If you’ve ever seen the movies or television shows based on the life of Vikings history. You know that they were ferocious and cruel warriors. Who pillaged villages and took women as their slaves?
While some of these details are true, the entire picture of Viking culture isn’t as black-and-white as you might expect.
In fact, these Scandinavian warriors also had a rich Vikings history, complete with art, literature, architecture, philosophy, and even entertainment! This article gives an overview of the culture and history of the Viking age.
Beginnings in Norway
The Vikings’ history begins in Norway, specifically with a man named Harald Fairhair. He is Harald Harfagre, which means Fairhair or Finehair in English. According to legend, he earned his nickname from an event that occurred when he was young.
One night when Harald was sleeping. Three women cut his hair as it slept and then vanishes into thin air. When Harald awoke and discovered what had happened. He decided to let his hair grow out so no woman could do such a thing again.
Eventually, Harald’s hair grew so long that it became caught on a tree during battle and could not be moved. People began referring to him as Harfagre because his fine head of long blonde locks made him look like one descended from angels.
After Harald became king, he decided to conquer all of Norway and rule as a true king should. One by one, he defeated each Norwegian clan in battle. After his victory was complete, Harald became known as Haraldr Hinn harfagri, which means Harald Fairhair in English.
Migration To Iceland in Vikings History
The discovery and settlement of Iceland are usually attributed to a Norwegian named Naddoddur. In 825, he found Iceland and stayed for only one winter before returning to Norway. Sometime later, he returned with Ingoolfr Arnarson (commonly known as Ingoolfur Arnarson) and people from his home in Norway.
They set up two settlements: one at Reykjavík and another on what would become known as Vioey island. Over time, other settlers arrived, mostly from Norway but also several other Scandinavian countries. Among them were many skilled craftsmen and women who brought their trade skills with them.
A few decades later, Norway was being threatened by political unrest and the invasion of Denmark. When King Harald Finehair ascended to power in 872, he began forcing many people out of their homes in an effort to consolidate his own political strength. Many Norwegians fled to Iceland for protection; some left willingly, and others were forced out. This migration continued over time, making Iceland home to a large number of Norwegian settlers, who brought with them their culture and language.
The Viking Way of Life
Vikings were sea-raiders and traders. They traveled far from Scandinavia to settle in Iceland, Greenland, northern England, Ireland, and Normandy (in France). Vikings sailed as far east as Constantinople and north as Novgorod.
They discovered America 500 years before Columbus. Vikings used a range of ships including longships and knees. The longship was their most famous ship due to its speed, agility, and range.
Longships could reach up to 22 meters in length, with 15 pairs of oars. A crew could travel up to 20 kilometers per hour rowing. Meaning it took only three days for them to get anywhere on their shores.
The earliest evidence of Viking activity around Britain is from Denmark. In 1962, a burial mound containing a ship burial was excavated at Repton in Derbyshire, England. Inside English and French objects dating to about 900 AD. This suggests that Viking traders may have contacted local people quite soon after settling in Scandinavia (around 800 AD). Trade between Scandinavian countries had already been established for hundreds of years before then.
Vikings History and Their Impact on Society
There are few people in Viking history who have had as much of an impact on western civilization as did Scandinavia’s Vikings history. The name conjures up images of bearded, ax-wielding warriors and horned helmets, raiding and plundering throughout Europe.
Although they were feared by many, their actual physical impact on history was fairly small; it was their influence and ability to inspire awe that made them such a force in western Europe during their time.
As seafaring people, they had a great impact on early European trade and travel. Their superior ship-building skills allowed them to expand their voyages to include much of Europe, even venturing as far as North America.
These early trips to North America are important in their own right. They were some of history’s first examples of mass emigration and laid many foundations for later Europeans who settled in North America permanently.
Because they lived during a time when little was written down, many aspects of their culture and history have been lost to time.
Some famous persons in Viking history
Harald Fairhair, Ragnar Lodbrok, Ganger Hrolf, Rollo (Viking), porfimer Sigurdarson, Ivar Vidfamne, Erik Anundsson. The Old Norse word víking originally just meant a raid.
It was often extended to mean more peaceful expeditions as well: for example, in England, raids were by Scandinavian groups known as Danes or Northmen and so such expeditions are referred to as Danish raids or Northmen’s ravages.
In both cases, these were voyages for plunder rather than trade or conquest. The Viking Age was first identified as such in modern times; before that, people living in Scandinavia during that period were referred to as Norsemen or Northmen, though a more general term for Scandinavians who participated in expeditions outside their home region was Vikings.
The Vikings’ history is starting from 793 AD when Scandinavian raiders attack the Lindisfarne monastery.
1066 was the end of the Viking Age. When Harald Hardrada faces defeat at Stamford Bridge. Some scholars argue that it persisted until 1100. The Sack of Nantes marked an effective end to organized Viking incursions into Europe and brought a definitive end to Viking expansion into France. Norway’s Trondheim was established as a major trading city by king Olav Tryggvason in 997, opening communication between Scandinavia and continental Europe.
Conclusions About Vikings History
The Viking Age, which starts in Europe in 793 CE with Scandinavian attacks on Lindisfarne Monastery and lasts until 1066 CE with the death of Harald Hardrada, was a period of extreme violence.
During those two centuries, these Norse raiders and traders burned churches, pillaged monasteries, killed anyone who resisted them (including children), and made prisoners-of-war work as slaves or dies.
But it was also a time of great invention and expansion. The end of Viking rule came when Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, and future king. Defeated Harald Hardrada at Hastings in 1066. The Viking Age ended not long after that.
Many people now visit museums, historical sites, and other places where they can learn more about these fascinating people. The Viking Age is one of those relatively short periods in history that have had a big impact on what life is like today.