The Vikings : History, Time, Origin And Raid

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The Vikings : History, Time, Origin And Raid

The mighty Vikings have always captured the passionate attention of people throughout the ages. They are known for their brave raids, vast ships, and a cultural identity that still resonates centuries later.

To truly understand the reasons for the rise and influence of these fierce warriors, it is important to examine the history and way of life of this era in which they plundered abroad and conquered over firm ground.

By exploring the history of the Vikings' origins, culture, religion, sea tactics and battles, we are able to better understand how a steadfast people grew into an unstoppable force.

In this article, we will discover how these valiant Vikings shaped Europe in times of peace and war, between approximately 793 and 1066.

From around AD 800 to the 11th century, large numbers of Scandinavians left their homelands to seek their fortunes elsewhere. These seafaring warriors, collectively known as Vikings or Norsemen (“northern men”), began by raiding coastal sites, including undefended monasteries, in the British Isles.

Over the next three centuries, the Vikings would leave their mark as pirates, raiders, traders and settlers.

They will discover the Americas long before Christopher Columbus and will find themselves as far east as the confines of Russia.

viking warrior

Origin of the Vikings

Although these people are often attributed with the status of savages raiding the more civilized nations in search of treasure and women, the motivations and culture of the Viking people are much more diverse. These robbers have also facilitated many changes throughout the land, ranging from economy to war.

The exact reasons that drive the Vikings out of their homeland are uncertain. Some have suggested this was due to overpopulation in their homeland, but early Vikings sought wealth, not land. By the eighth century CE, Europe was growing wealthier, fueling the growth of trading centers such as Dorestad and Quentovic on the Continent and Hamwic (now Southampton), London, Ipswich and York in England. Scandinavian furs were highly prized in new markets. Through their trade with the Europeans, the Norse were introduced to new navigational technologies, growing wealth, and the accompanying internal strife between European kingdoms. Viking predecessors - pirates hunting merchant ships in the Baltic Sea - would use this knowledge to expand their fortune-seeking activities to the North Sea and beyond.


Where do the Vikings come from?

Contrary to some popular conceptions of the Vikings , they were not a "race" linked by ties of common ancestry or patriotism. Most of the Vikings whose activities are better known come from the areas now known as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, although historical records mention Finnish, Estonian and Saami Vikings. What they had in common was that they came from a foreign country, that they were not "civilized" in the local sense of the term and, more importantly, that they were not Christians.

Viking era

Many historians commonly associate the term " viking " with the Scandinavian term " vikingr ", which means "pirate", but this term refers to overseas expeditions and was used as a verb by Scandinavians to refer to periods when the men traditionally took the time to travel "to the Vikings in the summer." enlistment as foreign mercenaries.

The Viking Age generally refers to the period from AD 800, a few years after the first recorded raid, until the 1050s, a few years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. During this time, the scope of the Norse people spread to every corner of northern Europe, and many other nations found Vikings plundering their coasts. The most distant records of Vikings were in Baghdad trading in goods like furs, tusks, and seal blubber.

viking longship

viking raid

A Viking raid on the monks of Lindisfarne, a small island off the northeast coast of England, marked the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia in 793. This place was a well-known learning abbey , famous throughout the continent for its knowledgeable monks and extensive library.

During this raid, monks were killed, thrown overboard, or taken as slaves along with many of the church's treasures, and the library itself was razed to the ground. This unique event set the stage for how Vikings would be viewed throughout the Viking Age : savage warriors who had no respect for religion or learning.

In the years following the first Viking raid , coastal villages, monasteries and even towns were besieged by these foreign sea-based intruders. Due to the frequency of seaborne attacks, many developments were made in the development fortifications in the form of fortified harbors and sea-facing stone walls, defenses that proved very effective in deterring raids.

The reason for these attacks is a subject of debate among scholars, although the reasons often stem from things such as Christian persecution and the forced baptism of pagans to reduce agricultural production in the Scandinavian region. Many more documented reasons could have prompted these people to leave their cold, hard homes to seek ways to survive elsewhere.

Yet despite the ruthlessness of their homeland, most Vikings returned there at the end of each season with treasures, slaves, and possessions to survive yet another winter.


viking ship

At the heart of Viking culture is the Viking ship . These extraordinary ships, especially the long sailing ships, shaped the lives of Scandinavian seafarers and changed the course of European history.

Honed over more than 10 centuries, the shipbuilding skills of the Norse have given rise to a wide variety of ships, from small fishing boats and big-bellied freighters to the famous long, lightning-fast sailing ships used for raiding, famous viking longship . But regardless of size, most vessels have been designed to be narrow in shape with short drafts, giving them great adaptability for sea and river use.

Viking shipbuilding reached its peak in the 7th century when they invented the keel, a structural beam that extends from bow to stern and is lower than the main body of the ship. This feature increased speed and stability and prevented unwanted sideways movement.The keel, with the addition of a mainmast and mainsail, would ultimately allow the Nordiques to make long voyages across the North Atlantic. These Viking ships are today considered revolutionary in their design and a technological miracle.

To begin the shipbuilding process, the Vikings drove wedges into freshly cut trees until the wood split along the grain. Up to 20 large oak trees can be felled for one ship. The wood has been shaped and arranged so that the planks fit together perfectly in a clinker construction, overlapping like a fan. In clinker shipbuilding, the exterior is first laid down and then the framework is placed inside. The ship was covered with a tight mixture of animal hair, wool or moss impregnated with tar and stabilized by iron rivets. The end result was an incredibly fast and flexible long-haul that nothing could catch.

The men row with a series of oars, complete with a large sail, probably made of wool. According to the Royal Museums in Greenwich, rather than a rudder, longships had a rudder attached to the rear on the right side of the ship.

Around the middle of the 9th century, raiding really picked up again as word spread throughout the Scandinavian region of Europe's removable wealth. Norse villages and communities have come together to build ships with the intention of improving their living conditions through raids.

The Vikings paid as much attention to art as they did to craftsmanship. Longships were usually adorned with carved dragon heads on the front, which were believed to ward off evil spirits.

The dragon's head coupled with a large square sail with red and square stripes was to become the signature of the Vikings. This sight would scare Europeans for three centuries.

Viking era

New World Expeditions

The Vikings established settlements on the west coast of Greenland in the 10th century. The Viking sagas tell of the journeys they undertook from these Greenlandic settlements to the New World. They mention places called "Helluland" (believed to be Baffin Island), "Markland" (believed to be Labrador) and "Vinland" (a more mysterious place that some archaeologists believe may be Newfoundland).

Currently, the only confirmed Viking site in the New World is located at L'anse aux Meadows at the northern end of Newfoundland. This site was excavated in the 1960s. Additionally, there are three possible Viking sites that archaeologists have recently excavated in Canada. Two of the possible sites are located in Newfoundland, while a third is on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

A possible Viking site is atPoint Rosee , in southern Newfoundland; at the site, archaeologists discovered a hearth of bog cast iron grillage near a turf structure.

Another possible Viking site is located at Sop Arm in Newfoundland and includes a series of "traps" that would have been used to trap large animals like caribou. These traps are laid out in a straight line, and archaeologists believe that the Vikings could have pushed the animals towards these traps where they could have been trapped and killed.

The third possible Viking site is located at Nanook on Baffin Island, researchers have found artifacts that may have been used for metal production and the remains of a structure the Vikings may have built.


viking invasion

Viking Invasion Paris

Viking armies remained active on the European continent throughout the ninth century, brutally sacking Nantes in 842 and attacking towns as far away as Paris, Limoges, Orleans, Tours and Nîmes.

In 844, the Vikings stormed Seville (then controlled by the Arabs); in 859 they sacked Pisa, but an Arab fleet struck them on their way back north.

In 911, the King of the West Franks granted Rouen and the surrounding territory by treaty to a Viking chieftain called Rollo in exchange for the latter denying passage of the Seine to other raiders. This region of northern France is today known as Normandy, or "land of the men of the North". ”

In the 9th century, Scandinavians (especially Norwegians) began to colonize Iceland, an island in the North Atlantic where no one had yet settled in large numbers. Towards the end of the 10th century, some Vikings (including the famous Erik the Red) settled even further west, in Greenland.

According to later Icelandic stories, some of the first Viking settlers to settle in Greenland (including the Viking heroLeif Eriksson , son of Erik the Red , is said to have been the first European to discover and explore North America. They called their landing place Vinland (Wine-land), they built a temporary settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in present-day Newfoundland. Other than that, there is little evidence of Viking presence in the New World, and they did not form permanent settlements.


Danish dominance

The mid-10th-century reign of Harald Bluetooth, king of a newly unified, powerful, and Christianized Denmark, marked the beginning of a second Viking Age .

Large-scale raids, often organized by royal leaders, hit the coasts of Europe and especially England, where the line of kings descending from Alfred the Great is in decline.

Harald's rebellious son, Sven Forkbeard, led Viking raids on England from 991 and conquered the entire kingdom in 1013, sending King Ethelred into exile. Sven died the following year, leaving his son Knut (or Canute) to rule a Scandinavian empire (including England, Denmark and Norway) on the North Sea.

After Knut's death he was succeeded by his two sons, but both had died by 1042 and Edward the Inquisitor, son of the previous (non-Danish) king, returned from exile and regained the English throne from the Danes. Upon his death (without heirs) in 1066, Harold Godwinesson, the son of Edward's most powerful nobleman, claimed the throne.

Harold's army successfully defeated an invasion led by the last great Viking king - Harald Hardrada of Norway - at Stamford Bridge, near York, but fell to William, Duke of Normandy (himself a descendant of Scandinavian settlers in northern France) a few weeks later. Crowned King of England on the day ofChristmas 1066, William succeeds in retaining the crown against further Danish challenges.

Viking era

End of the Viking Age

The events of 1066 in England effectively marked the end of the Viking Age. At that time, all the Scandinavian kingdoms were Christian, and what remained of the Viking "culture" was absorbed into the culture of Christian Europe. Today, signs of Viking heritage are mostly found in the Norse origins of certain place names and vocabulary in the areas where they settled, including northern England, Scotland and Russia. In Iceland, the Vikings left an abundant literature, the Icelandic sagas, in which they celebrated the greatest victories of their glorious past.


Viking myths

Many modern perceptions of the Vikings have their origins in Catholic propaganda. After the ransacking of multiple Christian facilities and the loss of countless relics and treasures, the Catholic ministry sought to dehumanize them. Until the reign of Queen Victoria in Britain, the Vikings were still portrayed as a violent and barbaric people. During the 19th and 20th centuries, perceptions changed to the point where Vikings were glorified as noble savages with horned helmets, a proud culture, and feared prowess in battle.

As for the most popular Viking myths created by these misperceptions, history has proven the following facts to be clearly false:

  • The Vikings Wore Horned Helmets The Vikings traditionally wore bare-headed helmets or wore simple leather and metal-framed helmets with an occasional face shield. The idea of ​​horned helmets originated from the Viking revival during the reign of Victoria.
  • They were dirty and unkempt archaeologists who regularly find traces of combs, spoons and other grooming utensils which indicate that the Vikings were very keen on maintaining personal hygiene.


While living conditions in the Scandinavian regions were certainly harsh and difficult, many Vikings suffered from scarcity of resources and people settled over great distances, with no real unified leadership. During the Viking Age, the Scandinavians knew how to impose themselves more in the outside world and forge a reputation that went beyond simple barbarism. While some Vikings were driven by a thirst for wealth, many sought more peaceful economic relations with surrounding nations.

Indeed, as Forte et al wrote, there was no dramatic end to the Viking Age. The authors claim that the Norse kingdoms slowly acculturated and integrated into the "larger body politic of European Christendom". »

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