The Viking Age (793–1066 AD) is a period in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, following the Germanic Iron Age. It is the period of history when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids, colonization, and conquest. In this period, the Norsemen settled in Norse Greenland, Newfoundland, and present-day Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Normandy, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and Italy.
Viking travellers and colonists were seen at many points in history as brutal raiders. Many historical documents suggest that their invasion of other countries was retaliation in response to the encroachment upon tribal lands by Christian missionaries, and perhaps by the Saxon Wars prosecuted by Charlemagne and his kin to the south, or were motivated by overpopulation, trade inequities, and the lack of viable farmland in their homeland.
Information about the Viking Age is drawn largely from what was written about the Vikings by their enemies, and primary sources of archaeology, supplemented with secondary sources such as the Icelandic Sagas.
In England, the beginning of the Viking Age is dated to 8 June 793, when Vikings destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne, a centre of learning on an island off the northeast coast of England in Northumberland. Monks were killed in the abbey, thrown into the sea to drown, or carried away as slaves along with the church treasures, giving rise to the traditional (but unattested) prayer—A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine, "Free us from the fury of the Northmen, Lord."
Three Viking ships had beached in Weymouth Bay four years earlier (although due to a scribal error the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dates this event to 787 rather than 789), but that incursion may have been a trading expedition that went wrong rather than a piratical raid. Lindisfarne was different. The Viking devastation of Northumbria's Holy Island was reported by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin of York, who wrote: "Never before in Britain has such a terror appeared".
Vikings were portrayed as wholly violent and bloodthirsty by their enemies. In medieval English chronicles, they are described as "wolves among sheep".
The first challenges to the many anti-Viking images in Britain emerged in the 17th century. Pioneering scholarly works on the Viking Age reached a small readership in Britain. Linguistics traced the Viking Age origins of rural idioms and proverbs. New dictionaries of the Old Norse language enabled more Victorians to read the Icelandic Sagas.
In Scandinavia, the 17th-century Danish scholars Thomas Bartholin and Ole Worm and Swedish scholar Olaus Rudbeck were the first to use runic inscriptions and Icelandic Sagas as primary historical sources. During the Enlightenment and Nordic Renaissance, historians such as the Icelandic-Norwegian Thormodus Torfæus, Danish-Norwegian Ludvig Holberg, and Swedish Olof von Dalin developed a more "rational" and "pragmatic" approach to historical scholarship.
By the latter half of the 18th century, while the Icelandic sagas were still used as important historical sources, the Viking Age had again come to be regarded as a barbaric and uncivilised period in the history of the Nordic countries.
Scholars outside Scandinavia did not begin to extensively reassess the achievements of the Vikings until the 1890s, recognising their artistry, technological skills, and seamanship.
Until recently, the history of the Viking Age had largely been based on Icelandic Sagas, the history of the Danes written by Saxo Grammaticus, the Kievan Rus's Primary Chronicle, and Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib. Today, most scholars take these texts as sources not to be understood literally and are relying more on concrete archaeological findings, numismatics, and other direct scientific disciplines and methods.
The Vikings who invaded western and eastern Europe were mainly pagans from the same area as present-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. They also settled in the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, peripheral Scotland (Caithness, the Hebrides and the Northern Isles), Greenland, and Canada.
Their North Germanic language, Old Norse, became the mother-tongue of present-day Scandinavian languages. By 801, a strong central authority appears to have been established in Jutland, and the Danes were beginning to look beyond their own territory for land, trade, and plunder.
In Norway, mountainous terrain and fjords formed strong natural boundaries. Communities remained independent of each other, unlike the situation in lowland Denmark. By 800, some 30 small kingdoms existed in Norway.
The sea was the easiest way of communication between the Norwegian kingdoms and the outside world. In the eighth century, Scandinavians began to build ships of war and send them on raiding expeditions which started the Viking Age. The North Sea rovers were traders, colonisers, explorers, and plunderers.
Many theories are posited for the cause of the Viking invasions; the will to explore likely played a major role. At the time, England, Wales, and Ireland were vulnerable to attack, being divided into many different warring kingdoms in a state of internal disarray, while the Franks were well defended. Overpopulation, especially near the Scandes, was possibly influential (this theory regarding overpopulation is disputed). Technological advance like the use of iron, or a shortage of women due to selective female infanticide also had an impact. Tensions caused by Frankish expansion to the south of Scandinavia, and their subsequent attacks upon the Viking peoples, may have also played a role in Viking pillaging. Harald I of Norway ("Harald Fairhair") had united Norway around this time and displaced many peoples. As a result, these people sought for new bases to launch counter-raids against Harald.
Vikings would plant crops after the winter and go raiding as soon as the ice melted on the sea, then return home with their loot in time to harvest the crops.
Debate among scholars is ongoing as to why the Scandinavians began to expand from the eighth through 11th centuries.
These models constitute much of what is known about the motivations for and the causes of the Viking Age. In all likelihood, the beginning of this age was the result of some combination of the aforementioned models.
The earliest date given for a Viking raid is 789, when according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a group of men from Norway sailed to the Isle of Portland in Dorset (it was wrongly recorded as 787). They were mistaken for merchants by a royal official. When asked to come to the king's manor to pay a trading tax on their goods, they murdered the official. The beginning of the Viking Age in the British Isles is often set at 793. It was recorded in the Anglo–Saxon Chronicle that the Northmen raided the important island monastery of Lindisfarne (the generally accepted date is actually 8 June, not January):
A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island (Lindisfarne), by rapine and slaughter.— Anglo Saxon Chronicle.
In 794, according to the Annals of Ulster, a serious attack was made on Lindisfarne's mother-house of Iona, which was followed in 795 by raids upon the northern coast of Ireland. From bases there, the Norsemen attacked Iona again in 802, causing great slaughter amongst the Céli Dé Brethren, and burning the abbey to the ground.
The Kingdom of the Franks under Charlemagne was particularly devastated by these raiders, who could sail up the Seine with near impunity. Near the end of Charlemagne's reign (and throughout the reigns of his sons and grandsons), a string of Norse raids began, culminating in a gradual Scandinavian conquest and settlement of the region now known as Normandy.
The clinker-built longships used by the Scandinavians were uniquely suited to both deep and shallow waters. They extended the reach of Norse raiders, traders, and settlers along coastlines and along the major river valleys of north-western Europe. Rurik also expanded to the east, and in 859 became ruler either by conquest or invitation by local people of the city of Novgorod (which means "new city") on the Volkhov River. His successors moved further, founding the early East Slavic state of Kievan Rus' with the capital in Kiev. This persisted until 1240, when the Mongols invaded Russia.
Other Norse people, particularly those from the area that is now modern-day Sweden and Norway, continued south to the Black Sea and then on to Constantinople. Whenever these Viking ships ran aground in shallow waters, the Vikings reportedly turned them on their sides and dragged them across the shallows into deeper waters. The eastern connections of these "Varangians" brought Byzantine silk, a cowrie shell from the Red Sea, and even coins from Samarkand, to Viking York.
In 884, an army of Danish Vikings was defeated at the Battle of Norditi (also called the Battle of Hilgenried Bay) on the Germanic North Sea coast by a Frisian army under Archbishop Rimbert of Bremen-Hamburg, which precipitated the complete and permanent withdrawal of the Vikings from East Frisia.
In 911, French King Charles the Simple was able to make an agreement with the Viking warleader Rollo, a chieftain of disputed Norwegian or Danish origins. Charles gave Rollo the title of duke and granted his followers and him possession of Normandy. In return, Rollo swore fealty to Charles, converted to Christianity, and undertook to defend the northern region of France against the incursions of other Viking groups. Several generations later, the Norman descendants of these Viking settlers not only identified themselves as Norman, but also carried the Norman language (a Romance language with Germanic influence), and their Norman culture, into England in 1066. With the Norman Conquest, they became the ruling aristocracy of Anglo–Saxon England.
In Scandinavia, the Viking age is considered to have ended with the establishment of royal authority in the Scandinavian countries and the establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion. The date is usually put somewhere in the early 11th century in all three Scandinavian countries. The end of the Viking era in Norway is marked by the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Although Olafr Haraldsson's (later known as Olav the Holy) army lost the battle, Christianity spread, partly on the strength of rumours of miraculous signs after his death. Norwegians would no longer be called Vikings. In Sweden, the reign of king Olov Skötkonung (c. 995–1020) is considered to be the transition from the Viking age to the Middle Ages, because he was the first Christian king of the Swedes, and he is associated with a growing influence of the church in what is today southwestern and central Sweden.
The end of the Viking Age is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempted by the Norwegian king Harald III (Haraldr Harðráði), who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge; in Ireland, the capture of Dublin by Strongbow and his Hiberno-Norman forces in 1171; and 1263 in Scotland by the defeat of King Hákon Hákonarson at the Battle of Largs by troops loyal to Alexander III. Godwinson was subsequently defeated within a month by another Viking descendant, William, Duke of Normandy. Scotland took its present form when it regained territory from the Norse between the 13th and the 15th centuries; the Western Isles and the Isle of Man remained under Scandinavian authority until 1266. Orkney and Shetland belonged to the king of Norway as late as 1469.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Viking raiders struck England in 793 and raided Lindisfarne, the monastery that held Saint Cuthbert's relics. The raiders killed the monks and captured the valuables. The raid marks the beginning of the "Viking Age of Invasion", made possible by the Viking longship. Great but sporadic violence occurred from the last decade of the eighth century on England's northern and eastern shores; Viking raids continued on a small scale across coastal England. While the initial raiding groups were small, a great amount of planning is believed to have been involved. The Norwegians raided during the winter of 840–841, rather than the usual summer, having waited on an island off Ireland. In 850, Vikings overwintered for the first time in England, on the island of Thanet, Kent. In 854, a raiding party overwintered a second time, at the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary. In 864, they reverted to Thanet for their winter encampment.
The following year, the Great Heathen Army, led by brothers Ivar the Boneless (Halfdan and Ubba), and also by another Viking Guthrum, arrived in East Anglia. They proceeded to cross England into Northumbria and captured York, establishing the Viking community of Jorvik, where some settled as farmers and craftsmen. Most of the English kingdoms, being in turmoil, could not stand against the Vikings. In 867, Northumbria became the northern kingdom of the coalescing Danelaw, after its conquest by the brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless, who installed an Englishman, Ecgberht, as a puppet king. By 870, the "Great Summer Army" arrived in England, led by a Viking leader called Bagsecg and his five earls. Aided by the Great Heathen Army (which had already overrun much of England from its base in Jorvik), Bagsecg's forces, and Halfdan's forces (through an alliance), the combined Viking forces raided much of England until 871, when they planned an invasion of Wessex. On 8 January 871, Bagsecg was killed at the Battle of Ashdown along with his earls. As a result, many of the Vikings returned to northern England, where Jorvic had become the centre of the Viking kingdom, but Alfred of Wessex managed to keep them out of his country. Alfred and his successors continued to drive back the Viking frontier and take York. A new wave of Norwegian Vikings appeared in England in 947 when Eric Bloodaxe captured York.
In 1003, the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard started a series of raids against England. This culminated in a full-scale invasion that led to Sweyn being crowned king of England in 1013. Sweyn was also king of Denmark and parts of Norway at this time. The throne of England passed to Edmund Ironside of Wessex after Sweyn's death in 1014. Sweyn's son, Cnut the Great, won the throne of England in 1016 through conquest. When Cnut the Great died in 1035 he was a king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden. Harold Harefoot became king of England after Cnut's death, and Viking rule of England ceased.
The Viking presence dwindled until 1066, when the invading Norsemen lost their final battle with the English at Stamford Bridge. Nineteen days later, the Normans, themselves descended from Norsemen, invaded England and defeated the weakened English army at the Battle of Hastings.
The Vikings pillaged monasteries on Ireland's west coast in 795, and then spread out to cover the rest of the coastline. The north and east of the island were most affected. During the first 40 years, the raids were conducted by small, mobile Viking groups. By 830, the groups consisted of large fleets of Viking ships. From 840, the Vikings began establishing permanent bases at the coasts. Dublin was the most significant settlement in the long term. The Irish became accustomed to the Viking presence. In some cases, they became allies and married each other.
In 832, a Viking fleet of about 120 invaded kingdoms on Ireland's northern and eastern coasts. Some believe that the increased number of invaders coincided with Scandinavian leaders' desires to control the profitable raids on the western shores of Ireland. During the mid-830s, raids began to push deeper into Ireland, as opposed to just touching the coasts. Navigable waterways made this deeper penetration possible. After 840, the Vikings had several bases in strategic locations dispersed throughout Ireland.
In 838, a small Viking fleet entered the River Liffey in eastern Ireland. The Vikings set up a base, which the Irish called a longphort. This longphort eventually became Dublin. After this interaction, the Irish experienced Viking forces for about 40 years. The Vikings also established longphorts in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford. The Vikings could sail through on the main river and branch off into different areas of the country.
Norwegian Vikings and other Scandinavians conducted extensive raids in Ireland. They founded Limerick in 812, then established Waterford in 853, founded the only Viking capital city in the world outside the Nordic countries in Dublin, and founded trading ports in Cork in the 9th century. Predominantly Norwegians, and to a smaller extent other Scandinavians, settled down and intermixed with the Irish. Literature, crafts, and decorative styles in Ireland and Britain reflected West Norse culture. Vikings traded at Irish markets in Dublin and solidified Dublin as an important city. Excavations found imported fabrics from England, Byzantium, Persia, and central Asia. Dublin became so crowded by the 11th century that houses were constructed outside the town walls.
One of the last major battles involving Vikings was the Battle of Clontarf on 23 April 1014, in which Vikings fought both for the Irish over-king Brian Boru's army and for the Viking-led army opposing him. Irish and Viking literature depict the Battle of Clontarf as a gathering of this world and the supernatural, including witches, goblins, and demons. A Viking poem portrays the environment as strongly pagan, with chanting Valkyries deciding who would live and who would die.
While few records are known, the Vikings are thought to have led their first raids in Scotland on the holy island of Iona in 794, the year following the raid on the other holy island of Lindisfarne, Northumbria.
In 839, a large Norse fleet invaded via the River Tay and River Earn, both of which were highly navigable, and reached into the heart of the Pictish kingdom of Fortriu. They defeated Eogán mac Óengusa, king of the Picts, his brother Bran, and the king of the Scots of Dál Riata, Áed mac Boanta, along with many members of the Pictish aristocracy in battle. The sophisticated kingdom that had been built fell apart, as did the Pictish leadership, which had been stable for more than 100 years since the time of Óengus mac Fergusa (The accession of Cináed mac Ailpín as king of both Picts and Scots can be attributed to the aftermath of this event).
In 870, the Britons of the Old North around the Firth of Clyde came under Viking attack as well. The fortress atop Alt Clut ("Rock of the Clyde," the Brythonic name for Dumbarton Rock, which had become the metonym for their kingdom) was besieged by the Viking kings Amlaíb and Ímar. After four months, its water supply failed, and the fortress fell. The Vikings are recorded to have transported a vast prey of British, Pictish, and English captives back to Ireland. These prisoners may have included the ruling family of Alt Clut including the king Arthgal ap Dyfnwal, who was slain the following year under uncertain circumstances. The fall of Alt Clut marked a watershed in the history of the realm. Afterwards, the capital of the restructured kingdom was relocated about 12 miles (20 km) up the River Clyde to the vicinity of Govan and Partick (within present-day Glasgow), and became known as the Kingdom of Strathclyde, which persisted as a major regional political player for another 150 years.
The land that now comprises most of the Scottish Lowlands had previously been the northernmost part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, which fell apart with its Viking conquest; these lands were never regained by the Anglo-Saxons, or England. The upheaval and pressure of Viking raiding, occupation, conquest and settlement resulted in alliances among the formerly enemy peoples that comprised what would become present-day Scotland. Over the subsequent 300 years, this Viking upheaval and pressure led to the unification of the previously contending Gaelic, Pictish, British, and English kingdoms, first into the kingdom of Alba, and finally into the greater Kingdom of Scotland.  The Viking Age in Scotland came to an end after another 100 years, see this section, below. The last vestiges of Norse power in the Scottish seas and islands were completely relinquished after another 200 years, see this section, below.
By the mid-9th century, the Norsemen had settled in Shetland, Orkney (the Nordreys- Norðreyjar), the Hebrides and Isle of Man, (the Sudreys- Suðreyjar—this survives in the Diocese of Sodor and Man) and parts of mainland Scotland. The Norse settlers were to some extent integrating with the local Gaelic population (see Norse-Gaels) in the Hebrides and Man. These areas were ruled over by local Jarls, originally captains of ships or hersirs. The Jarl of Orkney and Shetland, however, claimed supremacy.
In 875, King Harald Fairhair led a fleet from Norway to Scotland. In his attempt to unite Norway, he found that many of those opposed to his rise to power had taken refuge in the Isles. From here, they were raiding not only foreign lands but were also attacking Norway itself. He organised a fleet and was able to subdue the rebels, and in doing so brought the independent Jarls under his control, many of the rebels having fled to Iceland. He found himself ruling not only Norway, but also the Isles, Man, and parts of Scotland.
In 876, the Norse-Gaels of Mann and the Hebrides rebelled against Harald. A fleet was sent against them led by Ketil Flatnose to regain control. On his success, Ketil was to rule the Sudreys as a vassal of King Harald. His grandson Thorstein the Red and Sigurd the Mighty, Jarl of Orkney invaded Scotland were able to exact tribute from nearly half the kingdom until their deaths in battle. Ketil declared himself King of the Isles. Ketil was eventually outlawed and fearing the bounty on his head fled to Iceland.
The Norse-Gaelic Kings of the Isles continued to act semi independently, in 973 forming a defensive pact with the Kings of Scotland and Strathclyde. In 1095, the King of Mann and the Isles Godred Crovan was killed by Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway. Magnus and King Edgar of Scotland agreed on a treaty. The islands would be controlled by Norway, but mainland territories would go to Scotland. The King of Norway nominally continued to be king of the Isles and Man. However, in 1156, The kingdom was split into two. The Western Isles and Man continued as to be called the "Kingdom of Man and the Isles", but the Inner Hebrides came under the influence of Somerled, a Gaelic speaker, who was styled 'King of the Hebrides'. His kingdom was to develop latterly into the Lordship of the Isles.
The end of the Viking age proper in Scotland is generally considered to be in 1266. In 1263, King Haakon IV of Norway, in retaliation for a Scots expedition to Skye, arrived on the west coast with a fleet from Norway and Orkney. His fleet linked up with those of King Magnus of Man and King Dougal of the Hebrides. After peace talks failed, his forces met with the Scots at Largs, in Ayrshire. The battle proved indecisive, but it did ensure that the Norse were not able to mount a further attack that year. Haakon died overwintering in Orkney, and by 1266, his son Magnus the Law-mender ceded the Kingdom of Man and the Isles, with all territories on mainland Scotland to Alexander III, through the Treaty of Perth.
Orkney and Shetland continued to be ruled as autonomous Jarldoms under Norway until 1468, when King Christian I pledged them as security on the dowry of his daughter, who was betrothed to James III of Scotland. Although attempts were made during the 17th and 18th centuries to redeem Shetland, without success, and Charles II ratifying the pawning in the 1669 Act for annexation of Orkney and Shetland to the Crown, explicitly exempting them from any "dissolution of His Majesty's lands", they are currently considered as being officially part of the United Kingdom.
Incursions in Wales were decisively reversed at the Battle of Buttington in Powys, 893, when a combined Welsh and Mercian army under Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, defeated a Danish band.
Wales was not colonised by the Vikings as heavily as eastern England. The Vikings did, however, settle in the south around St. David's, Haverfordwest, and Gower, among other places. Place names such as Skokholm, Skomer, and Swansea remain as evidence of the Norse settlement. The Vikings, however, did not subdue the Welsh mountain kingdoms.
According to Sagas, Iceland was discovered by Naddodd, a Viking from the Faroe Islands, after which it was settled by mostly Norwegians fleeing the oppressive rule of Harald Fairhair (late 9th century). While harsh, the land allowed for a pastoral farming life familiar to the Norse. According to the saga of Erik the Red, when Erik was exiled from Iceland, he sailed west and pioneered Greenland.
The Viking-Age settlements in Greenland were established in the sheltered fjords of the southern and western coast. They settled in three separate areas along roughly 650 km (350 nmi; 400 mi) of the western coast. While harsh, the microclimates along some fjords allowed for a pastoral lifestyle similar to that of Iceland, until the climate changed for the worse with the Little Ice Age around 1400.
Kvenland, known as Cwenland, Kænland, and similar terms in medieval sources, is an ancient name for an area in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia. A contemporary reference to Kvenland is provided in an Old English account written in the 9th century. It used the information provided by the Norwegian adventurer and traveller named Ohthere. Kvenland, in that or close to that spelling, is also known from Nordic sources, primarily Icelandic, but also one that was possibly written in the modern-day area of Norway.
All the remaining Nordic sources discussing Kvenland, using that or close to that spelling, date to the 12th and 13th centuries, but some of them—in part at least—are believed to be rewrites of older texts. Other references and possible references to Kvenland by other names and/or spellings are discussed in the main article of Kvenland.
The Varangians or Varyags (Russian, Ukrainian: варяги, varyagi; Belarusian: варагі, varahi; Greek: Βάραγγοι, Βαριάγοι, Varangoi) sometimes referred to as Variagians were Scandinavians, often Swedes, who migrated eastwards and southwards through what is now Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine mainly in the 9th and 10th centuries. Engaging in trade, piracy, and mercenary activities, they roamed the river systems and portages of Gardariki, reaching the Caspian Sea and Constantinople. Contemporary English publications also use the name "Viking" for early Varangians in some contexts.
The term Varangian remained in usage in the Byzantine Empire until the 13th century, largely disconnected from its Scandinavian roots by then. Having settled Aldeigja (Ladoga) in the 750s, Scandinavian colonists were probably an element in the early ethnogenesis of the Rus' people, and likely played a role in the formation of the Rus' Khaganate. The Varangians (Varyags, in Old East Slavic) are first mentioned by the Primary Chronicle as having exacted tribute from the Slavic and Finnic tribes in 859. It was the time of rapid expansion of the Vikings in Northern Europe; England began to pay Danegeld in 859, and the Curonians of Grobin faced an invasion by the Swedes at about the same date.
In 862, the Finnic and Slavic tribes rebelled against the Varangian Rus, driving them overseas back to Scandinavia, but soon started to conflict with each other. The disorder prompted the tribes to invite back the Varangian Rus "to come and rule them" and bring peace to the region. This was a somewhat bilateral relation with the Varagians defending the cities that they ruled. Led by Rurik and his brothers Truvor and Sineus, the invited Varangians (called Rus') settled around the town of Novgorod (Holmgard).
In the 9th century, the Rus' operated the Volga trade route, which connected Northern Russia (Gardariki) with the Middle East (Serkland). As the Volga route declined by the end of the century, the Trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks rapidly overtook it in popularity. Apart from Ladoga and Novgorod, Gnezdovo and Gotland were major centres for Varangian trade.
Western historians tend to agree with the Primary Chronicle that these Scandinavians founded Kievan Rus' in the 880s and gave their name to the land. Before the fall of the Soviet Union many Eastern European scholars were opposed to this theory of Germanic influence on the Rus' and have suggested alternative scenarios for this part of Eastern European history.
In contrast to the intense Scandinavian influence in Normandy and the British Isles, Varangian culture did not survive to a great extent in the East. Instead, the Varangian ruling classes of the two powerful city-states of Novgorod and Kiev were thoroughly Slavicised by the end of the 10th century. Old Norse was spoken in one district of Novgorod, however, until the 13th century.
Viking Age Scandinavian settlements were set up along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, primarily for trade purposes. Their appearance coincides with the settlement and consolidation of the Slavic tribes in the respective areas. Scandinavians had contacts to the Slavs since their very immigration, these first contacts were soon followed by both the construction of Scandinavian emporia and Slavic burghs in their vicinity. The Scandinavian settlements were larger than the early Slavic ones, their craftsmen had a considerably higher productivity, and in contrast to the early Slavs, the Scandinavians were capable of seafaring. Their importance for trade with the Slavic world however was limited to the coastal regions and their hinterlands.
Scandinavian settlements at the Mecklenburgian coast include Reric (Groß Strömkendorf) on the eastern coast of Wismar Bay, and Dierkow (near Rostock). Reric was set up around the year 700, but following later warfare between Obodrites and Danes, the merchants were resettled to Haithabu. Dierkow prospered from the late 8th to the early 9th century.
Scandinavian settlements at the Pomeranian coast include Wolin (on the isle of Wolin), Ralswiek (on the isle of Rügen), Altes Lager Menzlin (at the lower Peene river), and Bardy-Świelubie near modern Kołobrzeg. Menzlin was set up in the mid-8th century. Wolin and Ralswiek began to prosper in the course of the 9th century. A merchants' settlement has also been suggested near Arkona, but no archeological evidence supports this theory. Menzlin and Bardy-Świelubie were vacated in the late 9th century, Ralswiek made it into the new millennium, but at the time when written chronicles reported the site in the 12th century it had lost all its importance. Wolin, thought to be identical with legendary Vineta and semilegendary Jomsborg, base of the Jomsvikings, was destroyed by the Danes in the 12th century.
Scandinavian arrowheads from the 8th and 9th centuries were found between the coast and the lake chains in the Mecklenburgian and Pomeranian hinterlands, pointing at periods of warfare between the Scandinavians and Slavs.
The French region of Normandy takes its name from the Viking invaders who were called Normanni, which means ‘men of the North'. Today, nordmann (pron. Norman) in the Norwegian language, denotes a Norwegian person.
The first Viking raids began between 790 and 800 along the coasts of western France. They were carried out primarily in the summer, as the Vikings wintered in Scandinavia. Several coastal areas were lost to Francia during the reign of Louis the Pious (814–840). But the Vikings took advantage of the quarrels in the royal family caused after the death of Louis the Pious to settle their first colony in the south-west (Gascony) of the kingdom of Francia, which was more or less abandoned by the Frankish kings after their two defeats at Roncevaux. The incursions in 841 caused severe damage to Rouen and Jumièges. The Viking attackers sought to capture the treasures stored at monasteries, easy prey given the monks' lack of defensive capacity. In 845 an expedition up the Seine reached Paris. The presence of Carolingian deniers of ca 847, found in 1871 among a hoard at Mullaghboden, County Limerick, where coins were neither minted nor normally used in trade, probably represents booty from the raids of 843–846. After 851, Vikings began to stay in the lower Seine valley for the winter. Twice more in the 860s Vikings rowed to Paris, leaving only when they acquired sufficient loot or bribes from the Carolingian rulers.
The Carolingian kings tended to have contradictory politics, which had severe consequences. In 867, Charles the Bald signed the Treaty of Compiègne, by which he agreed to yield the Cotentin Peninsula to the Breton king Salomon, on the condition that Salomon would take an oath of fidelity and fight as an ally against the Vikings. Nevertheless, in 911 the Viking leader Rollo forced Charles the Simple to sign the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, under which Charles gave Rouen and the area of present-day Upper Normandy to Rollo, establishing the Duchy of Normandy. In exchange, Rollo pledged vassalage to Charles in 940, agreed to be baptised, and vowed to guard the estuaries of the Seine from further Viking attacks, even though the exact opposite was often the case. The Duchy of Normandy also annexed further areas in Northern France, expanding the territory which was originally negotiated.
While many buildings were pillaged, burned, or destroyed by the Viking raids, ecclesiastical sources may have been overly negative as no city was completely destroyed. On the other hand, many monasteries were pillaged and all the abbeys were destroyed. Rollo and his successors brought about rapid recoveries from the raids.
The Scandinavian colonization was principally Norwegian and Danish under the leadership of Rollo. A few Swedes were present. The merging of the Scandinavian and native elements contributed to the creation of one of the most powerful feudal states of Western Europe. The naval ability of the Normans would allow them to conquer England and southern Italy, and play a key role in the Crusades.
In 860, according to an account by the Norman monk Dudo of Saint-Quentin, a Viking fleet, probably under Björn Ironside and Hastein, landed at the Ligurian port of Luni and sacked the city. The Vikings then moved another 60 miles down the Tuscan coast to the mouth of the Arno, sacking Pisa and then, following the river upstream, also the hill-town of Fiesole above Florence; and others victory around the Mediterranean (including in Sicily and North Africa).
Many Anglo-Danish and Varangian mercenaries fought in Southern Italy, including Harald Hardrada and William de Hauteville who conquered parts of Sicily between 1038 and 1040, and Edgar the Ætheling who participated in the Norman conquest of southern Italy. Runestones were raised in Sweden in memory of warriors who died in Langbarðaland (Land of the Lombards), the Old Norse name for southern Italy.
After 842, when the Vikings set up a permanent base at the mouth of the Loire river, they could strike as far as northern Spain. They attacked Cádiz in 844. In some of their raids they were crushed either by Kingdom of Asturias or Emirate armies. These Vikings were Hispanicised in all Christian kingdoms, while they kept their ethnic identity and culture in Al-Andalus.
In 844, many dozens of drakkars appeared in the "Mar da Palha" ("the Sea of Straw", mouth of the Tagus river). After a siege, the Vikings conquered Lisbon (at the time, the city was under Muslim rule and known as Lashbuna). They left after 13 days, following a resistance led by Alah Ibn Hazm and the city's inhabitants. Another raid was attempted in 966, without success.
In about 986, the Norwegian Vikings Bjarni Herjólfsson, Leif Ericson and Þórfinnr Karlsefni from Greenland reached North America, over 500 years before Christopher Columbus, and they attempted to settle the land they called Vinland. They created a small settlement on the northern peninsula of present-day Newfoundland, near L'Anse aux Meadows. Conflict with indigenous peoples and lack of support from Greenland brought the Vinland colony to an end within a few years. The archaeological remains are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The long-term linguistic effect of the Viking settlements in England was threefold: over a thousand Old Norse words eventually became part of Standard English; numerous places in the East and North-east of England have Danish names, and many English personal names are of Scandinavian origin. Scandinavian words that entered the English language included landing, score, beck, fellow, take, busting and steersman. The vast majority of loan words did not appear in documents until the early 12th century; these included many modern words which used sk- sounds, such as skirt, sky, and skin; other words appearing in written sources at this time included again, awkward, birth, cake, dregs, fog, freckles, gasp, law, moss, neck, ransack, root, scowl, sister, seat, sly, smile, want, weak and window from Old Norse meaning "wind-eye". Some of the words that came into use are among the most common in English, such as to go, to come, to sit, to listen, to eat, both, same, get and give. The system of personal pronouns was affected, with they, them and their replacing the earlier forms. Old Norse influenced the verb to be; the replacement of sindon by are is almost certainly Scandinavian in origin, as is the third-person-singular ending -s in the present tense of verbs.
There are more than 1,500 Scandinavian place names in England, mainly in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (within the former boundaries of the Danelaw): over 600 end in -by, the Scandinavian word for "village"—for example Grimsby, Naseby and Whitby; many others end in -thorpe ("farm"), -thwaite ("clearing"), and -toft ("homestead").
The distribution of family names showing Scandinavian influence is still, as an analysis of names ending in -son reveals, concentrated in the north and east, corresponding to areas of former Viking settlement. Early medieval records indicate that over 60% of personal names in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire showed Scandinavian influence.
The Vikings were equipped with the technologically superior longships; for purposes of conducting trade however, another type of ship, the knarr, wider and deeper in draft, were customarily used. The Vikings were competent sailors, adept in land warfare as well as at sea, and they often struck at accessible and poorly defended targets, usually with near impunity. The effectiveness of these tactics earned Vikings a formidable reputation as raiders and pirates. Chroniclers paid little attention to other aspects of medieval Scandinavian culture. This slant was accentuated by the absence of contemporary primary source documentation from within the Viking Age communities themselves. Little documentary evidence was available until later, when Christian sources began to contribute. As historians and archaeologists have developed more resources to challenge the one-sided descriptions of the chroniclers, a more balanced picture of the Norsemen has become apparent.
The Vikings used their longships to travel vast distances and attain certain tactical advantages in battle. They could perform highly efficient hit-and-run attacks, in which they quickly approached a target, then left as rapidly as possible before a counter-offensive could be launched. Because of the ships' negligible draft, the Vikings could sail in shallow waters, allowing them to invade far inland along rivers. Not only were the ships light and agile, but they were light enough to be carried over land from one river system to another. "Under sail, the same boats could tackle open water and cross the unexplored wastes of the North Atlantic.". .The ships' speed was also prodigious for the time, estimated at a maximum of 14–15 knots (26–28 km/h). The use of the longships ended when technology changed, and ships began to be constructed using saws instead of axes. This led to a lesser quality of ships.
While battles at sea were rare, they would occasionally occur when Viking ships attempted to board European merchant vessels in Scandinavian waters. When larger scale battles ensued, Viking crews would rope together all nearby ships and slowly proceed towards the enemy targets. While advancing, the warriors hurled spears, arrows, and other projectiles at the opponents. When the ships were sufficiently close, melee combat would ensue using axes, swords, and spears until the enemy ship could be easily boarded. The roping technique allowed Viking crews to remain strong in numbers and act as a unit, but this uniformity also created problems. A Viking ship in the line could not retreat or pursue hostiles without breaking the formation and cutting the ropes, which weakened the overall Viking fleet and was a burdensome task to perform in the heat of battle. In general, these tactics enabled Vikings to quickly destroy the meagre opposition posted during raids.
Together with an increasing centralisation of government in the Scandinavian countries, the old system of leidang—a fleet mobilisation system, where every skipen (ship community) had to deliver one ship and crew—was discontinued. Changes in shipbuilding in the rest of Europe led to the demise of the longship for military purposes. By the 11th and 12th centuries, European fighting ships were built with raised platforms fore and aft, from which archers could shoot down into the relatively low longships.
Exactly how the Viking's navigated the open seas with such success is unclear. While some evidence points to the use of calcite "sunstones" to find the sun's location, modern reproductions of Viking "sky-polarimetric" navigation have found these sun compasses to be highly inaccurate, and not usable in cloudy or foggy weather. 
The archaeological find known as the Visby lenses from the Swedish island of Gotland may be components of a telescope. It appears to date from long before the invention of the telescope in the 17th century. Recent evidence suggests that the Vikings also made use of an optical compass as a navigation aid, using the light-splitting and polarisation-filtering properties of Iceland spar to find the location of the sun when it was not directly visible.
Some of the most important trading ports founded by the Norse during the period, include both existing and former cities such as Aarhus (Denmark), Ribe (Denmark), Hedeby (Germany), Vineta (Pomerania), Truso (Poland), Bjørgvin (Norway), Kaupang (Norway), Skiringssal (Norway), Birka (Sweden), Bordeaux (France), York (England), Dublin (Ireland) and Aldeigjuborg (Russia).
One important centre of trade was at Hedeby. Close to the border with the Franks, it was effectively a crossroads between the cultures, until its eventual destruction by the Norwegians in an internecine dispute around 1050. York was the centre of the kingdom of Jórvík from 866, and discoveries there (e.g. a silk cap, a counterfeit of a coin from Samarkand and a cowry shell from the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf) suggest that Scandinavian trade connections in the 10th century reached beyond Byzantium. However, those items could also have been Byzantine imports, and there is no reason to assume that the Varangians travelled significantly beyond Byzantium and the Caspian Sea.
Isle of Man
And they came to the church of Lindisfarne, laid everything waste with grievous plundering, trampled the holy places with polluted feet, dug up the altars, and seized all the treasures of the holy church. They killed some of the brothers; some they took away with them in fetters; many they drove out, naked and loaded with insults; and some they drowned in the sea."
Magnus Magnusson, Vikings!, p. 32.
Björn Ironside (Old Norse: Bjǫrn Járnsíða, Icelandic: Björn Járnsíða, Swedish: Björn Järnsida, Danish: Bjørn Jernside; Medieval Latin: Bier Costae ferreae) was a historical Norse, Swedish Viking chief who also figures in late sources as a son of Ragnar Lodbrok and a legendary king of Sweden. He lived in the 9th century, being securely dated between 855 and 858. Björn Ironside is said to have been the first ruler of the Swedish Munsö dynasty. In the early 18th century, a barrow on the island of Munsö was claimed by antiquarians to be Björn Järnsidas hög or Björn Ironside's barrow.Medieval sources refer to Björn Ironside's potential sons and grandsons, including Erik Björnsson and Björn at Haugi. His descendants in the male line supposedly ruled over the Swedes until c. 1060.Danes (Germanic tribe)
The Danes were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting southern Scandinavia, including the area now comprising Denmark proper, and the Scanian provinces of modern southern Sweden, during the Nordic Iron Age and the Viking Age. They founded what became the Kingdom of Denmark. The name of their realm is believed to mean "Danish March", viz. "the march of the Danes" in Old Low German, referring to their southern border zone between the Eider and Schlei rivers, known as Danevirke.Fornsigtuna
Fornsigtuna (forn means ancient), Old Sigtuna, Sithun, Sign(h)ildsberg or Signesberg (59°37′N 17°39′E) is located in the parish of Håtuna approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of the modern town of Sigtuna, by Lake Mälaren in Sweden. Although the location is nearly forgotten, it has a central role in Norse mythology.History of Sweden (800–1521)
Swedish pre-history ends around 800 CE, when the Viking Age begins and written sources are available. The Viking Age lasted until the mid-11th century, when the Christianization of Scandinavia was largely completed when Sweden became the last Norse country to adopt Christianity. Scandinavia was formally Christianized by 1100 AD. The period 1050 to 1350 – when the Black Death struck Europe – is considered the Older Middle Ages. The Kalmar Union between the Scandinavian countries was established in 1397 and lasted until King Gustav Vasa ended it upon seizing power. The period 1350 to 1523 – when king Gustav Vasa, who led the unification of Sweden, was crowned – is considered the Younger Middle Ages.During this centuries, Sweden is considered to gradually have consolidated as a single nation.Jarlshof
Jarlshof ( YARLZ-hof) is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland, Scotland. It lies near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland and has been described as "one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles". It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD.
The Bronze Age settlers left evidence of several small oval houses with thick stone walls and various artefacts including a decorated bone object. The Iron Age ruins include several different types of structures, including a broch and a defensive wall around the site. The Pictish period provides various works of art including a painted pebble and a symbol stone. The Viking age ruins make up
the largest such site visible anywhere in Britain and include a longhouse; excavations provided numerous tools and a detailed insight into life in Shetland at this time. The most visible structures on the site are the walls of the Scottish period fortified manor house, which inspired the name "Jarlshof" that first appears in an 1821 novel by Walter Scott.
The site is in the care of Historic Scotland and is open from April to September. In 2010 "The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland" including Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof was added to those seeking to be on the "tentative list" of World Heritage Sites.Mjölnir
In Norse mythology, Mjölnir (; Old Norse: Mjǫllnir, IPA: [ˈmjɔlːnir]) is the hammer of Thor, the Norse god associated with thunder. Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome and powerful weapons in existence, capable of leveling mountains. In its account of Norse mythology, the Prose Edda relates how the hammer's characteristically short handle was due to a mistake during its manufacture. Similar hammers (Ukonvasara) were a common symbol of the god of thunder in other North European mythologies.Norsemen
The Norse people or Norsemen were a group of Germanic people who inhabited Scandinavia and spoke what is now called the Old Norse language between c. 800 and 1300 AD. The language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages and is the predecessor of the modern Germanic languages of Scandinavia. In the late eighth century Norsemen embarked on a massive expansion in all directions. This was the start of the Viking Age.
In English-language scholarship since the nineteenth century, the Viking Age Norsemen, seafaring traders, settlers and warriors have commonly been referred to as Vikings. The Norse Scandinavians established polities and settlements in what are now England, Scotland, Iceland, Wales, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Russia, Belarus, Greenland, France, Belgium, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Canada as well as Sicily.Norse–Gaels
The Norse–Gaels (Old Irish: Gall-Goídil; Irish: Gall-Ghaeil; Scottish Gaelic: Gall-Ghàidheil, 'foreigner-Gaels') were a people of mixed Gaelic and Norse ancestry and culture. They emerged in the Viking Age, when Vikings who settled in Ireland and in Scotland adopted Gaelic culture and intermarried with Gaels. The Norse–Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea regions from the 9th to 12th centuries. They founded the Kingdom of the Isles (which included the Hebrides and the Isle of Man), the Kingdom of Dublin, the Lordship of Galloway (which is named after them), and ruled the Kingdom of York for a time. The most powerful Norse–Gaelic dynasty were the Uí Ímair or House of Ivar.
Over time, the Norse–Gaels became ever more Gaelicized and disappeared as a distinct group. However, they left a lasting influence, especially in the Isle of Man and Outer Hebrides, where most placenames are of Norse–Gaelic origin. Several Scottish clans have Norse–Gaelic roots, such as Clan MacDonald, Clan MacDougall, Clan Ruaidhrí, Clan Morrison and Clan MacLeod. The elite mercenary warriors known as the gallowglass (gallóglaigh) emerged from these Norse–Gaelic clans and became an important part of Irish warfare. The Viking longship also influenced the Gaelic birlinn or longa fada, which were used extensively until the 17th century. Norse–Gaelic surnames survive today and include MacIvor, MacAskill, MacAuley, (Mac)Cotter, and Lawley.Old Scatness
Old Scatness is an archeological site in the parish of Dunrossness in the South Mainland of Shetland, near Sumburgh Airport consisting of mediaeval, Viking, Pictish, and Iron Age remains. It has been a settlement for thousands of years, each new generation adding buildings, and leveling off old ones. Among the discoveries is an Iron Age broch.Ragnar Lodbrok
Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, "Ragnar shaggy breeches", contemporary Norse: Ragnar Loðbrók) was a historically dubious Norse Viking hero and legendary king of Denmark and Sweden, known from Viking Age Old Norse poetry and sagas. According to that traditional literature, Ragnar distinguished himself by many raids against Francia and Anglo-Saxon England during the 9th century. There is no evidence that he existed under this name and outside of the mythology associated with him. According to the Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ragnar was the son of the Swedish king Sigurd Ring.Shield-maiden
A shield-maiden (Old Norse: skjaldmær), in Scandinavian folklore and mythology was a female warrior. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks and in Gesta Danorum. Shield-maidens also appear in stories of other Germanic peoples: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical valkyries may have been based on the shield-maidens.Ship burial
A ship burial or boat grave is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods, or as a part of the grave goods itself. If the ship is very small, it is called a boat grave. This style of burial was used among the Germanic peoples, particularly by Viking Age Norsemen. According to the Boxer Codex, ship burials were also practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.
A unique eyewitness account of a 10th-century ship burial among the Volga Vikings is given by Arab traveller Ibn Fadlan.Skald
The term skald, or skáld (Old Norse: [ˈskald], later [ˈskɒ:ld]; Icelandic: [ˈskault], meaning "poet"), is generally used for poets who composed at the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. Skaldic poetry forms one of two main groupings of Old Norse poetry, the other being the anonymous Eddic poetry.
The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is dróttkvætt. The subject is usually historical and encomiastic, detailing the deeds of the skald's patron. There is no evidence that the skalds employed musical instruments, but some speculate that they may have accompanied their verses with the harp or lyre.The technical demands of the skaldic form were equal to the complicated verse forms mastered by the Welsh bards and Gaelic (in both Scotland and Ireland) ollams. Like those poets, much skaldic verse consisted of panegyrics to kings and aristocrats or memorials and testimonials to their battles.Thegn
The term thegn (thane or thayn in Shakespearean English), from Old English þegn, ðegn, "servant, attendant, retainer", "one who serves", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or, as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves. It is also the term for an early medieval Scandinavian class of retainers.Thrall
A thrall (Old Norse/Icelandic: þræll, Faroese: trælur, Norwegian: trell, Danish: træl, Swedish: träl) was a slave or serf in Scandinavian lands during the Viking Age. The corresponding term in Old English was þēow. The status of slave (þræll, þēow) contrasts with that of the freeman (karl, ceorl) and the nobleman (jarl, eorl). The Middle Latin rendition of the term in early Germanic law is servus. The social system of serfdom was continued in medieval feudalism.Viking Age arms and armour
Knowledge about military technology of the Viking Age (end of 8th- to mid-11th-century Europe) is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and laws recorded in the 14th century.
According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, as well as permitted to carry them at all times. Indeed, the Hávamál, purported to be sage advice given by Odin, states "Don't leave your weapons lying about behind your back in a field; you never know when you may need all of sudden your spear."As war was the most prestigious activity in Viking Age Scandinavia, beautifully finished weapons were an important way for a warrior to display his wealth and status. A wealthy Viking would likely have a complete ensemble of a spear, a wooden shield, and either a battle axe or a sword. The very richest might have a helmet; other armour is thought to have been limited to the nobility and their professional warriors. The average farmer was likely limited to a spear, shield, and perhaps a common axe or a large knife or seax. Some would also bring their hunting bows (mostly long bow or flat bow) to use in the opening stages of battle.Viking art
Viking art, also known commonly as Norse art, is a term widely accepted for the art of Scandinavian Norsemen and Viking settlements further afield—particularly in the British Isles and Iceland—during the Viking Age of the 8th-11th centuries CE. Viking art has many design elements in common with Celtic, Germanic, the later Romanesque and Eastern European art, sharing many influences with each of these traditions.Generally speaking, the current knowledge of Viking art relies heavily upon more durable objects of metal and stone; wood, bone, ivory and textiles are more rarely preserved; human skin, which historical sources indicate was often elaborately tattooed, is nowhere extant and is unlikely to have survived. The artistic record therefore, as it has survived to the present day, remains significantly incomplete. Ongoing archaeological excavation and opportunistic finds, of course, may improve this situation in the future, as indeed they have in the recent past.
Viking art is usually divided into a sequence of roughly chronological styles, although outside Scandinavia itself local influences are often strong, and the development of styles can be less clear.Viking sword
The Viking Age sword (also Viking sword) or Carolingian sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Early Middle Ages.
The Viking Age or Carolingian-era sword developed in the 8th century from the Merovingian sword (more specifically, the Frankish production of swords in the 6th to 7th century, itself derived from the Roman spatha) and during the 11th to 12th century in turn gave rise to the knightly sword of the Romanesque period.Vikings
Vikings (Old English: wicing—"pirate", Danish and Bokmål: vikinger; Swedish and Nynorsk: vikingar; Icelandic: víkingar, from Old Norse) were Norse seafarers, mainly speaking the Old Norse language, who during the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, and explored westwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Norse home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Nordic military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, Estonia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.Facilitated by advanced sailing and navigational skills, and characterised by the longship, Viking activities at times also extended into the Mediterranean littoral, North Africa, and the Middle East. Following extended phases of (primarily sea- or river-borne) exploration, expansion and settlement, Viking (Norse) communities and governments were established in diverse areas of north-western Europe, Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia, the North Atlantic islands and as far as the north-eastern coast of North America. This period of expansion witnessed the wider dissemination of Norse culture, while simultaneously introducing strong foreign cultural influences into Scandinavia itself, with profound developmental implications in both directions.
Popular, modern conceptions of the Vikings—the term frequently applied casually to their modern descendants and the inhabitants of modern Scandinavia—often strongly differ from the complex picture that emerges from archaeology and historical sources. A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages began to emerge in the 18th century; this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival. Perceived views of the Vikings as alternatively violent, piratical heathens or as intrepid adventurers owe much to conflicting varieties of the modern Viking myth that had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations of the Vikings are typically based on cultural clichés and stereotypes, complicating modern appreciation of the Viking legacy. These representations are not always accurate — for example, there is no evidence that they wore horned helmets.
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History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)
Periods of the history of Europe