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Weapons of the Viking Age.

Updated on February 3, 2013

The Viking's conquered and spread their influence through most of the continent of Europe. The Viking's were able to use their superior seamanship and military might to take over large tracks of Europe, many Viking leaders created a massive fortune for themselves and their followers. Viking leader's were flexible in their approach to new challenges and given their spartan existence they were quick to adapt to the tactics and desires of the rival groups and people's they encountered.

The Viking's were able to assimilate into the cultures they met, for example within three generations of meeting some Slavic villagers the Swedish Vikings had children sporting Slavic names and dressed very much in a mixture of their dual heritage. Part of the Viking's success was due to the weapon's, armour and transportation they used.

Lameller plate armour as worn by Rus Vikings.
Lameller plate armour as worn by Rus Vikings.


The Viking's owed a lot of military success due to the design of their dragon boats or Viking long ships. The design of the bow and stern allowed the vessel to cut through the most treacherous of Sea conditions. The shape of the ship allowed the ship to cut through the waves with very little water resistance and the width of the boat kept the craft very buoyant. The Viking long ships had to endure freezing winter waters of Scandinavia and the heat of the Mediterranean sun.

The Viking ship builders crafted their ships to withstand the extreme elements and their attention to detail made sure a lot of Viking raiders came back to their loved ones alive. Of course some vessels were lost to the Sea, this was more down to poor luck or freak weather conditions than the design. When the Dutch reclaimed a lot of their land for farming from the North Sea they found a few Viking long ships in the reclaimed mud and silt.


The Viking armour that the warrior's wore depended on their standing and rank. If you were a peasant soldier recruited by your Lord or Jarl to fight for him, you would have very little in the way of clothing let alone armour. The fighting peasant would wear his everyday woolen trousers and in winter his animal pelt jacket. The higher up the ladder of the Viking hierarchy the more effective and expensive armour you would have. A warrior would have a kit consisting of leather boots, woolen trousers, a padded jacket, a cloth shirt and possibly a helm of some kind.

The next level of warrior usually called a Huscarl will usually be equipped similar to the average warrior but may have better quality armour. In some cases the Huscarl will have link- mail or chain-mail armour and they would have a lot of clothing and padding to reduce damage by their enemies. The higher level Viking's usually referred to as the Thane may wear what looks very similar to the Mongolian horse man armour. The Lamellar armour had been around during the great civilizations of Egypt, and it is in many circles thought of as superior to chain-mail.

The armour was stronger and more flexible, and in some designs it did not have the obvious weakness of the chain-mail in the joint areas for the limbs. It could also have its plates replaced a lot easier and quicker than chain-mail. The one disadvantage was the weight of the armour, it was deceptively light looking but on wearing was quite heavy after a while. The Lamellar armour was favoured by Rus Vikings as they would have seen the Horseman of the Ural Steppes using it, and it would have been an item they would have traded pelt's,Slave's and Silver for.

Viking Seax short knife
Viking Seax short knife

Viking Weapons

The Viking's went into battle with a number of offensive weapon's, and a Viking usually had a defensive shield. Sometimes depending on the Viking's fighting style they did not use one. A peasant fighter would maybe fight with effectively his "day job" tools as a weapon ( Hammer, hand axe, knife or bow- depending on their occupation ). A warrior would choose his own weapon to fight with, he would usually have a shield and either a scram, short knife or long knife( they were called seax or Lang seax ). The warrior may choose to fight with any number of Viking War axes the most lethal and largest been the Dane axe. This Two handed axe had a massive arc of attack and was a good a defensive weapon as an offensive one.

The rest of the Viking's would fight with a short knife(seax) and shield. Only the elite of the Viking class fought with a Sword this was due to the expense of the metal to construct the Sword. An average Sword in the Viking age would have had the monetary equivalent today of a decent sports car. You would have seen a lot of Viking's using spear's as they were inexpensive to kit a Viking party out with. The most expensive part of the spear is the tip, the killing end was metal and the Viking's did not have massive reserves of the Steel.

How effective were the viking weapons

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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting points, just one or two gripes. The thegn, or thane as you put it (very Shakespearean) was an English rank, introduced by the Angles and Saxons in the 7th Century to replace the earlier 'gesith'. Seaxes were the chosen weapons of the Saxons - the tribe was known from their weapon, as were the Franks from the Frankiska, another deadly 'chopping' weapon. Favoured by the Norsemen - Norwegians, Danes and Swedes was the war axe. Earlier days saw a twin bladed axe with fairly short handle for slashing. The Danes brought with them a long-handled axe known to us as the 'Dane Axe', developed in the later Middle Ages into the pole-axe. The 'huscarl' was introduced to England by Knut, who was crowned king of England before he was made king of Denmark after his older brother Harald's death. The huscarl was the Danish equivalent of thegn. Aside from these little hiccups, give yourself a Brownie point.

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      rain bow 6 years ago

      this site is brilliant