There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good re-enactment, and although I do re-enactments of several different periods in history, probably my favorite has to be the Vikings. There’s something really exciting about the Vikings, so today I’m going to share some of their histories so you can see why I find them so fascinating.
The Vikings were around between the 8th and 11th centuries and were a sea-faring people. They were warriors, explorers and traders and were said to have found America well before Christopher Columbus. Although they have a reputation as savages, they were actually very cultured and were responsible for many positive changes in the lands that they conquered.
So, here are some things you may never have known about the Vikings.
The word Viking has been associated with the Scandinavian word for pirate, however this term doesn’t have the same meaning as you’d expect, it is actually referring to overseas expeditions, and was used by the Scandinavians for times when the men took time out to go “a Viking” – on expeditions to forge trade links and to enlist as mercenaries for foreign armies.
The Viking Age runs from 790 until 1066. Scandinavians at that time extended throughout northern Europe, with many Vikings raiding the coasts of other nations. The furthest Vikings have been reported as having gone was Baghdad.
One of the most famous Viking raids was on Lindisfarne, which is a small island of England’s North East coast. They killed the monks or took them as slaves, and stole many of the church’s treasures. This was just the first of many such raids. However, the Vikings weren’t totally savage and uncultured. They set up their own colonies on Greenland’s west coast in the 10th century and Newfoundland.
There are many myths about the Vikings which have been shown to be false. The most common is that they wore helmets with horns, however, this was not the case and in fact, when they did wear helmets, they were very simple, being made from a metal frame and leather. Although Vikings had a reputation for being dirty, they actually used grooming utensils and combs, since these have been found in old settlements by archaeologists. Despite their reputation for warring and fighting, Vikings had farms back in Scandinavian which their wives cared for, and when they went back home from raiding, they farmed the land. The Vikings were not a unified army, and the people were spread out over the whole of Scandinavia. They were also not the tall and muscly people that we imagine. In fact, because of the short summers, it was hard to grow crops and scarce resources meant that there was limited food. This resulted in many Scandinavians being smaller than average.
Although the Vikings lived in harsh living conditions with scarce resources, they managed to push themselves into the outside world and to create a strong reputation that went beyond being barbarians. Some Vikings may have wanted greater riches, but many more only wanted to have a peaceful economic relationship with nations in the surrounding area.