Who Are The Vikings?

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Who Are The Vikings?
Who Are The Vikings?

Video: Who Are The Vikings?

Video: Who Are The Vikings?
Video: The Vikings! - Crash Course World History 224 2023, December

The Vikings in the modern view are formidable and savage Scandinavian warriors who raided other countries and live only by robbery and plunder. This is only partly true, because the Vikings, like other ancient peoples, have their own rich history, religion and traditions.

Who are the Vikings?
Who are the Vikings?


The origin of the word "viking" is not known for certain. There are several versions of its decryption. According to one of them, the name "Viking" was associated with a settlement in the south-east of Norway (Viken) and literally translated as "a man from Vik".

The Swedish scientist F. Askeberg assumed that the word "viking" was based on the verb vikja - "to turn" or "deviate". According to his theory, this is a man who left his homeland and sailed on a long campaign for prey, in fact, a sea pirate.

There is also a hypothesis that "Viking" means "sailing in the sea." Translated from the ancient language of the Normans, "wick" means "fiord" or "bay". Therefore, many historians interpret the word "viking" as "man from the bay."


It is often thought that Scandinavian and Viking are one and the same concept. This is not true, in the first case it means belonging to a certain nationality, and in the second to the occupation and way of life.

It is very difficult to attribute the Vikings to any particular ethnic group and place of residence. These warriors often settled on the lands they captured, enjoyed local benefits and imbued with the culture of these places.

People called the Vikings in different ways: Danes, Normans, Varangians, Russians.

In the VIII - XI centuries, they made sea raids from Vinland to North Africa.

The Vikings were tribes that lived in the territory of modern countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

They were driven to robbery by hunger, poverty and overpopulation of their own territories. In addition, influential clans were constantly at odds with each other, which also had a bad effect on the general standard of living. All this forced the majority of the male population to go to foreign lands in search of a better life.

Weakly fortified European cities were easy prey for the Vikings, and river robbery on the way to large settlements was necessary to replenish supplies on a ship (drakarr).

It is worth recalling that in the Middle Ages, predatory raids on neighboring states were quite a common way to fill their own treasury, therefore many "chilling" stories about the natural cruelty of the Vikings are greatly exaggerated.

Major Viking raids

One of the first recorded attacks by the Vikings was their landing in 793 AD. on the island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria (Anglo-Saxon state). They destroyed and plundered the monastery of St. Cuthbert.

At first, the Vikings quickly attacked, plundered, returned with their spoils to their ships and sailed away. But over time, their raids took on a larger scale.

A major victory for the Danish Vikings was the capture of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and the occupation of the north and west of England.

King Ragnar Lothbrok began the conquest of England in order to establish his own settlement on the fertile lands he had occupied. He achieved some success, but did not finally realize his plans.

In 866, his sons gathered a huge army and brought it to the shores of England. In the Christian annals, she is referred to as "the great army of the Gentiles."

In 867 - 871, the sons of the late Ragnar Lothbrok executed the kings of Northumbria and East Anglia with particular cruelty and divided their lands among themselves.

Alfred the Great - King of Wessex was forced to conclude an official peace treaty with the Vikings and legalize their possessions in Britain. Jorvik became the English capital of the Vikings.


The next big Viking raid on Britain was the conquest of England in 1013 by the warriors of Sven Forkbeard.

The English throne was returned only in 1042 thanks to Edward the Confessor, who represented the Wessex dynasty.

The last Viking to lay claim to English lands was Sven Estridsen. In 1069 he assembled a huge fleet and, arriving on the British shores, easily captured York. However, having met the active army of Wilhelm, he preferred to abandon the bloody massacre, save the people and, taking a large farm, return to Denmark.

In addition to England, the Vikings attacked Ireland, Thrace, the Baltic states.

Their first landing in Ireland was in 795. The founding of Dublin is associated with the Vikings, which then for two hundred years was a "barbarian city".

In addition, around 900, the Vikings captured and settled on the Faroe, Shetland, Orkney and Hebrides.

The end of the further conquest of Ireland was put in 1014 by the Battle of Clontarf.


The Vikings had a special relationship with Thrace. During the reign of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, the empire was very well protected from raids from the north.

Remarkably, some kings went to serve the Thracian kings in order to protect them from the raids of their own tribesmen. For this, the rulers rewarded them generously.

However, the ever-growing feudal fragmentation began to interfere with the full-fledged defense of the country from the Viking raids. Sometimes the barbarians reached the walls of Paris in their raids.

In order to avoid a big bloodshed, King Charles the Rustic in 911 gave the north of France to the leader Rollon. This land became known as Normandy. Thanks to the competent policy of Rollon, the raids of the northerners soon stopped, and the remnants of the Viking detachments remained to live among the civilian population.

Rollon ruled for a long time, it is from him that William the Conqueror takes his origin.

The Vikings stopped their aggressive campaigns in the first half of the 11th century. This was due to the general decline in the Scandinavian population, the spread of Christianity and the arrival of the feudal system to replace the clan.

There is a theory that the Vikings played a key role in the formation of Ancient Russia.

Some historians are of the opinion that Rurik belonged to the Scandinavians. And although the name Rurik is consonant with the Norman Rerek, it really cannot be argued that this version is true.

Life of the Vikings

The Vikings lived in large family communities. Their houses were simple, built of beams or wicker vines, with clay on top.

Wealthy Vikings lived in wooden rectangular houses, the roofs of which were covered with peat. In the middle of a large room, a hearth was set up, near which they cooked food, ate, and often the household slept.

In large houses, strong wooden pillars were installed along the walls to support the roof. In the rooms fenced off in this way, bedrooms were made.

The Vikings kept farms, were engaged in agriculture and handicrafts.

Peasants and farmers wore long shirts and baggy trousers, stockings and rectangular capes.

Upper-class Vikings wore long pants and brightly colored capes. In cold weather, fur capes, hats and mittens were worn.

Women wore long outfits, consisting of a bodice and a skirt. Married women put their hair under a cap, and free girls simply tied it up with a ribbon.

To indicate their position in society, they wore special jewelry: brooches, buckles and pendants. Silver and gold bracelets were handed over to the soldiers after a successful campaign.

As for the weapons of the Vikings, they most often fought with wide axes and long swords. They also used a spear and shield.


The Vikings were excellent shipbuilders, they made practically the best ships in that era. The Viking fleet consisted of drakkars - warships and merchant ships - knorr. The most famous Scandinavian ships - Gokstad and Useberg - are now in the Drakkar Museum in Oslo.

In addition, the Vikings were fierce warriors, constantly improving their skills.

It is widely believed that the Vikings were dirty, unwashed savages with animal habits.

This is not entirely true. During archaeological excavations in the places of residence of the Vikings, numerous household items of the northerners were discovered: baths, ridges, mirrors. Scientists also found remnants of a substance similar to modern soap.

In ancient writings, comic records of the British about the uncleanliness of the Vikings have been preserved. For example, "The Vikings are so clean that they even go to the bathhouse once a week." Despite the ridicule and prejudice against the "savages", the Europeans themselves washed themselves much less often, and tried to mask unpleasant body odors with perfumes and aromatic oils.

Culture and religion

The Vikings were originally pagans and professed Asatru, a Germanic-Scandinavian religion with constant sacrifices.

This belief is based on the deification of the forces of nature. The Viking gods were considered ancient relatives of people. Among them were especially revered: Odin (the main god), Thor, Freyr and Freya.

The Vikings were not afraid of death, according to their religion in the afterlife they were expected to celebrate at the same table with the gods.

The Viking script was runic. A more developed written culture appeared with the advent of Christianity. That is why there are no reliable written sources about the life of the Vikings. Descendants can get some rough idea of the proud and warlike northerners only thanks to the Scandinavian sagas.