Vikings Unit

The Saga Of The Adventurous Viking

The Vikings are people who explored, plundered and traded with valor with their legendary ships. The Vikings were of the Norsemen clan who originated in the Scandinavia. They scourged the coast of the British Isles, France and other European coasts from late 8th to 11th century, which is termed as ‘the Viking age’ in the pages of history.

The Root Of The Word Viking

The word ‘Viking’ entered the English dictionary in the 18th century with romantic intonations. However, the etymology is traced back to the writings of the Anglo-Frankish writers who used the term ‘Viking’ to denote people who are set to raid and loot. In modern day Scandinavian language the word ‘Viking’ refers to the group of people who went on expeditions to trade and raid.

The word ‘Viking’ is made up of two parts, ‘vik’ meaning ‘bay’ and ‘ing’ denotes a place of origin. Thus ‘Viking’ literally means “people from the bay”

The Age Of The Vikings

The map of the Vikings is not confined to Scandinavia only (modern Denmark, southern Norway and Sweden) but territories under North Germanic control, mainly the Danelaw, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Ireland were also included.

The Viking explorers also opened new paths leading to the north and the west as they colonized Shetland, Orkney, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. There was even a short-lived expedition to Newfoundland in circa 1000B.C.

Generally the period of the North Germanic Expansion from the earliest raids in 790s till the Norman conquest of England in 1066 is considered as the Viking age.

They Delved Into The Riches

The Vikings traded and raided various European ports during the three centuries. Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang, Jorvik, Staraya, Ladoga, Novgorod and Kiev were some of the important trading ports of the times.

The Viking Ships

There were two types of Viking ships, the ‘long-ship’ or ‘drakkar’ which means dragon in Norse and the Knarr. The longships were built for cruises for exploration and warfare.

The Knarr was a slower merchant boat with greater cargo transport cruises. However, the term “Viking Ship” entered the common dictionary with a romantic association.

The First Attack

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a group of men sailed from Norway to Portland, in Dorset. A royal official mistook them as merchants and tried to extol trading tax from them. They murdered him; the date assigned to this attack is 787. The second recorded attack is in 793 on the monastery of Lindisfarne. The pages of European history for the next 200 years told the story of the pillage of the Vikings.

The Raids On Iberia

By mid 9th century B.C there were Viking attacks on the coastal kingdom of Asturias. During the reign of Alfonso III the Vikings had already plagued the sea route connecting Galicia, a province of the kingdom with the rest of Europe. Historians attest the period from 844 to 858 A.D for the attacks on Galician coast. The Vikings settled in the town of Povoa de Varzim in northern Portugal and their influence was strong still recently.

Sources Of History

The Rune Stones

The Rune stones are valuable sources of history of the early medieval Scandinavia and the Norse society, particularly the Vikings. Many Rune stones recorded the names of the persons who went on Viking expeditions. The name of the martyrs is also engraved in the stones.


Some burial sites like Jelling in Denmark, Gettlinge Gravfalt in Sweden and more sites witnessed the history of the Vikings.

Myths And Legends

Norse myths, legends and literature speak the history of the Vikings through the tales of mythical heroes. These literatures were transmitted orally and we have to depend on the writings of the Christian writers.

The growth of Christianity in Scandinavia and a centralized authority together closed the valorous chapter of the Vikings. Coastal defense became more stringent in the areas the Vikings attacked making the raids less profitable with more risk. Cultural influences from Europe invaded their core. With the rise of the kings, nobles and a quasi-feudal system in Scandinavia the Vikings were lost completely. Thus, ended the mighty chronicle of the brave Viking population.