, Sö85, Sö165, Vg178, U201, U518), kri(k)um (U792), krikum (Sm46†, U446†), krkum (U358), kr... (Sö345$A), kRkum (Sö82). In the accusative: kriki (Sö170). Uncertain case krik (U1016$Q). Greece also appears as griklanti (U112B), kriklati (U540), kriklontr (U374$), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  19. ^ Karusm (Vs1), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  20. ^ iaursaliR (G216), iursala (U605†), iursalir (U136G216, U605, U136), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  21. ^ lakbarþilanti (SöFv1954;22), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  22. ^ luntunum (DR337$B), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  23. ^ serklat (G216), se(r)kl... (Sö279), sirklanti (Sö131), sirk:lan:ti (Sö179), sirk*la(t)... (Sö281), srklant- (U785), skalat- (U439), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  24. ^ eklans (Vs18$), eklans (Sö83†), ekla-s (Vs5), enklans (Sö55), iklans (Sö207), iklanþs (U539C), ailati (Ög104), aklati (Sö166), akla-- (U616$), anklanti (U194), eg×loti (U812), eklanti (Sö46, Sm27), eklati (ÖgFv1950;341, Sm5C, Vs9), enklanti (DR6C), haklati (Sm101), iklanti (Vg20), iklati (Sm77), ikla-ti (Gs8), i...-ti (Sm104), ok*lanti (Vg187), oklati (Sö160), onklanti (U241), onklati (U344), -klanti (Sm29$), iklot (N184), see Nordiskt runnamnslexikon PDF
  25. ^ Roesdahl, p. 20.
  26. ^ Block, Leo, To Harness the Wind: A Short History of the Development of Sails, Naval Institute Press, 2002, ISBN 1557502099
  27. ^ Annals of Human Genetics. Volume 72 Issue 3 Page 337-348, May 2008
  28. ^ Roger Highfield, "Vikings who chose a home in Shetland before a life of pillage", Telegraph, 7 Apr 2005, accessed 16 Nov 2008
  29. ^ Excavating Past Population Structures by Surname-Based Sampling; The Genetic Legacy of the Vikings in Northwest England, Georgina R. Bowden et al., Molecular Biology and Evolution, 20 November 2007
  30. ^ A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles, Capelli et al., Current Biology, Vol. 13, May 27, 2003
  31. ^ James Randerson, "Proof of Liverpool's Viking past", The Guardian, 3 Dec 2007, accessed 16 Nov 2008
  32. ^ Northern Shores by Alan Palmer; p.21; ISBN 0719562996
  33. ^ The Viking Revival By Professor Andrew Wawn at bbc
  34. ^ The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings By Peter Hayes SawyerISBN 0198205260
  35. ^ Return of Dublin's Viking Warship. Retrieved 14 November 2007.
  36. ^ Did Vikings really wear horns on their helmets?, The Straight Dope, 7 December 2004. Retrieved 14 November 2007.
  37. ^ Williams, G. (2001) How do we know about the Vikings? Retrieved 14 November 2007.


  • Downham, Clare, Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ívarr to AD 1014. Dunedin Academic Press, 2007. ISBN 1903765890
  • Hadley, D.M., The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture. Manchester University Press, 2006. ISBN 0719059828
  • Hall, Richard, Exploring the World of the Vikings. Thames and Hudson, 2007. ISBN 9780500051443
  • Roesdahl, Else. The Vikings. Penguin, 1998. ISBN 0140252827
  • Sawyer, Peter, The Age of the Vikings (second edition) Palgrave Macmillan, 1972. ISBN 0312013655

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VIKING. The word " Viking," in the sense in which it is used to-day, is derived from the Icelandic (Old Norse) Vikingr (m.), signifying simply a sea-rover or pirate. There is also in Icelandic the allied word viking (f.), a predatory voyage. As a loan-word viking occurs in A.S. poetry (vicing or wicing), e.g. in 1Vidsith, Byrnoth, Exodus. During the Saga Age (900-1050), in the beginning of Norse literature, vikingr is not as a rule used to designate any class of men. Almost every young Icelander of sufficient means and position, and a very large number of young Norsemen, made one or more viking expeditions. We read of such a one that he went "a-viking" (fara i viking, ver y i viking, or very often fara, &c., vestan i viking). The procedure was almost a recognized part of education, and was analogous to the grand tour made by our great-grandfathers in the 18th century. But the use of vikingr in a more generic sense is still to be found in the Saga Age. If the designation of this or that personage as mikill vikingr or rauba vikingr (red viking) be not reckoned an instance of such use; we have it at all events in the name of a small quasi-nationality, the Jomsvikingar, settled at J6msborg on the Baltic (in modern Pomerania), to whom a saga is dedicated: who possessed rather peculiar institutions evidently the relic of what is now called the Viking Age, that preceded the Saga Age by a century. Another instance of such more generic use occurs in the following typical passage from the Landnamabok (Sturlabok), where it is recorded how Harald Fairhair harried the vikings of the Scottish isles - that famous harrying which led to most of the settlement of Iceland and the birth of Icelandic literature: " Haraldr en harfari herjaoi vestr am haf ... Hann lagsi " undir sig alla y Sudreyjar.... En er hann for vestann slogust " i eyjernar vikingar ok Skotar ok Irar ok herjusu ok ra ntu " visa " (Landn., ed. Jonsson, 1906, p. 335).

It is in this more generic sense that the word "viking " is now generally employed. Historians of the north have distinguished as the " Viking Age " (Vikingertiden) the time when the Scandinavian folk first by their widespread piracies brought themselves forcibly into the notice of all the Christian peoples of western Europe. We cannot to-day determine the exact homes or provenance of these freebooters, who were a terror alike to the Frankish empire, to England and to Ireland and west Scotland, who only came into view when their ships anchored in some Christian harbour, and who were called now Normanni, now Dacii, now Danes, now Lochlannoch; which last, the Irish name for them, though etymologically " men of the lakes or bays," might as well be translated " Norsemen," seeing that Lochlann was the Irish for Norway. The exact etymology of vikingr itself is not certain: for we do not know whether vik is used in a general sense (bay, harbour) in this connexion, or in a particular sense as the Vik, the Skagerrack and Christiania Fjord. The reason for using " viking " in a more generic sense than is warranted by the actual employment of the word in Old Norse literature rests on the fact that we have no other word by which to designate the early Scandinavian pirates of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century. We cannot tell for the most part whether they came from Denmark or Norway, so that we cannot give them a national name. " Normanner " is used by some Scandinavian writers (as by Steenstrup in his classical work Normannerne). But " Normans " has for us quite different associations. And even those who have preferred not generally to use the word " vikings " to designate the pirates and invaders, have adhered to the term " Viking Age " for the period in which they were most active (cf. Munch, Det Norske Folks Historie, Deel I. Bd. i. p. 356; Steenstrup and others, Danmarks Riges Historic, bk. ii. &c.). At the same time, the significance which the word " viking " has had in our language is due in part to a false etymology, connecting the word with " king "; the effect of which still remains in the customary pronunciation vi-king instead of vik-ing, now so much embedded in the language that it is a pedantry to try and change it.

We may fairly reckon the " Viking Age " to lie between the date of the first recorded appearance of a northern pirate fleet (A.D. 789) and the settlement of the Normans in Normandy by the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte, A.D. 911 or 912.1 For a few years previous to that date our chief authority for the history of the piracies and raids in the Frankish empire fails us: 2 we know that the Norsemen had a few years before that date been driven in great numbers out of Ireland; and England had been in a sense pacified through the concession of a great part of the island to the invaders by the peace of Wedmore, A.D. 878. Although, outside the information we get from Christian chroniclers, this age is for the people of the north one of complete obscurity, it is evident that the Viking Age corresponds with some universal disturbance or unrest among the Scandinavian nations, strictly analogous to the unrest among more southern Teutonic nations which many centuries before had heralded the break-up of the Roman empire, an epoch known as that of the Folk-wanderings (V olkerwanderungen). We judge this because we can dimly see that the 1 W. Vogel gives the former date; 912 is that more commonly accepted.

The Annales Vedastini. impulse which was driving part of the Norse and Danish peoples to piracies in the west was also driving the Swedes and perhaps a portion of the Danes to eastward invasion, which resulted in the establishment of a Scandinavian kingdom (GarOariki) in what is now Russia, with its capital first at Novgorod, afterwards at Kiev. 3 This was, in fact, the germ of the Russian empire. If we could know the Viking Age from the other, the Scandinavian side, it would doubtless present far more interest than in the form in which the Christian chroniclers present it. But from knowledge of this sort we are almost wholly cut off. We have to content ourselves with what is for the greater part of this age a mere catalogue of embarkations and plunderings along all the coasts of western Europe without distinctive characteristics.

The Viking Raids

The detail of these raids is quite beyond the compass of the present article, and a summary or synopsis must suffice. For all record which we have, the Viking Age was inaugurated in A.D. 789 by the appearance in England on our Dorset coast of three pirate ships " from Haerethaland " (Hardeland or Hardyssel in Denmark or Hdrdeland in Norway), which are said in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to be " the first ships of the Danish men " who sought the land of England. They killed the port-reeve, took some booty and sailed away. Other pirates appeared in 793 on a different coast, Northumbria, attacked a monastery on Lindisfarne (Holy Island), slaying and capturing the monks; the following year they attacked and burnt Jarrow; after that they were caught in a storm, and all perished by shipwreck or at the hands of the countrymen. In 795 a fleet appeared off Glamorganshire. They attacked Man in 798 and Iona in 802. But after this date for the lifetime of a generation the chief scene of viking exploits was Ireland, and probably the western coasts and islands of Scotland.

The usual course of procedure among the northern adventurers remains the same to whatever land they may direct their attacks, or during whatever years of the 9th century these attacks may fall. They begin by more or less desultory raids, in the course of which they seize upon some island, which they generally use as an arsenal or point d'appui for attacks on the mainland. At first the raids are made in the summer: the first wintering in any new scene of plunder forms an epoch so far as that country or region is concerned. Almost always for a period all power of resistance on the part of the inhabitants seems after a while and for a limited time to break down, and the plunderers to have free course wherever they go. Then they show an ambition to settle in the country, and some sort of division of territory takes place. After that the northerners assimilate themselves more or less to the other inhabitants of the country, and their history merges to a less or greater extent in that of the country at large. This course is followed in the history of the viking attacks on Ireland, the earliest of their continuous series of attacks. Thus they begin by seizing the island of Rechru (now Lambay) in Dublin Bay (A.D. 795); in the course of about twenty years we have notice of them on the northern, western and southern coasts; by A.D. 825 they have already ventured raids to a considerable distance inland. And in A.D. 832 comes a large fleet (" a great royal fleet," say the Irish annals) of which the admiral's name is given, Turgesius (Thorgeis or Thorgisl ?). The new invader, though with a somewhat chequered course, extended his conquests till in A.D. 842 one-half-'of Ireland (called Lethcuinn, or Con's Half) seems to have submitted to him; and we have the curious picture of Turgesius establishing his wife Ota as a sort of viilva, or priestess, in what bad been one of Ireland's most famous and most literary monasteries, Clonmacnoise. Turgesius was, however, killed very soon after this (in 845); and though in A.D. 853 Olaf the White was over-king of Ireland, the vikings' power on the whole diminished. In the end, territory was - if by no formal treaty - ceded to their influence; and the (Irish) kingdoms of Dublin and Waterford were established on the island.

3 The word garor (fort) is preserved in the " gorod " of Novgorod.

This brief sketch may be taken as the prototype of viking invasion of any region of western Christendom which was the object of their continuous attacks. Of such regions we may distinguish five. Almost simultaneously with the attacks on Ireland came others, probably also from Norway, on the western regions (coasts and islands) of Scotland. Plunderings of Iona are mentioned in A.D. 802, 806. In the course of a generation almost all the monastic communities in western Scotland had been destroyed. But details of these viking plunderings are wanting. On the continent there were three distinct regions of attack. First the mouth of the Scheldt. There the Danes very early settled on the island of Walcheren, which had in fact been given by the emperor Louis the Pious in fief to a Danish fugitive king, Harald by name, who sought the help of Louis, and adopted Christianity. After the partition of the territory of Charlemagne's empire among the sons of Louis the Pious, Walcheren and the Scheldt-mouth fell within the possessions of the emperor Lothair, and in the region subsequently distinguished as Lotharingia. From this centre, the Scheldt, the viking raids extended on either side; sometimes eastward as far as the Rhine, and so into Germany proper, the territory assigned to Louis the German; at other times westward to the Somme, and thus into the territory of Charles the Bald, the future kingdom of France. In the event, toward the end of the 9th century all Frisia between Walcheren and the German Ocean seems to have become the permanent possession of the invaders. In like fashion was it with the next district, that of the Seine, only that here no important island served the pirates for their first arsenal and winter quarters. The serious attacks of the pirates in any part of the empire distant from their own lands begin about the time of the battle of Fontenoy between Louis' sons (A.D. 841). The first wintering of the vikings in the Seine territory (A.D. 850) was in " Givoldi fossa," the tomb of one Givoldus, not far from the mouth of the river, but no longer exactly determinable. Their first attack on Paris was in A.D. 845: a much more important but unsuccessful one took place in A.D. 885-87, unsuccessful that is so far as the city itself was concerned; but the invaders received an indemnity for raising the siege and leave to pass beyond Paris into Burgundy. The settlement of Danes under Rollo or Rolf on the lower Seine, i.e. in Normandy, dates from the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte, A.D. 912 (or 911).

The third region is the mouth of the Loire. Here the island point d'appui was Noirmoutier, an island with an abbey at the Loire mouth. The northmen wintered there in A.D. 843. No region was more often ravaged than that of the lower Loire, so rich in abbeys - St Martin of Tours, Marmoutiers, St Benedict, &c. But the country ceded to the vikings under Hasting at the Loire mouth was insignificant and not in permanent occupation.

Near the end of the 9th century, however, the plundering expeditions which emanated from these three sources became so incessant and so widespread that we can signalize no part of west France as free from them, at the same time that the vikings wrought immense mischief in the Rhine country and in Burgundy. The defences of west France seem quite to have broken down, as did the Irish when Turgesius took " Con's half," or when in A.D. 853 Olaf the White became over-king of Ireland. Unfortunately at this point our best authority ceases; and we cannot well explain the changes which brought about the Christianization of the Normans and their settlement in Normandy as vassals, though recalcitrant ones, of the West Frankish kings.

For the viking attacks in the 5th (or 6th) territory, our own country, the course of events is much clearer. As a part of English history it is, however, sufficiently known, and the briefest summary thereof must suffice. That will show how in its general features it follows the normal course. The first appearance of the vikings in England we saw was in A.D. 789. The first serious attacks do not begin till 838. The island of Sheppey, however, was attacked in 835, and in the following year the vikings entrenched themselves there. The first wintering of the pirates in England was on the contiguous island of Thanet in A.D. 850. The breakdown of the English defences in all parts of the country save Wessex dates from 868: in Wessex that occurs in 877-88. But the position is suddenly recovered by Alfred in 878, by the battle of Aethandune, as suddenly though not so unaccountably as it was later in West Francia. As Rollo was to do in 912, the Danish leader Guthorm received baptism, taking the name of Aethelstan, and settled in his assigned territory, East Anglia, according to the terms of the peace of Wedmore. But the forces which Alfred defeated at Aethandune represented but half of the viking army in England at the time. The other half under Halfdan (Ragnar Lodbrog's son ?) had never troubled itself about Wessex, but had taken firm possession in Northumbria.

The six territories which we have signalized - Ireland, Western Scotland, England, the three in West Francia which merge into each other by the end of the 9th century - do not comprise the whole field of viking raids or attempted invasion. For farther still to the east they twice sailed up the Elbe (A.D. 851, 880) and burnt Hamburg. Southwards they plundered far up the Garonne, and in the north of Spain; and one fleet of them sailed all round Spain, plundering, but attempting in vain to establish themselves in this Arab caliphate. They plundered on the opposite African coast, and at last got as far as the mouth of the Rhone, and thence to Luna in Italy.

What we found in the case of the Irish raids, that at first they are quite anonymous, but that presently the names of the captains of the expeditions emerge, is likewise the case in all other lands. In Ireland, besides the important and successful Turgesius, we read of a Saxulf who early met his death, as well as of Ivar (Ingvar), famous also in England and called the son of Ragnar Lodbrog, and of Oisla, Ivar's comrade; finally (the vikings in Ireland being mostly of Norse descent) of the wellknown Olaf the White, who became king of all the Scandinavian settlements in Ireland. In France, Oscar is one of the earliest and most successful of the invaders. Later the name of Ragnar (probably Ragnar Lodbrog) appears, along with Weland, Hasting and one of the sons of Ragnar, Bjorn. Farther to the east we meet the names of Rurik, Godfred and Siegfried. In the eastern region the viking leaders seem to have been closely connected with one of the Danish royal families, the kings of Jutland. The practical though short-lived conquest of England begins under Ivar, Ubbe and Halfdan, reputed sons of Ragnar, and is completed by the last of the three in conjunction with the Guthorm above mentioned. This is, of course, what we should expect, that larger acquaintance gives to the Christian chroniclers more knowledge of their enemy. Precisely the same process in a converse sense develops the casual raids of early times into a scheme of conquest. For at the outset the Christian world was wholly strange to these northmen. We have, it has been said, hardly any means of viewing these raids from the other side. But one small point of light is so suggestive that it may be cited here. The mythical saga of Ragnar Lodbrog is undoubtedly concerned with the Viking Age, though it is impossible now to identify most of the expeditions attributed to this northern hero, stories of conquest in Sweden, in Finland, in Russia and in England, which belong to quite a different age from this one. In the Christian chronicles the name of Ragnar is associated with an attack on Paris in A.D. 845, when the adventurers were (through the interposition of St Germain, say the Christians) suddenly enveloped in darkness - in a thick fog ? - and fell before the arms of the defenders. In Saxo Grammaticus's account of Ragnar Lodbrog, this event seems to be reflected in the story of an expedition of Ragnar's to Bjarmaland or Perm in Russia. For Bjarmaland, though it gained a local habitation, is also in Norse tradition a wholly mythical and mythological place, more or less identical with the underworld (Niflhel, mist-hell). So it appears in the history given by Saxo Grammaticus of the voyage to Bjarmaland of one " Gorm the old." It " looks like a vaporous cloud " and is full of tricks and illusions of sense. We see then that in virtue of some quite historical misfortune to the viking invaders, connected with a mist and with a great sickness which invaded the army, the place they have come to (in reality Paris) is in Scandinavian tradition identified with the mythic Bjarmaland; and later, in the history of Saxo Grammaticus, it is identified with the geographical Bjarmaland or Perm. (Saxo Grammat., Hist. Dan. p. 452, Gylfaginning (Edda Snorra); Acta SS. 28th May and rrth Oct.; Steenstrup, Normannerne, i. p. 97 seq.; Keary, The Vikings in Western Christendom, pp. 162, 260.) No example could better than this bring home to us the strangeness of the Christian world to the first adventurers from the north, nor better explain the process of familiarity which gradually extended the sphere of their ambition. The expedition which we have made mention of took place almost in the middle of the 9th century, and exactly fifty years after the effective opening of the Viking Age. But after this date events developed rapidly. It was fourteen years later (in A.D. 859) that Ragnar's son Bjorn Ironside and Hasting made their great expedition round Spain to the Mediterranean. In 865 or 866 came to England what we know as the Army, or the Great Army, whose first attacks were in the north of England. Five kings are mentioned in connexion with this veritable invasion of England, and many earls. Their course was not unchequered; but it was only in Wessex that they met with any effective resistance, and the victory of Ashdown (871) put no end to their advance; for, as we know, Alfred himself had at last wander a fugitive in the fastnesses of Selwood Forest. Much was retrieved by the victory of Aethandune; yet even after the peace of Wedmore as large a part of the land lay under the power of the Danes as of the English.

It is from this time that we discern two distinct tendencies in the viking people. While one section is ready to settle down and receive territory at the hands of the Christian rulers, with or without homage, another section still adheres to a life of mere adventure and of plunder. A large portion of the Great Army refused to be bound by the peace of Wedmore, made some further attempts on England which were frustrated by Alfred's powerful new-built fleet, and then sailed to the continent and spread devastation far and wide. We see them under command of two Danish " kings," Godfred and Siegfried, first in the country of the Rhine-mouth or the Lower Scheldt; afterwards dividing their forces and, while some devastate far into Germany, others extend their ravages on every side in northern France down to the Loire. The whole of these vast countries, Northern Francia, with part of Burgundy, and the Rhineland, seem to lie as much at their mercy as England had done before Aethandune, or Ireland before the death of Turgesius. But in every country alike the wave of viking conquest now begins to recede. The settlement of Normandy was the only permanent outcome of the Viking Age in France. In England under Edward the Elder and Aethelflaed, Mercia recovered a great portion of what had been ceded to the Danes. In Ireland a great expulsion of the invaders took place in the beginning of the 10th century. Eventually the Norsemen in Ireland contented themselves with a small number of colonies, strictly confined in territory around certain seaports which they themselves had created: Dublin, Waterford and Wexford; though as the whole of Ireland was divided into petty kingdoms, it might easily happen that the Norse king in Ireland rose to the position - not much more than nominal - of over-king (Ard-Ri) for the whole land.

Character of the Vikings

Severe, therefore, as were the viking raids in Europe, and great as was the suffering they inflicted - on account of which a special prayer, A furore Normannorum libera nos, was inserted in some of the litanies of the West - if they had been pirates and nothing more their place in history would be an insignificant one. If they had been no more than what the Illyrian pirates had been in the early history of Rome, or than the Arabic corsairs were at this time in southern Europe, the disappearance of the evil would have been quickly followed by its oblivion. But even at the outset the vikings were more than isolated bands of freebooters. As we have seen, the viking outbreak was probably part of a XXVIII. 3 national movement. We know that at the same time that some Scandinavian folk were harrying all the western lands, others were founding Garbariki (Russia) in the east; others were pressing still farther south till they came in contact with the eastern empire in Constantinople, which the northern folk knew as MikillgarOr (Mikklegard); so that when Hasting and Bjorn had sailed to Luna in the gulf of Genoa the northern folk had almost put a girdle round the Christian world. There is every evidence that the vikings were not a mere lawless folk - that is, in their internal relations - but that a system of laws existed among them which was generally respected. The nearest approach to it now preserved is probably the code of laws attributed to the mythic king Fr061 (the Wise) and preserved in the pages of Saxo Grammaticus. It contains provisions for the partition of booty, punishments for theft, desertion and treachery. But some of the clauses securing a comparative liberty for women appear less characteristic of the Viking Age (cf. Alexander Bugge, Vikingerne, vol. i. p. 49). Women, indeed, did not take part in their first expeditions. In the constitution of the Jomborg state and again in that of the eastern Vaerings (a Scandinavian body in the service of the East Roman Empire) we see a constitution which looks like the foretaste of that of the Templars or the Teutonic Knights. Steenstrup thinks the code cited by Saxo may be identical with the laws which Rollo promulgated for his Norman subjects. In any case, they fall more near the viking period than any other northern table of laws. A certain republicanism was professed by these adventurers. " We have no king," one body answered to some Frankish delegates. We do read frequently of kings in the accounts of their hosts; but their power may not have extended beyond the leadership of the expedition; they may have been kings ad hoc. On the other hand, the whole character of northern tradition (Teutonic and Scandinavian tradition alike) forbids us to suppose that any would be elected to that office who was not of noble or princely blood. They were not entirely unlettered; for the use of runes dates back considerably earlier than the Viking Age. But these were used almost exclusively for lapidary inscriptions. What we can alone describe as a literature, first the early Eddic verse, next the habit of narrating sagas: these things the Norsemen learned probably from their Celtic subjects, partly in Ireland, partly in the western islands of Scotland; and they first developed the new literature on the soil of Iceland. Nevertheless, some of the Eddic songs do seem to give the very form and pressure of the viking period.' In certain material possessions - those, in fact, belonging to their trade, which was war and naval adventure - these viking folk were ahead of the Christian nations: in shipbuilding, for example. There is certainly a historical connexion between the ships which the tribes on the Baltic possessed in the days of Tacitus and the viking ships (Keary, The Vikings in Western Europe, pp. 108-9): a fact which would lead us to believe that the art of shipbuilding had been better preserved there than elsewhere in northern Europe. Merchant vessels must of course have plied between England and France or Frisia. But it is certain that even Charlemagne possessed no adequate navy, though a late chronicler tells us how he thought of building one. His descendants never carried out his designs. Nor was any English king before Alfred stirred up to undertake the same task. And yet the Romans, when threatened by the Carthaginian power, built in one year a fleet capable of holding its own against the, till then, greatest maritime nation in the world. The viking ships had a character apart. They may have owed their origin to the Roman galleys: they did without doubt owe their sails to them. 2 Equally certain it is that this special type of shipbuilding was developed in the Baltic, if not before 1 More especially the beautiful series contained in book iii. of the Corpus Poeticum Boreale, and ascribed by the editors of that collection to one poet - " the Helgi Poet." Here vikings are mentioned by name - e.g.: " Val-6 Ara ymr, ok iarna glymr; Brast r&nd vice rond; rero vikingar." 2 " Sail " in every Teutonic language is practically the same word, and derived from the Latin sagulum. the time of Tacitus, long before the dawn of the Viking Age. Their structure is adapted to short voyages in a sea well studded with harbours, not exposed to the most violent storms or most dangerous tides. To the last, judging by the specimens of Scandinavian boats which have come down to us, they must have been not very seaworthy; they were shallow, narrow in the beam, pointed at both ends, and so eminently suitable for manoeuvring (with oars) in creeks and bays. The viking ship had but one large and heavy square sail. When a naval battle was in progress, it would depend for its manoeuvring on the rowers. The accounts of naval battles in the sagas show us, too, that this was the case. The rowers in each vessel, though among the northern folk these were free men and warriors, not slaves as in the Roman and Carthaginian galleys, would yet need to be supplemented by a contingent of fighting men, marines, in addition to their crew. Naturally the shipbuilding developed: so that vessels in the viking time would be much smaller than in the Saga Age. In saga literature we read of craft (of " long ships ") with 20 to 30 benches of rowers, which would mean 40 to 60 oars. There exist at the museum in Christiania the remains of two boats which were found in the neighbourhood: one, the Gokstad ship, is in very tolerable preservation. It belongs probably to the nth century. On this boat there are places for 16 oars a side. It is not probable that the largest viking ships had more than ro oars a side. As these ships must often, against a contrary wind, have had to row both day and night, it seems reasonable to imagine the crew divided into three shifts (as they call them in mining districts), which would give double the number of men available to fight on any occasion as to row.' Thus a 20-oared vessel would carry 60 men. But some 40 men per ship seems, for this period, nearer the average. In 896, toward the end of our age, it is incidentally mentioned in one place that five vessels carried 200 vikings, an average of 40 per ship. Elsewhere about the same time we read of 12,000 men carried in 250 ships, an average of 48.

The round and painted shields of the warriors hung outside along the bulwarks: the vessel was steered by an oar at the right side (as whaling boats are to-day), the steerboard or starboard side. Prow and stern rose high; and the former was carved most often into the likeness of a snake's or dragon's head: so generally that " dragon " or " worm " (snake) became synonymous with a war-ship. The warriors were well armed. The byrnie or mail-shirt is often mentioned in Eddic songs: so are the axe, the spear, the javelin, the bow and arrows and the sword. The Danes were specially renowned for their axes; but about the sword the most of northern poetry and mythology clings. An immense joy in battle breathes through the earliest Norse literature, which has scarce its like in any other literature; and we know that the language recognized a peculiar battle fury, a veritable madness by which certain were seized and which went by the name of " berserk's way " (berserksgangr).2 The courage of the vikings was proof against anything, even as a rule against superstitious terrors. " We cannot easily realize how all-embracing that courage was. A trained soldier is often afraid at sea, a trained sailor lost if he has not the protecting sense of his own ship beneath him. The viking ventured upon unknown waters in ships very ill-fitted for their work. He had all the spirit of adventure of a Drake or a Hawkins, all the trained valour of reliance upon his comrades that mark a soldiery fighting a militia " (The Vikings in Western Christendom, p. 1 43). He was unfortunately hardly less marked for cruelty and faithlessness. Livy's words, " inhumana crudelitas, perfidia plus quam Punica," might, it is to be feared, have been applied as justly to the vikings as to any people of western 1 Steenstrup (Normannerne, i. p. 352), to get the number of men on (say) a 30-oared vessel, adds but some 20 more. This seems an unlikely limitation, throwing an impossible amount of work upon the crew, and leaving each ship terribly weak supposing a naval battle had to be undertaken - as with some rival viking fleet, even before any Christian nation possessed a fleet.

2 Cf. Grett. S. ch. 42, Njala, ch. 104, &c., and many other sources.

Europe. It is also true, however, that they showed a great capacity for government, and in times of peace for peaceful organization. Normandy was the best-governed part of France in the nth century; and the Danes in East Anglia and the Five Burgs were in many regards a model to their Saxon neighbours (Steenstrup, op. cit. iv. ch. 2). Of all European lands England is without doubt that on which the Viking Age has left most impression: in the number of original settlers after 878; in the way which these prepared for Canute's conquest; and finally in that which she absorbed from the conquering Normans. England's gain was France's loss: had the Normans turned their attention in the other direction, they might likely enough have gained the kingdom in France and saved that country from the intermittent anarchy from which it suffered from the 11th till the middle of the 15th century.

Sources of Viking History

These are, as has been said, almost exclusively the chronicles of the lands visited by the vikings. For Ireland we have, as on the whole our best authority, the Annales Ultonienses (C. O'Conor, Scr. Rev. Hib. iv.), supplemented by the Annals of the Four Masters (ed. O'Donovan) and the Chronicon Scottorum (ed. Henessy). Finally, The War of the Gaidhill with the Gaill (ed. Todd); Three Fragments of Irish History (O'Donovan); cf. W. F. Skene, Celtic Scotland. For England the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Annales Lindisfarnenses (in Pertz, Monumenta, vol. xix.); Simeon of Durham, Historia Dunelmi Ecclesiae. For the Frankish empire ttie chief sources of our information are The Annales Regni Francorum, Annales Bertiani (Pertz, vol. i.) in three parts (the first anonymous, the second by Prudentius, the third by Hincmar, A.D. 830-82). The Annales Xantenses (A.D. 876, 873; Pertz, vol. ii.) are the authorities for the northern and eastern regions, and the Annales Fuldenses (which begin with Pipin of Herestel and go down to A.D. 900; Pertz, vol. i.) for Germany. Toward the end of the 9th century the Annales Vedastini (Pertz, vols. i. and ii.) are almost the exclusive authority for the western raids. In the historians of Normandy, especially in Dudo of St Quentin, much incidental matter may be found.

References to the Viking Age in a general way are to be found in a vast number of books, especially histories of the Scandinavian countries, of which Munch's Det Norske Folks Historie (1852, &c.) is the most distinguished; J. J. A. Worsaae has written Minder om. de Danske og Nord-Mcendene i England, Skotland og Irland (1851), an antiquarian rather than an historical study; G. B. Depping, L'Histoire des expeditions maritimes des Normands (1843), a not very critical work, and E. Mabille, " Les Invasions Normandes dans la Loire " (Ecole des chartes bibl. t. 30, 1869). A completer work than either of these is W. Vogel's Die Normannen and das Frankische Reich (1906). It does not, however, break any fresh ground. J. C. H. Steenstrup's Normannerne (1876-82), in four volumes, is not a continuous history, but a series of studies of great learning and value; C. F. Keary, The Vikings in Western Europe (1891) is a history of the viking raids on all the western lands, but ends A.D. 888. A. Bugge's Vikingerne (1904-6) is a study of the moral and social side of the vikings, or, one should rather say, of the earliest Scandinavian folk. (C. F. K.)

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Alternative spellings


Cognate with Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish viking (da), (no), (sv), with Faroese and Icelandic víkingur (fo), (is), and with German Wiking; all of which and English Viking are from Old Norse víkingr (existing therein since the late-tenth century; itself cognate with Old English wícing and Old Frisian witsing, wising; compare Old Norse and Icelandic víking (marauding”, “piracy)), from Old Norse vík (inlet”, “cove”, “fjord) + -ingr (one belonging to”, “one who frequents) = “one from or who frequents the sea’s inlets”, possibly from Anglo-Frisian (existing therein since at least the eighth century), if so, then probably from Old English wíc (camp), so named on account of the temporary encampments which were often a prominent feature of the Vikings’ raids.[1]





Viking (plural Vikings)

  1. (historical)[1] One of the Scandinavian seafaring warriors that raided (and then settled) the British Isles and other parts of Europe in the 8th to the 11th centuries.

Derived terms

  • vike (jocular verb)
  • Vikingism
  • Vikingship



  • Notes:
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3Viking” listed in the Oxford English Dictionary [2nd Ed.; 1989]


Proper noun


  1. A male given name derived from the Swedish noun viking (a Viking), used since the 19th century.

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Viking: Battle for Asgard article)

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Viking: Battle for Asgard
Box artwork for Viking: Battle for Asgard.
Developer(s) Creative Assembly
Publisher(s) Sega
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Hack and slash, Action-adventure
System(s) Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Mode(s) Single player
ESRB: Mature

Viking: Battle for Asgard is a video game that was developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega. The main character is a Viking warrior named Skarin, also known as Freya's "champion" throughout the game. Audio for the game has been utilized through the use of CRIWARE libraries.

The gameplay has is much like an open version of God of War or The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Skarin starts each level, a massive island, at a base where he then goes out to purge the island of Hel's forces. Although somewhat linear, many of the objectives and areas of the world can be completed and explored in an order chosen by the player. By completing certain tasks, Skarin can build up an army of Viking warriors to follow him into battle. Throughout the game the player can unlock new fighting techniques at what are known as arenas, and purchase items and upgrades from shopkeepers.


A fierce struggle is taking place within Asgard, the realm of the Norse Gods. The battle has escalated, spilling over to the mortal world of Midgard and now a Champion must be found, a Warrior than can sway this war that threatens the fate of Asgard and the Gods themselves.

The goddess Hel — daughter of Loki, Norse God of mischief, has been banished from the heavenly kingdom of Asgard for defying Odin’s rule. Angry at her fate, she seeks to release the ancient wolf-god Fenrir which legend tells will bring about Ragnarök — the apocalyptic battle that will destroy Asgard and the Gods. With her army of resurrected Viking warriors, Hel marches on the unsuspecting mortal realm of Midgard.

Odin’s daughter Freya, goddess of love and wisdom, is appointed the task of stopping Hel and defending the future of mankind. For her champion she chooses Skarin, a great but troubled young warrior, ignorant of the true reason for his favour with the Gods and thrust into the midst of their bitter war.

Table of Contents

Getting Started
  • Characters
  • Controls
  1. Niflberg
  2. Galcliff
  3. Isaholm
  • Achievements
  • Collectibles
  • Enemies
  • Purchasables
  • Skills
  • Merchants

Simple English



File:Viking towns of Scandinavia
Viking towns in Scandinavia

The Vikings were the people who came from Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway , and Sweden) around 793AD-1066AD and who traveled great distances in their longboats, as traders, settlers and warriors. Many of the Vikings were tall and had red or blonde hair and beards. Villages on or near any coast in early medieval Europe lived in great fear of Viking attacks. Some of the countries most affected by Viking piracy were England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.


Many words from the Scandinavian/Viking language (Norse) entered our language-English. For example, the words 'skirt & shirt' came from the word skyrta (though sounding like skirt meant 'shirt'). 'Skin' came from the Norse word 'skinn' (which meant to strip the meat off something). Even many place-names in the areas the Vikings conquered still have the names that they gave them after starting to rule the 'new found lands', like those in Yorkshire ending with -thwaite which meant 'a clearing' and dale which meant 'a valley'. Leah came from the word leya and was used for Viking girls


The Vikings were fearless explorers. They travelled through Russia, the Mediterranean Sea, southern Europe, northern Africa and south-western Asia. Some Vikings sailed across the Atlantic Ocean via Iceland and Greenland and even lived in North America for a while, but were driven away by Native Americans, whom they called Skraelings. The ruins of a Viking settlement from 1000 AD have been found at L'Anse-aux-Meadows, Newfoundland.

Vikings in Europe

Europeans were frightened of the Vikings because of their strong weapons, swift attacks, and cruel fighting tactics. They were known for their bad treatment of women, children and monks in the places where they fought. When the Vikings came to England, the English kings paid them to leave the country, but the Vikings took their money and sometimes fought them anyway. These payments were called Danegeld. From the 9th century to 1066, when the French Duke of Normandy, who became King William I of England conquered it, Danish and Norwegian Vikings ruled large parts of England.

Because of their longboats, which could float in 4 feet (1.3m) of water, the Vikings were able to make their way up rivers and land deep inside a country. For example they sailed up the River Shannon in Ireland and built a harbour 60 miles (100 km) from the coast.

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