The Vikings were Swedish and Danish/Norwegian.
The Vikings were Swedish and Danish/Norwegian. Viking homelands were made up of kingdoms divided into districts. Farmers, merchants, the rich, and the king all theoretically had equal voices in the thing, a political assembly, and in the hearing of land disputes and criminal cases. In reality, wealth and power led to greater influence in gatherings with few formal procedures. Sometimes the only justice was the feud or trial by ordeal. When justice seemed impossible, slighted merchants could take matters into their own hands.
Viken was an area located near Oslofjord, and the
Danish Vikings ruled half of England from late in the ninth century into the eleventh century. In the
Vikings extorted and stole and became Normans and Irish and English and Byzantines. In the North Atlantic they extended the European frontier. They influenced languages, cultures, and political institutions. They revitalized towns and commerce, making commercial centers of York, Kiev, and other towns.
Vikings had been for the most part farmers and traders. When they began trading in Europe they noticed that many European locations were wealthy and poorly defended, and by the eighth century trade was secondary for the Vikings, done only if the Europeans were too well armed for the Vikings to plunder with impunity. The eighth century was also a time of European disarray, a consequence of the Fall of Rome in the fifth century, and the
Viking Raids, 790-850
Between 841 and 875 the raids became more frequent, faster, larger, and more intense. From initial forays of three ships they grew to forays of more than three hundred ships at a time, and the Vikings plundered, killed, enslaved, and burned before departing. In 843 they wintered on foreign soil for the first time, settling in
Attacks after 841 shifted to the Mediterranean. In 844 a Viking fleet hit Nantes, Toulouse, Gijon, Lisbon, and Seville before being defeated and forced back to Aquitaine. After that, another fleet hit North Africa, France, and Spain before being defeated in Italy. Vikings as permanent residents were a political threat, leading many rulers to attempt to bribe them to leave. The Vikings at this time established their Great Army, thousands organized into smaller bands that fought on their own, sometimes with each other.
From 876 to 911 the Vikings and the Great Army plundered but also began colonizing their English and French bases as well as establishing settlements in Ireland, Russia, Iceland, and other lands they raided from England and France. In 911
Vikings also raided Persia and North Africa. They were in Iceland and Greenland and touched North America. With only a handful of people (Scandinavia had a population of barely one million in all), they controlled territory with millions of inhabitants.
The most common Viking weapon was an
Swords were expensive and represented high status. They were double-edged and about thirty-five inches long. Early Viking sabers were single-edged; strips of wrought iron and mild steel were twisted and forged together, and than a hardened edge was added.
Wealthy Viking warriors wore expensive
The early Viking formation was the
The country was divided into units called
During the eleventh century, the Viking military became more professional. In 1012, during the attack of
Canute established the
Viking armies consisted of
Vikings had no standing army for most of the period, and their discipline was slight. There were no set fighting formations, but loyalty to the lord helped the force remain cohesive. Weapons training began with hunting, games, and raiding at an early age. The ambitious would-be warrior sought the best retinue, there to earn wealth, weapons, and fame. War became necessary as a way of keeping the retinue satisfied and keeping the warriors from shifting to rival retinues.
The principal battle method was the strong blow that could break through the enemy’s armor and crush bone and flesh. Where space permitted, the
An artist’s depiction of a tenth century Viking raid carried out in Norse longboats.
Through the eleventh century Vikings were foot soldiers. Their
Vikings preferred to hit and run, but when forced to stand and fight they formed a shield-fort, the
The battle began with the Vikings throwing a spear across the enemy line to dedicate the soon-to-be-slain foe to Odin, the chief Norse god. A rain of spears, arrows, and other missiles followed. If the two sides still were not ready to quit, one attacked the other. A wedge of twenty to thirty warriors, the
The maniacal warriors known as
It was uncommon for Vikings to engage in
Medieval Scandinavia lacked the literary tradition of the Islamic and Christian areas. Contemporary sources on the Vikings are mostly Anglo-Saxon or Frankish cautionary tales written between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. They include chronicles, sagas, skaldic epics, laws, and
The other types of source are all foreign. Most of them are written in Latin in the context of a military or religious conflict with the Vikings. Annals are the chronological yearbooks written by a country’s clerics about internal and foreign policy. Among them are the
Also important is the
Travelogues and biographies usually mention the Vikings only in passing.
Sagas are high medieval Icelandic tales about Norse notables. They provide information about ships, fleet sizes, and other elements of Viking society.
Occasional medieval legal texts have laws traceable back to the Viking era. Among them is the
Durham, Keith. Viking Longship. New York: Osprey, 2002. Durham, Keith, Mark Harrison, and Magnus Magnusson. The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder. New York: Osprey, 2008. Heath, Ian. The Vikings. New York: Osprey, 1985. Santosuosso, Antonio. Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels: The Ways of Medieval Warfare. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2004. Siddom, J. K. Viking Weapons and Warfare. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Tempus, 2003. Sprague, Martina. Norse Warfare: The Unconventional Battle Strategies of the Ancient Vikings. Erik the Viking. Feature film. KB Erik the Viking, 1989. Ivanhoe. Feature film. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1952. The Long Ships. Feature film. Avala Film, 1964. The Norseman. Feature film. Charles B. Pierce Film Productions, 1978. Prince Valiant. Feature film. Constantin Film Produktion, 1997. Prince Valiant. Feature film. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1954. The Thirteenth Warrior. Feature film. Touchstone, 1999. The Vikings. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service/WGBH, 2000. The Vikings. Feature film. Brynaprod, 1958. The War Lord. Feature film. Court Productions, 1965. Warrior Challenge: Vikings. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service/Thirteen/WNET New York, 2003.
The Franks and the Holy Roman Empire
Armies of Christendom and the Age of Chivalry
Crusading Armies of the West