The Vikings were fierce, heartless Barbarians who seized and looted many European lands from the 800's to the 1000's. They made their sneaky attacks at the crack of dawn killing anyone who came axe length away. Yes, this included innocent babies, defenseless children of all ages, and helpless women. You may think that such evil beasts came lurking from the fire ry pits of hell, but their ancestors are actually Germans. The Germanic people migrated to Scandinavia, which today includes the countries Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. During their time, these people never called themselves "Vikings".
This name isn't even meant to be the name of a group, but an activity. The base word vi was simply another name for a pirate. Therefore, to go a-viking meant to fight as a warrior. The Northmen, which is another name for Vikings, lived in small communities that were ruled by either a king or a chief.
People were divided into three classes being noble, freeman or slaves. The nobles were usually considered Kings, Chiefs of just people who were wealthy. The freemen were farmers, merchants and people who served the ruler. Last, but not least slaves were Scandinavians whose ancestors had been enslaved. Each community had a governing council known as a "Folkmoot" or "Thing". This association had higher rulings than the king and or chief.
Here decisions of war were made, trials were held and they decided who was in what social class. Parents usually arranged the marriages of Northmen. Even though the husband was in charge, Viking women had more rights than European women. Some of their rights were they could own land, share their husbands wealth and even get a divorce at anytime. Vikings had their own religion where they worshipped gods Odin, Thor, and Frey. Odin was the king of all Norse gods and goddesses.
He is believed to live in a home of gods called "Asgard". Vikings believed that if they died in a battle; they would be sent to a hall they called "Valhalla". Thor was the god of weather and was important because weather had a great affect on the lives of people. Frey was the god of agriculture and love.
When death occurred, people were buried with possessions they had and may need it the afterworld. A poor man would be buried with just a knife, but a rich man would be buried with luxury items. A rich man's slave or dog may even be buried alive with him. Many historians believe that Vikings were the best ship-builders of all time. They made durable ships out of wood. The largest of these ships could hold 300 warriors.
However, most ships held about 30 to 50 warriors. The amazing thing about these ships is that they could weigh up to 20 tons and still be able to sail in only three feet of water. The Vikings made their gory fatal attacks with axes, bows and arrows, spears and swords. The axe had a long handle with a curved double blade. This was used in a chopping motion towards arms and legs.
The first attack was said to be made early in the morning on a June day in 793. The Vikings trudged the sea to a small island called Lindisfarne. Unarmed monks who had just awakened to perform their daily rituals were killed at the altar and some were dragged to the sea to drown. The reason for this horrible incident was for loot. There was a Christian Monastery there in Lindisfarne that contained many riches such as books lined with precious stones, tapestries in silk and linen, ivory and golden crucifixes. This invasion pretty much broke the ice for the next 400 years.
The summer after the attack on Lindisfarne the Vikings came to a place called Jarrow. Here they struck another monastery. The summer of 795 they traveled to Iona, which is off the coast of Scotland. In the year of 800, they struck another monastery south of Jarrow. Because of their controlling outtakes, the churches made a new prayer. The prayer was "From the fury of Northmen deliver us O Lord".
Even though Vikings are addressed by one very large group, there are actually three kinds of Vikings. They are Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. The Norwegian Vikings were actually the group that began the raids in Lindisfarne in 793. They raided England, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland.
Because of Ireland's fertile farms, rich churches and monasteries, it was a big target. Norwegian pirate chief Tur geis attacked Ireland from 839 to 845. He was the founder of Dublin and used this for his headquarters. In the mid 800's, he looted and burned cities in France, Italy, and Spain. However, around 870, Norwegian settlers moved to Iceland. By the mid, 900's 25,000 Vikings settled there.
The Swedish Vikings were the calmer ones of the three. During the mid 800's, they raided towns along rivers in Eastern Europe. They also set up trading centers in what now are Eastern Belarus, Western Russia and Eastern Ukraine. Here the people were mostly Slavs.
They called Swedish Vikings "Rus". Swedish Vikings controlled the key routes between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Along these routes, they built forts that would protect traders from any raiders. In the late 800's, East Slavic towns of Novgorod and Kiev became Swedish strongholds. The Rus really gave up on being Vikings in 988 when Prince Vladimir I destroyed all symbols of their religion, and adopted Christianity. Like the Norwegian and Swedish Vikings, Danish Vikings began their raids in the early 800's burning and looting parts of France, Belgium, and Netherlands.
In 865, they invaded England and conquered all kingdoms except for Wessex. Alfred the Great, king of England, forced the Vikings to a small area of land called Danelaw. In 886, King Charles the Fat of France paid the Danish Vikings a large treasure to end their siege of Paris. About 25 years later, King Charles and the Viking chieftain Rollo agreed to sign the treaty of St. Clair-sur-E pte.
This treaty stated that Rollo agreed to Christianity and supported the French king. He was also granted an area of France known as Normandy. The Viking Age ended between 1000 and 1100. Three major things contributed to this. One of the things was that the Europeans discovered a way to respond quickly to raids.
Another was that Vikings adopted Christianity greatly declining the number of monastery raids. The last factor was that there was a warming trend. Because of this there were more farmers and fewer warriors. The Vikings were on top of the world for over 400 years having anyone who lived in Europe and anyone who lived on islands close to Europe live in fear. They would do what ever they had to in order to get what they wanted. Together as one, they killed a good one million people just to obtain loot.
They were so good at raiding lands, that by the time defenders of a land came, the Vikings would have been out in sea rowing away.