The Vikings


The Beginning of the Raids.

The Viking period is supposed to have begun during the reign of Germanic warlords and barbarians in Europe, and around 200 to 300 years after the fall of the Roman Empire.

After hundreds of years of Roman control, the globe had altered dramatically at this point. 

Beginning in the year 793, bands of warriors began to migrate south, leaving their ancestral lands in what is now known as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the surrounding areas.

Following what is now known as the “Germanic Iron Age,” individuals from the Nordic regions, known as Norsemen, used rivers throughout Europe to promote commerce, transit, raids, and conquest.

It was the latter of these acts for which they would become most famous.

Much of what is known about the Viking Age is based on what ancient historians and specialists on ancient civilizations wrote down during and after this time. 

What we learn from these documents is dependent on who wrote down these people’s stories.

If you simply study the Viking records they created, as well as the records of the people they assaulted and ravaged, you’ll get a skewed picture.

Everyone has a unique perspective on events. The truth about this period can only be truly comprehended via a comprehensive view of events.

Although the all-encompassing phrase “Vikings magnat” appears to put them all into a single ethical or racial category, the Vikings were not one united group of people.

The fact is that they were a conglomeration of minor ethnic groups from several Scandinavian nations such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and others.

However, Vikings did not simply originate from Scandinavia.

There are historical records of many more types of Vikings, including individuals from Finland, Estonia, and Lapland, as well as the Russian Kola peninsula.

Let us have a look at where these distinct communities moved after leaving their homelands in these areas.

Keep in mind that some areas were not given their contemporary names until much later. 

The Danes set off from Denmark and went immediately west along the North Sea to the coast of France.

They arrived in Spain, launched excursions into the Mediterranean, and even invaded Luna, a tiny province in Italy, believing it to be the capital of the Roman Empire.

The Swedes sailed north to the Baltic Sea and created the Kievan Russian state, as well as to the realm of the Byzantine empire and further afield, in the Orient itself. 

The Norwegians traveled westward, toward British territory, Scottish territories, and Ireland. 

In 841, Dublin was established as a slave trafficking center. 

Overall, these men and women moved throughout a large portion of the known world, taking whatever they wanted, whenever they needed it.

Apart from commerce, these individuals had nothing in common and definitely did not show a unified front.

In reality, they frequently battled for scant territory, prizes, and resources.

However, in the view of the people they assaulted and conquered, the Vikings were one.

They were a bunch that everyone dreaded. They had mastered the technique of shipbuilding and sail-making by seeing what the Romans did during their empire’s reign many years previously.

Around 300 to 400 AD, Celtic and Germanic merchants met with Romans and studied their technologies. It was the Romans’ influence that inspired the Vikings to strive to build their own armada many years later. 

Modern-day discoveries show that the Vikings and their descendants had a long-standing interest in sea-related technologies. Their ancestors’ actions may be traced back many thousands of years before the Vikings even existed, as shown by rock engravings dating from 4000-2000 BC.

It should be noted that commerce between the European mainland and Germanic or barbarian traders has existed since Roman times. 

Furs, whetstones, and other resources were always traded between the two clans. 

Of course, this attracted would-be pirates to European coasts and the promise of new and rich territory.

They regarded the region they came across as fertile ground for the creation of a new civilization.

Further Expansion.

Small assaults on British monasteries began in 791 AD because they were generally isolated and unguarded. 

Furthermore, these monasteries frequently housed significant sums of money or gold. 

One of the most notable of these raids occurred in 793 in Lindisfarne. The monastery at Lindisfarne was regarded as the heart of Christianity in Northumbria. However, it was not the first raid against British possessions in the British Isles.

Three Viking vessels emerged off the coast of Wessex in 787, going south from a region named ‘Horthaland,’ which is now known as modern-day Norway. 

The folks on the Wessex coast at the time thought these ships to be willing to engage in peaceful commerce, but they were greatly misled. 

In the 790s, other attacks took place at the monastery of Iona in Scotland, Jarrow in Northumbria, and numerous places off the coast of Ireland.

The Vikings killed everyone they came across.

Their goal was to collect as much plunder as possible before returning to their ships. 

They frequently burnt down the structures they came into touch with, including churches.

This is recounted in the Lindisfarne raid story. Many more churches around the British coast were also destroyed. 

During the early years of the Vikings’ reign of terror, this was the pattern of their attacks.

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The Vikings Daily Life

The Norsemen, as we call them today, were not connected to the name or function of Vikings when at home in their Nordic countries. If you had to be in that time, Norse or Viking would not be a word you understood or conceptualized the way we do in the modern world. You were a part of a people who lived simply in the Scandinavian wilderness and who hunted, farmed, fished, cultivated livestock, spoke to the gods, and, at times, partook in a civil war among neighboring villages and clans. Positions of the hierarchy were established and overthrown many times, and slaves were commonplace. Kings and magnates (chieftains) were quite literally the men who owned the biggest farm or the most ships. Each clan or merchant town stood independent from the other and later, with social evolution, regions and kingdoms were formed.

A simple subsistence level of farm work and living on rural farmsteads was a picture of normal Norse life. Villages usually consisted of between 15 and 60 people depending on their location for trade and agriculture. 

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The Untold Stories of the Norsemen

Norsemen is a term used for the Nordic people who lived in the North Atlantic region of what we know today as Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and later, Iceland). An Old Norse language was established based on Germanic and Indo-European origins before the Viking Age. Although basic agriculture collapsed by 550 C.E. and was only restored towards the 8th century, historical evidence begins to show us a more detailed picture of set practices and beliefs coinciding with foreign influences. More controlled paganism, if you will.

Their early society was not technically a literary one and looking into their lives requires an understanding of their oral tradition, seen in early rune inscriptions and later in the sagas and poems. The stories were told, but the reasons and methods were left for interpretation.

The Norse were predominantly farmers, fishermen, and traders. It is often overlooked that their lifestyles were more than just pillaging and conquering. Their connection with their mythologies and their rituals of magic is rooted heavily in their actual day-to-day lives, rather than it being, for instance, a civilization polarized by different beliefs. They were unified and complex.

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