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About the Vikings.

Updated on October 28, 2016

Dark Age Europe was heavily influenced by the people's of Northern Europe. Between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the ascendancy of the Roman Catholic church, The men and women of Scandinavia influenced present day Europe more than we like to give them credit for. We generally hold the view that the Vikings were renegade heathen pirates who looted, raped and pillaged the coasts of Britain and Continental Europe.

There is of course a lot of evidence to prove that Viking raids burnt Christian Churches to the ground, towns people were sold into slavery far away from their homes and human sacrifice was practised in honouring their many Gods. Are the Vikings the victim of anti-pagan propaganda from the Christian world? are we correct to view the Viking's as a race of barbarians who were solely interested in bloodshed, battle and Silver?

Warlord offering terms to disgruntled warriors.
Warlord offering terms to disgruntled warriors.

Further Reading

What we know of the Vikings is pieced together from various historic sources, the Roman Historian Tacticus wrote in the Second Century A.D of the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe. In his works he spoke of the Gods and Goddess who the people of Modern Germany and Scandinavia worshiped. He also wrote on the Warriors status within their tribal structure and the use of feasting in their traditions. Perhaps the early Romanized view of the early Vikings painted a very definite picture of what the Viking's were all about.

The Viking's are often depicted in great halls gorging themselves on cooked meat, washing it all down with copious amounts of mead or ale. Feasting was an integral part of the Norse and Germanic way of life. On the Religious festivals of the Viking calender the community celebrated with massive banquets to honour the Gods. The peoples of Germanic Europe valued hospitality as one of their own noble virtues, and even today in the rural, central and northern Europe it is still considered very poor manners not to allow visitors to experience your hospitality. There is a big difference between the Vikings on the battlefield compared to their normal everyday lives.

Historians believe that the Vikings started raiding Coastal targets from around the 8th Century due to a lack of resources in their own lands. As the Viking population grew and the child mortality rate decreased, more adults needed a vocation and a destiny of their own. Traditionally the eldest son inherited the estate, leaving the other male heirs to either become soldiers for the local warlord, traders or mercenaries for foreign armies.

In the Viking occupied lands of Western Europe at the turn of the 9th Century some Viking second sons even joined the Catholic Church as Monastic apprentices. Given limited options as the lesser sons, why not form war bands to create your own legacy. Due to no obvious Continental power and infighting within a fragmented Europe, the lesser sons of Scandinavia could strike rich targets such as Churches with no real unified defence to oppose them.

The Viking Longships.
The Viking Longships.

One of the major effects of the Viking's naval supremacy was their ability to reopen up the trade routes which had become neglected since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This allowed access to new materials, as well increasing the wealth of the merchant Vikings. This essentially laid down a trading Empire which allowed Europe to become more unified, and in time strengthened Europe's ability to defend itself for the first time since the Roman's dominated the European Continent.

The effect and legacy of the Viking culture is very much in force today, although we sometimes miss or ignore what we see everyday. The Viking's own Runic alphabet still lends a lot of its characters to our everyday lives, even though the rune's are on the whole are as "Dead as Latin" to the majority of Europeans. One of the runes which has passed into modern usage is the Viking letter for "G", this rune is called GIFU and is represented as [ X ]. GIFU means gift and is often use affectionately and represents the gift of love. So the next time you receive a Valentines Day card, their sentiment expressed to you is sealed with a little bit of Viking culture.

The Viking influence can be seen very clearly in the British Isles, the place names and language show a strong Scandinavian presence. The Vikings even effected the ethnic identity of the population of places such as the Orkney Islands. Scotland on the whole is generally considered to be a Celtic nation, In the Orkney's the natives have more genetically in common with their Norwegian neighbours.


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    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Very good hub. I love reading about the barbarian warriors, like the vikings, the Goths, the Huns and the rest. The Vikings made their mark in history. If it wasn't for them, William the conqueror might not have defeated the English in the Norman invasion.

      Good information,


    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 6 years ago from England

      Thank you for the comment, i do intend to look more closely at the Viking influence in Spain and Portugal. It does not seem to have been as accepting as in Great Britain and France. The Vikings did not fair well in the southern areas of Europe, maybe because their was not peoples of a similar ideology and cultural identity. Thanks again for reading!

    • The Blagsmith profile image

      The Blagsmith 6 years ago from Britain

      An excellent write up. My research has indicated that the Vikings were excellent warriors but they lapsed severely when it came to setting up a successful infrastructure.

      For example, they swept up the vestiges of the Roman Empire easily but in Southern Spain when the Moors came it is known that there was much that was needed to be done to regain a suitable administration.

      It is also recorded that the local people were fed up with their occupation and the locals were suspected of conspiring against them to enable the conquest of the Moors.