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The Viking

Other names
Viking Age
Viking expansion
End of the Viking Age
Literature and language
Burial sites
Everyday life
Social structure
Farming and cuisine
Games and entertainment
Experimental archaeology
 Weapons and warfare
Medieval perceptions of the Vikings
Post-medieval perceptions
In 20th-century politics
In modern popular culture
Common misconceptions
Horned helmets
Genetic legacy

The Viking
Vikings (from Old Norse víkingr) were Norse seafarers, speaking the Old Norse language, who raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern and central Europe, as well as European Russia, during the late 8th to late 11th centuries.[1][2] The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Viking home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Norse military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.[3] Facilitated by advanced seafaring skills, and characterised by the longship, Viking activities at times also extended into the Mediterranean littoral, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Following extended phases of (primarily sea- or river-borne) exploration, expansion and settlement, Viking (Norse) communities and polities were established in diverse areas of north-western Europe, European Russia, the North Atlantic islands and as far as the north-eastern coast of North America. This period of expansion witnessed the wider dissemination of Norse culture, while simultaneously introducing strong foreign cultural influences into Scandinavia itself, with profound developmental implications in both directions. Popular, modern conceptions of the Vikings—the term frequently applied casually to their modern descendants and the inhabitants of modern Scandinavia—often strongly differ from the complex picture that emerges from archaeology and historical sources. A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages began to emerge in the 18th century; this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival. Received views of the Vikings as alternatively violent, piratical heathens or as intrepid adventurers owe much to conflicting varieties of the modern Viking myth that had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations of the Vikings are typically based on cultural clichés and stereotypes, complicating modern appreciation of the Viking legacy.


A reconstructed Viking Age long house, at Fyrkat, Denmark
The Old Norse feminine noun víking refers to an expedition overseas. It occurs in Viking Age runic inscriptions and in later medieval writings in set expressions such as the phrasal verb fara í víking, "to go on an expedition". The derived Old Norse masculine noun víkingr appears in Viking Age skaldic poetry and on several rune stones found in Scandinavia, where it refers to a seaman or warrior who takes part in an expedition overseas.[7] In later texts, such as the Icelandic sagas, the phrase "to go on a Viking " implies participation in raiding activity or piracy and not simply seaborne missions of trade and commerce. The word Viking derives from the feminine vík, meaning "creek, inlet, small bay". The form also occurs as a personal name on some Swedish rune stones. There is little indication of any negative connotation in the term before the end of the Viking Age. Regardless of its possible origins, at the time the word was used to indicate an activity and those who participated in it, and it did not belong to any ethnic or cultural group. In the modern Scandinavian languages, the word Viking usually refers specifically to those people who went on Viking expeditions. In Old English, the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, Widsith, which probably dates from the 9th century. In Old English, and in the history of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written by Adam of Bremen in about 1070, the term generally referred to Scandinavian pirates or raiders. As in the Old Norse usages, the term is not employed as a name for any people or culture in general. The word does not occur in any preserved Middle English texts. The word Viking was introduced into Modern English during the 18th-century Viking revival, at which point it acquired romanticised heroic overtones of "barbarian warrior" or noble savage. During the 20th century, the meaning of the term was expanded to refer not only to seaborne raiders from Scandinavia and other places settled by them (like Iceland and the Faroe Islands), but secondarily to any member of the culture that produced said raiders during the period from the late 8th to the mid-11th centuries, or more loosely from about 700 to as late as about 1100. As an adjective, the word is used to refer to ideas, phenomena, or artefacts connected with those people and their cultural life, producing expressions like Viking age, Viking culture, Viking art, Viking religion, Viking ship, and so on.

Other names
The Vikings were known as Ascomanni, ashmen, by the Germans, Lochlanach (Norse) by the Gaels and Dene (Danes) by the Anglo-Saxons. The Slavs, the Arabs and the Byzantines knew them as the Rus' or Rhōs, probably derived from various uses of rōþs-, "related to rowing", or derived from the area of Roslagen in east-central Sweden, where most of the Vikings who visited the Slavic lands came from. Some archaeologists and historians of today believe that these Scandinavian settlements in the Slavic lands played a significant role in the formation of the Kievan Rus' federation, and hence the names and early states of Russia and Belarus.[15][16][17] The modern day name for Sweden in several neighbouring countries is possibly derived from rōþs-, Ruotsi in Finnish and Rootsi in Estonian. The Slavs and the Byzantines also called them Varangians (ON: Væringjar, meaning "sworn men" from var- "pledge, faith," related to Old English wær "agreement, treaty, promise," Old High German wara "faithfulness"[18]). Scandinavian bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors were known as the Varangian Guard.

Viking Age
Main article: Viking Age

Europe, early 9th century
The period from the earliest recorded raids in the 790s until the Norman conquest of England in 1066 is commonly known as the Viking Age of Scandinavian history.[19] Vikings used the Norwegian Sea and Baltic Sea for sea routes to the south. The Normans were descended from Vikings who were given feudal overlordship of areas in northern France—the Duchy of Normandy—in the 10th century. In that respect, descendants of the Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe. Likewise, King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, had Danish ancestors. Geographically, a Viking Age may be assigned not only to Scandinavian lands (modern Denmark, Norway and Sweden), but also to territories under North Germanic dominance, mainly the Danelaw, including Scandinavian York, the administrative centre of the remains of the Kingdom of Northumbria,[20] parts of Mercia, and East Anglia.[21] Viking navigators opened the road to new lands to the north, west and east, resulting in the foundation of independent settlements in the Shetland, Orkney, and Faroe Islands; Iceland; Greenland;[22] and L'Anse aux Meadows, a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland, circa 1000.[23] They may have been deliberately sought out, perhaps on the basis of the accounts of sailors who had seen land in the distance. The Greenland settlement eventually died out, possibly due to climate change.[24] Vikings also explored and settled in territories in Slavic-dominated areas of Eastern Europe, particularly the Kievan Rus'. By 950 these settlements were largely Slavicised. As early as 839, when Swedish emissaries are first known to have visited Byzantium, Scandinavians served as mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Empire.[25] In the late 10th century, a new unit of the imperial bodyguard formed. Traditionally containing large numbers of Scandinavians, it was known as the Varangian Guard. The word Varangian may have originated in Old Norse, but in Slavic and Greek it could refer either to Scandinavians or Franks. The most eminent Scandinavian to serve in the Varangian Guard was Harald Hardrada, who subsequently established himself as king of Norway (1047–66). Important trading ports during the period include Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang, Jorvik, Staraya Ladoga, Novgorod, and Kiev. There is archaeological evidence that Vikings reached Baghdad, the centre of the Islamic Empire.[26] The Norse regularly plied the Volga with their trade goods: furs, tusks, seal fat for boat sealant, and slaves. Generally speaking, the Norwegians expanded to the north and west to places such as Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and Greenland; the Danes to England and France, settling in the Danelaw (northern/eastern England) and Normandy; and the Swedes to the east, founding the Kievan Rus, the original Russia. Among the Swedish runestones mentioning expeditions overseas, almost half tell of raids and travels to western Europe. According to the Icelandic sagas, many Norwegian Vikings went to eastern Europe. In the Viking Age, the present day nations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark did not exist, but were largely homogeneous and similar in culture and language, although somewhat distinct geographically. The names of Scandinavian kings are known only for the later part of the Viking Age. After the end of the Viking Age the separate kingdoms acquired distinct identities as nations, which went hand-in-hand with their Christianization. Thus the end of the Viking Age for the Scandinavians also marks the start of their relatively brief Middle Ages.

Viking expansion
Main article: Viking expansion

Travels of the Vikings

Scandinavian settlements of the 8th through 11th centuries[image reference needed] The Vikings explored the northern islands and coasts of the North Atlantic, ventured south to North Africa and east to Russia, Constantinople, and the Middle East. They raided and pillaged, but also engaged in trade, settled wide-ranging colonies, and acted as mercenaries.[28] Vikings under Leif Ericson, heir to Erik the Red, reached North America and set up short-lived settlements in present-day L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, and Labrador, Canada. The Vikings did not expand or conquer much into mainland Europe. Their realm was bordered by powerful cultures to the south. Early on it was the Saxons, who occupied Old Saxony, located in what is now Northern Germany. The Saxons were a fierce and powerful people and were often in conflict with the Vikings. To counter the Saxon aggression and solidify their own presence, the Danes constructed the huge defence fortification of Danevirke in and around Hedeby.[29] The Vikings soon witnessed the violent subduing of the Saxons by Charlemagne, in the thirty-year Saxon Wars in 772-804. The Saxon defeat resulted in their forced christening and absorption of Old Saxony in the Carolingian Empire. Fearing the Franks, this led the Vikings to further expand Danevirke and the defence constructions were in use throughout the Viking Age and even up until 1864[citation needed]. The south coast of the Baltic Sea was ruled by the Obotrites, a federation of Slavic tribes loyal to the Carolingians and later the Frankish empire. The Vikings – led by King Gudfred – destroyed the Obotrite city of Reric on the southern Baltic coast in 808 AD and transferred the merchants and traders to Hedeby. This secured their supremacy in the Baltic Sea, which remained throughout the Viking Age.

The motives driving the Viking expansion are a topic of much debate in Nordic history. One common theory posits that Charlemagne "used force and terror to Christianise all pagans", leading to baptism, conversion or death, and as a result Vikings and other pagans wanted revenge.[30][31][32][33][34] Professor Rudolf Simek states that "it is not a coincidence if the early Viking activity occurred during the reign of Charlemagne".[30][35] The penetration of Christianity into Scandinavia led to serious conflict dividing Norway for almost a century.[36] Another explanation is that the Vikings exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. England suffered from internal divisions and was relatively easy prey given the proximity of many towns to the sea or to navigable rivers. Lack of organised naval opposition throughout Western Europe allowed Viking ships to travel freely, raiding or trading as opportunity permitted. The decline in the profitability of old trade routes could also have played a role. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia suffered a severe blow when the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century.[37] The expansion of Islam in the 7th century had also affected trade with western Europe.[38] Raids in Europe including raids and settlements from Scandinavia, were not something new and also seen long before the Vikings came. The Jutes invaded the British Isles three centuries earlier, pouring out from Jutland, before the Danes settled there. The Saxons and the Angles did the same, embarking from mainland Europe. The Viking raids were the first to be documented in writing by eyewitnesses, and they were much larger in scale and frequency than in previous times.[39] End of the Viking Age

During the Viking Age, Scandinavian men and wo...

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