A reconstructed Viking Age long houseFrom 839, Varangian mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Empire, notably Harald Hardrada, campaigned in North Africa, Jerusalem, and other places in the Middle East. Important trading ports during the period include Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang, Jorvik, Staraya Ladoga, Novgorod and Kiev.
Generally speaking, the Norwegians expanded to the north and west to places such as Ireland, Iceland and Greenland; the Danes to England and France, settling in the Danelaw (northern/eastern England) and Normandy; and the Swedes to the east. These nations, although distinct, were similar in culture and language. The names of Scandinavian kings are known only for the later part of the Viking Age. Only after the end of the Viking Age did the separate kingdoms acquire 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.
Main article: Viking expansion
Weapons and warfare
Main article: Viking Age arms and armor
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Good-quality written historical sources for Scandinavia during the Viking Period are scarce, but the archaeological record is rich.
The word Viking appears on several runestones found in Scandinavia.
See also: Viking funeral
There are numerous burial sites associated with Vikings. As well as providing information on Viking religion, burial sites also provide information on social structure. The items buried with the deceased give some indication as to what was considered important to possess in the afterlife. Some examples of notable burial sites include:
Gettlinge gravfält, Öland, Sweden, ship outline
Jelling, Denmark, a World Heritage Site
Borrehaugene, Horten, Norway
Gamla Uppsala, Sweden.
Hulterstad gravfält, near the villages of Alby and Hulterstad, Öland, Sweden, ship outline of standing stones
Miniatures of two different types of longships, on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
Viking ship head of dragon, has a dog's nostrils, canines, and rounded ears.Main article: Viking ship
In Roskilde are the well-preserved remains of five ships, excavated from nearby Roskilde Fjord in the late 1960s. The ships were scuttled there in the 11th century to block a navigation channel, thus protecting the city, which was then the Danish capital, from seaborne assault. These five ships represent the two distinct classes of Viking ships, the longship and the knarr. The remains of these ships can be found on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.
Longships are not to be confused with later-period longboats. It was common for Viking ships to tow or carry a smaller boat to transfer crews and cargo from the ship to shore, however.
A specialized surname study in Liverpool demonstrated marked Norse heritage, up to 50 percent of males who belonged to original families, those who lived there before the years of industrialization and population expansion.High percentages of Norse inheritance – tracked through R1a1 haplotype signatures – were also found among males in Wirral and West Lancashire.This was similar to the percentage of Norse inheritance found among males in the Orkney Islands.
Recent research has revealed that the Scottish warrior Somerled, who drove the Vikings out of Scotland and was the progenitor of Clan Donald, was himself of Viking descent – a member of Haplogroup R1a1.
Historical opinion and cultural legacy
In Scandinavia, the 17th century Danish scholars Thomas Bartholin and Ole Worm, and Olof Rudbeck of Sweden were the first to set the standard for using runic inscriptions and Icelandic Sagas as historical sources. During the Age of Enlightenment and the Nordic Renaissance, historical scholarship in Scandinavia became more rational and pragmatic, as witnessed by the works of a Danish historian Ludvig Holberg and Swedish historian Olof von Dalin. Until recently, the history of the Viking Age was largely based on Icelandic sagas, the history of the Danes written by Saxo Grammaticus, the Russian Primary Chronicle and the The War of the Irish with the Foreigners. Although few scholars still accept these texts as reliable sources, historians nowadays rely more on archeology and numismatics, disciplines that have made valuable contributions toward understanding the period.
Icelandic sagas and other texts
Norse mythology, sagas and literature tell of Scandinavian culture and religion through tales of heroic and mythological heroes. However, early transmission of this information was primarily oral, and later texts were reliant upon the writings and transcriptions of Christian scholars, including the Icelanders Snorri Sturluson and Sæmundur fróði. Many of these sagas were written in Iceland, and most of them, even if they had no Icelandic provenance, were preserved there after the Middle Ages due to the Icelanders' continued interest in Norse literature and law codes.
The 200-year Viking influence on European history is filled with tales of plunder and colonization, and the majority of these chronicles came from western witnesses and their descendants. Less common, though equally relevant, are the Viking chronicles that originated in the east, including the Nestor chronicles, Novgorod chronicles, Ibn Fadlan chronicles, Ibn Ruslan chronicles, and many brief mentions by the Fosio bishop from the first big attack on the Byzantine Empire.
Other chroniclers of Viking history include Adam of Bremen, who wrote "There is much gold here (in Zealand), accumulated by piracy. These pirates, which are called wichingi by their own people, and Ascomanni by our own people, pay tribute to the Danish king" in the fourth volume of his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.
See also: 19th century Viking revival
Nazi and fascist imagery
Main article: Nazi mysticism
Similar to Wagnerian mythology, the romanticism of the heroic Viking ideal appealed to the Germanic supremacist thinkers of Nazi Germany. Political organizations of the same tradition, such as the former Norwegian nationalist/fascist party, Nasjonal Samling, used Viking symbolism and imagery widely in its propaganda. The Viking legacy had an impact in parts of Europe, especially the Northern Baltic region, but in no way was the Viking experience particular to Germany. However, the Nazis did not claim themselves to be the descendants of any Viking settlers. Instead, they resorted to the historical and ethnic fact that the Vikings were descendants of other Germanic peoples; this fact is supported by the shared ethnic-genetic elements, and cultural and linguistic traits, of the Germans, Anglo-Saxons, and Viking Scandinavians. In particular, all these peoples also had traditions of Germanic paganism and practiced runelore. This common Germanic identity became - and still is - the foundation for much National Socialist iconography. For example, the runic emblem of the SS utilized the sig rune of the Elder Futhark and the youth organization Wiking-Jugend made extensive use of the odal rune. This trend still holds true today (see also fascist symbolism).
Since the 1960s, there has been rising enthusiasm for historical reenactment. While the earliest groups had little claim for historical accuracy, the seriousness and accuracy of re-enactors has increased. The largest such groups include The Vikings and Regia Anglorum, though many smaller groups exist in Europe, the UK, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Many reenactor groups participate in live-steel combat, and a few have Viking-style ships or boats.
Björn Ironside, son of Ragnar Lodbrok, pillaged in Italy.
Brodir of Man, a Danish Viking who killed the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru.
Halfdan Ragnarsson, pillaged in England conquered London and Northumbria, son of Ragnar Lodbrok
Egill Skallagrímsson, Icelandic warrior and skald. (See also Egils saga).
Eric the Victorious, a king of Sweden whose dynasty is the first known to have ruled as kings of the nation. It is possible he was king of Denmark for a time.
Godfrid, Duke of Frisia, a pillager of the Low Countries and the Rhine area and briefly a lord of Frisia.
Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway from 995 to 1000. He forced thousands to convert to Christianity. He once burned London Bridge down out of anger because people were disobeying his orders (and this is conjectured to be origin of the children's rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down").
St Olaf (Olav Haraldsson), patron saint of Norway, and king of Norway from 1015 to approx. 1030.
Oleg of Kiev, led an offensive against Constantinople.
Ragnar Lodbrok, captured Paris.
Rurik, founder of the Rus' rule in Eastern Europe.
Ubbe Ragnarsson, son of Ragnar Lodbrok, pillaged in England and was killed in 878 at The Battle of Cynwit.
Sweyn Forkbeard, king of Denmark, Norway, and England, as well as founder of Swansea ("Sweyn's island"). In 1013, the Danes under Sweyn led a Viking offensive against the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The English king was forced into exile, and in late 1013 Sweyn became King of England, though he died early in 1014, and the former king was brought out of exile to challenge his son.
Thorgils (Thorgest), founder of Dublin.