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The Vikings
Who were the Vikings?
• The Vikings were raiders from Scandinavia
(Norway, Denmark and Sweden).
• Only when they were raiding were they
"vikings": They were mainly farmers who
raised livestock and fishermen, some of
whom went "a-viking" in the summer.
• The Vikings were also known as the
Norse or Northmen.
When did the Vikings live?
• The Viking Age began
about 750 AD
The end of the Viking
Age is usually given
as 1066 when the
Norwegian King
Harald Haraade lost a
battle to the English
King Harold.
Where did the Vikings go?
Where did they go?
• WEST: The Vikings sailed west and discovered Iceland, Greenland,
and Vinland, which today is know as New Foundland, Canada.
• EAST: They sailed east to Estonia, and from there sailed down
rivers to get further into the land. By sailing on rivers, the Vikings
got as far as the Black Sea!
• SOUTH: Most frequently they traveled to the British Isles, Ireland
or France, which many monasteries and villages sadly experienced...
Isolated towns and churches were easy targets for the Vikings, as
the locals were caught off guard and had not sufficient weapons to
defend themselves.
• COLONIES: In Northern England the Norsemen settled and
established a large colony. A great number of Vikings settled on
Iceland in the 9th century, and some went further west, to
Greenland. Some Vikings also settled in Eastern Europe.
What did they do?
• Raiding and Pillaging
– They traveled by sea or up rivers in their fast and beautiful
longships to attack and seize treasures from monasteries,
towns, and churches.
– The Norse were traders and skilled craftspeople in wood,
jewelry, stone, and ivory.
– In Asia, they traded goods, often slaves, with Arabic
merchants and brought back home exotic goods like glass
and spices.
– They created far-flung trade networks and settlements
throughout Europe and across the North Atlantic Ocean to
Iceland, Greenland, and briefly to the North American
Why did they raid?
• The increased wealth and trading within Europe
• Fine treasures available in monasteries and
Political instability in Scandinavia
Improved technology of the longships
Political unrest and frequent warfare in Europe
Over-population and limited farmland in
How did they travel?
• There were two distinct classes
of Viking ships: the longship
and the knarr.
• The more famous longship was
intended for warfare and
– designed for speed and
– equipped with oars to
complement the sail
– long and narrow hull, in
order to facilitate landings
in shallow water
• The knarr was a slower
merchant vessel with a greater
cargo capacity than the
How do we know about Vikings?
• Picture stones and grave
Chronicles written by
European monks
Norse literature (the
sagas) written 200-300
years after the end of the
Viking Age
Archeology and
Bayeux Tapestry