The Vikings Not only were the Vikings brutal raiders, pillagers, and savage pirates, they were some of the greatest contributors to sea travel, and tools. They weren t mindless barbarians, but they were fierce fighters who sought wealth and prosperity. Among their fighting skills lay politics, craftsmanship, and poems. One of the greatest advantages that the Vikings had over predators and prey was their means of travel.
Unlike today's boats, they were built to absorb waves, and to carry vast amounts of goods, room for each warrior to carry his own. Perfectly balanced, these ships were faster than other tribes. Not only was the ship designed to harness the power of the water, but also the wind. Vikings were the first to use sails. With sails, they could travel anywhere silently, and unseen. They were built light enough to carry onto shore and to be rolled on logs.
With this kind of mobility, they were able to give England a great headache, attacking Rouen, Nantes, and Paris. They took from Spain, Italy, and Rome. In 865, Vikings took over York, which they settled. Throughout a hundred years at York, it flourished and grew as a center of international trade.
Vikings again showed their craftsmanship by laying out city streets, minting coin, and producing items for trade like combs and shoes. Soon after, armies of Scandinavia invaded to demand protection money from weak English rulers. Vikings continued to hold the English throne for decades. The Vikings were different from other raiders, they weren t merely there to take their loot and leave, they had no homeland. They would fight for a king, and usually inhabit whatever land they charge. They were great traders, and are now part of the people from those lands.
Iceland's Viking pioneers created an aristo-democracy ruled by 39 chieftain-priests. They met each year in the national assembly. The Icelander's did not wish to have a king, and they raise no army. Today, most Icelanders believe that the mentality of the Vikings never left. Christian scholars put the Norse language, preserved by Icelanders, into modern language. Mostly compiled of poems, myths, legends, the stories are frequently composed by court poets.
However fictitious they might be, accurate history has been sifted from them, and put into reference books and university courses. Today, with archaeologists finding more and more about the Vikings, shipbuilders are astounded with the craftsmanship portrayed by the Vikings. Excavations have uncovered many surprising details about Viking life. For surviving only 300 years, they have contributed just as much to civilization as almost any other culture.
National Geographic May 2000, page 9.