Info about the Vikings

Who were the Vikings?

The Vikings, also known as the fearsome warriors from the north, who only know how to fight and go berserk, but this could not be further from the truth these people were more then just some barbarian warriors. The Vikings are the people originally from the northern countries in Europe, in a place called Scandinavia.

These countries are today called Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but back then it was just a bunch of small Kingdoms. Even though the Vikings was living in many different Kingdoms in Scandinavia, they had something that bound them together. The Vikings had their own faith, but what the Vikings called their faith, no one knows anymore.

The Vikings were also explorers and even sailed as far away as Canada, 500 years before Columbus. But the Vikings also loved to trade and was know as good merchants and often traveled to the Byzantine Empire to trade their furs and other Scandinavian goods. But most of the Vikings were farmers and craftsmen, it was only few of them who went to battle, to gain recognition and riches.


“A modern reenactment of a Viking battle”


“Battle of Stamford Bridge” by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1870)

What time period are the Vikings from?

The Viking era started in 793 CE, when a group of Viking warriors sailed to the eastern coast of England and attacked the monastery Lindisfarne on the Holy Island. The Viking age only lasted 273 years and ended in 1066 CE, which was the year that King Harald of Norway, sailed to the coast of England with more then 300 Viking ships. King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded England with a huge army of 9,000 Viking warriors, and was met by the English army of 15,000 English soldiers that was under the command of King Harold Godwinson.

What areas did the Vikings explore?

The Danish Vikings, also known as “the Danes” took their route to the eastern coast of England and the western coast of Europe. During this time, they went raiding as far as the Mediterranean, Spain and most of the parts of Northern Africa.

The Norwegian Vikings went west just like the Danes, but the Norwegians also sailed north and settled Iceland and Greenland, and for a very short time Vinland in Canada. The Swedish Vikings raided Eastern Europe and they also went as far as the eastern Mediterranean. Kiev in Ukraine was founded by the Swedish Vikings, and some even think that Russia was founded by the Swedes.


“Territories and voyages of the Vikings”


“Viking swords displayed at the Wikingermuseum in Hedeby”

What weapons did the Vikings use?

The most common weapon by a Viking was the spear, it was cheap and very useful for ranged attacks. The spear was two to three metres in length and made of ash wood with a twenty to sixty centimetres spearhead made of iron. If the spear head had wings it was called a hooked spear(krókspjót), the large headed spears were called hewing spear(höggspjót). The barbed throwing spears were almost never decorated, because they were often lost in battle.

The Vikings also used swords, but the swords were very expensive and a sign of high status among the Vikings. While the blade was made of metal, the grip was usually made of organic material such as antler, horn or wood. The most famous swords was called the Vlfberht, the most value swords that has ever been made.

The Vikings used round shields together with the sword, the shield was used to block incoming attacks, but also for making a shield wall. At the end of the Viking era, they started to use the kite shield. The bow and arrow was both used for battle but also for hunting, it was usually made from ash, elm or yew. They also used small knifes called “knifr” for both battle and hunting. The axe, perhaps the most common weapon among the Vikings, since swords was mostly used by the wealthy warriors.

What armor did the Vikings use?

Many movies show Viking warriors with both helmets with horns and without, but only one helmet have ever been found from the Viking age. Which means that either the helmet was so difficult to make that only one guy could afford it, or they have been reclaimed by nature. The same thing goes for the mail, only one ever have been found, and it was at the same place as the helmet, at Haugsbygd in Ringerike, Norway.


“Museum of Cultural History, Oslo in Norway”


“The reconstructed longhouse Trelleborg”

How did Viking houses look like?

The Vikings lived in houses made from oak, the roof was typically in the shape of a Viking ship with oval sides. The big homes had room for more than 30 people, including the domestic animals which also lived inside their houses in a stable room.

The many poles around the house is supporting the walls and the roof, if the poles were placed vertically or slightly slanted is still up for debate. There are also other types of Viking house designs, in Hedeby which was the oldest and largest city in northern Europe in the Viking age. Hedeby was one of the most advanced cities and was the home of many high status members of the society.

Appearance of the Vikings?

The men in the Viking age would wear a tunic with long sleeves and a pair of trousers with a leather belt. The ladies also wore a tunic with long sleeves, but had a under dress made from linen instead of trousers. The children would wear the same clothes as the grownups did.

Both men and women wore leather shoes, and if it was cold they would both use a cloak. Since colorful clothes was very expensive and a status symbol in the Vikings age, only the wealthy Vikings would wear colorful clothes, and the poor would only wear beige and browns clothes.

The religion of the Vikings

The Vikings also had their own religion, but if their religion had a name I don’t know. But what we do know, is they had many gods and goddesses. You may have heard of a few of them before, like Thor the god of Thunder, or Odin the all-father.

The Vikings had their own version of “heaven” they called it Valhalla, a place were the brave go when they die. Everyone else goes to Hel, Hel is ruled by a woman named Hel. You don’t necessary have to be evil to go to Hel when you die, you will go there even if you are not brave.

Today there are many new followers of the Viking faith, it has different names depending on where you live. In Iceland they call it Ásatrú, but in other countries it’s called “Asatru and Vanatru”, and some even call it Odinism, which in my ears sounds totally wrong, and sounds like you just believe in Odin. Ásatrú is not about just one god, it’s about all the gods.


“A depiction of Ask and Embla” by Robert Engels (1919)

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