The medieval Viking Age refers to the period of the 8th-11th centuries, when the European seas were plied by brave robbers from Scandinavia. Their raids struck terror into the civilized inhabitants of the Old World. The Vikings were not only robbers, but also merchants, as well as pioneers. By religion they were pagans.
The arrival of the Vikings
In the VIII century, the inhabitants of the territory of modern Norway, Sweden and Denmark began to build the fastest ships at that time and go on long journeys on them. The harsh nature of their native lands pushed them to these adventures. Agriculture in Scandinavia was underdeveloped due to the cold climate. A modest harvest did not allow local residents to feed their families enough. Thanks to the robberies, the Vikings became noticeably richer, which gave them the opportunity not only to buy food, but also to trade with their neighbors
The first attack by sailors on neighboring countries occurred in 789. Then the robbers attacked Dorset in the south-west of England, killed thethen and robbed the city. Thus began the Viking Age. Another important reason for the emergence of mass piracy was the decomposition of the former system based on community and clan. The nobility, having increased its influence, began to create the first prototypes of states on the territory of Denmark. For such jarls, robbery became a source ofwe alth and influence among compatriots.
The key reason for the conquests and geographical discoveries of the Vikings was their ships, which were much better than any other European ones. The warships of the Scandinavians were called drakkars. Sailors often used them as their own home. Such vessels were mobile. They could be relatively easily dragged ashore. At first, the ships were oared, later they acquired sails.
Drakkars were distinguished by their elegant shape, speed, reliability and lightness. They were designed specifically for shallow rivers. Entering them, the Vikings could go deep into the devastated country. Such voyages came as a complete surprise to Europeans. As a rule, drakkars were built from ash wood. They are an important symbol left behind by early medieval history. The Viking Age is not only a period of conquest, but also a period of development of trade. For this purpose, the Scandinavians used special merchant ships - knorrs. They were wider and deeper than the Drakkars. Much more goods could be loaded onto such ships.
The Viking Age in Northern Europe was marked by the development of navigation. The Scandinavians did not have any special devices (for example, a compass), but they perfectly managed the prompts of nature. These sailors thoroughly knew the habits of birds and took them with them on a voyage to determine if there was land nearby (if there was none, the birds returned to the ship). The researchers also focused on the sun,the stars and the moon.
Raids on Britain
The first Scandinavian raids into England were fleeting. They plundered defenseless monasteries and promptly returned to the sea. However, gradually the Vikings began to claim the lands of the Anglo-Saxons. There was no single kingdom in Britain at that time. The island was divided among several rulers. In 865, the legendary king of Denmark, Ragnar Lodbrok, went to Northumbria, but his ships ran aground and crashed. Uninvited guests were surrounded and captured. King Ella II of Northumbria executed Ragnar by throwing him into a pit full of poisonous snakes.
Lodbrok's death did not go unpunished. Two years later, the Great Pagan Army landed on the coast of England. This army was led by numerous sons of Ragnar. The Vikings conquered East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia. The rulers of these kingdoms were executed. The last stronghold of the Anglo-Saxons was South Wessex. His king Alfred the Great, realizing that his forces were not enough to fight the interventionists, concluded a peace treaty with them, and then, in 886, completely recognized their possessions in Britain.
Conquest of England
It took Alfred and his son Edward the Elder four decades to clear their homeland of foreigners. Mercia and East Anglia were freed by 924. Viking rule continued for another thirty years in remote northern Northumbria.
After some lull, the Scandinavians again began to appear frequently off the British coast.The next wave of raids began in 980, and in 1013 Sven Forkbeard completely captured the country and became its king. His son Canute the Great ruled three monarchies at once for three decades: England, Denmark and Norway. After his death, the former dynasty from Wessex regained power, and foreigners left Britain.
In the 11th century, the Scandinavians made several more attempts to conquer the island, but they all failed. The Viking Age, in short, left a noticeable imprint on the culture and government of Anglo-Saxon Britain. On the territory that the Danes owned for some time, the Danelag was established - a system of law adopted from the Scandinavians. This region was isolated from other English provinces throughout the Middle Ages.
Normans and Franks
In Western Europe, the period of the Norman attacks is called the Viking Age. Under this name, the Scandinavians were remembered by their Catholic contemporaries. If the Vikings sailed to the west mainly in order to rob England, then in the south the Frankish Empire was the goal of their campaigns. It was created in 800 by Charlemagne. While under him and under his son Louis the Pious a single strong state was preserved, the country was reliably protected from the pagans.
However, when the empire broke up into three kingdoms, and those in turn began to suffer from the costs of the feudal system, dizzying opportunities opened up for the Vikings. Some Scandinavians plundered the coast every year, while others were hired into the service of Catholic rulers in order togenerous salary to protect Christians. During one of their raids, the Vikings even captured Paris.
In 911, the Frankish king Charles the Simple gave the Vikings the north of France. This region became known as Normandy. Its rulers were baptized. This tactic proved to be effective. More and more Vikings gradually switched to a settled way of life. But some daredevils continued their campaigns. So, in 1130, the Normans conquered southern Italy and created the Kingdom of Sicily.
Scandinavian discovery of America
Moving further west, the Vikings discovered Ireland. They often raided this island and left a significant imprint on the local Celtic culture. For more than two centuries, the Scandinavians owned Dublin. Around 860, the Vikings discovered Iceland ("Ice Country"). It was they who became the first inhabitants of this deserted island. Iceland proved to be a popular place for colonization. The inhabitants of Norway, who fled the country due to frequent civil wars, sought to go there.
In the year 900, a Viking ship that accidentally lost its way stumbled upon Greenland. The first colonies appeared there at the end of the 10th century. This discovery inspired other Vikings to continue their search for a way to the west. They rightly hoped that there were new lands far beyond the sea. The navigator Leif Eriksson reached the shores of North America around the year 1000 and landed on the Labrador Peninsula. He called this region Vinland. Thus, the Viking Age was marked by the discovery of America five centuries before the expedition of Christopher Columbus.
Rumors about this country were sketchy and notleft Scandinavia. In Europe, they never learned about the western mainland. Viking settlements in Vinland lasted for several decades. Three attempts were made to colonize this land, but they all failed. Indians attacked strangers. Keeping in touch with the colonies was extremely difficult because of the vast distances. Eventually the Scandinavians left America. Much later, archaeologists found traces of their settlement in Newfoundland, Canada.
Vikings and Russia
In the second half of the 8th century, Viking troops began to attack the lands inhabited by numerous Finno-Ugric peoples. This is evidenced by the finds of archaeologists discovered in the Russian Staraya Ladoga. If in Europe the Vikings were called Normans, then the Slavs called them Varangians. The Scandinavians controlled several trading ports along the B altic Sea in Prussia. A profitable amber route began here, along which amber was transported to the Mediterranean.
How did the Viking Age affect Russia? In short, thanks to the newcomers from Scandinavia, East Slavic statehood was born. According to the official version, the inhabitants of Novgorod, who often had contact with the Vikings, turned to them for help during an internal civil strife. So the Varangian Rurik was invited to reign. A dynasty came from him, which in the near future united Russia and began to rule in Kyiv.
Life of Scandinavians
At home, the Vikings lived in large peasant dwellings. Under the roof of one such buildingfit a family that included three generations at once. Children, parents, grandparents lived together. This custom was an echo of the tribal system. Houses were built from wood and clay. The roofs were turf. In the central large room there was a common hearth, behind which they not only ate, but also slept.
Even when the Viking Age came, their cities in Scandinavia remained very small, inferior in size even to the settlements of the Slavs. People concentrated mainly around craft and trade centers. Cities were built in the depths of the fjords. This was done in order to get a convenient harbor and, in the event of an attack by an enemy fleet, to know in advance about its approach.
Scandinavian peasants dressed in woolen shirts and short baggy pants. The costume of the Viking Age was quite ascetic due to the scarcity of raw materials in Scandinavia. We althy members of the upper classes could wear colored clothes that distinguished them from the crowd, showing we alth and position. Women's costume of the Viking Age necessarily included accessories - metal jewelry, a brooch, pendants and belt buckles. If the girl was married, she put her hair in a bun, unmarried people picked up her hair with a ribbon.
Viking armor and weapons
In modern popular culture, the image of a Viking with a horned helmet on his head is widespread. In fact, such headdresses were rare and were no longer used for combat, but for rituals. The clothing of the Viking Age included the obligatory light armor for all men.
Weapons were much more varied. The northerners often used a spear about one and a half meters long, with which they could chop and stab the enemy. But the most common was the sword. These weapons were very light compared to other types that appeared in the subsequent Middle Ages. The Viking Age sword was not necessarily made in Scandinavia itself. Warriors often acquired Frankish weapons, as they were of the best quality. The Vikings also had long knives - the Saxons.
The Scandinavians made bows from ash or yew. Braided hair was often used as a bowstring. Axes were a common melee weapon. The Vikings preferred a wide, symmetrically diverging blade.
The last Normans
In the first half of the 11th century, the end of the Viking Age came. It was due to several factors. Firstly, in Scandinavia the former tribal system finally decomposed. It was replaced by classical medieval feudalism with overlords and vassals. The semi-nomadic way of life also remained in the past. The inhabitants of Scandinavia settled in their homeland.
The end of the Viking Age was also due to the spread of Christianity among the northerners. The new faith, unlike the pagan one, opposed bloody campaigns in a foreign land. Many sacrificial rituals were gradually forgotten, etc. The first to be baptized were the nobility, which, with the help of the new faith, legitimized in the eyes of the rest of the civilized European community. Following the rulers and the aristocracy, they did the sameordinary residents.
In the changed conditions, the Vikings, who wanted to connect their lives with military affairs, went into mercenaries and served with foreign sovereigns. For example, the Byzantine emperors had their own Varangian guards. The inhabitants of the north were valued for their physical strength, unpretentiousness in everyday life and many combat skills. The last Viking in power in the classical sense of the word was King Harald III of Norway the Severe. He went to England and tried to conquer it, but died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Then came the end of the Viking Age. William the Conqueror from Normandy (himself also a descendant of Scandinavian sailors) conquered England in the same year.