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About the Vikings.

Updated on January 15, 2021
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This veteran writer has been on HubPages for a decade and has created over 100 original pieces.

The Legacy of the Vikings.

Dark Age Europe was heavily influenced by the raiders 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 Great Britain and Continental Europe.

There is, of course, clear evidence to prove that Viking raids burnt Christian Churches to the ground. Many of their victims were sold into slavery far away from their homes and even human sacrifice was practised in honour of their many pagan gods.

Are the Vikings the victim of anti-pagan propaganda from the Christian world?

Are we correct to view the Vikings as a bunch of barbarians who were solely interested in bloodshed, battle and silver?

Conquest and Warfare.

Slaughter was common place when the Vikings raided.
Slaughter was common place when the Vikings raided.

The Norse Traditions

What we know of the Vikings has been pieced together from various historic sources. The Roman Historian Tacticus wrote in the second century about the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe. In his works, he spoke of the gods and goddess that the people of Modern Germany and Scandinavia worshipped. He also wrote on the warrior's status within their tribal structure and the use of grand feasts in their traditions. Perhaps the early romanized view of the early Vikings painted a very definite picture of what the Vikings were all about.

The Vikings are often depicted inside great halls gorging themselves on cooked meat, whilst 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 calendar, 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 everyday lives.

Violence was common in Viking society.
Violence was common in Viking society. | Source

The Northern Raiders

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 either a warrior for the local warlord, traders or highly prized 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. As the Viking Age progressed, many Vikings converted to this faith and renounced the pagan gods such as Thor and Odin.

But not every young Viking took that option.

There was still glory in going a Viking.

Why not form warbands to create your own legacy and live off the fortunes of those you slaughtered?

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.

Viking Longboats

The Viking Longships.
The Viking Longships. | Source

Legacy of the Vikings

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 as increasing the wealth of the merchant Vikings. This action essentially laid down the start of a trading empire which allowed Europe to become more unified. This in time strengthened Europe's ability to defend itself for the first time since the Roman's dominated the European continent.

The impact and legacy of the Viking culture are very much in force today. Although we sometimes miss or ignore what we see every day. The Viking's own runic alphabet still lends a lot of its characters to our everyday lives, even though the runes are on the whole as "Dead as Latin" to the majority of Europeans. One of the runes which have 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 than those who live on the mainland.

Wealth of the Viking Age.

The wealth of Western Europe was there for the taking.
The wealth of Western Europe was there for the taking.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Andrew Stewart


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