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Popular conceptions of the Vikings often strongly differ from the complex, advanced civilisation of the Norsemen 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.
These representations are rarely accurate—for example, there is no evidence that they wore horned helmets , a costume element that first appeared in Wagnerian opera.
The etymology of "viking" is uncertain. In the Middle Ages it came to mean Scandinavian pirate or raider, while other names such as "heathens", "Danes" or "Northmen" were also used.
The form occurs as a personal name on some Swedish runestones. The Västra Strö 1 Runestone has an inscription in memory of a Björn, who was killed when " i viking ".
However, there are a few major problems with this theory. Another etymology that gained support in the early twenty-first century, derives Viking from the same root as Old Norse vika , f.
In that case, the idea behind it seems to be that the tired rower moves aside for the rested rower on the thwart when he relieves him.
In that case, the word Viking was not originally connected to Scandinavian seafarers but assumed this meaning when the Scandinavians begun to dominate the seas.
In Old English , the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, Widsith , which probably dates from the 9th century.
In Old English, and in the history of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written by Adam of Bremen in about , the term generally referred to Scandinavian pirates or raiders.
As in the Old Norse usages, the term is not employed as a name for any people or culture in general. The word does not occur in any preserved Middle English texts.
The word Viking was introduced into Modern English during the 18th-century Viking revival, at which point it acquired romanticised heroic overtones of " barbarian warrior" or noble savage.
During the 20th century, the meaning of the term was expanded to refer to not only seaborne raiders from Scandinavia and other places settled by them like Iceland and the Faroe Islands , but also any member of the culture that produced said raiders during the period from the late 8th to the midth centuries, or more loosely from about to as late as about As an adjective, the word is used to refer to ideas, phenomena, or artefacts connected with those people and their cultural life, producing expressions like Viking age , Viking culture , Viking art , Viking religion , Viking ship and so on.
According to some researchers, the term back then had no geographic or ethnic connotations that limited it to Scandinavia only.
The term was instead used about anyone who to the Norse peoples appeared as a pirate. Thus the term "Viking" was supposedly never limited to a single ethnicity as such, but rather an activity.
The Vikings were known as Ascomanni "ashmen" by the Germans for the ash wood of their boats,  Dubgail and Finngail "dark and fair foreigners" by the Irish,  Lochlannaich "people from the land of lakes" by the Gaels  , Dene Dane by the Anglo-Saxons  and Northmonn by the Frisians.
The scholarly consensus  is that the Rus' people originated in what is currently coastal eastern Sweden around the eighth century and that their name has the same origin as Roslagen in Sweden with the older name being Roden.
Scandinavian bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors were known as the Varangian Guard. The Rus' initially appeared in Serkland in the 9th century, traveling as merchants along the Volga trade route, selling furs, honey, and slaves, as well as luxury goods such as amber, Frankish swords, and walrus ivory.
Hoards of 9th century Baghdad-minted silver coins have been found in Sweden, particularly in Gotland. The Franks normally called them Northmen or Danes, while for the English they were generally known as Danes or heathen and the Irish knew them as pagans or gentiles.
Anglo-Scandinavian is an academic term referring to the people, and archaeological and historical periods during the 8th to 13th centuries in which there was migration to—and occupation of—the British Isles by Scandinavian peoples generally known in English as Vikings.
It is used in distinction from Anglo-Saxon. Similar terms exist for other areas, such as Hiberno-Norse for Ireland and Scotland.
The Viking Age in Scandinavian history is taken to have been the period from the earliest recorded raids by Norsemen in until the Norman conquest of England in The Normans were descendants of those Vikings who had been given feudal overlordship of areas in northern France, namely the Duchy of Normandy , in the 10th century.
In that respect, descendants of the Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe. Two Vikings even ascended to the throne of England, with Sweyn Forkbeard claiming the English throne in until and his son Cnut the Great being king of England between and Geographically, the Viking Age covered Scandinavian lands modern Denmark, Norway and Sweden , as well as territories under North Germanic dominance, mainly the Danelaw , including Scandinavian York , the administrative centre of the remains of the Kingdom of Northumbria ,  parts of Mercia , and East Anglia.
As early as , when Swedish emissaries are first known to have visited Byzantium , Scandinavians served as mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Empire.
Traditionally containing large numbers of Scandinavians, it was known as the Varangian Guard. In these years, Swedish men left to enlist in the Byzantine Varangian Guard in such numbers that a medieval Swedish law, Västgötalagen , from Västergötland declared no one could inherit while staying in "Greece"—the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine Empire —to stop the emigration,  especially as two other European courts simultaneously also recruited Scandinavians:  Kievan Rus' c.
There is archaeological evidence that Vikings reached Baghdad , the centre of the Islamic Empire. Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids, colonization, and conquest.
In the Viking Age, the present day nations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark did not exist, but were largely homogeneous and similar in culture and language, although somewhat distinct geographically.
The names of Scandinavian kings are reliably known for only the later part of the Viking Age. After the end of the Viking Age the separate kingdoms gradually acquired distinct identities as nations, which went hand-in-hand with their Christianisation.
Thus the end of the Viking Age for the Scandinavians also marks the start of their relatively brief Middle Ages.
Colonization of Iceland by Norwegian Vikings began in the ninth century. The first source mentioning Iceland and Greenland is a papal letter of Twenty years later, they appear in the Gesta of Adam of Bremen.
It was not until after , when the islands had become Christianized, that accounts of the history of the islands were written from the point of view of the inhabitants in sagas and chronicles.
They raided and pillaged, traded, acted as mercenaries and settled colonies over a wide area. Later in their history, they began to settle in other lands.
This expansion occurred during the Medieval Warm Period. Viking expansion into continental Europe was limited. Their realm was bordered by powerful tribes to the south.
The Saxons were a fierce and powerful people and were often in conflict with the Vikings. To counter the Saxon aggression and solidify their own presence, the Danes constructed the huge defence fortification of Danevirke in and around Hedeby.
The Vikings witnessed the violent subduing of the Saxons by Charlemagne , in the thirty-year Saxon Wars of — The Saxon defeat resulted in their forced christening and the absorption of Old Saxony into the Carolingian Empire.
Fear of the Franks led the Vikings to further expand Danevirke, and the defence constructions remained in use throughout the Viking Age and even up until The south coast of the Baltic Sea was ruled by the Obotrites , a federation of Slavic tribes loyal to the Carolingians and later the Frankish empire.
Because of the expansion of the Vikings across Europe, a comparison of DNA and archeology undertaken by scientists at the University of Cambridge and University of Copenhagen suggested that the term "Viking" may have evolved to become "a job description, not a matter of heredity," at least in some Viking bands.
Researchers have suggested that Vikings may have originally started sailing and raiding due to a need to seek out women from foreign lands. Due to this, the average Viking man could have been forced to perform riskier actions to gain wealth and power to be able to find suitable women.
One common theory posits that Charlemagne "used force and terror to Christianise all pagans", leading to baptism, conversion or execution, and as a result, Vikings and other pagans resisted and wanted revenge.
However, this time period did not commence until the 10th century, Norway was never subject to aggression by Charlemagne and the period of strife was due to successive Norwegian kings embracing Christianity after encountering it overseas.
Another explanation is that the Vikings exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. Lack of organised naval opposition throughout Western Europe allowed Viking ships to travel freely, raiding or trading as opportunity permitted.
The decline in the profitability of old trade routes could also have played a role. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia suffered a severe blow when the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century.
Raids in Europe, including raids and settlements from Scandinavia, were not unprecedented and had occurred long before the Vikings arrived.
The Jutes invaded the British Isles three centuries earlier, pouring out from Jutland during the Age of Migrations , before the Danes settled there.
The Saxons and the Angles did the same, embarking from mainland Europe. The Viking raids were, however, the first to be documented in writing by eyewitnesses, and they were much larger in scale and frequency than in previous times.
Vikings themselves were expanding; although their motives are unclear, historians believe that scarce resources or a lack of mating opportunities were a factor.
The "Highway of Slaves" was a term for a route that the Vikings found to have a direct pathway from Scandinavia to Constantinople and Baghdad while traveling on the Baltic Sea.
With the advancements of their ships during the ninth century, the Vikings were able to sail to Kievan Rus and some northern parts of Europe.
Jomsborg was a semi-legendary Viking stronghold at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea medieval Wendland , modern Pomerania , that existed between the s and Its inhabitants were known as Jomsvikings.
Jomsborg's exact location, or its existence, has not yet been established, though it is often maintained that Jomsborg was somewhere on the islands of the Oder estuary.
While the Vikings were active beyond their Scandinavian homelands, Scandinavia was itself experiencing new influences and undergoing a variety of cultural changes.
By the late 11th century, royal dynasties were legitimised by the Catholic Church which had had little influence in Scandinavia years earlier which were asserting their power with increasing authority and ambition, with the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden taking shape.
Towns appeared that functioned as secular and ecclesiastical administrative centres and market sites, and monetary economies began to emerge based on English and German models.
Christianity had taken root in Denmark and Norway with the establishment of dioceses in the 11th century, and the new religion was beginning to organise and assert itself more effectively in Sweden.
Foreign churchmen and native elites were energetic in furthering the interests of Christianity, which was now no longer operating only on a missionary footing, and old ideologies and lifestyles were transforming.
By , the first archbishopric was founded in Scandinavia, at Lund , Scania, then part of Denmark.
The assimilation of the nascent Scandinavian kingdoms into the cultural mainstream of European Christendom altered the aspirations of Scandinavian rulers and of Scandinavians able to travel overseas, and changed their relations with their neighbours.
One of the primary sources of profit for the Vikings had been slave-taking from other European peoples. The medieval Church held that Christians should not own fellow Christians as slaves, so chattel slavery diminished as a practice throughout northern Europe.
This took much of the economic incentive out of raiding, though sporadic slaving activity continued into the 11th century.
Scandinavian predation in Christian lands around the North and Irish Seas diminished markedly. The kings of Norway continued to assert power in parts of northern Britain and Ireland, and raids continued into the 12th century, but the military ambitions of Scandinavian rulers were now directed toward new paths.
In , Sigurd I of Norway sailed for the eastern Mediterranean with Norwegian crusaders to fight for the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem , and Danes and Swedes participated energetically in the Baltic Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries.
A variety of sources illuminate the culture, activities, and beliefs of the Vikings. Although they were generally a non-literate culture that produced no literary legacy, they had an alphabet and described themselves and their world on runestones.
Most contemporary literary and written sources on the Vikings come from other cultures that were in contact with them.
The most important primary sources on the Vikings are contemporary texts from Scandinavia and regions where the Vikings were active. Most contemporary documentary sources consist of texts written in Christian and Islamic communities outside Scandinavia, often by authors who had been negatively affected by Viking activity.
Later writings on the Vikings and the Viking Age can also be important for understanding them and their culture, although they need to be treated cautiously.
After the consolidation of the church and the assimilation of Scandinavia and its colonies into the mainstream of medieval Christian culture in the 11th and 12th centuries, native written sources begin to appear in Latin and Old Norse.
In the Viking colony of Iceland, an extraordinary vernacular literature blossomed in the 12th through 14th centuries, and many traditions connected with the Viking Age were written down for the first time in the Icelandic sagas.
A literal interpretation of these medieval prose narratives about the Vikings and the Scandinavian past is doubtful, but many specific elements remain worthy of consideration, such as the great quantity of skaldic poetry attributed to court poets of the 10th and 11th centuries, the exposed family trees, the self images, the ethical values, that are contained in these literary writings.
Indirectly, the Vikings have also left a window open onto their language, culture and activities, through many Old Norse place names and words found in their former sphere of influence.
Some of these place names and words are still in direct use today, almost unchanged, and shed light on where they settled and what specific places meant to them.
Viking influence is also evident in concepts like the present-day parliamentary body of the Tynwald on the Isle of Man. Some modern words and names only emerge and contribute to our understanding after a more intense research of linguistic sources from medieval or later records, such as York Horse Bay , Swansea Sveinn 's Isle or some of the place names in Normandy like Tocqueville Toki's farm.
Linguistic and etymological studies continue to provide a vital source of information on the Viking culture, their social structure and history and how they interacted with the people and cultures they met, traded, attacked or lived with in overseas settlements.
It has been speculated that the reason for this was the great differences between the two languages, combined with the Rus' Vikings more peaceful businesses in these areas and the fact that they were outnumbered.
The Norse named some of the rapids on the Dnieper , but this can hardly be seen from the modern names. The Norse of the Viking Age could read and write and used a non-standardised alphabet, called runor , built upon sound values.
While there are few remains of runic writing on paper from the Viking era, thousands of stones with runic inscriptions have been found where Vikings lived.
They are usually in memory of the dead, though not necessarily placed at graves. The use of runor survived into the 15th century, used in parallel with the Latin alphabet.
The runestones are unevenly distributed in Scandinavia: Denmark has runestones, Norway has 50 while Iceland has none. The Swedish district of Uppland has the highest concentration with as many as 1, inscriptions in stone, whereas Södermanland is second with The majority of runic inscriptions from the Viking period are found in Sweden.
Many runestones in Scandinavia record the names of participants in Viking expeditions, such as the Kjula runestone that tells of extensive warfare in Western Europe and the Turinge Runestone , which tells of a war band in Eastern Europe.
Other runestones mention men who died on Viking expeditions. Among them include the England runestones Swedish : Englandsstenarna which is a group of about 30 runestones in Sweden which refer to Viking Age voyages to England.
They were engraved in Old Norse with the Younger Futhark. The Jelling stones date from between and The older, smaller stone was raised by King Gorm the Old , the last pagan king of Denmark, as a memorial honouring Queen Thyre.
It has three sides: one with an animal image, one with an image of the crucified Jesus Christ, and a third bearing the following inscription:.
Runestones attest to voyages to locations such as Bath ,  Greece how the Vikings referred to the Byzantium territories generally ,  Khwaresm ,  Jerusalem ,  Italy as Langobardland ,  Serkland i.
Viking Age inscriptions have also been discovered on the Manx runestones on the Isle of Man. The last known people to use the Runic alphabet were an isolated group of people known as the Elfdalians , that lived in the locality of Älvdalen in the Swedish province of Dalarna.
They spoke the language of Elfdalian , the language unique to Älvdalen. The Elfdalian language differentiates itself from the other Scandinavian languages as it evolved much closer to Old Norse.
The people of Älvdalen stopped using runes as late as the s. Usage of runes therefore survived longer in Älvdalen than anywhere else in the world.
Traditionally regarded as a Swedish dialect,  but by several criteria closer related to West Scandinavian dialects,  Elfdalian is a separate language by the standard of mutual intelligibility.
Residents in the area who speak only Swedish as their sole native language, neither speaking nor understanding Elfdalian, are also common.
Älvdalen can be said to have had its own alphabet during the 17th and 18th century. Today there are about 2, native speakers of Elfdalian. The burial practices of the Vikings were quite varied, from dug graves in the ground, to tumuli , sometimes including so-called ship burials.
According to written sources, most of the funerals took place at sea. The funerals involved either burial or cremation , depending on local customs.
In the area that is now Sweden, cremations were predominant; in Denmark burial was more common; and in Norway both were common.
There have been several archaeological finds of Viking ships of all sizes, providing knowledge of the craftsmanship that went into building them. There were many types of Viking ships, built for various uses; the best-known type is probably the longship.
The longship had a long, narrow hull and shallow draught to facilitate landings and troop deployments in shallow water.
Longships were used extensively by the Leidang , the Scandinavian defence fleets. The longship allowed the Norse to go Viking , which might explain why this type of ship has become almost synonymous with the concept of Vikings.
The Vikings built many unique types of watercraft, often used for more peaceful tasks. The knarr was a dedicated merchant vessel designed to carry cargo in bulk.
It had a broader hull, deeper draught, and a small number of oars used primarily to manoeuvre in harbours and similar situations.
One Viking innovation was the ' beitass ', a spar mounted to the sail that allowed their ships to sail effectively against the wind.
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