Talking about Vikings means talking about the Norse men. Yeah, it is the Norse men who were called collectively as the Vikings. They lived from the 8th to 11th centuries in the northern parts of Scandinavia and spoke the Old Norse Language. They led a life of raids and expeditions and were also known as ‘pirates of the medieval world.’
Contrary to what has been believed, they were not people put together by a race or ancestry. They were people organized under strict hierarchical rules and who followed the Norse Pagan religion. Their religious beliefs made them practice several customs and traditions; the birth customs, marriage customs, and rituals associated with death are all interesting and have always remained a matter of interest and research among historians and analysts.
The Viking Age is the period during which the Norse men undertook raiding, colonizing, trading and conquests throughout Europe. It came after the Germanic Iron Age and made its mark in the historical texts. But why did the Viking Age start? And when did the Viking Age start? These are questions to be answered primarily before going further into their history and lifestyle. Let’s take a look into it.
- There is no precise date or time available about the beginning of the Viking Age. But, a vague timing can be made. It is said to have started in 793 AD and lasted till 1066AD. Information about this particular age is collected from the writings of those people with whom the Vikings encountered. Archeological responses have also contributed to it along with the Icelandic Sagas.
- On 8th June 793, a Viking attack destroyed Lindisfarne’s abbey, a learning center on an island in the northeast part of England. This incident is often regarded as the beginning of the Viking Age. Northumbrian scholars have reported the event as the most terrible one that has ever happened in Britain and also portrayed the Vikings as violent, bloodthirsty beings. According to the sources, the Vikings were not satisfied with the destruction of the abbey; they went forward to kill monks and even carried them away as slaves. All these gave them the image of wolves among sheep.
- This age is not only associated with the homeland of the Vikings that is Scandinavia, but also with all those regions where they settled. This includes wide areas of Europe, western parts of Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. They have even reached parts of North America and established themselves there. In fact, they were the first Europeans to reach America.
- These people founded several kingdoms and earldoms during this period and also unified their kingdoms into larger ones.
- The exact reason behind their expeditions and expansions are unknown. But the early expeditions were not particularly for land but riches. Later they might have changed the very reason for their raids.
- Many factors resulted in the expansion of the Viking kingdom. The growth of towns and monasteries overseas, along with an increase in population, was one such factor. The increase in population further lead to a lack of enough farming areas in the homeland, and there were also tensions arising from the unification of kingdoms.
- It was the well-developed and innovative sailing system that allowed the Vikings to sail to farther and longer places. It is also said that they made use of the internal conflicts in Europe to expand themselves.
- Even though they were innovative in their sailing ideas and had expanded their kingdoms, the age-associated with them was always regarded as the barbaric and uncivilized period in the history of Nordic countries. The bloodthirsty voyages they have conducted might be one reason behind this.
- A romanticized picture of the Vikings as noblemen came up in the 18th century and was propagated during the 19th. Conflicting varieties of ideas about the Vikings also came up in the 20th century. The current representations about the Vikings are typically based on cultural clichés and stereotypes, and they are all rarely accurate.
- The artistry, technological skills, and seamanship of the Vikings remained unnoticed till the 1890s.
- 11th century, 1066, to be precise is often considered when the reign of Vikings came to an end. By this time, all the Scandinavian countries were Christian, and the Viking culture started to get absorbed into the culture of Christian Europe.
- In Scandinavia, the Viking period is considered to have ended with the coming of royal authority in Scandinavian countries and Christianity as a major religion.
- In Norway, it was the battle of Stiklestad in 1030 marked the end of the Viking Age. Although the Vikings succeeded in the battle, Christianity spread during that time, and it weakened them. The Norwegians were no longer called the Vikings.
- In Sweden, it was the reign of king Olov Skotkonung that marked the Middle Ages’ transition. Here also, it was the coming of Christianity that made the change because Olov was the first Christian king to have ruled Sweden. But traces of Norse beliefs existed there till the 12th century.
- During the Viking period, nations like Norway, Sweden, Denmark did not exist. But they were all homogeneous and similar in culture and language. After the end of the Viking period, these separate kingdoms acquired identities as nations, and the Christianization process went hand in hand with this. Thus in one way, it can be said that the end of the Viking Age gave rise to the Middle Ages.
- Today, traces of the Viking period are seen mostly in the form of some vocabulary and place names in the areas where they settled.
Knowing about Vikings, the warrior group is always interesting. A look into their life gives us an insight into how organized and sorted they were even in those ages when there used to be no technologies and infrastructure like what we have today. Their life is for sure, a model for the modern generation for organizing themselves.