The Vikings From the North
The Vikings came from what is now known as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. During the time from the 8th to the 11th centuries, the Vikings traveled in their longboats to the British Isles and the coast of Europe raiding the settlements.
These fierce raiders went to Lindisfarne off the north coast of England 793. After the raid on the raid on the monastery of Lindisfarne, they started roaming the English Channel and the North Sea raiding settlements near the sea. They eventually started going up the Rhine river and the Seine river to attack inland settlements. They also went up, other rivers. They conducted raids in Russia and traveled the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea.
Vikings were Farmers and Ship Builders
For thousands of years, the Vikings had lived as farmers and shipbuilders. The Viking population got larger and they needed more land to farm so they ventured away from their homeland. They started raiding settlements along Europe's northern coast looking for treasure, land, and slaves. The Vikings were known as violent raiders that come from the sea.
Vikings were the Raiders from the North
The Vikings were known to many as the barbarians from the north. The Vikings were not just fierce raiders. They were also great shipbuilders, navigators, craftsmen, and traders.
The Vikings had an elaborate society. They were raiders, but they were also explorers. They discovered Greenland, Iceland, and Newfoundland. The Vikings were often influenced by the culture ;of the areas they conquered.
The Vikings had many legends and myths in their society. They believed in many gods and goddesses. Their gods had very distinct personalities that were like human personalities. The king of their gods was Odin. Thor and Frey were also very important gods. They had a place they called Valhalla where the Viking warriors believed they would go to start a new life if they were killed in battle. They had other gods and goddesses that were associated with agriculture, fertility, and other parts of their life.
The society in the Vikings native land had three classes. They were the nobles, farmers, and slaves. The chieftains made up the noble class. They ruled small areas which were later combined into larger areas. This ;usually happened when ;one chieftain conquered another chieftain and took his area. When this happened the winning chieftain would become king of the larger area. In 1050AD the areas got larger became what are now Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Each one had their own King. The combined area was called Scandinavia.
Landowners, farmers, craftsmen, traders, and warriors were known as freemen. The people they captured were in the slave class.
The Vikings lived in what was called a longhouse. The main building would be about 100 feet long. There were usually other buildings added to the main building. Scandinavia has an abundance of lumber so the Vikings house was usually built of wood. It is believed that in some areas the houses had stone foundations with turf w3alls and thatch roofs. The main house had a large hearth in the middle of a large room. Several generations would live in the same longhouse. Everyone shared the household duties.
Women in the Viking Culture
In the Vikings culture the women were well respected. When the men were away the women ran the household and the farm. The women would decide who they would marry and they could get a divorce. The women usually spent their day spinning wool into thread to make cloth for clothes. They also spun flax. Viking children helped with the household chores and worked on the farm. They did not go to school. Sometimes the boys went on raids with their father. The boys would help set up settlements after the raids.
The Vikings ate very well. They raised sheep, pigs, and cattle which they ate. They also hunted wild boar and deer for food. They would trap rabbits and game birds which they also ate. Spending so much time on the sea they also ate a lot of fish. They used barley to make bread and they grew vegetables which they ate. They drank buttermilk, milk, and wine. They would drink mead which was made from honey.
Viking Sacred Place
The Vikings would bury their dead with the items that were felt they would need in their new place. Many of the men and women that were rich were put on ships and the ships would be set on fire. Many Vikings were buried in ;underground chambers.
The Vikings were very religious even if they were ruthless raiders.
Viking Going out to Raid Settlements
The Vikings were warriors and explorers. Their ships were built strong, and they did well in the rough seas. The Vikings longboats had flat bottoms so they were able to go up the rivers to the villages which they attacked. They used the sun, and stars to navigate the sea. They also relied on the fish, seabirds, and wave patterns to navigate.
The Vikings built many different types of ships but their longboats were the longest and fastest. The longboats for war used oarsmen, and sails to propel them and they carried fifty warriors each. When the Vikings attacked large settlements they would use several longboats.
The Vikings were extraordinary sailors Their longboats were light weight and were easy to navigate in the open sea. The Vikings crossed the Atlantic ocean in their longboats which was an amazing feat.
The Medieval sailors usually stayed close to the shore but the Vikings ventured out into the open sea. The Viking navigators used a wooden sundial to navigate the Arctic Circle where they could not use the stars in the summer because the sun never set.
A spear, battle-axe, shield, and sword were carried by the Viking warriors. They also carried a scramasax which was a small knife they would use in close hand-to-hand combat. The Vikings made their weapons out of iron and they would inlay them with silver.
The Vikings were fierce warriors who attacked unsuspecting settlements but they fought just as fiercely among themselves. They would fight for land among themselves.
They would leave their home in the Spring to go on raids where they would loot, and plunder settlements. They would go back home for the winter.
The Viking raids were brutal even for the Middle Ages. Many of the settlements would give the Vikings tribute in advance so they would not plunder their settlement.
The Vikings were excellent traders and they did not always steal what they wanted. The north where they lived was very rich with resources they could trade. They had timber, skins, and animal furs. The Vikings set up market towns in the settlements they had raided from which they traded their resources for what they wanted and needed.
The warriors got more than riches from their raids. When a warrior performed an act of bravery during battle it would add to his sense of honor. It was also a symbol of his worth as a warrior.
Vikings Great Navigators
The Vikings became very good navigators. They became so good at navigation they started going further looking for new land. They traveled to and were the first Europeans to settle in Greenland and Iceland. Eric the Red's son, Leif Erikson is said to be the first European to land in America. He landed in the present day Newfoundland in Canada.
Vikings Attacking Paris
Paris was conquered in 845 by the Viking Ragnar. East Anglia was conquered and its king killed by Ivar the Boneless. The last Viking ruler of Northumbria was Eric Bloodaxe. London was plagued by King Sven Forkbeard in 994. He was paid to leave by Ethelred II. During the 10th century, Northwestern France was settled by William the Conqueror who was descended from the Vikings.