Hail fellow Vikings and Norman enthusiasts.
We attempt to bring factual evidence in relation to our heritage. This means dispelling certain myths or inaccurate assumptions pertaining to the people that have given us our current identity.
Keep in mind, the Vikings were known to integrate with any race or religion, usually with minimal troubles. Today's article will give a little more insight into what the word Viking meant, and what lifestyle these people had.
The Vikings were a seafaring people from the late eighth to early 11th century who established a name for themselves as traders, explorers, and warriors. They discovered the Americas long before Columbus and could be found as far east as the distant reaches of Russia, and even minor settlements in Africa.
While these people are often attributed as savages raiding the more civilized nations for treasure and women, the motives and culture of the Viking people are much more diverse. The Vikings also facilitated many changes throughout the lands from economics to warfare.
The Viking Age
Many historians commonly associate the term “Viking” to the Scandinavian term Vikingr, a word for “pirate.” However, the term is meant to reference oversea expeditions, and was used as a verb by the Scandinavian people for when the men traditionally took time out of their summers to go “a Viking.”
While many would believe these expeditions entailed the raiding of monasteries and cities along the coast, many expeditions were actually with the goal of trade and enlisting as foreign mercenaries. Who would have thought that these scattered groups of displaced Scandinavians would have enough charisma or organizational skills in obtaining foreign mercenaries? Well, it was a regular thing, and so was doing mercenary work for other empires, including the Byzantines, whose religion and culture varied greatly with the Vikings.
The Viking Age references the earliest recorded raid in the 790s until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. During this time, the reach of the Scandinavian people extended to all corners of northern Europe, and many other nations found Vikings raiding their coasts. The farthest reported records of Vikings were in Baghdad for the trading of goods like fur, tusks and seal fat. It is also rumored that the Vikings did have established trade routes in the Americas, and combined their cultures and certain words with the Indigenous inhabitants at the time.
It appears once again that the "rape culture" associated with Vikings was still nowhere near as bad as some of the other tribes roaming Europe at the same time, and in previous articles, they appear to be amongst the more civilised, well groomed and practiced slightly better methods of hygiene compared to other European tribes.
A Viking raid on the monks of Lindisfarne, a small island located off the northeast coast of England, marked the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia in 793. This location was a well-known Abbey of learning, famous throughout the continent for the knowledgeable monks and its extensive library. During this raid, monks were killed, thrown into the sea or taken as slaves along with many treasures of the church, and the library itself razed. This single event set the stage for how Vikings would be perceived throughout the Viking Age: savage warriors with no respect for religion or appreciation for learning.
Even back then, stereotypes were as prominent as they are today, and all it takes is the bad actions of a few so that many will be tarred with the same brush.
In the years that followed the initial raid, coastal villages, monasteries and even cities found themselves besieged by these sea-based foreign intruders. Due to the frequency of sea attacks, many developments were made in developing fortifications in the forms of walled-in harbors and sea-facing stone walls, defenses that proved to be quite effective at deterring raids.
The reason behind these attacks is a topic of debate among academics, though the reasons often stem from such things as the Christian persecution and forced baptism of pagans to reduced agricultural outputs in the Scandinavian region. Many more documented reasons might have prompted these people to leave their cold and harsh homes to seek out the means to survive elsewhere. Yet, despite how unforgiving their homeland may have been, most Vikings still returned the end of each season with treasure, slaves, and goods to survive yet another winter.
By no means were the Vikings completely innocent. Yes, horrific acts were committed by them on numerous occasions, but keep in mind, this is a period of time over 1000 years ago, and many disputes were settled by the sword. Vikings were making themselves known across the lands as traders and seafaring merchants.
The stigma surrounding the word Viking is completely misplaced and needs to be understood for what it truly meant.